trade tales | Nov 13, 2020 |
7 designers share which fees clients question most often

It can be hard for clients to understand the ins and outs of the design business, so it’s normal for them, upon getting a bill, to have some questions. We asked seven designers—Sara Hillery, Eilyn Jimenez, Cheryl Kees Clendenon, Cheryl Luckett, Fernanda Loyzaga, Sophia Loyzaga and Nicole Rivers—which fees their clients question the most and how they handle it.

Eilyn Jimenez
Eilyn JimenezCourtesy of Eilyn Jimenez

Past due

“We have had clients take issue with paying monthly supervision fees when the project took longer than expected due to circumstances unrelated to our studio. We also find that clients don’t like being charged late fees when they’ve sent us a payment past the due date. Even if these terms are included in the contract they sign at the start of a project, it always causes issues.” —Eilyn Jimenez, Sire Design, Miami

Cheryl Luckett
Cheryl LuckettCourtesy of Cheryl Luckett

Lesson plan

“Clients most often question how my design fee is determined. The tendency is to assume that the amount is based solely on time. I’ve learned to love when this question comes up, because it provides an excellent teachable moment. As the design professional, it’s my responsibility to educate the client on the skills that a designer brings to the table. It’s important that they understand that while the design fee accounts for time, it also includes the value placed on the creative skill and ability required for the job.” —Cheryl Luckett, Dwell by Cheryl, Charlotte

Fernanda and Sophia Loyzaga
Fernanda and Sophia LoyzagaCourtesy of Loyzaga

It takes a village

“The client often does not understand the fees in the [final] stages [when we are] setting up the space. When hanging art, for example, we’ve hired museum designers more than once for clients with valuable collections. Also, many clients [don’t realize] that you always have to hire someone to clean the house professionally [after installation], or don’t understand the cost of cleaning. Also, some clients don't understand [why] the percentage on the installation of elements like hydraulics, plumbing, air conditioning and lighting is paid to the decorator. Although [the work] is coordinated with third parties, we design where and how we want the installations, [then supervise the work]. Therefore, we should receive a corresponding percentage.” —Fernanda and Sophia Loyzaga, Loyzaga, Mexico City

Cheryl Kees Clendenon
Cheryl Kees ClendenonCourtesy of Cheryl Kees Clendenon

Shock factor
“If there is one cost clients typically seem surprised about, it is freight. We find that rolling those charges into the cost of items is best—and it is part of the cost of goods anyway, so that makes sense. But on the occasions where we need to separate it out for some reason, there is always sticker shock. The internet has trained people to think that furnishings are delivered much like babies—from the stork.” —Cheryl Kees Clendenon, In Detail Interiors, Pensacola, Florida

Nicole Rivers
Nicole RiversCourtesy of Nicole Rivers

Out of the box
“Clients often don’t have any frame of reference for what it costs to furnish a space, [so they] question the fees for the cost of furnishings. In the world of contract furniture and furnishing work spaces for companies, costs vary, but they are nothing like the shopping [experience] most consumers are familiar with, which is going to a local box store to purchase home furnishings. With my team, we work to provide a specific statement of work with detail on what will be provided prior to beginning any work. As progress is made, clients often want to add and upgrade products or finishes, and we document those changes and discuss how changes affect the total cost at these times, but also as part of the onboarding process.” —Nicole Rivers, BE Furniture, Parsippany, New Jersey

Sara Hillery
Sara HilleryCourtesy of Sara Hillery

Juggling act
“Project management time! It takes a lot of time to place and track orders, schedule and coordinate their installation. Clients are always excited at the beginning of a project, but once their items are ordered, they can struggle with the project management fees that follow. I think in their minds, once the products are ordered, our job is done. But that is far from the truth. We are still working with the builders, meeting on job sites, working on all the add-on items that pop up outside of the original scope, and more. In the meantime, we are also managing the product orders. Today, there is a lot more order follow-up than normal; products have long lead times and fabrics are being dropped by mills, so we’re also making new selections on the fly to meet timelines. While we don’t charge for all of this, we show our clients the time spent every month so they understand and appreciate all we do on their behalf when they get the bill.” —Sara Hillery, Sara Hillery Interior Design, Richmond, Virginia

Homepage photo: A project by Cheryl Luckett | Courtesy of Cheryl Luckett

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