Own business: how to open an interior design studio

Interior design is a field that can combine not only a range of services, but also the sale of goods, and thanks to the use of VR and AR technologies, it is possible to position yourself in the market in a new way today.

A business that is called a design studio usually means an organization that provides a range of services. In addition to the development of a design project, it may include architectural supervision, assembly and construction management. This niche is most often filled by designers with experience who have built up a portfolio and a client base, as well as builders and suppliers of finishing materials and furniture, thus attracting customers to their core business.

Pros and cons of design studios

Despite the fact that studios come in different formats and can offer a different range of services, some distinguishing features of the business can be distinguished – primarily in contrast to single designers, homeworkers, designers at construction organizations, salons and all kinds of stores.

Advantages of design studios

  • Availability of service packages / turnkey services. As a rule, design studios can be involved either for specific works or offer comprehensive service packages, including turnkey ones.
  • Built-in system of communication with the client. The client decides organizational issues with the manager, while the designers are directly involved in the duties of design.
  • Well-established financial issues and deadlines. Studios clearly prescribe the payment procedure and the deadlines for the delivery of a particular work.
  • Ability to work with or without an office. Often, an office is created only for image reasons: to have a place to consult with a client. In the case of organizing, for example, your showroom, an office is necessary.
  • Multiple income channels. Design studios can receive money from both clients and suppliers of finishing materials, furniture and decor, acting as agents to attract clients and working for a fee of 10 to 25%.
  • Small investment. The main capital of the studio is intellectual resources, while investments in tangible assets are relatively small.
  • Short payback period. Since investments in the launch of the studio are usually small, the investment from the first orders pays off.
  • Ability to manage multiple projects at once. Since business processes in the studios are regulated and responsibilities are clearly separated, the studio can carry out several projects in parallel at once.

Cons of design studios

● High competition. In million-plus cities, there are at least 100 design and architectural bureaus in which 2 designers work. These are studios that already have partners, established relationships with suppliers and a system for working with clients. The number of self-employed and freelancers who have gone free-floating is also growing. In million cities, the number of ads from them can exceed 2-2.5 thousand, in St. Petersburg and Moscow – 3-4.5 thousand.

● Personnel problems. The studio needs professional staff, really good specialists are always much less than people who call themselves designers.

● Volatile demand. The demand for interior design services is difficult to predict, both drawdowns and periods of rush demand are possible.

 The need to build partnerships. A design studio is not only design, but also the ability to negotiate, build partnerships with suppliers and repair teams, and not everyone is ready for this work.

The target audience

There are two levels of target audience of consumers of design services. The first, wider one includes all people who carry out repairs or build a house, while wanting to create their own unique interior. However, only a part of these people will turn to a professional designer, and even fewer – to a design studio.

Despite a wide audience, interior design in Russia has not yet become a mass service. This is largely due to the perception of these services as expensive and redundant, that is, which can be easily dispensed with.

In practice, only the category of the population from the most affluent strata can be considered the target audience. This is about 5% of the region’s residents who are able to pay for quality and service: officials, entrepreneurs, top managers, or relatives of these people. Since the wealth of such people is above average, it makes sense to open a studio in cities with a population of more than 200 thousand people.

Customers are divided into private and corporate. The first need the design of apartments, houses and cottages, the second – commercial premises, that is, shops, offices, catering establishments, and so on.

Types of design studio services

The services of design studios can include a wide range of services, from initial consultations and concept development to turnkey delivery of the facility. As a rule, the client can choose ready-made service packages depending on the needs, timing and budget. The stages of work are usually divided and regulated by separate contracts so that the client can choose a specific job and get a specific result. Before the start of each stage, an advance payment is usually made.

The main types of services are interior design services. They may include:

  • measurements;
  • Photo fixation;
  • Preparation of terms of reference;
  • Definition of the style and concept of the project;
  • Planning solutions (ergonomic and functional arrangement of walls, partitions and furniture);
  • Sketches of premises;
  • Development of working documentation;
  • Visualization.

Typical Design Studio Packages

  • Express package. Planning services can be offered as a starter or express package. It may include a measurement and dismantling plan, a plan of partitions and installation of structures, furniture arrangement in several options to choose from. Such services cost from 400-500 rubles. per sq. meter.
  • Package planning + technical project. The next package usually involves not only planning decisions, but also working documentation, a technical project. This may include a final floor plan with a detailed technical design, including an interior concept, refurbishment and furniture plans, electrical and plumbing plans, flooring, ceiling plans, wall elevations, interior detail drawings, and bills of materials. Such services will cost twice as much – about 800-1000 rubles. per square meter.
  • A complete package, in addition to planning and working documentation, may include visualization of the object (sketches and references), selection of finishing materials, and the possibility of making adjustments. The cost of a full package can cost from 1500-2000 rubles. per square meter in the regions, in Moscow the price tag can be 2-3 times higher.
  • Also, design studios always have consulting services. Usually, the initial consultation and the designer’s visit to the site are free for the client, but additional consultations or, moreover, further support, are always paid.

Additional services

It is worth remembering that the ultimate goal of the client is to repair and get the home of his dreams, and not to order a design project. When ordering a cool design project, the client wants the project to be renovated and furnished. Therefore, the services of large studios are not limited to the actual design project. Since for most people repair and construction is a lot of stress, if they have finances, they are not averse to shifting most of the responsibilities onto other people’s shoulders. The designer, on the other hand, can take on all the rough work, act as an intermediary between suppliers of goods and the client, determine the need to purchase one or another material, and can manage and advise repair and construction teams.

Additional services may include:

  • Equipment. It may include a whole list of services, such as compiling a list of the necessary materials and items, with or without article numbers and links to stores, searching for goods from the list or alternatives to them, purchasing, ordering and monitoring delivery, compliance with estimates. These can be both one-time consultations on the selection of materials, for example, tiles, and the complete set of the object as a whole, on a turnkey basis. Assembly services can be paid separately and have a fixed cost (for example, from 10 thousand rubles) or a percentage of the final purchase (5-12%), or be included in a comprehensive package with a design project and selection with a total price per square meter. If the recruiter is engaged in almost all duties, and the client only confirms his decisions, the payment usually consists of a fixed cost of services (from about 15 thousand rubles.
  • Author’s supervision and construction management. This may include a range of services to comply with the ideas of the designer and work with builders: selection of a construction team and control of repair and construction work with a visit to the site and consulting, making adjustments to existing documentation, ordering parts, etc.
  • Additional consultations. Consultations can be included in service packages (for example, they can be included in support and paid once per month, or they can be paid separately, per hour or for visiting the site. The reasons can be very different: planning and optimization of areas, advice on the use of finishing materials, color solution, decoration, selection of an alternative to a discontinued product, etc. The cost of a one-time consultation can vary from 3,000 to 10,000 rubles.
  • Sale of exhibition samples and author’s goods. A design studio can sell designer decor items or, if the company has its own showroom, sell exhibition samples.
  • Creation of artworks. Additionally, design studios can offer hand-painted furniture, interior fabrics and walls, create stained-glass windows and artistic compositions, and much more.

It is worth noting that supervision and assembly services are usually beneficial not only to the designer himself, but also to clients, since designers know where to pick up materials, have wholesale discounts from suppliers, which they share with customers. Often, the help of a picking designer helps customers save hundreds of thousands of rubles on purchases. As a result, a satisfied client is ready to recommend the bureau to his friends, and the designer receives a project implemented in strict accordance with the original idea – and you can safely add it to your portfolio.

Calculations show that the benefit for the client when contacting design studios begins with a budget for the arrangement and repair of 2 million rubles.

Virtual interior design

Today, virtual and augmented reality technologies are increasingly penetrating our lives. Large brands in the retail of furniture, household appliances and electronics are acquiring their own applications for AR fitting goods in the interior, and designers are trying to present their projects using VR glasses and helmets.

What is the advantage of using VR technologies in interior design? To understand this, it’s worth first recalling the typical problems of interaction between designers and clients.

Disadvantages of classic design:

  • It is difficult for the client to imagine a three-dimensional picture of the room. The plane of the display and printouts do not allow the client to fully imagine the volume and keep it in the imagination.
  • The number of visualizations is limited. Usually the client is given a limited number of renders (most often – no more than 10 per room).
  • Difficulty in comparing the projection with real dimensions. In projections, the view is usually shown from the walls, from where in practice it is impossible for a person to see on their own. Therefore, the real dimensions often turn out to be smaller than in the projects, and the corridors, which seemed spacious, turn into narrow labyrinths.
  • The design speed takes about a month, on average 4-6 weeks
  • Inability to present the final result in detail. The opportunity to see the result of the project appears immediately after the repair.

All these shortcomings result in one typical problem for all design studios, when the client is simply not sure about the projects offered to him. No matter how good computer programs and drawings with all dimensions are, in a two-dimensional image the client still cannot fully feel and feel the space. One way or another, he has to trust the experience of the designers. As a result, communication between the two parties is delayed, and the terms of approvals increase.

 Unlike classical visualization methods, with the help of VR, clients of design studios got the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the project. Now they can “walk around the design”, and the detailing and testing process has reached a new level.

Benefits of VR design:

  • Provides a three-dimensional picture of the room. This is no longer a two-dimensional image, but a full-fledged 3D projection in virtual reality. The client no longer needs to independently imagine and imagine the project in volume, the information is immediately perceived by him in a complex, in a multidimensional space.
  • The number of renders is not limited. You can look at the interior and its elements from absolutely any angle, virtual reality provides a 360-degree view.
  • The ability to interact with objects, evaluate their parameters: the height of objects, width, color, texture, small details.
  • Scale 1:1. The 3D projection is easily compared with the actual dimensions of the room.
  • Ability to edit in real time. The technology allows you to instantly change the colors and textures of walls and floors, furniture, giving the client a choice.
  • Additional effects that mimic reality. The client can look at his apartment in the morning or evening light, and the presentation itself can be accompanied by sounds that focus on something.
  • Reducing the design time – up to 2-3 weeks.
  • The ability to evaluate the result before the start of repair.

As a result of all these advantages, the designer begins to speak the same language with the client. Satisfaction with services is growing because many issues are highlighted and resolved almost immediately, and the client has more space for his own choice.

Of course, the presentation itself becomes more colorful and exciting. Most people have not yet encountered VR technologies in everyday life, so the wow effect is almost always guaranteed. Moreover, you can conduct a VR tour both in the office of the design studio and at the facility itself, even if it is empty and with bare walls.

Thus, until VR becomes a mass service, VR tours and tours of future interiors will be a significant competitive advantage and will be able to attract more potential customers.

However, everything has a downside. VR is not just an additional program, but rather a full-fledged direction. It is not enough just to purchase expensive equipment and software, you need to master it, learn how to use it, find VR visualizers and debug their work. All this means that for the majority of designers the technology will still remain inaccessible in the coming years, because a private specialist will have no time and it will not be very profitable to mess around with software and adaptation. However, now everything is moving towards the fact that VR will become the main development environment for designers and architects. Therefore, we need to start moving in this direction now.

So far, only a small part of companies offer VR visualization services. Most of the innovator firms are concentrated in the capitals and largest cities. Naturally, the prices for such projects are more expensive, and the segment of buyers is somewhat different than that of ordinary studios. For example, VR visualization can be ordered by elite residential complexes. Also, the technology may be in demand for the presentation of significant commercial and public projects. It turns out a whole separate business niche.

Other companies do not single out VR as a separate area, but make it an addition to existing services. That is, they add several layout options in VR to the usual packages. For example, “Planning + VR-tour”, “Planning, technical project + VR-tour”, or “Full package + VR-tour”. Naturally, the cost of such services can be increased by 1.5-2 times.

Business registration

As an organizational and legal form of a design studio, an individual entrepreneur or LLC is chosen . As the main OKVED code, you can specify 74.10 Activities specialized in the field of design.

Among the additional OKVED, depending on the profile and plans of the entrepreneur, the following can also be used:

  • 43.33 Floor and wall covering work
  • 43.34.1 Painting work
  • 43.39 Other finishing and finishing works
  • 47.52.2 Retail sale of paints and varnishes in specialized stores
  • 47.59.6 Retail sale of non-electric household appliances in specialized stores
  • 47.59.4 Retail sale of articles of wood, cork and wickerwork in specialized stores
  • 47.52.79 Retail sale of other building materials, not included in other groups, in specialized stores
  • 46.44.1 Wholesale of ceramics and glassware
  • 46.47 Wholesale of furniture, carpets and lighting equipment
  • 46.13.2 Activities of wholesalers of building materials

 It will also be necessary to choose the optimal taxation system. You can calculate the approximate amount of tax and decide on the options on the website of the Federal Tax Service . Services for the design of residential premises and decoration allow the application of the patent taxation system (PST) and are included in the appropriate classifier. Therefore, design studios often choose a patent, which is acquired for up to 1 year. More information about PSN and the procedure for obtaining a patent can be found there, on the website of the tax service. Other studio income, for example, from the sale of furniture or decor items, may be taxed under a different tax system, for example, simplified taxation (STS 6%).

Studio staff

The most important asset of a design studio is its employees, so the business usually revolves around the team. Just a few people will be enough to get you started.

  • Lead Designer/Project Manager. It is this person who meets and negotiates with the most important customers, looks for suppliers and concludes agreements with partners, works with contractors. He may be responsible for the concepts of projects, the formation of terms of reference, tracking all stages of work, management and supervision of construction. Management functions also lie on it – hiring employees, appointing responsible persons, determining wages, etc.
  • Graphic designers. At the start, you can get by with 1-2 designers. Although designers can work remotely, you need to remember that full-time employees, unlike freelancers, have a job description and their responsibility is much higher. Designers are responsible for developing layouts according to the terms of reference, making sketches and references, selecting materials, preparing working documentation, coordinating the project with the lead designer, and working with measurements. Of course, we need designers with experience, a large number of completed projects and, preferably, a client base. Of course, if you decide to include VR tours in the list of services, then you cannot do without VR visualization specialists. Since there are not so many such specialists yet, work can be transferred to freelancers.
  • Manager. The manager is left with all other minor organizational issues that are not included in the duties of the manager. Meetings, correspondence, calls, payment, tracking edits, recording the results of negotiations. The manager simultaneously monitors the internal kitchen of the studio, for example, coordinates the work of employees, replenishes consumables, if there is an office, he deals with its cleaning and utility issues, and also works for the “outside”. Namely, it interacts with suppliers and partners, maintains social networks, works with feedback, writes advertising texts and articles, fills and updates the site information.
  • Accountant. It does not have to be on the staff, it can work remotely or be “incoming”, being involved in reporting.

Salary usually consists of a salary and a percentage of the order. In the case of involving designers or visualizers remotely, their payment depends on the amount of work and is paid per square meter.

Office space and equipment

Office and location. The business model of a design studio may or may not include an office. An office is required for project presentations and a personal meeting with a designer, and a homely atmosphere may not be entirely suitable for this. In a large room is usually not necessary. 15 squares may be enough. No one is forcing you to stay in an A-class business center. However, it is desirable to be located in a busy area with convenient parking spaces.

An additional plus will be the location next to companies providing related services, with kitchen salons, shops for finishing materials, plumbing and other things.

Showroom. With a business model that includes a showroom (studio-salon), large areas (from 80 square meters) and investments will be needed. If the rent for a small office can be 15-20 thousand rubles, then for such a room – 40-60 thousand. Exhibition samples of finishing materials, furniture, designer decor items are exhibited in the showroom. Due to the fact that suppliers often allow you to buy exhibition samples with a large discount of up to 50%, you can make good money selling them. The organization of a worthy showroom can cost about 1 million rubles.

Office furniture. Office furniture is either purchased independently or is already included in the cost of renting an office. Computer tables, armchairs, chairs. You can meet these goals in 50-70 thousand rubles.

Working equipment. This includes computers, professional design software, large format printers, MFPs, phones, Wi-Fi. Of course, you can save on equipment if you use your own computers in your work. The costs for these purposes can be estimated at 300 thousand rubles.

Website and advertising design studio

Starting a business as such is not as difficult as making it profitable and learning how to earn a steady income. To do this, you need to stand out from the competition and choose the most profitable niche, determine the advantages and actively invest in promotion.

● Website. The site today is no longer some kind of advertising or image advantage, it is a must-have, where the main flow of advertising goes and by which the client judges the entire studio. The site lists the services provided, conditions and prices, publishes a portfolio, reviews and letters of recommendation from clients, talks about the studio itself and its employees. Do not forget that on the site you can indicate the partners of the studio, convey to customers that partner discounts for the studio can be shared with the customer.

● Contextual advertising. In order for a site to be visited, it must be brought to the top of the search engine. For this, SEO and SMM promotion methods are used.

● Samples. To make a decision, the customer is always pleased to touch samples of materials, look through product catalogs.

● Social networks. Accounts in social networks in the first place should be focused on visual images. Even if people are not ready to place an order right away, they will remember the studio from the photographs and turn to it on occasion.

● Participation in events. It can be exhibitions of finishing materials, conferences of designers and everything that is in any way connected with the profile of the studio. At such events, you can both declare yourself and acquire useful contacts.

Despite the abundance of promotion methods, word of mouth often remains the main channel for attracting customers. Sometimes one satisfied client can do much more for a studio than a huge investment in advertising. A personal brand of designers, especially a leading designer, can work well for a studio.

Franchising. There aren’t many franchises in the interior design industry, but they do exist. Strong franchisors highlight not only an abstract “brand” and some visual packaging of the studio as their advantages, but also guarantee the flow of customers in your region, automate many business processes. A franchise should ideally provide customized advertising for your region and bring targeted applications. Such companies should have excellent work with clients at all levels, including at the stage of repair and completion of the facility, and all these developments should be included in the cost of the franchise. Of course, you have to pay for everything good. Either one-time, by paying a lump-sum fee (the amount can be 500 thousand-1 million), or monthly – by paying royalties and / or advertising fees. A third option is not ruled out.

Financial part of the business

Investments. Compared to many types of entrepreneurship, the investment in opening a design studio is small. But an entrepreneurial approach, as in any other business, involves the desire to reduce costs without sacrificing quality. Quality in the broadest sense of the word – whether it’s about equipment, office furnishing or attracting employees. Let’s roughly imagine the costs of launching a design studio in a million-plus city.

Investments to open a studio

Registration and organizational questions10,000
Site creation60 000
Purchase of equipment300 000
Advertising campaign (contextual advertising, social media management, printed materials)80 000
Office rent for the first 2 months50,000
other expenses10,000
Total:510 000

 studio income. Design studios do not have simplified procedures for calculating expected income and any average checks: it all depends on specific customers and their needs. Naturally, it is most profitable to carry out not single services, but to sell turnkey packages, earning at each stage of work.

Example 1. The object is a studio apartment with an area of ​​35 squares. The client orders a full-fledged design project with visualization, as well as kitting services, that is, services for the selection of finishing materials and furniture, their purchase. Suppose the cost of design services in the studio is 3 thousand rubles per sq. m. meter, so the full package will cost the client 105 thousand rubles. Suppose that another 1.5 thousand rubles. per square meter is the selection of furniture and finishing materials, that is, another 52 thousand rubles. In total, the entire project + selection costs him 167 thousand rubles. We also assume that the client has budgeted for the entire package in the amount of 2.4 million rubles. Taking into account the discount from suppliers in the amount of 8%, the purchase of the necessary goods cost the client about 200 thousand rubles. cheaper than he originally thought. And he eventually paid about the same amount to the designers for the design project and selection.

Example 2. The object is a country cottage for 280 square meters. Suppose that with such an area, the cost of a square will be 1.2 thousand rubles, or 336 thousand rubles for the project. Given that the development period can stretch up to 2 months, we divide the monthly income by two, that is, 168 thousand rubles. Let’s assume that the studio has managed to bring in its refurbishment partner and earn a 10% agency fee. With a repair budget of 3 million rubles, this is another 300 thousand rubles of income. Considering that the equipment of such an object with materials, furniture and decor can cost a substantial amount, say, 4.5-5 million rubles, then with a reward of 10% from the supplier, you can earn in excess of another 450-500 thousand rubles. In total, almost 1.1 million rubles of revenue come out of just one such facility.

Costs and profits. Studio costs are divided into fixed and variable. Permanent salaries include the salary of employees, office rent, depreciation, accounting. The variables include the bonus part of salaries, organizational / transportation costs when fulfilling orders, advertising, the purchase of consumables, a communal apartment. It is also worth laying in the items of expenses unforeseen expenses.

Monthly expenses

Payroll for (including deductions)200 000
Rent25 000
Public utilities6000
Unexpected expenses10,000
Total:267 500

 The studio can pay off already from the first orders, but they, as a rule, do not come immediately, so the terms are stretched to six months or more. The real level of profit of design studios is 150-200 thousand rubles, more popular studios can earn 250-450 thousand rubles. per month.

Own business: production and installation of polycarbonate greenhouses