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We Hired an Interior Decorator for the First Time – Here’s How it Went

We Hired an Interior Decorator for the First Time – Here’s How it Went

We have officially been in our home for two months now. We are unpacked and settled in. We are surrounded by future projects, rooms we want to decorate, a backyard we want to beautify…but we’re in no rush. Just being here, unpacked, and living in the house I’ve been waiting a long time for, is amazing. It was really important to us to make this house feel like a home, and this is the first time we’ve brought real intention to decorating. In fact, we worked with an interior decorator on our living room. This wasn’t something we had planned on doing, but it’s been an incredible experience that I want to share in case you’re thinking about doing the same thing.

How did we choose a decorator?

We had no intentions of hiring someone to help us decorate our home. Quick backstory if you’re new here: we sold our old home, paid off all our debt, and moved into a rental (two, actually) for several years while saving up for this home (you can read that story here). When we started saving, we knew we’d want to buy new living room furniture (and a few other pieces) for our new home. Our current furniture was old, had been through many moves, and had suffered great abuse at the hands of young children and dogs. So, we included a bucket of money for furniture in our savings plan.

While were in escrow, we spent hours (hours!) driving around and looking at furniture. It was so overwhelming. I know what I like…but I don’t have a design mind (I mean, I can design lots of cute things for paper, but not for my house!). Did we need a sectional? A couch and a loveseat? Extra chairs? What about tables, and lighting, and art, and a rug? And what colors did I want? Super overwhelming and not at all fun like I had imagined this would be.

One day, after driving into many (many) store, Charles pulled into a furniture store called Kathy Adams Interiors in Plano, Texas. The first words out of my mouth were, “this is too fancy for us!” But Charles insisted we go look. 

We were immediately greeted by one of the employees. We explained to him how tired we were of shopping for couches. He told us he could help. We said, “yes, please!”

{since taking these, we’ve added a TV to this wall and a record player to the credenza. Also, the decor on the table was provided by the decorator. These were extra and unexpected. I liked them, but they were expensive so we ended sending them back. I found similar, cheaper substitutes.}

What does an interior decorator do?

An interior decorator listens to what you want, comes to your space, and then helps fill it with beautiful things. We gave him our budget (probably low by the standards of this store, but he was game!) and told him what we needed. Ever since moving into a rental almost five years ago, I’ve been keeping a journal full of pictures of homes/designs/ideas that I love and wanted to reference in our new home. Kind of like a vision board for a house. So when he visited the house and took measurements, I showed this to him, and he ran with it.

We also told him we needed a space that was very liveable…we have lots of people over, and need seating and furniture that can stand up to being used.

He also looked around our house at existing furniture, decor, and art – and incorporated that into his design ideas. We mostly ended up using art we already had. He helped us pick out pieces for a gallery wall, and suggested adding another piece or two to our collection before hanging it up. Charles wanted something representing music, since horses are my favorite thing and music is his…and we already have horses well-represented in our house (ha). We both love animals. So I picked out this songbird art from Photowall. We actually have two other beautiful pieces from them as well, and when I get to those rooms, I’ll share them! {Photowall offered me the art in exchange for sharing it here.} There are literally thousands of designs you can have in any size and format on Photowall, so it’s a fantastic option if you’re looking for something unique or specific.  


Side note: while the decorator was here, he gave us some great feedback and ideas for our dining room! 

About a week later, he called us into the showroom. He had pieced together a collection of items that he thought we’d like and drawn up a diagram of where it all would go. We chose what we liked. I am easy, and liked most of it. There were a couple things we didn’t love, and a couple things I was on the fence about, and he showed us other options. 

How much does an interior decorator cost?

This is the million dollar question, and I don’t have a real answer. We have a couple friends who had worked with decorators or done a consultation with one, so I had a benchmark. For the projects my friends were working on, which were unrelated and located in different cities, their designer fees were going to be around $10,000, and that was before furniture. 

Our decorator worked on commission. We did not pay him. The store paid him commission on the pieces we ended up buying. 

Was our furniture more expensive than if we’d shopped at a big box furniture store? Yes. Especially our credenza. But it’s beautiful. I love it, and it brings us great joy!

But we actually stayed within our original planned furniture budget (the amount we already had saved up). We also saved hours of shopping time, saved ourselves a ton of stress, and now have a color palette and design foundati0n for the rest of the entire house (and while, like I said, I’m not an interior decorator…I can definitely take what we have now and plan the rest of the house around it).

This has actually saved us money. I am normally a very spontanteous shopper, particularly for the house. If I saw something cute, I’d get it and blame on my eclectic style (which is definitely true, lol). But now, when I’m shopping (for anything, but Christmas decorations come to mind), I am super intentional about it. Am I buying something that I love and that will work in our house? If not, I just don’t buy it. 

How did the interior design process work?

After we approved everything, it was time for delivery day! Not only did he bring all of the things were had chosen, but a bunch of accessories and other decor for the space, too. We had only chosen the furniture and a piece of art (hello, giant horse!). But he also brought decor for the table, an ottoman, some side tables and lamps, etc. He set the entire room up and we lived in it for a couple days. We had the option to purchase anything he had brought. 

Ultimately, we kept some of it (a lamp, side table, and a funny monkey statue). We sent the rest back (including the leopard print ottoman you see here…it was fun, and seats two people, and I wanted it…but it was expensive and didn’t make the cut). I ended up replacing the items we returned with similar ones that I found on Wayfair or Amazon. 

Here are my tips for working with an interior decorator on a budget: 

  • Be really clear about your budget with yourselves and with your decorator. 
  • Prioritize your needs. Most of us want a pretty place to live but need it to be really liveable, too. Be super clear on this (for example, one thing I said to our designer was, “there is a 90% chance red wine will be spilled on this rug at least twice a year…” and with that, he made sure to find us a rug that was easy to clean and also on the more affordable end of rugs).
  • Be prepared. I highly recommend keeping a journal or just a collection of pages your rip out of magazines that inspires you and that you’d like to see incorporated in your home decor. I was able to just pass mine off and say, “here you go!” and let the designer work his magic.
  • Many furniture stores offer similar programs to the one we used, where you can have a designer’s assistance in exchange for purchasing from that store, or for a fee. Ask the stores you are visiting!
  • Be ready to choose what you love and maybe save some things for later (in our case, window treatments were going to be really expensive…so as you can see in the pictures, we’re waiting on those!). 
  • Ask your designer to incorporate existing pieces into your finished room (art and furniture). I’ve had some of the same pieces of furniture for over 20 years now. Our designer looked at everything with fresh eyes and found homes for several things in our house that were just sitting around randomly.

How do we feel about the design process now?

This unexpected trip to the fancy furniture store was such a blessing. I love, love, love this space. It is the basis for how we will decorate the rest of the house. 

The actual design process was super easy…it took all my stress away. Our decorator was AMAZING and never pressured us – we were clear with our budget and while we went over what we had initially planned on spending on the living room, we still kept it within range of our “new house furniture” bucket. 

If  you’re local and interested, our decorator’s name was Michael and he was at Kathy Adams Interiors in Plano.


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