Interior Design Fees And Millennials

They’re not new, these conversations we’ve been having about Houzz and online design services and fees. Nor is it new that some trade vendors, on the defensive, have undercut designer pricing because they can’t figure out their place in the market and because they’re afraid. Everyone deserves to earn a living. But there is definitely a new kind of undercurrent in the ether. Can you feel it? A tipping point that has a lot of designers saying, enough.

I’m not so concerned about the people trying to capture a share of the audience that most designers don’t want—the DIYers. Have at ‘er!

I don’t care if you went to a good school, the right school or any school for that matter. I know many designers are serial creators and multi-hyphenates. When you landed in this industry, it’s because you were meant to be here.

I’m also not going to diminish your talent if you call yourself a blogger, or decorator, or a designer. The title you resonate with, and the channels you use to engage with your audience, have nothing to do with me or your talent, and vision.

But here’s where I’m taking a stand. I’m so over the kind of people who say designers “aren’t really business people”. I’m done with people who diminish the value of designers’ services because they really don’t get what good designers do. (FYI the original article with that heinous quote has been scrubbed from search but it will long be remembered in the blogosphere;))

I’m also annoyed by the lack consciousness and the resultant fear seeping its way into the conversation when it comes to engaging the audience so many of these alleged “disrupters” are lusting after: millennials.

I think marketing with demographics as your key focus is a trap but I’m going to go here for a moment and use as an example a recent article on the subject of designers’ fees first posted in the online version of AD. A newbie designer was quoted saying that her clients came to her because they didn’t understand why their other designer would specify a $20K table.

“And then there’s the rest of us, who can’t imagine spending $20,000 on any one thing “ever”, with the exception of perhaps a down payment . . . What about us?”, the journalist summed up. I get it, age and stage appropriate, for some Millennials.

Not surprisingly that article was quickly moved to that publication’s new, millennial-targeted, digital spin off, because you know advertisers. Hard to miss page one of AD’s March print edition of featuring an ad for Patek Philippe watches which sell at around $60,000 on the low end to well over a million and up. Watches yes, tables no?

I don’t know who sent out the memo that Millennials don’t like to spend money. Because while half the online retail landscape has been trying to squeeze their products into size cheap—forget about quality, a living wage for the artisans in your supply chain or vomiting excess into the environment—a good number of Millennials have been out there getting rich.

In fact, according to a 2017 article in Forbes, Millennials now make up 23% of the world’s millionaires. Put another way, there are about 5 million millennial millionaires. That’s half as many as the Boomers. Not to mention that fact that more than 75 million Millennials born between 1981 and 1997 are ready to take over an estimated $30 trillion in wealth from Baby Boomers. That’s reinforced by AARP statistics, which show that people older than 50 hold 80 percent of America’s household wealth.

Yes, they’ve also got student debt and yes they experienced by pain of recession—haven’t we all?—but a sizeable group of them have money to spend. Somehow though, the “disrupters” have the industry whipped into a frenzy about the rest of them, the ones that don’t get the value of your services and that aren’t a fit for your boutique business model.

So what if, rather than focus on catering to the people who can’t afford your services, you shift your focus to finding the ones who can? You only need a handful of loyal clients who love and value your aesthetic to earn a good living.

If you’re not marketing to the right Millennials, this is an easy fix. However, if the value of your offering isn’t landing and this audience isn’t spending money with you, shift accordingly. Take a good look at your body of work. Are you pushing yourself creatively? Is your portfolio current? Are you getting better as a designer? Do you understand, emotionally, who you are talking to? What they value? How does that relate to what you value? Are the values of your production process in alignment with this audience you seek to serve?

Take your cue from this designer who commented on a thread we’ve got going on Facebook.


You can also use your voice to create a plan that will allow you to focus on attracting the kind of clients who want to work with you, regardless of the demographic they fall into.

Oh, and please also remind your Trade vendors not to cave into the internet hype. Ask them to stand with you in keeping your brands and our industry elevated.

If you’re stuck when it comes to creating a Visibility Strategy, apply for MBD Mastermind. Registration re-opens in the Fall 2018.

Comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



work with us


buy the


The difference between unknowns, design leaders and legends is a factor of visibility. Branding + Interior Design is the quintessential handbook for next-gen design leaders.

Check out my