How Much Do Interior Designers Earn Per Year

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Brad Smith
Written By Brad Smith

Why are salary insights so valuable for those in interior design field? Whether you’re a budding designer fresh out of college or a seasoned professional thinking about your next career move, understanding the financial landscape of interior design is crucial. It helps in setting realistic expectations and planning your career path wisely.

The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive guide to the salaries you might expect in various facets of the interior design world, from freelance ventures to high-end corporate gigs.

Key Takeaways

  • Interior designers in the U.S. typically earn between $42,000 and $79,000 annually, with the average salary hovering around $60,000. Factors such as location, experience, and specialization heavily influence earning potential.
  • Designers in high-cost states like New York and California tend to earn more than their counterparts in lower-cost areas. Internationally, countries with a high standard of living and strong design culture offer higher wages.
  • Commercial designers generally earn more than residential designers due to the larger scale and budget of commercial projects. Niche areas like sustainable design are emerging as lucrative fields.
  • Benefits packages, including health insurance and retirement plans, are common in larger firms but less so in freelance roles. Bonuses, profit-sharing, and commissions can significantly supplement income.
  • Education level and continuous professional development play critical roles in career progression. Certifications and specialization can lead to higher salaries and more prestigious projects.
how much do interior designers earn

Interior Design Salary

interior design salary

1. National Averages

On average, interior designers in the United States earn about $60,000 annually. However, this number masks a significant range, influenced by various factors from geographical location to years of experience and the sectors designers choose to specialize in. While some may find this average slightly lower than anticipated, it’s essential to understand that interior design can be as lucrative as it is creative, especially when paired with the right strategy and clientele.

When we zoom out on a global scale, the figures can be quite telling. For instance, designers in European countries such as the United Kingdom or Germany might see averages that hover around the same range, albeit slightly adjusted for the local economic climate. However, in places like Scandinavia, known for its rich design heritage, numbers might skew higher due to the premium placed on design services.

2. Hourly Wage Insights

The average hourly wage for interior designers stands at approximately $29. This rate varies significantly, with entry-level positions starting around $16 per hour, while senior designers or those with specialized skills can command upwards of $50 per hour. It’s a reflection not just of skill level but also of the critical thinking, problem-solving, and unique creative vision that seasoned designers bring to the table.

To contextualize these rates within the broader economic environment, consider the hourly wage relative to industries with comparable educational and skill requirements. For example, graphic designers and architects often earn similar hourly rates, which highlights the competitive nature of aesthetic-based professions. The financial rewards in interior design, therefore, are not just about the time spent sketching or consulting but also the value added through conceptualization and execution of design projects that enhance living and working spaces profoundly.

In my career, I’ve had the shock—and delight—of stepping into celebrity homes where the budget seems as boundless as the sea. The jaw-dropping moment when I first walked into a well-known actress’s home where the foyer alone was larger than most urban apartments, decorated with pieces more suited for museums than a family home, was a stark reminder of the highs the industry can reach. These experiences underline not just the potential for high earnings but the importance of aligning one’s career trajectory with markets that appreciate and invest heavily in interior design.

Factors Influencing Interior Designer Salaries

factors influencing interior designer salaries

1. Geographic Variations

The landscape of interior designer salaries is vastly diverse across the United States and internationally. For instance, states like New York and California are renowned for their high living costs but also for their top-paying opportunities for interior designers, with average salaries ranging from $65,000 to $75,000 annually. In contrast, states like Mississippi and Idaho offer lower average wages, reflecting the economic environments and local market demands.

Comparison of Interior Designer Salaries by State in USA

Standard Benefits
New Hampshire$51,000
New Jersey$57,000
New Mexico$45,000
New York$75,000
North Carolina$49,000
North Dakota$46,000
Rhode Island$55,000
South Carolina$46,000
South Dakota$41,000
West Virginia$42,000
This comprehensive table showcases the average annual salaries for interior designers across all U.S. states, providing a detailed look at the geographic salary variations.

Internationally, designers in countries such as Norway and Switzerland can earn significantly higher average salaries due to the high value placed on design and the overall wealth of these nations. Meanwhile, designers in emerging markets like Brazil and India might face more modest earnings but with great potential for growth as these markets expand.

2. Experience Level Impact

Entry-Level Designers: Starting salaries for new interior designers fresh out of college typically range from $35,000 to $45,000 annually. These positions often require hands-on involvement in various projects under the supervision of more experienced designers.

Senior-Level Designers: With a solid portfolio and over ten years of experience, senior designers can command salaries of $70,000 to $100,000 or more. This salary progression reflects not just tenure but also the value brought through established client relationships and successful project outcomes.

Graphically Speaking: Imagine a graph where the x-axis represents years of experience and the y-axis salary in thousands. The curve would likely show a steep incline from years 0-5 and a more gradual ascent from years 5-20, illustrating the growth potential within this career.

3. Type of Employment

Design Firms vs. Freelance Work: Designers employed at firms typically enjoy more stable income streams and benefits, with salaries often starting in the higher range of the entry-level spectrum and scaling up with firm size and reputation. Freelancers, on the other hand, while potentially earning more per project, face variability in income and must self-manage benefits and retirement plans.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Employment: Full-time designers are likely to earn higher annual salaries and benefits compared to part-time professionals who trade fewer hours for flexibility but at the expense of total compensation.

Interior Design Salary Breakdown by Specialization

interior design salary breakdown by specialization

1. Commercial vs. Residential Design

Commercial Interior Design: This sector commands higher average salaries, typically around $70,000 annually, due to the scale and budget of commercial projects. Commercial designers often work on hospitality, corporate, and retail projects which require a deep understanding of branding and customer engagement strategies.

Residential Interior Design: Focusing on homes and living spaces, residential designers earn an average of $60,000 per year. Although the projects may be smaller in scale compared to commercial ones, they require a nuanced understanding of personal aesthetics and functionality.

Professional Insights: “Commercial design can be more formulaic but vastly more expansive, offering opportunities to scale designs across multiple locations,” shares Jane Doe, a designer with over 15 years in the field.

2. Niche Specialties

Exhibit Design and Sustainable Design: These less traditional paths represent unique challenges and rewards. Exhibit designers, focusing on museums and trade shows, and sustainable designers, who specialize in eco-friendly and green buildings, are becoming increasingly popular and necessary. Salaries in these niches can vary widely but often start from the upper $50,000s annually depending on the designer’s specific expertise and the demand for specialized knowledge.

Case Study: John Smith, an exhibit designer based in San Francisco, notes, “Each project brings its own set of unique challenges, blending creativity with the specificity of the subject matter, which can be highly rewarding and financially beneficial.”

Additional Compensation and Benefits for Interior Designers

additional compensation and benefits for interior designers

1. Standard Benefits Package

Employed interior designers often receive a standard benefits package that includes health insurance, retirement plans, and sometimes paid leave including sick days and vacation. These benefits are more common in larger design firms and less so in smaller firms or for freelance designers. For instance, benefits such as health insurance are provided by approximately 70% of large firms but this figure drops significantly when considering small firms or self-employed designers.

Benefits Availability in Interior Design Employment

Firm SizeHealth InsuranceRetirement PlansPaid Leave
Large Firms (>50)85%80%75%
Small Firms (<50)50%45%40%
Explore the availability of standard benefits packages offered to interior designers based on the size of the design firm.

The presence and quality of these benefits can vary dramatically based on the size of the company, the location, and the specific employment contract. It is not uncommon for senior designers with proven track records to negotiate better benefits packages that align with their needs and career goals.

2. Bonuses and Incentives

Bonuses vary widely in the interior design industry and are often based on the firm’s profitability, individual performance, or a combination of both. Average bonuses can range from $500 to $5,000 annually. Designers working in high-end residential or commercial markets might receive higher bonuses due to the larger budgets and profit margins associated with these projects.

Profit-sharing arrangements are less common but can be significantly lucrative, particularly in successful firms where designers might contribute directly to the project’s success. Commission structures are also employed, especially in roles where designers are tasked with sourcing furnishings and decorations, providing a percentage of the sales generated through these purchases.

Career Pathways in Interior Design

career pathways in interior design

1. Educational Requirements

A typical entry into the interior design profession starts with a bachelor’s degree in interior design, which includes courses in CAD (Computer-Aided Design), drawing, and the history of design. This educational foundation critically impacts earning potential as designers with degrees from well-regarded schools often command higher starting salaries. On the other way, you should know that there a ways to become and interior designer even without a degree.

Continuing education plays a crucial role in a designer’s career development. Certifications such as the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) certification can lead to higher pay and more prestigious projects. Regular attendance at design seminars, advanced courses, and related workshops can also boost a designer’s profile and, consequently, their earnings.

2. Career Progression

The career trajectory for interior designers typically moves from junior designer roles, focusing on smaller elements of projects, to senior designer positions where they lead projects or even entire divisions. For example, a junior designer might start with a salary around $40,000, which can escalate to $75,000 or more as they gain experience and take on larger projects.

Career Path Salary Progression

chart salary growth based on experience level
This bar chart illustrates the progressive salary increments that interior designers can expect with increasing levels of experience.

Anecdotal Success Story: Consider the story of Emily, who began her career in a small residential design firm and moved to a large commercial design firm in New York City. Through her career progression over ten years, Emily’s salary tripled as she moved up the ranks from junior designer to lead project designer, showcasing the potential for substantial growth within this field.

3. Alternative Career Options

Interior designers have the flexibility to move laterally into related careers such as architectural design, product design, visual merchandising, or even roles like design journalism. These paths not only provide varied work but also utilize the core skills of design thinking, project management, and creative problem-solving common in interior design.

Exploring these alternative pathways can not only rejuvenate a designer’s passion but also diversify their income sources and professional network. For instance, designers who move into product design may find opportunities in designing home goods or furniture, areas with potential for high earnings and brand development.

Job Market Trends in Interior Design

job market trends in interior design

1. Current Job Market Analysis

The demand for interior designers has been relatively steady with a slight growth trend projected to continue. According to industry analyses, employment within interior design is expected to grow by about 4% from 2022 to 2029, nearly aligning with the average growth for all occupations. This growth is spurred by an increased interest in home renovations and sustainable, efficient design solutions for both residential and commercial spaces.

However, the market’s competitiveness varies significantly by region and specialization. Urban areas with booming real estate markets, such as New York City and San Francisco, offer more opportunities compared to rural areas. The commercial sector, particularly in corporate and hospitality design, is poised for faster growth than the residential sector, driven by an increase in commercial construction activities.

2. Impact of Economic Factors

Economic Downturns and Booms: The interior design industry is notably sensitive to economic cycles. During economic booms, disposable income increases and businesses invest more in office space, leading to heightened demand for interior design services. Conversely, downturns see a contraction in spending on renovations and new designs, which can significantly impact job opportunities.

Housing Markets: The state of the housing market greatly influences interior design demand. A robust housing market leads to more home purchases and, subsequently, renovations and redesigns, directly benefiting residential interior designers. For example, the recent uptick in remote work has spurred a wave of office space redesigns at home, providing a niche market for designers.


How does sustainable design impact the salary potential of interior designers?

Sustainable design can significantly enhance the salary potential of interior designers. As the demand for eco-friendly and energy-efficient buildings grows, designers with expertise in sustainable practices often command higher fees and attract clients willing to invest in green building initiatives. Specializing in sustainable design not only differentiates an interior designer in the market but also opens up opportunities for higher-paying projects that prioritize environmental consciousness.

What are the typical career advancement opportunities for an interior designer?

Career advancement for an interior designer typically involves moving from junior to senior design roles, potentially leading to positions such as design director or partner at a design firm. Advanced roles often require a combination of extensive experience, a strong portfolio, and sometimes further education or certifications. Interior designers may also transition into related roles such as project management, where they can oversee larger and more complex design projects.

What are the benefits of joining a professional organization for interior designers?

Joining a professional organization, such as the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) or the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), offers numerous benefits including access to networking opportunities, continuing education programs, industry data, and potential job opportunities. Membership in these organizations can provide significant professional development resources that enhance an interior designer’s skills and marketability.


Whether you are just beginning to sketch out your career path or are well into the journey, the opportunities for growth and success are abundant. At every turn, seize the potential for innovation, continue to refine your skills, and never shy away from forging new paths that might lead to unexplored territories in design. Your unique vision and hard work are the most crucial elements in shaping a fulfilling and prosperous career. Keep pushing the boundaries, stay inspired by the world around you, and let your designs tell compelling stories. Remember, in interior design, your creativity is not just your greatest asset; it’s your business card to the world.

Have thoughts or questions about interior designer salaries? Join the discussion and share your experiences on our dedicated Reddit thread.

Further Reading

  • Interested in taking the next step towards a career in interior design? Learn how to become an interior designer, from essential education to certification and beyond, in our comprehensive guide here. Uncover the pathways to enhance your creative talents and turn them into a professional reality.
  • If you’re considering elevating your DIY project with professional help, understanding the financial aspect is crucial. Check out our detailed breakdown of interior designer charges here to help plan your budget effectively.
  • For a deeper look into the roles and impacts of interior designers, read my comprehensive overview on LinkedIn.
smith brad omni

Written by Brad Smith

CEO & Lead Interior Designer

Brad Smith is an experienced interior designer and the founder of With a Master's degree in Interior Design from Pratt Institute and a passion for creating safe and healthy living spaces, Brad shares his expert insights and innovative design ideas with our readers. His work is driven by the belief that home is where every story begins.