Tag: business advice

22
Mar

Antique dealers and interior designers in a changing market

Recently there was an interesting article in the New York Times about the antiques market declining quite a bit in recent years. The gist of the story is that more people now want custom pieces if they’re going to spend real money on their home’s interiors. Portals for higher end antiques and furniture like 1stDibbs.com have seen a large uptick in bespoke contemporary designs and a decline in traditional antiques (especially 19th century). Does this mean antiques are no longer an important part of many design projects?

We don’t think so. Discerning and original-thinking interior designers still use antiques, they just don’t depend on them to set the whole tone for a room or project. For example, not so long ago it was easy to throw a bunch of mid-century pieces into a room and call it an innovative day. But now, with so many cheaper versions of mid-century furniture in consumer facing stores, the ‘specialness’ of that style has been diminished. Interior design clients might not realize the value of certain pieces if they see them mimicked all over the place.

The issue is different for older antiques, which if not placed correctly can seem ‘stuffy’ and not fit modern floor plans very well.

This is why people still need and enlist the services of quality interior designers. An interior designer’s real value is in the ‘specialness’ of what they create for their client; the ‘I never would have thought of that’ result that can take a client’s breath away when they first see it. A  quality designer will know how to use antiques from any era as both accents and center pieces in an eclectic mix of time periods and styles. This is something a consumer will never be able to do for themselves no matter how many design shows they watch on tv.

It’s important for high end antique dealers to connect with and forge lasting relationships with interior designers, who will become more and more important to their business’s prosperity.

21
Feb

Are designers threatened by consumer facing companies?

Like every other venue the interior design market is changing because of what’s going on in tech. A lot of that change is good, especially regarding software tools to help a designer run their business and imagine and manage projects. But there’s a danger as well: the designer being cut out of the process.

Very few non-design-trained people can truly create a space that’s interesting, in harmony with all the elements in balance, and finished with the detail necessary to make it truly special. The thing about talented interior designers is, they make it look easy.

Some clients think they can just do it themselves and save money (especially those who haven’t worked with designers before and don’t understand what it takes to get a high quality result). Some tech companies want to sell directly to ‘consumers’ and capture the revenue that normally goes through an interior design business. Here’s a few points to remember:

  • Design firms have multi-billion dollar annual buying power in the industry, collectively. How you want the market to be organized matters to your suppliers. Reward suppliers who only sell to the trade with your business and make sure they know it.
  • As a designer, your clients are your business. They should not be someone else’s business. Make sure you have clear, strong contracts with your clients regarding the purchase of goods and services for their project.
  • Find out what the business model is for the tools you use. If a company is incentivized towards the consumer market they may not have the designer’s best interest in mind.
  • Use software tools that do not give your clients information about ordering from suppliers unless you want them to have it.
  • Don’t put images of your work in places that will use them to go around designers. These platforms can try to sell the goods in the images directly to consumers. Keep a portfolio on your website and, carefully, in a few other places. Don’t do the design work for someone else’s profit.

The consolidation of the interior design market in terms of connecting suppliers directly to consumers is not a foregone conclusion. One big negative for quality suppliers would be that it would force them into a ‘race to the bottom’ for pricing, like vendors for Walmart or Amazon. Design is about quality, as much or more than pricing.

Interior designers are business owners. Their work has high value and is much more than ‘shopping’ or ‘ideas’ or ‘project management’ on some consumer facing platform. Not all market disruption works.

06
Feb

How to charge your clients

There a number of ways interior designers charge for their services.
Cover all your bases and charge by:

  • straight design fees for each ‘area’ of the project
  • a markup on items purchased wholesale or with a designer’s discount from vendors like antique dealers
  • bill by the hour for things like drafting, installations, shopping, admin work on the project, etc.

A design fee is for conceptual work and can be for an entire project. However, it’s more flexible to charge a separate design fee for each area of the project, as that gives more flexibility when projects change. For example, charge a design fee for a living room, another for the dining room, another for the kitchen, etc.

Markups are sometimes called ‘margins’ and they are the profit on an item a designer purchases for their client. For example, a designer may purchase a sofa for $4,000 wholesale and charge the client $6000: this would be a 50% markup with a $2000 profit on the item. Markups can vary from supplier to supplier or even what type of item it is.

Time tracking is key to good business practices in interior design. Always track both non-billable and billable time so you can see where your resources are allocated. Time charges can be totaled up for any period but a good rule of thumb is to bill your client for all time charges for the month, at the end of the month.

Lastly, always make sure to get each type of charge and rate in the signed contract before starting the project. Having it all in writing is invaluable as the project goes on.

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