This is something most people have questions about when they start a design project - that is if they've never worked with a designer before. I'm going to explain, step-by-step, how my design business, Aston Design Studio, purchases furniture and decor for our clients.
This is important to know before you start a project. Most of the products design studios 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.
After everything is selected and designed, quotes for furnishings items we present are obtained from showrooms, vendors, workrooms. Then we input all that information and formulate our proposals.
Clients then pay their deposit(s) or pay in full for items and we place the orders. Since many items are custom and almost all vendors need to be paid by me in full prior to installation, I require either an 80% deposit or payment in full, depending on estimated lead times or the particular items. Once a client pays for that item, I don’t charge any more for time spent on that item. Time spent is included in the cost.
In addition to our design fees, I have a minimal markup on items purchased through my studio. The markup is somewhere between 20-35%, depending on the item, cost and quantity.
For comprehensive insights on how designer discounts affect an interior design business, I encourage you to read: "Interior Designer Discounts: Just How Deep Are They?" It's a pretty revealing piece, if I do say so myself ;-)
When Payment Is Due
Nothing is ordered until we have money from you for that item and it has been cleared for use in our account. So, for instance, if a client pays via PayPal, the transaction might not be complete until 2-3 days after the payment was initiated. Once that money actually makes its way into our account that is when the ordering will begin.
The final balance includes the remaining balance that's due, if any, as well as charges for freight, delivery and installation, and it must be paid at installation.
Freight, Delivery & Installation
Furniture purchased from manufacturers requires shipment to a warehouse that has a dock and is always staffed during business hours.
They will not ship to a residence. Here at Aston Design Studio, we only use companies who are insured and have all the necessary equipment and manpower for receiving, warehousing, delivery, and installation. All designers use these types of services, that is unless they have some kind of a dock at their own business locations.
When a client's piece of furniture comes in, it is uncrated, inspected for damages, I am notified of its arrival with a picture and a report, and we then either: A. store the client's item until the rest of their things come in; or B. we schedule 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 how many there are. Warehouse fees are accrued on items every month and there are fees for unpacking/uncrating items. These costs will be included in your final invoice.
Freight charges from the manufacturer to the warehouse are additional. They can vary depending on the size, type of item, and weight. We typically estimate freight based on our experience with our vendors and it is included in the first payment made on your items.
Some of the products we sell through Aston Design Studio are available via online retailers.
We try our best to be competitive with those retailers, but we're usually not cheaper, because they have greater buying power than most residential designers. We'd love for you to buy product from us, but we don't require it. (Why? Read: Interior Designer Discounts: Just How Deep Are They?),
#ProTip Through Example: Our studio can purchase Lee Industries upholstery for clients. There are many retailers that also offer Lee - both online & physical stores. However, Aston Design Studio can offer more customized details through unique sources we're privileged to have, such as an upgraded construction package, additional details, etc. So, while online retailers may, at first, appear to be cheaper, they very well might not include some of the extras you could get through a designer.
Most of the items purchased through the studio 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). We have several tried and true sources we prefer to use for upholstery that have great construction, as well as -- here in Houston -- a showroom that can be visited to sit in to see how they fit.
Window treatments are always custom, because it seems no two windows are ever alike! Either we will take measurements, or we have an installer who will do it. We also quote everything else that's needed, like fabric, labor, hardware, etc.
With casegoods, there are usually many options for finishes or details. If a piece is customized it may take longer to arrive.
Lead times vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, and we have no control over them.
We 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're telling you exactly what they've reported to us.
Buy It Yourself
Again, Aston Design Studio tries to offer prices that are competitive with retailers out there, but getting a client the absolute best price isn't always possible.
It's not that we're trying to gouge anyone, but sometimes there just comes 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 client's plans.
And there you have it! A pretty comprehensive rundown of how my interior design firm purchases products for a client.
If you feel there's something I didn't address but should have, please let me know so I can fill in the blanks ;-)