Is Interior Design turning into a Commodity?

Feel like clients have smaller and smaller budgets? That their expectations are unrealistic? That they want a lot for a little? It’s time to do something about it. #interiordesignbusiness #cktradesecrets

Hire High-End Design for Fraction of the Price

Sometime within the past few months I came across the headline: “Online Interior Design - How To Hire A High-End Designer For The Fraction Of The Price”. Ugh. Yes, let’s just keep making design cheaper and cheaper.

First, let me say, this is a complicated economic and societal issue that I am certainly not going to solve in a blog post, I’ll probably not even scratch the surface. However, I do want to get you thinking. Thinking about your contribution to the interior design industry.

Are you helping or hurting?

I hear quite frequently from designers who are becoming disillusioned with the industry and point to decreasing budgets, clients who ask too much for too little, and inaccurate expectations for their disillusionment.

Like this message from a reader:

“Unfortunately I no longer have the passion to create amazing spaces in the current environment where intellectual property and creativity are no longer valued or appreciated.”

Turning Interior Design into a Commodity

There is nothing standard about interior design. Because of this we’re all just trying our best and many designers are just trying to stay in business.

And often that means that designers are turning interior design into a commodity. Making interior design cheaper, more accessible, easily reproducible, with no regard for differentiation or the actual producer (the designer).

Our society has set up interior design for commodification. It became something to be consumed rather than a service. Think HGTV. Online design companies. Fast furniture (that lasts a season or two). Cookie-cutter interiors.

No one is doing a good job of differentiating between the commodity and the high-end service of personalized interior design. It’s all getting pulled down to the lowest common denominator.

Let me be clear, each and every one of us plays a part in this. We must look at how we, as individual businesses, are contributing to this.

Your Role & What to Do

When designers:

  1. Only purchase retail and not from to-the-trade sources. Anyone can purchase retail, one of the benefits of hiring an interior designer is exclusive sources.

  2. Don’t charge enough. When you don’t charge enough or discount your rates you are devaluing the service.

  3. Giving time away or not charging for all your time. It doesn’t do anyone (you, the industry, our clients) any good to hide the true time it takes to do this work.

  4. Making design “accessible” to everyone. (Psst. everyone can’t afford an interior designer and that’s okay, they still have other options.)

  5. Not acting as an authority. This is your job. Your career. Your business. If you don’t have the confidence to do your job, this isn’t the right one for you.

  6. Not treating your business like a business. Oy. I say this so much. If you don’t have the respect to treat your business professionally, neither will clients or society. Treat it like a hobby and that’s how the world will treat it.

  7. Not knowing your own value. You must be able to verbalize the importance of an interior designer and how your business brings value to clients.

Maybe it’s overly optimistic (which I’ve never been accused of!), but I do believe that if we, as an industry, start to enforce, at minimum, the things above, we can stop or slow the commodification of interior design.

Take Action:

Now it’s your turn! What are your solutions to Interior Design turning into a commodity?