Purchasing Furniture and Decor with an Interior Designer

“What is it like purchasing furniture and decor with a interior designer”?

This is a question that is always asked when starting a project.  For many clients this is their first time working with a designer and it can be scary if you don’t feel informed.  I am here to explain and guide my clients in this new process.  I want my clients to feel comfortable with a designer and to tell their friends!

Something important to understand is most of the products designers sell are customized in some way, making the process of ordering them a bit more complicated than simply picking up the phone and placing an order.

The following is the process that a designer goes through with every project.

Quotes and Estimates

We start by designing, gathering quotes from vendors, workrooms, and showrooms to create a presentation for a client’s home.  Once the items are approved, clients will pay their deposit and we can start to purchase the goods.  Goods that are custom or just not off the retail shelf, will require payment by me in full prior to delivery and installation.  I require 50% deposit on all purchases minimum, sometimes it may be a 75% deposit.  Once a client puts down their deposit I don’t charge any more for time spent on that item.  Time spent is included in the markup cost.

In addition to our design fees, I have a minimal markup on items purchased through my firm.  The markup is 20% in my firm.

Paying Dues

Nothing is ordered until we receive your deposit and it has been cleared for use in our account.  So, for instants is a client pays with a credit card, that transaction may not be complete until 1-3 days after payment.  Once the money actually in our account, the ordering process begins for the items.

The final balance includes the remaining percentage that is due, as well as charges for freight, delivery and installation, and it must be paid before or at installation.

Freight and Delivery

Furniture that is purchased from manufactures frequently requires a loading dock at a warehouse.  They do not ship to residences or offices without a loading dock for receiving.

Many designers, including myself, use a company that is insured and have all the necessary resources and manpower for receiving, warehousing, delivering, and installing of the furniture pieces.  Some designers do have offices with some kind of dock at their own location for the receiving of merchandise.

When a clients item arrives at the warehouse, it is unpacked, inspected for damage.  I am given notice of the arrival of the piece, along with a report and photo’s.  There are two options from here: (1) store the clients item until the rest of their things arrive; or (2) we schedule a home delivery for the item at that time.  The cost of this service is added on to the final billing, and is calculated depending on the types of items delivered and quantities.

Freight charges from the manufacturer to the warehouse are additional.  They can vary depending on the size, type of item, and weight.  Sometimes I can get freight charges estimated at the time of the initial quote, but other times I cannot.

Freight, shipping and delivery charges are not something I add a markup to.  I extend the price directly to my client and I am present for installations of goods.  My times for installing the furniture and decor are worked into the markup.

Competitive Pricing

Some of the goods that I sell are available through online retailers.

I try my best to be competitive with those retailers, but we’re usually not cheaper, because they have greater buying power than more residential designers.  I’d love you to buy product from Meg B. Frank Interiors, but it is not required.


Some of the items purchased through our firm have some customization to them.

Upholstery is always done with a fabric we hand-select, because we know what will work best for a client’s project (trim options, finish options, details, etc. are elements that can be customized).  I have several tried and true sources we prefer to use for upholstery that have great construction, and reliability.

Window treatments are always custom, because it seems no two windows are ever the same.  We quote everything that’s needed, such as fabric, fabrication, installation, hardware, etc.

Casegoods (furniture made of hard materials, such as wood, metal, glass, etc) typically have many options for finishes and details,  If a piece is customized it may take longer to arrive.  Vendors do have options for a quick-ship option, but it will limit your custom options.

Lead Times

Lead times vary dramatically from vendor to vendor, and I have no control over them.

I can however, check stock ahead of time to see if something is available at the time of order placement; but if something is out of stock, it might take longer to receive than expected.  Always, when we give you an estimated time frame, we are telling you exactly what the vendor has reported to us.

D.I.Y. Purchasing

At Meg B. Frank Interiors, we try to offer prices that are competitive with retailers, but getting a client the absolute best price isn’t always possible.

It’s not that we are trying to gouge anyone, but sometimes there just come a price point when we have to cut our losses and encourage a client to buy from another source.  And if they do choose to buy from someone else, we ask that they let us know as soon as possible so we don’t unnecessarily spend time looking for sources for them; because, after all, the client is paying for our time, so it’s in both parties’ best interests to know a client’s plans.

There you are, a brief, but insightful way a designer does their purchasing.

If you feel there’s something I didn’t address but should have, please let me know so I can fill in the blanks.

About Meg

Megan’s style can be described as classical with a modern twist, such as finding a Louis XVIII era chair and adding a pop of color. She works closely with each of her clients to ensure the vision for each project is executed seamlessly. Her obsession over the finest-tuned details shines through in every completed project. Megan currently lives in the Chicago Area with her loving and supportive husband.
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