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How To Understand & Write An Interior Design Letter of Agreement

The Interior Design Letter of Agreement

Hiring an interior designer is easy, but understanding and writing an Interior Design Letter of Agreement, for some can be confusing. Whether you are thinking about renovating, or a newbie designer this is a must read. First, as with all agreements, you should consider an attorney reviewing the LOA. Every business is diverse and unique, therefore, what might be in one LOA may be unsuitable for another.  

Scope of work in the agreement:

The scope of work helps to describe the first steps in the design process.To list the scope of work in the agreement, the designer schedules a consultation to gather information. Under the heading scope of work, enter all rooms discussed with the client, for example, master bedroom, bathroom, and/or kids bedrooms. However, if you have a couple of kids include their names along with their ages. For example, identify each room bedroom no. 1 Mary-12 and so on. In addition, I prefer including the cost for each room; this makes it easier for the client to breakdown the grand-total. The design concept fee applies exclusively to the design concept agreed upon during Phase I.

Tidbit: Time frames are like setting goals. For each phase of the project consider including realistic time frames.

Floor Plans

Phase I: Preliminary Design Concept:

The Preliminary design concept includes: Intake meeting, site survey, measurements (if needed) and photos. Collect some inspirational pictures from your clientThe best way to collect inspirational photos is to have the client upload and share using Google Docs, Pinterest or Houzz.  Unquestionably, it’s the getting to know you process. Ask the client to provide floor plans if available. 

Next, discuss design concept and budget. All lines of communication are open, never assume, when in doubt, consider calling to clarify. 

Lastly, a tabletop presentation with preliminary selections, such as, finishes, window treatment, lighting fixtures, decorative items, and accessories  are presented to the client. After approval, prepare to roll into Phase II.

Tidbit: I REPEAT, All lines of communication are open, never assume, when in doubt consider calling to clarify.

Floor Plans

Floor Plans

Phase II: Design Revisions to Preliminary Design:

It is best practice to dedicate a day during the week to update the clientAt this time, all budgets and scheduled estimates are prepared. Use the presentation sample boards include final selections: furnishings, finishes, paint, wall covering, tile, flooring, window treatments, and lighting fixtures. Include all the deliverables mentioned in the final presentation. Now that you’ve completed Phase II.  You are now prepared to schedule your meeting and present like a pro. 

Completion of Phase II includes approval by client for all selections as well as revisions made to the design concept. The client can decide if he/she will continue onto Phase III or branch out on his/her own.

Tidbit: If there are any significant revisions to the final design concept the client will be billed on an hourly basis as per Phase III (see Phase III below). 

Kitchen Design Presentation Board

Kitchen Design Presentation Board

Phase III-Project Management, Hourly Fees and Retainers

First, determine if your client will purchase the goods. Explain the benefits of a project manager to the client. One advantage of working with a PM is a substantial saving of time and money. The PM does not only purchase products, but is involved with the contractors, electrician, tiles, wall coverings, window treatments and custom orders. 

Next, designer fees are compensated on an hourly $ basis. The PM hourly service charges are invoiced to the client in 5-10 hour increments. A retainer fee is set up and vary from $1,500 to $3,500 a month depending on the scope of work. When it’s time to bill, the invoice is applied to the retainer. If the client does not use up all of the funds within a month, the amount on the retainer is automatically rolled into the following month. Furthermore, access to a balance sheet is provided to the client showing the hours and amount for each transaction.

Lastly, purchasing goods-the clients credit card number is kept on file for goods purchased by the PM. Note, designers do not have control over vendor pricing, as vendors pricing are subject to change.  

Phase IV- Delivery and Punch List

Project management supervision coupled with administration is provided on a monthly site visit with the client and/or general contractor. Any additional meetings can be set as needed. PM schedules with the client any shipping arrangements for the final home install. In addition to, project completion walkthrough and use a punch list of things that need to be addressed.  

Before & After Kitchen by VDA

Finally, the agreement should include a photo release sectionThe client agrees to let the designer’s photograph the project in all or any stages of the design. Photos can be used for publication, press, social media, marketing, print and advertising. Additionally, if the client documents or posts the project in print the designer shall be given credit for the design


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