e-Decorating – Your Thoughts?

June 10, 2008

There’s a new crop of decorators out there offering what is called e-decorating that may well be the next big thing in design. I took on some e-clients a few years ago, I met them through decor8 and offered them consulting (for a fee) via email and telephone. It was so much fun but quite time consuming so I decided to step back for a bit. I’m still trying to figure out if it is something that I would like to do again, I see so much value in it as I love the idea of being available to all — not just greater Boston. I also completely ‘get’ that people have busy schedules and a limited budget and need to connect to someone for decorating help via the web – fast and easy. I think many would love to tap into the brains of some of our favorite decorators (or bloggers!) for their personal opinions about our space or for much more… help in pulling together a complete room simply through email. Someone to look at our photos, review our floor plan, make suggestions, send us a few mood boards to select from, and email lots of product links our way. Doesn’t that sound heavenly?

e-Decorating - Your Thoughts? Home Refiner.

Well this service exists and it’s called e-decorating. Did you know that the Betsy Burnham offers a similar service called Instant Space (I’ve heard that it is amazing)? It is still out of reach for most when it comes to pricing, it’s not something all can fit into their budget since prices range from $895-1,495 per room. Of course, hiring Burnham’s firm to design in real time would cost way more than her through-the-mail decorating service, so it is a great way to save money if you look at it from that perspective. And c’mon. It’s Betsy Burnham. I would hire her in a second just for the tips as I’m sure she could teach me a thing or two, or ten thousand.

Then there are other amazing designers out there who are a lot more affordable like Vanessa De Vargas who runs the LA-based design firm Turquoise. You know Vanessa because she writes here on decor8 from time to time. She just launched an e-decorating service that is doing quite well. Everyone loves Vanessa. The girl is just contagious, from her personality to her style and ability to connect to ‘real’ people on budgets. I love that about her. She doesn’t refer her clients to $700 lamps, if they want something from IKEA she’ll find them a $30 pendant and because she knows how to pull a room together, that $30 light will rock like it’s $700. Her rates range from $450-500 per room. Considering the time and energy it takes to do this work, she is keeping it real without losing money herself. I think her prices are quite good.

I simply cannot mention e-decorating and not highlight the lovely Elfya Van Muylem, lead designer and founder of NYC-based Home Refiner. This lady is amazing on so many levels. I blogged about her diy videos back in February if the name sounds familiar. Above is a photo of a package she sent over that usually goes to her prospective virtual clients. I had a phone conversation with Elfya a few months ago and she was enthusiastic, professional, and extremely knowledgeable. I thought her presentation via mail was just great, and the package contained client worksheets and questions so she could better understand personal tastes and needs. I’m not exactly sure of her rates, but I heard she is within reach. And you know something that is totally unrelated but shows how classy Elfya is? Her website. You have to click here, turn up the sound, and listen to the gorgeous music. I’ve been listening the entire time of writing this post, I think you’ll really like it. It shows me that she has layers to her personality, she’s emotional, warm, connected, I like that. And her taste in music is great.

So ladies and gents, what do you think about e-decorating? Is it something you’d consider? What would you call an ‘affordable’ per room fee? What do you expect as a client?

(photography by holly becker)


  • Reply lizzyl June 11, 2008 at 12:28 am

    thanks for this post! i think it’s a great idea and something i’ve been considering offering my clients, so i’d love to hear what others have to say about this!

  • Reply Rachel Mallon June 11, 2008 at 12:53 am

    I also have an e-decorating company and yes it can be very time consuming but it is tons of fun and very rewarding. My prices range from $350-$600 depending on which room needs decorating. The book includes a floor plan, 2-3 renderings, material board, furniture board and a shopping list. For more information my website is: http://www.roominabook.com

  • Reply NEV908 June 11, 2008 at 1:37 am

    Oh, yes, I would definitely consider this service. I love design blogs (especially this one), but I simply don’t have an eye for pulling a room together. I recenly hired someone to do a “design on a dime” project for me & I was thrilled with the results. Most of the stuff came from Lowe’s, Target, Marshall’s, Ikea, but you’d never know. In a million years I couldn’t have put all that stuff together–would have walked right past it in the stores. In my case, the designer actually picked up & delivered most of the stuff, but I’m sure email help would be great too. I think there are many people out there like me who need help putting an entire room together. It’s not just a matter of access to products–it’s a matter of having that eye. I wish I did, but I don’t, so I am so happy to have found a way to get help from a professional–& on a budget to boot.

  • Reply Linda Merrill from ::Surroundings:: June 11, 2008 at 1:47 am

    I also offer e-decorating services – from single questions to phone consults to full scale floor plans and shopping lists. I’ve guide an LA homeowner through her master bath renovation and offered others advice on how to get the look of their favorite movie interiors. It’s a great way to reach a broader audience and be able to do the work in “off” hours. I also offer a “to the trade” purchase service offering people who aren’t working with a specific designer the ability to buy desinger-only goods. I agree, Holly, that e-decorating will be bigger and bigger in the future.

  • Reply Yvette June 11, 2008 at 3:56 am

    what a great idea. i think you’re right in thinking that digital consulting is the way of the future, but i don’t know if anything will ever beat ‘face to face’ design.

  • Reply Jennifer Perkins - Naughty Secretary Club June 11, 2008 at 5:17 am

    I’d totally hire someone online.

    This is kind of in the same vein, but more of a DIY take on it. Have you played on Polyvore yet? You play cyber outfit party choosing designer bags, shoes and clothing or snagging pieces from around the internet to make collages. I wish they had one for rooms. where you could choose a blank template similar to the room you are decorating and add wall colors, jonathan adler vases, Ikea shelves, fancy couches – what have you. Then maybe there is a mentor or advisor who helps if you want to pay extra? Just a thought.

  • Reply Denise Smith June 11, 2008 at 10:53 am

    While I haven’t offered the service quite like Holly wrote about, I have done some, what I call for lack of a better term, Remote Decorating. As a coincedence, last night I met with some clients who are moving to SC. They have purchased new construction and want all new. Now mind you, these clients have been with me for almost two years now. I have even begun to work with their daughter, so I know them well. Still, last night they expressed great concern that I have not seen the bumped out area of the kitchen with my own eyes.
    I also have chosen the entire color scheme for a river house I never walked into. It was nerve wracking. I kept telling the client how unconventional this was. The results were good, or so she says…. I really do believe color needed to be finalized in situ.

    My point: I think you have to have clients willing to take the risk to allow you to create “blind”, and I believe these types of clients are completely new breed.

  • Reply Moi June 11, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    So wierd! Lately I’ve been wondering if a designer would consider coming to my home and offer “final touch” ideas. I would pay a consultation fee for this; more if they did the work or if the suggestions were substantial.

  • Reply mary June 11, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    YES. As a matter of fact, I walked through my living room this morning and wished I had someone to send a few pictures to. Some of the prices are out of my price range, though, but I think it’s a fabulous idea and something I would absolutely consider.

  • Reply erinn June 11, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I do quite a bit of ‘e-decorating’. Like others I do a room anywhere from $150 to $500 depending on the project and client. But I agree that nothing beats interfacing with clients in person and at their homes. And I have tried to provide similar reasonably priced in-person services as well as the e-deco option. My main concern whether it’s via the internet or in person is providing an affordable service to a wide range of people both as a ‘designer’ and an architect. It shouldn’t just be a service only available to the ultra-wealthy. I am actually just finishing up a little consulting project for a non-profit group that rehabs homes for low-income families. I have realized I get way more satisfaction out of that than anything else. That was also an e-deco project and since it does save a bit of time I was able to do a lot more for them than if I had met them many times im person. happy decorating! :)

  • Reply LCI Paper June 11, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I think that it is a good idea and it has its place for time starved individuals who need decorating advice (however, I’m not sure how much time it saves after you factor in taking pictures and correspondence – it is probably more of a convenience – you don’t have to do it during “normal” business hours).

    I have taken landscape design classes and done some landscape design over the years and just intuitively feel that you get a better outcome by being there. I think that you need to feel a space and understand how spaces flow into each other and interact. I think that you need to feel and understand any interactions between inside and outside. I think virtual tools can only go so far in communicating this.

    For quick advice and ideas though, it is probably every bit as good as being there, however.

  • Reply Cecilia June 11, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    I think this is a great idea, and it’s definitely a service I would consider. I’m good at finding unique objects, but can get lost in putting a room together; too many choices! I do think that a telephone conversation or two, while not a substitute for an in-person consultation could be of help in a scenario like this.

  • Reply doreen June 11, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    By the way that first song on Home Refiner is “je ne veux pas travailler” from Pink Martini”s Sympathique, a wonderful group from Portland. I’m in love with French pop! For more great music like that, listen to the soundtrack from “A Good Year” (a great film by the way).

    I believe that sound and music are one of the layers of design that sometimes are forgotten, along with smell. We experience our environments with all our senses, not just our eyes, and I feel they contribute a lot to the feel of a space.

    sorry this has nothing to do with e-design, but I just had to comment on the music on her site!

  • Reply Andrea June 11, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Yes, I think it is a very nice way to get fresh and professional ideas for home decorating. But the last week I saw some e-decoration services offer their consulting for the lowest prices of all. Interior Designer go in mass market with dumping prices. This has nothing to do with personal feeling and creativity.

  • Reply Tracey June 11, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    I think e-decorating is bigger than we already thought! As a decorator, my clients usually expect this service in the design fee (conservative Midwest- what can I say). I think it really opens up the market and would feel comfortable e-decorating in most aspects except color selection. With that said- I do quite a few workshops and people bring in pics, and it does not always click together. Sometimes you just need to be in the space to realize that the furniture placement is not right!!!

  • Reply Rachel June 11, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    I think it has its place. In fact, I’m having a wall knocked down in my house and it seems to me that an e-consult might be a big help to dh and me in figuring out the best layout for our newly combined formal dining room and space-off-the-kitchen.

    I wouldn’t use a virtual service for actual ‘buy this and use this paint color’ design, because I think meeting someone in person and seeing the space is too important.

  • Reply Jennae Petersen June 12, 2008 at 2:55 am

    I think it’s a great idea, but not for everyone. I am by no means a interior design professional. In fact, I am a graphic artist by trade who happens to have an aptitude for interior decorating. That said, I have a 3d home design program that I’m pretty handy at, and I’ve had several of my friends and family members ask me to design rooms for them using this program. At one point, I considered offering it as a paid service, but thought I’d leave it to the professionals. I think there is a real market for it for people who just need a hand pulling a whole room together. Being able to add the visual aid of the 3d room design makes it that much more real.

  • Reply LIBERTY POST EDITOR June 12, 2008 at 3:38 am

    Every room has it’s own personality; a soul, the way the sun hits the wall in the afternoon. The sounds of the neighborhood. You can only feel this by walking the floors, taking in the air. Having said that, I think clients are hungry for expert advice and so, e-decorating will be a huge industry. Someone (?) needs to develop an entire library of e-DIY design videos too that cover all styles, colours and budgets.

  • Reply Betsy June 12, 2008 at 4:08 am

    great! thinking of doing this myself as well, it seems like the blogsphere has jumpstarted this side of decor services.

  • Reply becky from hatch June 12, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Have you seen the pictures of the kit you receive from Betsy Burnham? They look amazing! I do like the idea, but I’m with ici paper; one is SO much better informed if they get at least one in person visit in the space, ESPECIALLY with a landscape.

    One of the mags did a feature where they used three different e decorating services a year or so ago, and it was really interesting. I can’t remember if it was Domino or Cottage Living. The author wound up being very impressed with what was accomplished in her room over the interenet.

  • Reply Anonymous June 12, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    What happened to the office makeovers we were supposed to see on the blog?

  • Reply Sean June 12, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    I think it’s a fantastic idea for its versatility. While some may need a complete consultation (new space, new stuff), I think most people are like me. I like my things, I just don’t know how to put them all together. It’s a real talent that you should definitely share with others.

  • Reply Jennifer June 12, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    I do this sort of thing on my blog. I call them Design Dilemmas. Sometimes (like this week) I whip out an entire design for a room. It’s free (because it goes on the blog) and that allows for a lot of freedom. It’s also a nice exercise in creativity and speed.

    But I always run into a problem when people ask me to choose a specific paint color for them. This is impossible on the internet.

    There is definitely room for e-design. Clients who are too intimidated to hire a real life designer would love this sort of thing. And they save a lot of money. Still, nothing takes the place of actually being in a space when it comes to interior design perfection.

  • Reply MaryBeth June 12, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    As one in need of a decorator (i love the design on a dime concept).. I am definately going to check out the sites you kindly shared.
    I would also be willing to work with a creative ,enthusiastic student designer-decorator as well.

    Living out in the middle of the desert , this comes at a perfect time

  • Reply Tara June 12, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Yes, this is ABSOLUTELY the way of the future.
    I am an illustrator and designer in Aus and I rarely even meet up with my clients over a coffee (much as I’d love to!)
    About half my clients are people starting a new biz who need some branding and identity…all very easy to do online. The other half is magazines and even then they brief me by email and approve my illos via email.
    I do a package with an illustrated logo, business card, letterhead, a pattern (for stationary or web background) etc etc for about $600AU often without leaving the house…there’s no overheads for me and the client saves $$$$ by not going into an expensive agency! There is a growing online community of creative people looking to eachother for creative services…feel the love!

  • Reply Steph June 13, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Wow, I’ve been thinking of the same business model, but for wedding styling advice. I’ve just sent off 3 finished styling packages for friends; all three girls had a rough idea of direction (a piece of fabric, a photo, a dress), but no time, inclination or patience to develop a full theme and source items for their weddings.

    They sent me their inspiration piece by email and I put together for each of them a website with styling ideas in categories, and links to sourcing the products online. They now choose the ideas that work for them, and send them on to their wedding planner/cake decorator/florist etc. It’s like an online wedding scrapbook.

    Does anyone else think this might be of interest?

  • Reply Anonymous June 13, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    There definitely is a place for services of this nature! What I’ve seen is that when real people’s rooms get posted on blogs they get lots of input on how to make improvements. It’s hard to “see” your own spaces objectively. Personally, I want to do my own decorating, *but* I also want some feedback and input from a professional — I want a collaboration. Also, I would be more likely to hire someone whose work I’ve seen on the internet rather than someone local whose work I haven’t seen. I actually emailed an interior designer requesting this service, but she never replied to my email.

  • Reply Anonymous June 15, 2008 at 4:56 am

    I’m definitely in to this idea. Most of the decorators of choice are located in California or New York. Hard to ever afford these guys if you aren’t in the same city.

    My only question is how do we find out the names of other designers who are doing this? Your blog entry is the first time I’ve been able to locate more than one person trying this business model. More, more, more links please!!!

  • Reply Alison October 5, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Late to the party, just found this post on stumbleupon. But here’s another good eDecorating site for those of you searching:

  • Reply Linda June 2, 2010 at 8:48 am

    There is definitely a need for this. Having moved from San Francisco to Albany, NY from a 3400 sq ft home to a 50 year old 1200 sq ft home (no a/c, wood heat and 45 minutes from the nearest Starbucks) my challenges are overwhelming! I would absolutely pay for a professional to help me in an area that I am completely challenged!

    Getting anyone here would be cost prohibitive, but the e-decorating process is terrific!

  • Reply Laura July 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

    About what “Jennifer Perkins – Naughty Secretary Club” was saying about polyvore,your in fact are able to do interior design sets if you want to, I’m one who loves it.I enjoy creating set there a lot. If you want to take a look is:

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