Traditionally, the practice of interior design has been conducted in person, including home and on-site visits, face-to-face meetings to review materials and plans, and shopping excursions to select merchandise. However, in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in drastic shifts in how business is conducted. During the time when many restrictions were in place, interior design professionals learned and mastered new ways of interacting with their clients virtually so they could practice their craft.
The advantages were multiple, such as using internet-based services to reach a broader audience, while reducing overhead costs, eliminating travel and having more flexibility. Even though many of the restrictions are behind us, many interior designers have continued to offer remote interior design services, while clients are becoming more comfortable using on-line services and purchasing items on the internet. At the same time, more sophisticated technology and tools have become available.
One result of the changes is a growing interest in e-design services, which offer tech-savvy clients access to the expertise of an interior designer. An option that falls between full-service interior design and do-it-yourself home improvement, e-design can be the perfect tool for those looking for help but, due to constraints on money and time, do not want to hire a traditional design firm. It’s quick and effective, resulting in creating a space that is both affordable and professionally designed. And it’s a great way for an interior designer who is just starting out to start to develop a clientele.
What is E-design?
E-design is a simple and convenient way for clients to hire an interior designer without retaining a full-service interior design firm. It allows designers to work with clients anywhere in the world, eliminating in-person meetings and the need to travel. Because communication occurs virtually, clients have more flexibility with their schedule, helping to speed up the design timeline. The service provides a step-by-step plan for creating a space that meets each client’s individual style, tastes and budget. It is ideal for clients seeking a designer’s expertise, yet who are able to implement the plan on their own. Clients receive a design package devised specifically for them that is both accessible and affordable.
Through the use of photos, measurements of the space and descriptions provided by the client either verbally or by filling in an on-line questionnaire, the designer can see the home and provide the same level of attention afforded to full-service clients. The designer then creates a comprehensive design concept for a room, putting the desired look together and providing the necessary tools for carrying out the project, guiding clients through each step of the process, whether it’s a single room or an entire home.
How does E-Design differ from traditional Interior design?
The primary difference between e-design and traditional interior design is that e-design takes a DIY approach. Full-service interior design typically involves going to the client’s home to take measurements and photos prior to designing the space, in addition to doing the ordering, installation and final styling. The process includes meetings, shopping trips, overseeing contractors, storage of merchandise and finally, arranging for delivery and supervising installation. An e-designer may never set foot in the client’s home. Instead, the client takes their own measurements and photos and is also responsible for doing the ordering and working directly with vendors. However, if something breaks or needs to be returned or replaced, it is up to client, not the designer, to work things out with the supplier.
E-design usually has a much quicker turn-around than traditional design, often as little as two to four weeks. The process eliminates the need for working on the designer’s schedule, having meetings or going on shopping trips, and clients can communicate with their designer by text or email rather than by scheduling and then waiting for a meeting. In addition, full-service interior designers typically specify everything on the project, from furniture and accessories to color, fabrics and countertops, but with e-design, clients typically do not see the selections in person until they arrive at their home.
Finally, a very big difference is cost. Residential interior designers charge fees that often start at $150/hour. E-designers typically offers design packages, often as low as $75. Clients save a lot of money by doing things themselves.
What type of clients prefer E-design?
E-design is an excellent option for clients who want a design professional’s creativity and experience, would like to proceed from the comfort of their home, enjoy the convenience of working on their own schedule with no deadline pressures, and want to save money. The typical e-design client wants to get involved in the project but is looking for professional guidance and expertise.
The client’s job includes preparation, management and implementation. Here is what the client must be willing and able to do:
- Be tech savvy and feel comfortable communicating virtually
- Take their own photos
- Take their own measurements
- Be articulate about their tastes and goals
- Send inspirational photos they see on websites such as Instagram or Pinterest
- Do their own ordering and handling of exchanges or returns
- Work directly with contractors
But e-design may not be for everyone. Those who need guidance through the process, want someone to take charge and make decisions, have someone create detailed construction documents or go shopping with them, would be better off with a traditional designer. Likewise, if the client desires white-glove service such as in-home consultations, detailed measurements, presentation of samples, custom millwork, construction documents created, all of their furniture delivered at the same time, then e-design services are not for them.
The E-design process
Interior designers know that every project is unique, so there is some variation in what services they offer for each project. Some designers begin the process by having the client fill out a detailed questionnaire describing their tastes, vision, budget and timeline, while others start their work with a phone conversation. The client will be asked to take measurements and photos and then send them digitally. The interior designer then creates a custom plan based on the responses and provides design boards and floor plans as needed. Most offer some form of a DIY guide that provides all the necessary tools for achieving the best possible results, while allowing clients to work at their own pace.
Questionnaire: Typically filled out on-line, this will gather information about the project requirements, design goals and vision.
Design Prep: The client is required to take measurements and photographs of their space. Additional information may be required based on the scope of the project.
Design Board and Floor Plan: The e-designer then creates a personalized home design concept and usually sends a preliminary design for approval, giving the client an opportunity to request revisions. When the design is finalized, a design presentation is sent digitally. It may include visuals, a personalized shopping list, instructions and a decorating guide with all the tools and tips needed to create the space.
Personalized Shopping List: This is a list of everything needed to be purchased in order to complete the design plan.
How Much Can You Charge for E-Design Services?
Many interior designers charge per room for e-design services. Many clients prefer a flat fee per room, so there are no hidden costs or surprises at the end of the project. Usually the designer’s website will show its fees on-line, including per-room and package fees.
Most e-design projects focus on a single room, usually under $1,000 per room, with a $500 fee being average. Some designers offer packages at different prices, becoming more expensive as more options are offered. And some designers offer specialties such as meditation rooms and wellness spaces, home offices, home bars and baby/children’s rooms. Fees might also be based on the square footage of a room.
How to Become an E-Designer
Any interior designer who is tech-savvy can offer e-design services. Most interior designers are already familiar with available virtual tools and software and know how to use them. There are no federal or state laws that require licensing or certification, or specific qualifications for providing e-design services.
Online e-design courses are available for a fee. Usually a certification is provided upon successful completion of the course, which may be a good credential to attract clients, although it is not legally required. You can also find free courses on Lynda.com or find a webinar on websites specifically for interior designers.
Designers can also download e-design software, which is either free or available for a fee. Software such as Photo Shop allow designers to create three dimensional visuals, enabling them to have total control over the creative, manipulation and presentation of 3D. This skill may enable them to charge more, or at least be a selling point for perspective clients.
The Covid-19 pandemic as hastened the popularity of e-design services as both interior designers and perspective clients either cannot or will not travel or conduct face-to-face meetings. Fortunately, the tools for practicing e-design already exist and most designers know how to use them. This new breed of service may be the perfect solution for both designers and clients. For designers, it offers the ability to attract clients from all over the world and to work from home with a flexible schedule. For homeowners, it means they can engage in home improvement projects using the expertise and creativity of a designer but without the high costs.