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 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 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 a payment in full. 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 on top of my wholesale cost is somewhere between 30-40%, depending on the item, cost and quantity.
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 credit card, 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.
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. 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 billed after installation, and is calculated depending on the types of items delivered, how many there are, the location of the project (because of drive time). Warehouse fees are accrued on items every month and there are fees for unpacking/uncrating items. These costs are included as part of the "freight" amount of your invoice.
We typically estimate freight/shipping charges based on our experience with our vendors and it is included in your invoice for the product(s).
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 on every item.
You are welcome to price check us all over the internet. We know many people will and we know we will be competitive, not always less, but competitive.
However, we are really not interested in working with clients that will pick and choose approximately half or less items through us. We know (from experience) that sometimes clients will leave the difficult, more customized, time-consuming purchases for us and then they will buy the easier-to-purchase items.
When this happens at any point in the project, we have to add 10% to all the items that will be purchased through us as an additional procurement fee.
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.
Window treatments are always custom. 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 we just can't compete.
If clients 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 and obtaining quotes. That time will be billed if it is not included in the scope of work in the Letter of Agreement.
Also, if a client buys products themselves, we assume no responsibility for the purchase, procurement, return, damages or any other aspect of that purchase.
As stated earlier, we can appreciate that a few items might be purchased directly by a client from another source, however if it gets anywhere near to half the project or total amount of items for the space, an additional 10% procurement fee will be added to all items purchased.
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 ;-)