Online Interior Design Sites vs In-Person Interior Design

Online Interior Design Sites vs. In-Person Interior Design

[vc_single_image image=”1839″ img_size=”570×360″ onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank”]Amazon, TaskRabbit, Favor, Instacart, Upwork: these days, so many services are done online or via Apps. It’s easy to avoid chores when one simple swipe of the phone means someone else will take care of it. The newest service to jump on the trend is Interior Design, where a website pairs users with a professional interior designer to help them design their space entirely online.

These sites have their flaws, however—especially when you’re relying on someone you’ve never even met to do your work for you. After all, we’ve all had the experience of peeling ourselves off the couch to receive our Instacart order, only to find dented cans or bruised produce or even a missing necessary ingredient.

It’s one thing to have someone buy your groceries or mow your lawn via automation. But designing your home is something else entirely. It’s your place of peaceful rest and sanctuary, the place that should reflect your very unique style down to the last detail. It’s a place that should feel you authentically. And that’s a hard task to pull off online. Here’s the lowdown on what you can expect from online interior design versus using in-person interior design.

How Does Online Interior Design Work?

[vc_single_image image=”1841″ img_size=”360×570″ onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank”]Curious about the process of working with an interior designer online? It goes a little something like this: You choose a room you’d like to design. Most sites will have you answer a short online survey or fill out a brief form about your personal style. You can include room measurements and photos if you like, and you will include your budget and finances. The site will pair you with a designer, or you can choose from different designer portfolios. in the end, you’ll be presented with a design scheme—often only one—like a paint-by-number for your space.

If your online interior designer allows revisions, you’re usually limited to one. If they don’t offer multiple design schemes or revisions, you’re stuck with what they gave you—which you also have to pay for.

You will be given a list of products to purchase, and you will then set up and style your space yourself, including painting, installing, assembling, and adding all the finishing touches. You will be DIYing your interior design using the plan created for you.

The Benefits of Online Interior Design Services

[vc_single_image image=”1842″ img_size=”360×570″ onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank”]Online interior design can be a great way to control costs while making a space look good. Because you complete so much of the work yourself, online interior design services are much more affordable than the typical process of working with an in-person designer.

Because the final results of online interior design tend to be more generic and impersonal, it can be an effective solution for designing less personal, more temporary spaces, like rentals, dorm rooms, and other generic spaces.

When considering online interior design services, here are some of the key factors to keep in mind:

Costs Vary—But for Good Reason

The number one reason most people choose the online design is to save money. And I get it because you can bet your life I’ll seek out the best Austin happy hours with half-priced margaritas. The point is, who doesn’t love to save money?

It’s true that some online design services can be less expensive. After all, they don’t have to pay for a brick-and-mortar location or engage in a personalized, multi-step process that covers your unique style and needs before the designing even begins. But in the words of famed tattoo artist Sailor Jerry, “Good work ain’t cheap, cheap work ain’t good.”

Online services are a smart option for those on a restricted budget, which often works for apartment renters or anyone who doesn’t plan on staying in their home for long and just needs a quick fix. But when it’s your forever home, we’re talking about—or even a place you’ll be hanging your vintage stetson hat for a few years—it pays to do it the right way. Think of it as an investment for your home and, therefore, your happiness because a designer worth their salt will work with you until it’s perfectly aligned with your unique vision of a dream home.

Different Shades of Personalization

[vc_single_image image=”1843″ img_size=”360×570″ onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank”]Your home is your castle. No matter what your style or aesthetic is, your home should be a place where you celebrate your own unique taste and preferences. Your interior design should reflect your hobbies and interests, whether you play music or enjoy classic films. And your home should also celebrate your personal history, featuring your favorite photos, mementos, and souvenirs.

Because online interior designers are focused on working efficiently and moving on to the next job, they often do not take the time to get to know clients individually. Their design may not include space for your vintage records or family heirlooms or pay attention to the details of your lifestyle.

It’s key to remember that the outcome of the online interior design process is an online shopping list. This is critical for three important reasons:

  1. The online interior design site may have brand preferences. If the site or your designer prefers specific sites or brands, you may be referred to West Elm, CB2, or Pottery Barn products, even if they aren’t the perfect choice for your project.
  2. Online design means online shopping. We all know that not every product ends up being as cute as it was in the photo. When your new furniture arrives, it may be hard to put together, missing parts, or simply not be in the right proportion for your space.
  3. Online shopping limits your options. Austin is blessed with great designers and boutiques with unique, custom, or refurbished pieces that simply can’t be bought online. Shopping locally not only allows for unique, eclectic, and personalized interiors, but it is also better for the environment and our local economy.

As an interior designer with years of cultivated experience, my favorite part of my job is marrying my talent with your personality. I always say that the spaces I design aren’t just rooms but love letters to you, my client. I don’t rely only on whatever trends the home decor magazines are raving about. Instead, I blend your specific tastes and needs with exactly what makes up your personal style, whether working with an unusual color palette, sourcing a hard-to-find wallpaper, or even incorporating unique, cruelty-free vegan design elements—a true passion of mine.

Room for Changes

When you use an online interior design site, you often get only one or two design options. That means that not only do you miss out on a personalized and comprehensive consultation process of brainstorming and planning your unique vision with the help of your designer, but once the online service has given you two options, you’re out of luck if you don’t like what they offered.

Some services will offer one revision, but it will be minor. Because you’re dealing with a limited budget, an online service will want to move on quickly to their next client rather than give you the personalization and consistent help you would get from an in-person design service. When you work with an actual designer, however, the job isn’t over until you’re fully satisfied with your new space, down to the very last detail.

Project Guidance

Part of the cost of hiring an interior designer IRL is that they take care of the project from start to finish, down to every detail. For example, at J.Fisher Interiors, I oversee the design planning, construction documents (approvals and certifications included), and tendering. The only negotiating you have to do is decide on the color for your new velvet upholstered couch.

The Difference Between Online and Virtual Interior Design Services

So that’s online design, but what does a virtual interior designer do? During the pandemic, many traditional interior designers developed new ways to use technology to deliver our services with less face-to-face contact. While every virtual design service is a bit different, the scope of services is very similar to in-person design.

A virtual interior designer meets with the client online throughout the process. Pictures, drawings, 3D renderings, and live camera footage are used to describe the project at every phase of interior design so communication is clear.

Material samples are sent directly to the client so they can see and touch materials in person before making final decisions.

Virtual interior design offers various degrees of project management and oversight, depending on the needs of the client and the project. While a virtual design project begins with the same design brief and consultation as in-person design, the final scope of the project can vary tremendously. If the client wants to take the concepts and renderings and then purchase the decor, paint, flooring, etc. and finish the project themselves, it’s possible. If a client wants full-service design, the interior designer can manage the project remotely, down to the smallest detail.

Online vs. In-Person vs. Virtual Interior Design

To summarize, here is an overview of the primary differences between these different interior design services:

  • Online interior design pros:
    • Fast
    • Affordable
    • Clearly defined packages and terms so you know exactly what to expect
  • Online interior design cons:
    • Limited choices
    • Impersonal results
  • In-person interior design pros:
    • Comprehensive and in-depth design
    • A thorough review of all design elements and details so there are no surprises
    • Deeply personal, unique, custom results
  • In-person interior design cons:
    • May be time-consuming or expensive, depending on the scale of the project
  • Virtual interior design pros:
    • Allows you to work with your preferred designer, no matter where they are
    • More options, versatility, and customization than online design
    • Same in-person material samples, reviews, and attention to detail as the in-person design
  • Virtual interior design cons:
    • Depending on the scope of the project, it may be slower to schedule meetings and send photos rather than the immediacy of in-person design

At J.Fisher Interiors, our flexible approach to interior design is focused on delighting our clients, no matter where they are. We offer virtual and online services with the same personalized service and unique aesthetic that we deliver in person. Just because you aren’t in Austin doesn’t mean you need to settle for a generic design.

Schedule a Virtual Consultation!

If you’re just starting on your design journey, it makes sense that you might not have a clue where to start. Even if you don’t know what your personal style or home vision is, we can help you find it and transform your home with your own unique fingerprint. For an Austin interior design service that’s completely human-centered, contact us at J.Fisher Interiors or schedule a virtual consultation. Let’s get started on the journey to making your home your dream space.


J.Fisher Interiors’ studio is located in east Austin. To schedule your consultation appointment, please fill out the contact form or call us at 512.954.0904. We would love to hear from you!

Interior Design Consultation

J.Fisher Interiors’ studio is located in east Austin. To schedule your consultation appointment, please fill out the contact form or call us at 512.954.0904. We would love to hear from you!