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Local Designers Offer A'la Carte Services

Want big style on a small budget? Try a'la carte interior design services. Two local Arlington firms make luxury design accessible.

If you’ve ever wished for high-end design on a low-end budget, a new trend emerging among area interior designers may make the price just right.

Ala carte interior design, in which designers offer their services in package deals, is a new affordable way to decorate your home in high style.

 “We want to make design more affordable,” said Jessica Centella, one of three designers behind the Arlington-based r:u, residents:understood. The other designers who make up r:u include James Wall and Kiera Kuschalm, who lives in Clarendon. The three met while they were all interior design graduate students at the University of Florida. Wall and Kuschalm moved to the Washington D.C. area and worked for other designers before deciding they wanted to start a firm of their own. That’s when they asked Centella, a Florida native, to join them.

Their aim is to take the anxiety out of great interior design, especially for urban dwellers like those found in the Clarendon area. “We are targeting a younger demographic,” said Centella.

They recently launched a blog detailing their “personality-driven design solutions”.  Centella said their aim is to focus on lifestyle versus decorating style.   

The recently redid a project in the Courthouse area.  They are putting in the finishing touches and the dramatic transformation will be detailed here next week.

Even long-established full service design houses, are starting to offer ala carte services.  Whittington Design Studio, based in Yorktown, last year launched Room Service, a room by room alternative to full service residential interior desgin.  Owner Melanie Whittington said after the economy tanked, she noticed more of her clients wanting to scale-back services.  

They retained their taste, just not the budget for wholesale changes.  Whittington said she was inspired by the pricing at spas. 

Similar to spa packages, Room Service Creations has flat rates tailored to any budget.  Services start as low as under $300 for hourly renovation consultation.  The top package “Help this Room”, is a comprehensive design package that will  incorporate your individual style into a detailed, floor‐to‐ceiling custom design that is perfect for your space for $850. The package includes a 2 Hour In‐Home Consultation, which includes taking measurements. You also get time in Whittington’s studio, up to 18 hours over three to four weeks. A team of designers will work with you to customize your design and offer access to “trade only” furnishings and fabrics.

You receive a presentation that includes a scaled rendering of your room with furniture placement; a “materials board” complete with furniture images, fabric, finish and paint samples; and, an itemized proposal for furniture, window treatments, flooring  options, lighting solutions, art and accessories. You also get an 1 ½ hour follow up in the studio.

You can chose to have Whittington implement the design or based on the materials board you were given, acquire similar design pieces and finish the room yourself. 

Other services include “Bedroom Makeovers”, in which designers incorporate themes and color schemes for a child’s room, master bedroom or guest room. You work within your budget in terms of acquiring furniture and accessories. The service costs $575.

Other services include “Finishing Touches”, which helps you enhance your interiors by adding art, pillows, accessories, lighting, window treatments and new paint. These services start under $200.

Lauri Ward March 02, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Good article but this is far from a new trend. In 1981 I founded Use What You Have Interiors in New York City, offering elegant room makeovers at a low flat-rate. My service-based firm has not been a secret: I've redecorated thousands of homes in the past three decades; I have trained hundreds of people in my decorating system, I have authored several best selling decorating books, and have appeared on Oprah several times as well as other shows, and features in print media. There are now certified Interior Redecorators (www.interiorRedecorators.com) in more than 100 cities across the U.S. - including the Washington, D.C. area - and in other countries, who not only help clients transform their homes without spending money but also teach them about design, thereby taking the anxiety out of the process. Lauri Ward www.redecorate.com
jack montgomery March 06, 2011 at 03:01 PM
What is not stated are the fee scales ( either an hourly charge or a cost per square foot or one pirce to completion ?) if a client decides to have the designer "Implement " the perfect design schematics which they have presented to the clinet.
Julie O'Brien March 06, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Before the recession, we were all being advised to give up on selling much due to the internet and to go to higher rates on fees to compensate. Now we're being told to give up on our fees as well as furnishings. I'm mystified. Would it not be better to educate clients and hold out for the respect we are due?
Merlisa Lawrence March 09, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Thanks for your comments Lauri. And glad to see you're helping people use what they already have. i believe you can get great design at any price. These designers are emphasizing "use what you have" instead they are offering services room by room, almost like lay-a-way for interior design. Even in an affluent area like D.C., people are seeking a bargain.
Wrenda Goodwyn January 02, 2012 at 01:01 PM
This is not an emerging trend, as interesting as your article was to read! There are now certified Interior Redecorators (www.interiorRedecorators.com) who have been working with clients to transform their homes in more than 100 cities including the Washington, D.C. area and Florida. These seasoned, certified professionals offer a menu of services to save their clients money and educate them about design at the same time. Most important: The client knows the fee before the service. There are no hidden charges and the fee is all inclusive. Because you are a seasoned journalist, you may want to do some research on the Interior ReDecorators Network and let your readers know about about this valuable service that has helped thousands of homeowners. You would be doing them a service. I am certain that the organization's founder, Lauri Ward, would be happy to discuss tips for hiring a decorator and how to save money while having a beautiful home.

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