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Should You Hire a Designer when Building a Custom Home?

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written by:

Carrie Barker


Welcome back to the Before You Build Podcast! I’m your host, Carrie Barker (a.k.a. Caroline on Design), and today in episode 21, we’re talking about whether or not you should hire a designer when building a custom home. 

Spoiler alert … the answer is highly dependent on YOU! Also, I might just have the perfect solution for you.


I was recently on a Zoom call with one of my ‘Building Your Foundation’ members who is in the very beginning stages of planning for her home build. While we were chatting, she asked me, ‘is it worth it to hire a designer when building a custom home?’

We talked about her specific situation and her comfort level with bringing her dream home to life and we ultimately determined that she probably didn’t need a designer.

However, your situation might be very different than hers. It all boils down to YOUR needs and YOUR level of comfort with making design decisions for your new home.

Here are some important things to consider when deciding if hiring a designer for your custom build is worth it for YOU:

  • Do you have the time to devote to selecting finishes?
  • Do you have an idea of what you want style-wise?
  • Are you able to envision what the finished design will look like?
  • Do you have the money to invest in a designer?

Your answers to those four questions will help you make the best decision for YOU.

Do keep in mind that designing an entire custom home can feel like a full-time job at times … but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable of doing it on your own. When we talk about designing a home, we aren’t just referring to decorating it … we’re talking about it all! 

You’ll be responsible for choosing fixtures, flooring, paint colors, cabinet styles, floor plan layout, counters, etc.

This can be a bit overwhelming to do on your own, but if you feel pretty confident in your ability to make design decisions, you might just want a little guided help in my ‘Design Your Dream Home when Building’ course for far less money than hiring a designer :). Just sayin’!

However, if you’re on the fence about what to do, let’s talk about the benefits and drawbacks of adding an interior designer to your home build team so you can decide if it’s the right move for you.


Let’s start with the pros of adding an interior designer to your home building team.


The first benefit is reduced stress for you throughout your home build.

An interior designer can make the custom home build process MUCH easier and less stressful.

With a designer, you have the option to defer ALL decisions to your designer OR you can be more involved with the design process and have the designer narrow down your selections and then you just need to make the final decisions.

Either way, the help of a designer = less stress for you!


Another benefit is that a designer has the ability to visualize your future space and materials when everything is put together.

Plus, the designer can help YOU better visualize the design aesthetic by creating physical or virtual design boards.

Another bonus is that an interior designer can collaborate with your architect and/or builder for optimum spatial planning, window placement, door placement, ceiling details, etc.


Another benefit is that (as I mentioned earlier) an interior designer can help you with all your design selections … lighting fixtures, flooring, counters, paint colors, etc.

Also, they will have knowledge about products available, as well as access to options that are only available to ‘the trade’ (i.e. you can’t order without a designer).

Soooo … there are definitely some great reasons to hire a designer when building a home. The most important reason being less stress and overwhelm for you as you make design decisions.


However, hiring a designer isn’t for everyone. There are some drawbacks.


The first drawback is that designers can be EXPENSIVE! Some designers charge an hourly rate (which can be very high) while others charge a flat fee or a percentage of your overall project fee. This flat fee or percentage can pretty expensive too.

It’s important to make sure to get full clarity up-front about how your potential designer will charge you.

Do keep in mind that although a designer’s fee can be expensive, designers may be able to save you money through their vendor discounts. Also, they save you time and reduce your stress … which might be worth every penny!


Another drawback is that it can be difficult to find a designer with the same style as you. It’s certainly easier this day in age to find a designer with the same style as you since we can hire anyone from anywhere to do e-design for us. However, if you’re designing an entire home, it’s much easier to work with a local designer.

Regardless if you work with a local designer or virtually meet through e-design, do check all references and, if possible, tour homes the designer previously worked on. These tours can be walking or virtual. 

Also, it’s important to verify that the designer is able (and willing) to work within your budget.

You’ll need to do a little research to find the best fit for you both style-wise and cost-wise.


We’ve discussed the benefits and drawbacks of hiring a designer to help you with your custom home build. 

The benefits include reduced stress, easier visualization, and potentially more options for design finishes. 

The drawbacks include the high cost and the potential that you might not like what the designer chooses for your home. 

So … is it worth it to hire a designer? 

As I said before, this all depends on your level of comfort in choosing design finishes on your own.


  • You have a difficult time envisioning your future home on your own
  • You don’t quite have a ‘design eye’
  • You’re too busy to take on the large project of choosing finishes
  • You either want your options narrowed down for you or you want someone to take over completely and make the decisions for you


  • You know what you like and you know your overall ‘vision’ for your future home
  • You have the time to put into your home build project
  • You enjoy choosing finishes on your own and you think you have it under control
  • You don’t want to invest in an expensive designer

If you have a pretty good idea of what you want and all you need is a little guidance (but not a full-fledged interior designer) you would be a great fit for my course, Design Your Dream Home (when Building).

This course is a low-cost alternative to get design ideas as well as a step-by-step design plan … without hiring an expensive designer. 

Design Your Dream Home equips you to confidently make cohesive and timeless design decisions so that you build a beautiful, cozy, inviting home that you absolutely love and can’t wait to share with family and friends.

I also have a *FREE* on-demand training that will get you started in the right direction … whether or not you choose to hire an interior designer. Grab your (virtual) seat in 3 Simple Keys to Confidently Design Your Dream Home (without second-guessing your decisions or making costly mistakes you’ll later regret.

  1. Adrienne says:

    Also, designers have tons of resources for furniture, window treatments (both stock and custom ), carpet (the builder will have limited selections), artwork, accessories and decorative light fixtures. Do you want that cookie cutter “builder look” like you just walked into Nebraska Furniture Mart? Or do you want a unique home which reflects your family’s personality and lifestyle?

  2. That’s a good point that an interior designer would be pretty expensive. I would probably prefer to spend that money on making the house nicer if I was to build one. I should probably leave the design of the home to the builder if I decide to have one built.

  3. You made a good point that designer will definitely help if I’m having trouble envisioning my future home. It would perhaps be best to hire a custom home design service when I get my new home built. This way, I will be able to immediately see if my ideas would actually look good before actually committing to them.

  4. Fred Gibbons says:

    It’s helpful that you point out that hiring an interior designer can save you a lot of stress when you are buying a custom home. My wife and I are having a custom home built for us right now, so I’m considering hiring an interior design service to help us arrange the inside. I’m going to look for a good provider of interior design services in the area that we can hire.

  5. I like that you said that it would be beneficial to hire a custom home design service if the homeowner doesn’t have a “design eye” and would like someone to narrow down the options for them. My husband and I plan to have our dream home constructed next year. We want to be hands-on on the project, but we admit we lack the knowledge and “design eye,” so we’ll definitely consider hiring a design firm. Thanks!

  6. Chance Cook says:

    I like how designers can visualize the space. That is a gift that I wish I had. Perhaps I can find a designer that can help me out with this.

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I designed my own custom home from the ground up, inside and out. A home that is cozy, comfy, laid out perfectly for the way my family lives, and makes us happy every single day. Oh, and did I mention I did this all without blowing the budget?! 

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a.k.a. Caroline on Design

I’m Carrie Barker.

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