When starting a home construction project, whether it’s a remodel or a new home, it’s totally understandable to wonder…

"How much is this going to cost?"

How is Home Design Cost Calculated?

Whether stated as a per hour cost, price per square foot cost, or flat fee, all design fees are ultimately based on the time it takes to complete the work.  We find this by breaking down each task and assigning an amount of time, add it all up, multiply by the hourly rate, and that’s the price.

All the tasks that a designer does for your project is referred to as The Scope.  The Scope can be adjusted in order to adjust your costs.  This is important to discuss in the very beginning, so that you can get an accurate price estimate, and stay within your desired investment.

We should acknowledge that every project is different, and has to assessed individually.  When contemplating the potential cost and value of design services, consider the way you want to work with the designer. We pay for things with either time or money, and this is certainly true when it comes to design services.

3 Ways to Work with a Designer

1) You want a designer to create a vision and design plan only.  You will be doing all the legwork, hiring and managing contractors, ordering materials and dealing with all the logistics and trouble shooting as needed. You are willing to put in the work involved so that as many of your dollars as possible go towards the actual build and finish of your space.

2) In addition to a design plan, you want the additional service where the designer will manage or assist with all aspects and decisions. You are willing to pay more so that your personal time is not consumed by the project.

3) Some negotiated level of service between the 2 levels stated above.

Want to work with Annilee? Send an email to get started.

So, let’s talk about the tasks a designer does, and the time that each task takes, to illustrate what goes into design pricing.

The sample below shows architectural design for a new 3500 square foot home.  These numbers can be higher or lower, depending on the site conditions, complexity of the design desired, types of materials envisioned, decisiveness of the client, etc. 

Designer Tasks

Here’s [many of] the things your designer is doing for you behind the scenes.

In this example, design fees would be $9000. 72 hours of design time at $125 per hour.  For 3500 square feet, this translates to roughly $2.50 per square foot or 1.8% of construction costs. (Construction costs vary greatly, calculated here at $140 per square foot.)

Plan Drafting Schematic & Design Development Phases  Hours
  Concept Development & Research 1
  Property Location Details 0.5
  Site Plan 0.5
  Floor Plan 5
  Exterior Design (Elevations) 3
  Roof Plan 1
  Kitchen Detail Layout 3
  Master Bath Detail Layout 1
  Bath 1 0.5
  Bath 2 0.5
  Bath 3 0.5
  Built ins 2
  Fireplaces 1
  Outdoor Kitchen 2
  Stairs 1
  Laundry Room 1
  Furniture Plan 2
  Master Closet 1
  Electrical Plan 1
  Plumbing Plan 1
  Lighting Plan 2
  Sections 1
  Door & Window Schedules 0.5
  Sheet Setup 2
  Flooring 2
  Paint 1
  Countertops 2
  Backsplash 1
  Cabinets 1
  Bathroom Tile 1
  Trim 1
  Light Fixtures 2
  Plumbing Fixtures 2
  Doors 1
  Windows 1
  Door Hardware 1
  Cabinet Hardware 1
  Appliances 2
  Per Round 2
Site Meetings    
  Initial Meeting 2
  Meeting 1 – Site, Building placement 2
  Meeting 2 – Foundation 2
  Meeting 3 – Frame Walk 2
  Meeting 4 – Finishes 2
  Meeting 5 – Final Walkthrough 2
  Drive time (If remote) 5

The Design Process

General Concepts & Brainstorming

This is a phone call or Zoom meeting. We discuss your wants, needs, goals, budget, timeline, style and expectations. 

Plan Drafting

Starting with the Schematic Phase, we work through the function of your home. We figure out where things will go and how they will work for your lifestyle. This is done through floor plans and 3d models.

After we get the functions of all the rooms worked out, we develop the design with details. This includes cabinetry configurations, trim details, windows, doors, etc.


With the technical part done, we can add style and color. Now we select your finishes, flooring, countertops, paint colors, etc.


You take the plans to several contractors of your choice to get bids to compare. You enter into an agreement directly with the builder of your choice.


The designer will purchase decorative items such as light fixtures, specialty tiles, faucets, cabinet hardware.  These items will be delivered to the job site for the builder to install.


During construction the designer will meet with you on site at key progress milestones, and coordinate with the contractors to ensure the design is executed as planned.

After Construction

After construction we can install any window treatments, furnishings and decorative items that you would like help with.  This service is not included in this building design example, but is available at any time.


Not provided:

  • Engineered drawings: Grading, Foundations, Floor systems, Joist loads, Rafter loads, Wind loads, Framing & Bracing, Roofs, trusses, Mechanical or HVAC, etc. Permit Applications, Certified county plat, Geological Reports, Energy compliance (Res Check)
  • Inspection of Contractor’s Work

What is Design Time?

·         Time spent with a client in their home or office.

·         Time on project/construction sites with client(s) or contractor(s).

·         Research time to prepare presentation(s) requested by a client.

·         Drafting/drawing time for furniture plans, custom furnishing designs, construction documents or remodeling plans.

·         Meetings with product Reps and Subcontractors on behalf of the client

·         Shopping and locating items on behalf of, or with the client, in shops or on line.

·     Telephone conversations, texts or emails with clients or contractors