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 Interior Designers -  Understanding the Value; Agreeing the Cost

One of the most common questions asked on interior design discussion panels is how interior designers charge for their services. This can vary depending on whether the designer is independent or part of a large studio or retail outlet - so understanding the different ways designers charge for their services couldn’t be more important.

1. Fixed Design Fee

Except for the most complex of projects, this is the approach we take at Julie Maclean Interior Design. We work out how much time we think the project will take and charge a fixed fee for the service. We believe this approach works best as both sides have a clear understanding of the work that will be undertaken and the amount payable for that service.

It’s important to agree a payment schedule and to understand what the time commitment is up-front. It’s also important to agree a clear design brief and budget so that your designer knows what they’re supposed to be delivering. If the brief is clear, succinct and accurate the designer should be able to meet the brief.

Usually a couple of changes can be made without additional charge, but it’s important to be reasonable about this.

2. Time Based Fee

This is popular with some designers, particularly in the USA. The designer works on an hourly rate and logs their hours. We started out working in this way but, as we found ourselves working on so many projects, it became harder to quantify the exact number of hours to allocate to each client. And of course it’s hard for a client to understand why some things take a long time to source.

3. Price per Room Fee

Occasionally designers charge a ‘price per room’ or ‘price per square foot’, but this is less common. We often use a price per room as a rough guide when initially discussing the cost of a job with a client, confirming a fixed fee after a home visit.

4. Margin on sourcing product

Often combined with a design-fee, this is where the designer purchases materials and products at a wholesale price and sells them on at a retail price. This is how we work at Julie Maclean Interior Design as it enables us to keep our design fees relatively low. It’s important to know and understand how your designer works. A transparent relationship is a happy relationship.

Some clients expect a discount from their designers; we don’t offer this unless there’s a special reason for it, particularly because many of our suppliers feel that it undermines the value of their products. Again, understanding and agreeing the basis on which goods are ordered and delivered is an important part of developing a trusting relationship with your designer.

5. Project Management

Often designers, like architects or project managers, will charge a fee for managing the project; ensuring trades and materials are on site when required and keeping the project on track. The fee can be time-related, a percentage of the total project cost, or (less commonly) a fixed fee agreed in advance.

For smaller projects we often don’t charge a specific management fee but, for larger and more complex projects that consume a lot of time, we charge a percentage of the total cost which is built into the overall cost for the job. Again, it’s important for the client to know and understand what this charge is in advance.

6. Summary

As a client it’s important to understand the work that goes into completing a project, much of which cannot be seen (there’s a lot of running around and figuring out solutions to problems behind the scenes). Our advice is to choose your designer wisely (make sure you get on well and have references as to the quality of their work), then to value them! Discuss any problems or misunderstandings as they arise. As with any relationship, honesty and transparency is the best approach.

Every interior designer has a responsibility to deliver a result their clients will enjoy. At Julie Maclean Interior Design we take this responsibility seriously.

We listen carefully to our clients so that we understand the brief.

We combine creative thinking with a friendly and practical approach to delivering the brief within budget.

We try to bring new ideas to our clients to help them to see opportunities and expand their horizons.

We use reliable and reputable suppliers and our trades are first rate.

We appreciate being asked to work in your home and we take a responsible approach to everything we do.

Tagged: All Articles / Design Inspiration / Interior Design Projects

Modern Design Classics, No. 4  Omega Workshops: Bloomsbury Group 1913-1919

Modern Design Classics, No. 4

Omega Workshops: Bloomsbury Group 1913-1919

In 1913 artist and influential art critic Roger Fry brought together a collective of some of the most cutting edge artists of the day, who designed and made products under the anonymous banner of the Omega Workshop. Artists included Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and others of the Bloomsbury Group; Wyndham Lewis, Frederick Etchells, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Winifred Gill. No artist was allowed to sign their work, and everything produced by the Workshops bore only the Greek letter Ω (Omega).

The Omega Workshops brought radical and avant-garde art and design to domestic interiors in Edwardian Britain, creating a range of objects for the home; rugs and linens to ceramics, furniture and clothing were all boldly coloured with dynamic abstract patterns. Fry wanted to inject some fun into furniture and fabrics, to get away from the dull seriousness of Edwardian interior design. Omega blurred the line between fine art and furnishing, producing both functional and highly decorative pieces.Young artists designed bright chintzes alongside painted tables and chairs. Ceramics and fabrics used the same outline patterns or shapes, but were produced in a number of different colour-ways or glazes.

For a while the Omega Workshops were the only place in London to shop for a ‘Fauve’ shawl, a ‘Post-Impressionist’ chair or a Cubist-inspired rug. Clients included Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, W.B. Yeats and E.M. Forster, as well as bohemian high society figures like Lady Ottoline Morrell.

The Workshop managed to stay open during the First World War but failed to make a profit, eventually closing in 1919. Although it operated for just six years, it saw the creation of an impressive sequence of thrillingly bold designs which were well ahead of their time. Some of these designs have been reproduced or reimagined, including the Christopher Farr Omega rugs as shown below.


Stained glass roundel by Roger Fry for Omega Workshops


The Omega Workshops transformed English interior design


Semi abstract paintings on furniture were revolutionary at the time


Rug collaboration by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant


Semi abstract patterns on textiles



The Garden Room at Charleston, decorated by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant


Garden Room showing curtains designed by Duncan Grant and cushion cover by Vanessa Bell


Gramophone cabinet (Angelica Garnet), portrait of Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant, mug by Vanessa Bell


"Bathers screen" - Vanessa Bell


Duncan Grant's studio/sitting room


Omega furniture - Roger Fry


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Modern Design Classics, No 3. Mies van der Rohe & Lily Reich: Barcelona chair (1929)

The Barcelona chair was designed by German Bauhaus Architect Ludwig Mies van de Rohe, in collaboration with interior designer Lily Reich. The chair was originally made for the German Pavilion in the International Exposition of 1929, held in Barcelona, Spain. It was first used in Villa Tugendhat, in Brno, Czech Republic which the architect designed and built, with Reich working on the interiors. The Villa is now a World Heritage site, a fine example of modernist architecture.

The Barcelona chair is one of the most recognized pieces of furniture of the last century and an icon of the modern movement. It exudes a simple elegance that epitomizes Mies van der Rohe's famous maxim “less is more.” The Barcelona chair is a tribute to the marriage of modern design and exceptional craftsmanship.

The classic, elegant but simple styling of this chair and it’s compact proportions, make it an exceptionally versatile piece of furniture. It works equally well in a grand period building with elaborate plasterwork as in a more rustic or ethnic setting and, of course, it is commonly seen in mid-century styling. It has an uncanny ability to impose order when surrounded by a degree of clutter. It’s invaluable as a functional piece in a library or music room or as an occasional chair in a bedroom or sitting room. As a stand alone piece in an entrance hall it makes a great statement. Less is indeed more.

For the Exposition the chair was originally made in ivory coloured pigskin and the frame was initially designed to be bolted together.

In 1950 it was redesigned, with the frame being formed by a seamless piece of steel, giving it a smoother appearance, and with the seat manufactured in bovine leather. Since 1953 the chair has been manufactured by Knoll and was named the Barcelona chair. Vintage Barcelona chairs that have developed a rich patina to the leather are highly sought after.

Today the chair is available in either a chrome or stainless steel finish with leather buttoned cushions filled with foam. The most popular colours are black or white, but tan is my favourite. It also comes in shades of grey, parchment and two tones of red. It’s a compact and comfortable chair (Dimensions H: 75cms W: 75cms D: 75cms), is largely hand-crafted using fine quality materials, with a copy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's signature stamped into each chair.

Barcelona Tugendhat1

The Barcelona chairs as designed for Villa Tugendhat, seen here in the Villa

Barcelona Tugendhat3

The Barcelona chair works well as a pair in a classic modern setting


The Barcelona chairs impose order and symmetry on this gallery of irregular shapes


The Barcelona chair makes its mark on an all white scheme


Black Barcelona chairs in a contemporary sitting room


These white Barcelona chairs look stunning against a period backdrop


A typical mid-century scene with Barcelona chairs and stool


Barcelona chairs work beautifully with these ethnic rugs and carvings


A peaceful place for contemplation


Tan leather Barcelona chairs balance the warmth of the wood furniture


Less is definitely more, the chairs bring calm and order to this scene


The Barcelona chair is a useful addition to this blend of modern and classic furnishings



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Modern Design Classics, no 2.               Poul Henningsen:  PH Artichoke Pendant Light (1958)

The PH Artichoke pendant light was designed by Danish architect Poul Henningsen in 1958, originally for the Langelinie Pavillon restaurant in Copenhagen, where the copper fittings are still hanging today. The Artichoke pendants have a distinctive sculptural shape, reminiscent of the attractive vegetable after which they are named. But beyond that, the clever design of overlapping leaves shields the light source, so the light emitted lends a subtle and ethereal quality to a room. The PH Artichoke was immediately recognised as an exciting new contribution to contemporary design, and has since become a modern design classic.

Poul Henningsen was an architect and author, but his most valuable contribution was to the field of lighting. He was obsessed by light and its importance to our well being and spent his life exploring ways of harnessing its properties in a striking and attractive way. In 1925 he designed the PH lamp which, like his later designs,  carefully reflected and baffled the light rays from the bulb to achieve glare-free and uniform illumination.  He designed several other notable pieces for Danish lighting company Louis Polsen, most still manufactured today. 

The artichoke is arguably one of the most iconic and internationally recognised pendant lights available today. The 72 precisely positioned leaves form 12 unique rows and give the light 100% anti-glare when viewed from any angle. They illuminate the fixture as well as emitting diffused light with a unique pattern. The resulting effect is remarkable, highly decorative yet effective and comfortable lighting. 

It's available in two sizes and three finishes, copper, stainless steel or white painted. 

Although it was designed for a commercial setting, it works equally well in a residential design scheme. In a period home the light's perfect proportions makes a confident statement and beautifully illuminates decorative cornicing and similar features. The Artichoke works surprisingly well in a rustic environment, the sculptural shape contrasting with basic and even crude materials. With contemporary or mid-century furniture it's a natural bedfellow, though it is always striking and slightly surprising. A true modern design classic and a great addition to any room. 

Artichoke 1

The Artichoke light works well with basic, even crude materials like the concrete walls here

Artichoke 2

Perfectly matched with mid century Danish furniture and modern art

Artichoke 3

Confident and elegant, the Artichoke light beautifully illuminates this period dining room

Artichoke 4

A striking feature in a contemporary monochrome scheme

Artichoke 7

Available in 3 finishes - white painted, stainless steel and copper

Artichoke 8

The leaves are cleverly positioned so the light source is hidden from every angle

Artichoke 10

Bringing drama to an all white kitchen

Artichoke 11

The large Artichoke makes a statement in a contemporary bedroom

Artichoke 13

The Artichoke lights compliment the grandeur of these high ceilings and pillars

Artichoke 15

The copper finish brings interest and warmth to this all white room


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Modern Design Classics, no 1.         Eileen Gray: Bibendum Chair (1926)

In 1926, Eileen Gray created the curvaceous and inviting Bibendum chair. The figure hugging chair was aptly named after a voluptuous male figure, the legendary Bibendum man: an advertising character created in the late 19th century for the Michelin tyre Company.

The chair was relatively large; its depth approximately 84cm and its height 74cm. The visible frame was made of a polished, chromium-plated, stainless steel tube. The seat frame was made of beechwood, with rubber webbing inter-woven across the base of the seat to provide added comfort. The seat, back and arm rests were encased in soft, pale leather. The chair was originally created as part of an overall interior design scheme for a Paris apartment, and embraced the new Modern design aesthetic.

Irish born, Eileen Gray had a privileged background which enabled her to travel frequently and she attended prestigious private art schools in London and Paris. Shortly after the First World War Gray settled in Paris, where she was invited to re-design an apartment for Madame Mathieu Lévy, a successful boutique owner.

Gray's aim was that the apartment would not look too cluttered and that the eye would be drawn, first of all, to the tribal art on display. Gray designed most of its furniture, including her famous Bibendum chair, and made a point of using plain furnishing coverings. The process took four years and the result was favourably reviewed by several art critics who saw it as innovative and original.

Only a few pieces of furniture designed by women have achieved the status of Eileen Gray’s Bibendum Chair. However it was not until the 1970s that Gray signed a contract with Aram Designs, London, to authentically reproduce the Bibendum chair, which is still in production in leather and wool finishes. Today, Gray’s work is more admired and valued than ever.

Michelin Chair 1

The Bibendum chair sits beautifully with ethnic and retro schemes

Michelin Chair 2

The Bibendum chair works exceptionally well with modern art

Michelin Chair 3

The Bibendum chair is available in assorted colours, wool and leather

Michelin Chair 4

As a stand-alone piece it is stunning.

Michelin Chair 5

The Bibendum chair works equally well in a classic or contemporary setting

Michelin Chair 6

The Bibendum chair takes centre stage in an eclectic scheme

Michelin Chair 7

The Bibendum chair in soft brown leather against a floral backdrop

Michelin Chair 8

The Bibendum chair as originally conceived for a Paris apartment

Michelin Chair 9

The Bibendum chair was so Modern for it's time

Michelin Chair 10

The Bibendum chair is generously proportioned and comfortable

Michelin Man

The Bibendum character that provided the inspiration

Michelin Man Glass

The Bibendum character in the stained glass window of London's famed Michelin building

Michelin Creator

Eileen Gray (1878 - 1976)