To read more about the article that started this series, start at Part 1 here.
MY BILLS ARE LADEN WITH HIDDEN COSTS
Though most designers will send you invoices for what they're purchasing, it's easy to hide all sorts of costs by being vague. "Draperies for living room; materials and labor, $3,000," doesn't tell you a whole lot, does it?
The way to cover yourself is to demand details -- lots of details. You should always ask that material costs -- fabric, trim, lining, padding -- be accounted for separately from labor costs. Never let the designer buy anything without sending you a detailed invoice, as well as a picture or sample of the product, the quantity you're getting and the price. Stipulate in writing that the only fees the designer can receive are those you've agreed upon. True, not every designer will agree to these demands, but it's worth asking.
It's a bit more of a long shot, but you could also ask to have copies of all bills from outside contractors sent directly to you. "That way, the designer can't add anything on without going through monumental contortions," says Eleanor Windman, who runs the Rent-a-Decorator service in New York.
Again, my business is based on transparency, so there are no costs I am hiding. To prove it, here is a real-life example of a proposal that was sent to a client in January. See how the fabric and chair costs are separate? You see each and every line item - the "other costs" is freight and is indicated as freight in the subtotal and if I charged a markup/ design fee that would also be indicated on a separate line. Crystal clear.
Now it is true that not all designer's follow my processes, so if you are concerned with what may be hiding in your bills, ask your designer to review it with you. This is a relationship and you need to be comfortable with what you are paying. Not only that, but it is also important for insurance purposes in the case something needs to be replaced to know what it's true value is.
You designer may not be willing to share all her invoices with you, but you could ask to spot check an invoice or two to make sure that she is being honest. This may or may not be a deal-breaker for you.
read the entire series: