Get Quotes from Top Interior Designers in Washington Dc, DC

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Interior Designer in Washington, D.C.

A good interior designer can make the process of remodeling your home as seamless and hassle-free as possible while also ensuring that each room reflects your unique style and personality. Through their connections to vendors of high-quality furnishings, skilled subcontractors and craftsmen, these professionals not only save you time and money but also increase your property value with a possible ROI of over 100 percent. To ensure that you enlist the services of experienced Washington D.C. interior designers that can transform your home into stylish and functional living spaces per your personal preferences while staying on budget, always ask the following questions:

Are You Registered or Certified to Practice as an Interior Designer in Washington, D.C.?

The practice of interior design in Washington, D.C., is regulated by the district's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) through its Board of Architecture, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture.

Per DC municipal regulations, all interior designers who wish to ply their trade in the district must undergo licensure by this board before doing so. Failure to comply with this regulation is considered unlawful, and violators face penalties that include fines of up to $10,000, jail time of up to one year, or a combination of both. Note that steeper penalties are meted out to repeat offenders.

Interior designers who wish to obtain licenses from the DCRA may apply to the department online via its Access DC portal. Note that the creation of a user account is required for this step. Applicants must also meet certain mandatory eligibility requirements, which include:

  • Being no less than 18 years old
  • Possessing a current CIDQ-issued certificate and providing proof of successfully passing all parts of the CIDQ examination
  • Providing a 2"x2" passport-type photo
  • Providing a U.S. government-issued photo ID
  • Paying all stipulated fees
  • Being of good moral standing and having no criminal convictions that directly affect their fitness for licensure

Inquiries about the licensure process and requirements for Washington, D.C., interior designers can be directed to the Board of Architecture, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture's customer service representatives at (866) 270-9817. Queries can also be directed to the DCRA online, via email, or by calling (202) 442-4320. You can equally confirm your intended interior designer's licensing status via the aforementioned channels or by utilizing the DCRA's Access DC portal.

How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Interior Designers in Washington, D.C.?

The cost of interior design services in Washington, D.C., is largely influenced by factors like:

  • The nature and scope of the required services
  • The size of spaces that require remodeling
  • The types and cost of furnishings and fixtures required for the project
  • The interior designer's reputation

Professional interior designers in the district typically use one or a combination of the following billing methods when calculating their rates:

  • Hourly Rates: this method involves billing the client for the total amount of time spent working on the project. These hourly rates are typically discussed and agreed on before the project commences, and the client is often required to pay a retainer.
  • Fixed Rates: this method involves billing the client a flat fee for the required interior design services. This method is typically employed for specific services like design reviews and color consultations.
  • Percentage Rates: this method involves billing the client a percentage of the total value of the remodeling project. This percentage typically ranges from five percent to 25 percent, depending on the nature and scope of the project.
  • Cost per Square Foot/Meter Rates: this method involves billing the client for each square foot or meter or space that is designed and remodeled. This billing method is mostly used for commercial projects.

When planning your remodeling project, you should always consider getting and comparing rates from at least three different interior designers. This is an effective way to find out the going market rates for your required services and avoid being scammed by dishonest interior designers who fraudulently inflate their charges.

Note that you should not automatically select the interior designer with the lowest rates. Confirm that they also satisfy other eligibility requirements like proper licensing, adequate experience, and a good reputation for satisfactory service delivery.

Interior designers in Washington, D.C., earn an average annual wage of $70,060. The list below provides the average hourly wages of these professionals compared with the average hourly wages of interior designers across several other locations in the United States:

Washington D.C. Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
Baltimore Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
Philadelphia Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
Arlington Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
Richmond Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
New York City Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
Houston Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
Los Angeles Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
Phoenix Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
Chicago Interior Designers Average Hourly Wage
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Interior Design Services Do You Offer?

When searching for interior design services in Washington, D.C., it is common to confuse interior decoration with interior design. However, despite a few similarities between the two, these activities are not the same.

Interior design is an art and science that involves understanding a person's unique behavior, personality, and characteristics to create functional living spaces for them. Sometimes, interior design may involve interior decoration. By contrast, interior decoration simply entails furnishing a space with decorative materials and accessories to achieve a certain look or aesthetic, and interior decorators cannot provide interior design services.

Professional interior designers in D.C. typically offer interested clients a variety of services that include, but are not limited to:

  • Space and aesthetic planning
  • Custom furniture and textile design
  • Color palette consultation
  • Furniture and accessories selection and procurement

To this end, always confirm the type and scope of interior design services your preferred interior designer is equipped to offer, and make sure that these services align with the specific requirements of your project. Also, ensure that you find out and agree on the cost of these services before any work begins and insist on getting this in writing.

The list below provides cost estimates for Washington D.C. interior design services based on different billing methods:

Residential interior design services cost estimates

Hourly rate fee structure
$122 - $138.50 per hour
Square footage fee structure
$5.05 - $12.50 per square foot
Percentage fee structure
10% - 25% of construction cost
Percentage fee structure
12.5% - of 35% of furnishings cost

Commercial interior design services cost estimates

Hourly rate fee structure
$100.50 - $203 per hour
Square footage fee structure
$13.75 - $16.65 per square foot
Percentage fee structure
10% - 25% of construction cost

What is Your Favorite Interior Design Style?

It is not unusual to have a distinct vision or desired aesthetic for your living space. While the Modern Farmhouse interior design style is considered one of the most popular options for home remodeling projects in the DC area, many residents of the district also favor other popular aesthetics and styles like:

  • Art Deco
  • Bohemian Chic
  • Minimalist
  • Scandinavian
  • Rustic
  • Traditional
  • Transitional
  • Eclectic
  • Contemporary
  • French Country

Therefore, when planning remodeling projects in D.C., it is crucial to verify that the interior designer you are considering is licensed and has the expertise and creativity required to turn your idea into a reality.

If you intend to go with a celebrity interior designer, you should always ensure that the aesthetic and design styles they are known for align with your preferences or vision. Requesting and reviewing a portfolio of their work is a good way to determine this.

Finally, you can collaborate with your interior designer to develop a design style that suits your personality and age if you are unsure of the aesthetic you wish to implement in your living space. The following interior design styles are trendy among different age groups in DC:

  • Generation X/Baby Boomers – Rustic, Traditional, Contemporary
  • Generation Y/Millennials – Bohemian Chic, Contemporary, Modern Farmhouse, Minimalist
  • Generation Z –Eclectic, Minimalist, Rustic, Modern Farmhouse

Can You Provide References from People You Have Served in the Washington, D.C.?

During your search for good interior designers in Washington D.C., you may get referrals from sources like:

Notwithstanding how you find an interior designer in the district, you should always ask them to provide references from past local clients who can vouch for them. Asking for references and checking them goes a long way in helping you ascertain an interior designer's legitimacy, professionalism, and competence, and you should be wary of any interior designer who cannot provide you with at least three references.

You can also take further steps to verify your preferred interior designer's reputation and service delivery by looking them up online via websites like Google Review, the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and other similar platforms.

How Do You Structure Your Interior Design Projects?

Finding out how interior designers structure their projects helps you determine their time management abilities, which in turn gives you a good indication of the project's timeline and what to anticipate from their work.

This is important, as it helps you plan for occasions or milestones tied to the project's estimated completion date, such as move-ins, weddings, and the arrival of babies or other new additions to your family.

Professional Washington D.C. interior designers generally structure their projects in six key phases:

  • Discovery: this is the first phase of most interior design projects, and it involves the interior designer trying to get an idea of the client's unique style and preferences. This is usually done by reviewing inspiration images and discussing an overall direction for the project.
  • Inspiration: during this stage, the interior designer and their design team come up with concept statements for the living spaces that require remodeling. These statements are subsequently used to guide the project's direction.
  • Design: this phase involves the interior designer presenting fully developed design ideas to the client for necessary reviews, adjustments, and revisions until a final design style is agreed on and approved.
  • Procurement: at this point, the furnishings, accessories, and materials needed to implement the approved design are purchased.
  • Installation: this phase involves the interior designer and their team installing all procured items and materials in the appropriate locations. While the installation phase typically runs for one to five days, this timeframe may be longer for large projects.
  • Big Reveal: this is the final phase of the design process. At this point, the completed work is unveiled to the client.

What Builders, Architects, or Contractors Do You Work With?

Interior designers in Washington, D.C., typically work closely with or hire building professionals like architects, engineers, builders, general contractors, and subcontractors when handling remodeling projects.

To ensure the satisfactory completion of your project, it is crucial that you find out exactly who will be involved in the job before they begin any work, as well as the nature and cost of their services. It is equally important to confirm that these parties have the professional and occupational licenses required to offer these services and are adequately insured.

The significance of checking the insurance status of each party involved in your project cannot be overstated. In 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 58,000 interior designers and construction trade workers were injured. In situations where these injuries or other adverse events like property damage occur during your project, you will be held liable if your interior designer and building professionals are not adequately insured.

Therefore, always request proof of insurance from your interior designer and other pertinent building professionals involved in your project before they begin any work and validate this proof with the appropriate insurance providers. Keep in mind that all interior designers and building professionals who work in Washington D.C. are required by law to carry workers' compensation insurance for their employees.

Also, even though it is not required, ensure your interior designer carries general liability insurance that can adequately cover third-party injuries and property damage and professional liability insurance to cover errors brought on by oversights, mistakes, and negligence.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Interior Designer in Washington, D.C.

You can file complaints against bad interior designers in Washington, D.C., with the district's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG).

An annual survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America in 2021 placed home improvements and professional services as the third and ninth top causes of consumer complaints in the DC area, respectively. Likewise, the OAG reported that more than 2,500 consumer complaints were filed in the DC area in 2021 alone – an increase of nearly 70 percent from the total number of complaints filed in the previous two years.

To this end, it is necessary to watch for signs of dishonest and fraudulent activities when planning your remodeling projects. This is because, even though many interior designers in the district ply their trades legitimately, some unscrupulous designers prey on unsuspecting clients and try to scam them through several schemes and methods, such as:

  • Charging premium fees for furnishings, accessories, and other necessary materials only to use subpar items for the job
  • Providing shoddy services or leaving projects unfinished despite being paid appropriately for the job
  • Deceiving clients about their licensing status
  • Persuading clients to agree to verbal agreements or getting them to sign contracts that contain hidden fees
  • Demanding exorbitant base deposits or full payment upfront before beginning any work

You can significantly lower your chances of receiving subpar interior design services or falling victim to home remodeling scams in Washington, D.C., by paying attention to the following tips:

  • Consider getting second opinions from trusted friends and relatives before jumping into any major remodeling projects. You can also get referrals to reputable interior designers in the district from these parties or sources like the American Society of Interior Designers and the Better Business Bureau, regardless of the size and scope of your intended project.
  • Do not hire unsolicited interior designers.
  • Verify that your preferred interior designers have been licensed by the DCRA via its Access DC portal.
  • Be wary of interior designers who cannot provide references, and always check any references you are given.
  • Check online reviews and testimonials for your preferred interior designers via sites like Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, Google Reviews, and other platforms.
  • Always insist on getting a well-detailed written contract from your interior designer before any work starts, and make sure that you review this contract thoroughly before signing it.
  • Never pay the entire cost of a project upfront, and be wary of interior designers who either ask you to do so or demand unreasonably large base deposits. Ensure your base deposit is not more than 20 - 30 percent of the project's overall cost.
  • Keep an eye on the work being done and ensure that subsequent payments align with the project's progress.

You can file complaints against licensed interior designers in Washington D.C. with the district's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs through its Board of Architecture, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture by completing and submitting an Occupational and Professional Licensing Complaint Form online.

Complaints concerning the actions of licensed and unlicensed interior designers and matters involving remodeling scams in Washington, D.C., can also be filed with the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia via email or by calling (202) 442-9828. Complaints can also be filed with this office online or by texting the word "complaint" to (202) 738-5212 and following the guided prompts.

You can also take additional legal action against the parties named in your complaint by filing a lawsuit against them with the Civil Division of the District of Columbia's Superior Court.

However, you should always consider speaking with an attorney before initiating this action. You can get recommendations to licensed and qualified attorneys in Washington, D.C., by using the resources that the D.C. Bar provides through its Hiring a Lawyer webpage.