Stylish Interior Design Help for $50

Think you're too poor for an interior designer? Think again. Professional interior design help is now within reach for the renter. Fueled by demand from a younger, more style-conscious clientele seeking affordable prices in the down economy, interior designers are now offering cut-rate services like analyzing your apartment's style, for as little as $50 per hour.

"I think interior design used to be considered something just for the wealthy," said Michelle Pollak, an interior designer from Charleston, South Carolina. "More people have come on board ... it's more mass market [these days]."

Some first-time customers may be intimidated, thinking that interior designers only do major remodels. But instead of starting from scratch, these space planners will rearrange your furniture, de-clutter and consult on improvements, such as color palates and window treatments.

"Even if I'm consulting on a living room, I always ask to walk through the entire house," says Annie Elliott, whose Washington D.C.-based interior design firm, Bossy Color, offers a moderately-priced space planning service. "I usually end up stealing something from another space. Rearranging furniture is instant gratification."

Most rearranging services begin with consultations, where the clients' needs are discussed and design recommendations made. The quick fixes -- rearranging furniture to create balance, throwing out stacks of magazines -- can happen immediately. Then the designers prescribe action items, whether it's choosing a fabric swatch or buying a new ottoman.

After taking a peek at your style and thumbing through the clothes in your closet, Chicago-based space planners Kelly + Olive create a five to seven page presentation for their clients. This might include color consultation, a suggested floor plan, do-it-yourself projects and recommendations for budget-approved Internet bargains. They even offer their decorating expertise online.

"It's fun to work with virtual clients because not everyone wants someone coming into their house and telling them what has to go, but they still want an opinion," says Courtney Davis, co-founder and designer for Kelly + Olive.

Most designers agree that spin-off services have taken off as design blogs and improvement channels, such as HGTV, have made interior decorating seem more accessible.

San Diego interior designer Lynle Hawkins-Struble, who saw her business slump during the recession, is making accessibility a reality. In December, Hawkins-Struble opened Glimpse, a home accessories boutique. Through hosting events, selling merchandise and passing out business cards, she's hoping to gain exposure and attract new clients for her design services.

"In some ways, people are reaching out more than they used to, and they are looking to do smaller projects," she said. "If someone wants an hour of my time, I'll give it."
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