How Your Designer Budgets Your Time

How Your Designer Budgets Your Time

How Your Designer Budgets Your Time

Not sure what a 10-hour design package can accomplish? We’re here to explain how designers work, and what you can do to make the most of their time.

You’re ready to start your interior design project, but now you realize you’re not sure how big of a “project” it even is. Will it require 10 hours? 20? 30? How long does something you don’t know how to do actually take?

When so much of what designers do on a project occurs behind-the-scenes, it’s hard to make sense of how their time is divided. We’re peeling back the curtain to show how our designers spend your time from space planning to styling, what you can accomplish with your package, and our tips on how to make the most of your billable hours.


Each project is different, and so is each designer. The way that they ultimately structure your timeline and hours will depend on your needs and the scope of your requirements, but in general, the majority of the time they are working with you they won’t be with you.

After your initial complimentary consultation, your designer will prepare your proposal. Once your proposal is approved, that’s where their work and expertise really takes off. They might dive into space planning, design work, working drawings, furniture/finish selection, presenting those plans and managing revisions, guiding your through ordering and tracking your purchases (with Homepolish our Concierge team manages that process, saving your designer time, which saves you money), making any regular site-visits to coordinate timeline and track project progress, meeting with any architects, builders and contractors, and finally installing and styling your space.


Photo by Julia Robbs
Featured photo above by Sarah Dorio

That’s a lot of tasks, and your designer might not need to do them all. Homepolish designer Ruchi Mohan breaks it down at a higher level.

“It’s hard to categorize in percentage terms, but if I were to generalize, it’s 35% drawings, 40% design development, 15% execution—getting quotes, budget, installation specs, placing orders, coordinating delivery, and 10% design presentation and client communication, follow-up site visits.”

Another way to think about it might be in the amount of time you’ll interface with your designer. If you want to factor in revisions, you’ll need at least two meetings with your designer (4 hours). In general, 10% of the full project will be devoted to necessary administrative tasks, and then the remaining time outside of those meetings and task is active design time. How that time is spent flexes based on what you prize as priorities and what your project requires. For example, if you want your designer to prep thorough CAD drawings (or your project requires them because of construction needs), you’ll need more hours. If you’d rather your design provide more upfront, you can skip revisions.

“When working on construction-heavy projects, the bulk of my time goes into those construction drawings and administration, making sure the fine details are addressed,” explains Dallas-based Homepolish designer Rachel Chulew. “This includes specifying how materials like countertops or millwork meet, creating smart spatial flow, reconciling equipment, plumbing and electrical, and keeping the project organized for everyone working on it. It’s the less glamorous aspect of interior design, but it’s a professionalism that both clients and contractors deeply appreciate.”

Photo by Helynn Ospina; Design by Nina Jizhar


Now that you know what goes into each hour, you can better understand how a 10-hour project isn’t just a complete design of a small space versus 20-hours being a space twice as large.

“For 10 hours, I advise clients that we can pull together a great outline for the project,” explains Rachel. “This would include a broad aesthetic concept and schematic layouts that a client can follow up on in their own time after this.”

In other words, a 10-hour project provides you with the tools to get to the final product you’re envisioning, not the complete before-and-after. At Homepolish, our projects require at least 10 hours of design time.

“Ten-hour projects are really just a start,” explains Ruchi. “A lot of clients like to divide the project into phases to see how the relationship between the designer and themselves works. For an interior design project, 10-hours are typically required for a preliminary survey of one room and coming up with initial furniture plan options for said room. It is a simultaneous process of creating a furniture plan and finding furniture that is available and can work in the space in terms of scale, style, size, lead times, and budget.”

Once you cross over to 20 hours, you and your designer are able to dig more deeply into specifics or specific tasks that require a little more lift, like complex drapery or wallpaper.

“A 20-hour project moves a step closer to design,” explains Ruchi. “Once we agree on the final layout, I use the next bulk of hours to specify the design details from upholstery, paint color, wallpaper to the rug, etc.”

If you’re looking to go from full concept to completion or if you need renovation support, you’ll want to consider a 30-hour project. This span would allow your designer to work through aesthetic concepts, multiple layouts, and implementation of furniture and furnishings. If you’re working a kitchen, bath, or more structurally complex space, you’ll need the additional time. But no matter what, you should outline your needs and discuss them in-depth with your designer at the onset to best determine what is feasible.

Photo by Tessa Neustadt


In order to best leverage your designer’s time, our pros all recommended pulling some inspiration (which we have plenty of on our Instagram feed).

“Be ready to begin work as soon as your designer arrives on-site,” encourages Homepolish designer Becky Gardner. “Have inspiration photos, floorplans (if available) and an idea of budget in mind. Write out your goals for your space—full renovation? light renovation? furnishing and decor?”

Your designer will guide the consultation and ask questions, but having images of spaces or products you like to review provides a great place to start.

“Don’t go overboard collecting ideas,” explains Rachel. “This gives us the latitude to come up with fresh ideas that are tailored to your space and your needs, rather than creating copies of inspiration images.”

Across the board, our designers stressed how important it was for clients to understand how much work goes on behind-the-scenes making sure the process is easy for their clients. The better job they are doing, the less you see of them.

“Clients often feel that once the design has been presented to them, they shouldn’t have any more design fees,” Becky explains. “But there is still a lot of project management work to be done when it comes to purchasing and tracking orders, implementing the design, and finishing up any other project details before the final reveal.”

Photo by Nick Glimenakis; Design by Brooke Slabic

Photo by Jess Isaac; Design by Galina Holecheck

“Oftentimes, clients think designers already have everything in their heads and we have a magic wand to get things done in a snap,” Ruchi explains. “Every space I design is custom and personal to my clients, so it takes time to think of their lifestyle, function, and needs for the space and then to create the layout and find the pieces that represent them. It is a lot of insight and thought and attention to detail. Creating a design from a blank slate and then communicating and presenting that vision requires a whole lot of time and detailing.”

That’s why it’s best for you and your designer to establish clear communication at the start. At your consultation discuss if you have preferences for how they use their time (say you’d rather they skip sketching and provide resources), so you are both on the same page with how the process will unfold.

“The more honest and realistic clients are about their budget, timelines, communication preferences and execution skills, the better it is for the designers,” explains Ruchi.

Better for the designer, means better for you and your space.

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