Pros and Cons of Using Retail Interior Designers

You’re shopping at your favorite home store, and they offer you retail interior design services. Should you accept?
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If you’re in the market for new furniture, you probably start by perusing some of your favorite retail stores in person or online. As you look through their selections, you notice that they offer interior design services. Many of these stores offer these services at no charge. So, how do retail design services differ from working with traditional interior designers, and how do you know if this is the right choice for your home?

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Interior Designers vs. Retail Interior Designers 

Both interior designers and retail interior designers help you improve the space of your home with interior design services. They also help you minimize mistakes when shopping for furniture. But there are a few distinctions.

A traditional interior designer, who may be self-employed or work for a design firm, works to develop a style for the space that reflects the client’s personal vibe and the feeling the client wishes to communicate. Creating this “look” can involve selecting flooring types, paint colors, wallpaper, and fabrics, and arranging the room’s layout and placement of furniture and accessories.

A retail interior designer will do the same, but they will be limited to the options available to them at the store where they work. Some designers do contract work for the retail store, which might give them more latitude in choosing finishes and furnishings.

Unlike traditional interior designers, retail interior designers typically don’t make structural changes to a customer’s space. While they may have the education and certification to do such things, they are limited by store policies. Their services aren’t billed by the hour like a traditional interior designer, as their services are add-ons to your furniture purchase.

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Pros and Cons of Using Retail Design Services 

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Many of the best online furniture stores include design services to help customers decorate their homes. Much of these services have shifted to virtual services, and customers can get help from designers online. There are other perks of using retail design services, but there are a few drawbacks you should consider.


  • In most cases, retail interior design services are free with a purchase.
  • Some retail companies hire certified interior designers.
  • Many retail companies provide 3D software and mood boards to allow customers to see how the space will look.
  • Some retail stores may not require you to purchase items from their store to use their design services.
  • Many retailers have flexible options of working virtually, in-store, and in your home.
  • You can buy items that you need directly from the designer.
  • If they charge for services, the best furniture brands might offer discounts with your furniture purchase.


  • Retail interior designers don’t make structural changes, even if they’re trained to do so.
  • Some may only work with you only if you are buying from their store.
  • You may not be able to see a portfolio of the individual designer’s work.
  • Designers suggest designs but you will have to do most of the physical work of placement and arranging.
  • Some retailers require you to be a member before providing design services.

Which Stores Offers Retail Interior Design Services?

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Several companies offer this service if you want to work with a retailer’s design services team. Here we will focus on three popular retail brands that provide these services and provide some insight into how the process works.

Crate & Barrel

Crate & Barrel is an international home decor store based in Northbrook, Illinois, providing customers with modern and contemporary furnishing in-store and online. Their design process, which is free, begins with meeting a designer at the store, in your house, or virtually. They will provide you with a questionnaire to help get an idea of your needs and design style and usually offer a one-on-one session.

Depending on which designer you work with, they might need images and dimensions from your room. Then, within a short time, the designer will provide you with a mood board, showcasing their design ideas for your space, including appropriate paint colors and wallpaper. Upon agreeing to a design, you can order products through them from Crate & Barrel or acquire them elsewhere. Once the products arrive at your house, you will work with the designer to help put the design together.

Pottery Barn

Based in San Francisco, Pottery Barn has provided furniture and accessories to customers for more than 70 years. Owned by Williams-Sonoma, this retailer provides upscale furniture and accessories in brick-and-mortar stores and online.

Pottery Barn’s process is similar to that of Crate & Barrel. You can meet with the designer in store or virtually. They will issue you a questionnaire to get an idea of what you want. You aren’t obligated to purchase furniture with them, and their design services are free. The designer will listen to your needs and ask you to provide photos and dimensions of the space or spaces you want to improve. Then, they will recommend the best furniture, wall art, and accessories for your area.

They do provide flexibility in working with the designer. If you begin a process online, you don’t have to complete it entirely online. You’re free to visit the local store and work with the designer to pick out pieces. Or you can rely on their online recommendations.

RH (Formerly Restoration Hardware)

Headquartered in Corte Madera, California, RH provides luxury furniture, lighting, textiles, and decor. While their galleries are essential to their product sales, they offer plenty of their products online and through their sourcebooks. To receive RH’s complimentary design services, you must be a member, paying a small annual fee. As a member, you will access some of their other benefits, including store savings.

Similar to Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn, you will provide the designer with photos and dimensions of your space. But instead of completing the entire process online, you will be invited to their local store to meet with your designer to discuss the project’s details. They will take time to work on your project and invite you back at a later time to present their final design. Once the design process is complete, the designer encourages you to purchase products for your home design through the store.

Other retail stores that offer interior design services include West Elm, La-Z-Boy, and Havertys.

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