Yes, even a new homeowner can afford a personal interior decorator. We tried the most popular online decorating services so you can choose the right one for yourself.

By Hannah Bruneman
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Image courtesy of Modsy. 

If you think you can’t afford an interior decorator, think again. Thanks to several pioneering companies, digital design services are picking up in popularity. These services pair you with an expert decorator so you can find the best decor that matches your style and space. All communication is done online via email, phone calls, or video chats. It’s incredibly convenient and can be done on your own time.

To see what all the hype was about, we decided to give it a try. I signed up for four different services, each one with my apartment-size living room in mind. The steps are about the same for each service: Create a profile with a design style questionnaire, send photos and measurements of the room, and work with a designer to piece together a 3-D layout of the space. Price points and design packages vary, as does the quality of the service. When you see something you really love, you can buy products right from the sites themselves.

Related: How to Work with an Interior Designer

Going into the designs, my goal was to really narrow down and define my design style. I love decorating my apartment, but the pieces have never really worked together. You could say my living room was having an identity crisis. The biggest item on my list, too, was a new sofa. It was finally time to bid my college-era futon adieu. The photos above are the shots I sent the designers, along with measurements and obstacles (like the not-so-appealing wall color I can’t change). My living room/dining area is 16x13-1/2 feet, and there's a lot to fit to make it functional. Each service had its pros and cons, so learn from my experience to pick the company that will work best for you.

Related: Defining Your Decorating Style

Images courtesy of Havenly. 
Images courtesy of Havenly. 

Havenly: For the homeowner who needs help defining her style.

As I mentioned above, my living room was all over the map. I had thrifted furniture, multiple color palettes, frames that I loved, and trinkets that I didn’t. My favorite part about Havenly was the design style quiz you take before even chatting with a designer. It’s incredibly thorough and helpful in nailing down your taste.

After I chose my own designer, Olivia, based on her portfolio, she gave me three style boards. I read the words “Femme Eclectic” and immediately knew that was it. She sent me several design concept boards and once we nailed down a look, I received a 3-D rendering of my room. I loved that she kept features I already had to stay within budget, and the aesthetic was on-point. I’d recommend this one to a Pinterest-obsessed homeowner who’s looking for that push to get started.

Havenly’s packages range from $79 to $199, or chat with a designer for free.

Related: 20 Rooms That Were Made for Pinterest

Images courtesy of Modsy. 
Images courtesy of Modsy. 

Modsy: For the homeowner who needs to visualize her space.

Interior design services are great across the board, but Modsy stood way ahead of the crowd in one category. The 3-D renderings of the design were amazing. Honestly, my jaw dropped when I saw my first two renderings. If you struggle with visualizing how a style board or mood board would look in your space, this is the one for you. The style quiz you take after signing up is not the most detailed, however, so one of the renderings did not fit my design preferences.

I hopped on a phone call with my designer, Karina, and she walked me through editing my design to get it just right. Customers get to see in real time the Modsy professional changing products as you request, so there’s no guessing involved. “It’s really about empowering our users to really believe in their style choices,” Karina says. “The vision ultimately for (our clients) always changes, and it’s really interesting to track their progress.”

The designers are patient and professional; after assessing all my designs, I actually think I like one of Karina’s original designs best. It’s like she knew me better than I know myself! This service is also for people willing to take on a serious overhaul of their room; the lowest-budget option on the quiz was $2,500 and under. The budget range gives your designer an idea of what you're planning to spend, but you're never required to buy the items selected in your design.

Modsy’s packages range from $59 to $149 a room.

Related: Living Room Makeover Tips

Image courtesy of Laurel & Wolf.

Laurel & Wolf: For the homeowner who knows what she wants.

Laurel & Wolf strays the furthest from the path in the way their design service works. It begins with a standard design profile about your goals and vision, but after your designer provides a concept board, you make all the calls. “Once the stylistic direction and layout are confirmed, designers source four items at a time for clients to provide feedback on, starting with foundational items (e.g. a couch) then moving to accent items and then finishing touches,” Laurel & Wolf Representative Marisa Trichter says. “This helps clients focus their attention on a handful of decisions to make and ensures that their final decision is full of pieces that they love.”

I could see someone who has strong opinions about their space loving this process. For me, it didn’t turn out to be my favorite design—whether that’s due to my choices or my style not reaching through to the designer, I don’t know. However, this was the only designer who took a chance and suggested a different layout, which I really appreciated!

Laurel & Wolf’s packages range from $79 to $249 a room.

Related: Must-See Living Room Makeovers

Image courtesy of Wayfair.

Wayfair: For the homeowner on a budget.

Wayfair is one of our favorite places to find a good bargain. That’s why I was so excited last month when they announced their new digital design services. I got started by working with Christine, who I chose based on her previous design work. “This is a very personal experience,” says Blair Kenary, head of Design Services at Wayfair. “We want to make sure the designer and customer can connect with each other.”

I was surprised to learn that the designers are allowed to source from not only the entire Wayfair catalog but other online vendors as well. Christine stayed within my budget and kept a few pieces I already had. The design wasn’t my favorite, but I really appreciated her concern for my spending limit, and she even asked permission before suggesting artwork that would have slightly pushed my budget.

Wayfair’s packages range from $79 to $149 a room.

Related: 5 Ways to Make a Small Living Room Look Bigger

Tips for Ordering

All design services allow you to purchase the items in your final design directly from the site. They even send out emails reminding you of good deals and sales on your favorite products. Luckily for me, I got to piece my apartment together using designs across all services. I purchased a sofa similar to the one suggested by Modsy, and I am currently deciding which decor items I want to buy from Havenly. That's enough for now, but I can access my accounts and designs indefinitely, so I'll be ready when the next design bug hits.

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Comments (1)

tracyheideman
October 10, 2018
Thank you so much for this article. I'm struggling to find my design identity and I didn't realize there were affordable options for help. Please show us your final living room design work!