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The Interior Design Business Model Explained

Being an entrepreneur often means exercising creativity. However, there are some business models where creativity is much more intertwined with the nature of the business than others. One of these types of businesses is interior design. Potential entrepreneurs who are looking to express their artistic visions and passions may want to look into this model as a possible option.

However, the interior design business model is not without its challenges and disadvantages. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at this business model and address some of its advantages and disadvantages.


The Interior Design Business Model

The business model of interior design revolves around the creation of aesthetic and functional living or workspaces for clients. This model typically involves various revenue streams, such as consultation fees, project management fees, and markups on products or materials sourced for the project.

Interior designers assess a client’s needs, preferences, and budget to develop a design concept, which may include layout plans, color schemes, furniture, lighting, and accessories. They leverage their knowledge of design principles, architecture, and space planning to enhance the usability and appeal of a space.

Consultation fees are often the initial revenue stream. This is where designers charge for the time spent in understanding the client’s requirements and proposing initial design ideas. These fees depend on several factors. However, the common range for consultation fees is between $50-$250 per hour. Consultations are usually about an hour long.

Another type of fee designers charge is for the project itself. These are called project management fees. They come into play once a project is underway. These fees cover the coordination and oversight of the project. This includes liaising with contractors and suppliers, overseeing the installation of design elements, and ensuring the project meets the agreed-upon timeline and quality standards.

A significant part of the revenue also comes from the procurement of furniture, fixtures, and fittings. Designers often source these at a wholesale or discounted rate and sell them to clients at retail prices, earning a markup. Additionally, some designers also offer bespoke design services, creating custom furniture or decor pieces, further diversifying their revenue sources.

Types of Interior Design Business

Residential Interior Design Services

The residential interior design model is the type of interior design most people are familiar with. This branch of interior design is incredibly personal. Here, designers work closely with clients to transform their living spaces into tailored environments that reflect their tastes, lifestyle, and personality. This would be considered a high-touch business model as designers need to be present with clients and are usually in constant communication with them. Professionals in this field need to be adept at understanding client needs. They also need to know how to create functional and aesthetically pleasing designs.

This includes selecting color schemes, furniture, decor, and fixtures, as well as coordinating with contractors and architects. Success in residential interior design often depends on the designer’s ability to create a unique, comfortable, and functional space that feels like home to the client.

Commercial Interior Design Firms

Commercial interior design caters to businesses and organizations. This type of designer covers a broad range of industries but is often used in the hospitality, retail, healthcare, and corporate sectors. These designers specialize in creating visually appealing spaces.

Also, the spaces need to be functional and aligned with the brand’s identity. They face unique challenges because of these needs. They need to know how to optimize space for efficiency, meet specific industry standards, and incorporate technology.

Commercial designers must understand the business goals of their clients. Hopefully, with this understanding, they can design spaces that enhance customer experience. Also, the space should help increase employee productivity or showcase products effectively. Projects may include designing a trendy café, a professional corporate office, or a comfortable hospital waiting room.

Sustainable Interior Design Consultancies

Sustainable interior design focuses on reducing the environmental impact of a space. These consultancies aim to create eco-friendly and energy-efficient designs by choosing sustainable materials, minimizing waste, and considering the lifecycle of products. Sustainable designers often work on projects that require LEED certification and are adept at incorporating renewable energy sources, efficient lighting, and non-toxic materials.

They play a crucial role in promoting environmental awareness in the design industry and contribute to creating healthier living and working environments. This type of design is becoming increasingly popular as more clients seek to reduce their carbon footprint and create spaces that are both beautiful and environmentally responsible.

Online Interior Design Services

Online interior design services have emerged as a digital solution to traditional interior design. These platforms offer virtual consultations and design advice, making interior design more accessible and affordable. Havenly is probably the best-known virtual design service.

Clients can receive personalized design plans, 3D renderings, and shopping lists all through online communication. This model caters to a tech-savvy clientele who appreciate the convenience and flexibility of working with a designer remotely.

Online interior design services are ideal for clients looking for guidance on smaller projects. It is also good for those who want to be more hands-on in the design process. These services are revolutionizing the way people approach interior design, providing a convenient and user-friendly option.

Advantages of the Model

Lucrative Market

Interior design is a very lucrative profession. As more individuals and businesses recognize the importance of well-designed spaces, the potential for financial success in this field is significant. Interior designers can command high fees for their expertise. This is especially true in high-end residential or commercial projects. A typical project could cost anywhere from $2,000 to $12,000 on average.

Furthermore, the industry offers diverse revenue streams, from consultation fees and design services to partnerships with furniture and home decor brands.

As clients seek bespoke and high-quality design solutions, the willingness to invest in professional services grows, opening opportunities for substantial profit margins in the interior design business.

Creative-Focused Business

Interior design inherently centers on creativity and innovation. This business model allows designers to express their artistic vision while transforming spaces. Unlike many other professions, interior design offers a unique blend of artistry and practicality, where creative ideas are brought to life in tangible, functional forms.

Designers have the freedom to experiment with colors, textures, layouts, and styles. This keeps their work dynamic and engaging. 

Increasing Demand

The demand for interior design services is on the rise. By most estimations, the industry growth will be about 4% through 2032. This growth is driven by several factors. One is the increased awareness of the importance of well-designed spaces. The demand is also growing in the real estate market. As more people understand how a thoughtfully designed space can improve comfort, functionality, and aesthetics, they are more inclined to seek professional design services for their homes, workplaces, or commercial spaces.

Additionally, trends in home remodeling, real estate development, and corporate branding further fuel the demand. This increasing need ensures a steady stream of potential clients and projects, providing a stable and growing market for interior design businesses.

Flexibility and Diversification

The interior design business model offers considerable flexibility and opportunities for diversification. Designers can choose to specialize in a specific niche, such as sustainable design or luxury residential projects, or offer a broad range of services to appeal to a wider client base. The business can adapt to various scales of projects, from small individual rooms to large corporate spaces, allowing for a diverse portfolio.

Additionally, advancements in technology have enabled designers to offer virtual design services, expanding their reach beyond geographical boundaries. This flexibility not only helps in catering to a varied clientele but also allows designers to adapt to changing market trends and economic conditions, making the business model resilient and versatile.

Disadvantages of the interior design business model

Startup Can Be Difficult

Establishing a foothold in the interior design industry can be challenging. For newcomers, the challenge is especially difficult. Starting an interior design business often requires a significant investment in terms of time, money, and resources. New designers need to build a portfolio. This is important because brand identity is one of the best selling points for designers.

Designers also need to establish a strong client base. Established clients can provide repeat business as they may need help designing homes and workspaces. Clients are also a great source for finding new clients as past clients are likely to refer friends and colleagues to the designer. 

Additionally, the cost of software, marketing, office space, and sample materials can be substantial. For those without substantial financial backing or industry connections, breaking into the interior design market can be a steep uphill climb.

Not Recession-Proof

The interior design industry is sensitive to economic fluctuations. During economic downturns, interior design services, often considered luxury expenditures, are among the first to be cut from personal and corporate budgets. This vulnerability can lead to a significant reduction in work and income for interior designers.

The industry’s dependence on the real estate market also ties it closely to the highs and lows of economic cycles. Thus, interior designers must be prepared for periods of financial instability and have strategies in place to weather economic downturns.

High Stress and Long Hours

Interior design can be a high-stress profession with demanding hours. Designers often face tight deadlines and the pressure to meet client expectations while managing multiple aspects of a project, from creative design to logistical coordination.

The need to stay on top of current trends, deal with supplier issues, and manage unexpected challenges in project implementation can add to the stress. Additionally, client work can often extend into evenings and weekends, especially when trying to meet project deadlines or appease clients. This can lead to long working hours and a challenging work-life balance.

Constant Need for Adaptation and Learning

The interior design industry is constantly evolving. There are always new trends, materials, and technologies emerging regularly. This environment requires designers to continually adapt and learn to stay relevant. Keeping up with design software updates, understanding new sustainable materials, and adapting to changing client tastes can be time-consuming. Also, it may require ongoing education and training.

Failure to stay current can result in a designer’s style and skills becoming outdated, leading to a competitive disadvantage. This need for continuous professional development, while enriching, can also be a strain on time and resources.


When thinking of interior designers, we can no longer categorize them as professionals who only design home spaces. Now, these designers are necessary for commercial properties and well workspaces. The model has now even evolved with the times and has become adaptable to the virtual world. Entrepreneurs wanting to utilize this model need to understand the benefits and risks associated with being an interior designer.

Also read:

5 Types of Consulting Business Models

7 Business Models For Artists


Thomas Martin
Tom is a member of the Editorial Team at StartUp Mindset. He has over 6 years of experience with writing on business, entrepreneurship, and other topics. He mainly focuses on online businesses, digital publishing, marketing and eCommerce startups.

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Tom is a member of the Editorial Team at StartUp Mindset. He has over 6 years of experience with writing on business, entrepreneurship, and other topics. He mainly focuses on online businesses, digital publishing, marketing and eCommerce startups.

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