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I wrote this guide to help you understand if SFD is the right fit for you, and to give you as much information as possible about what will happen while we are working together.  Some clients have never worked with a designer before and have no idea what to expect.  Some have, but maybe the experience wasn’t great.  And no two design firms are alike.  We all bring different strengths to the table and run our projects differently.  So, since we’ll be entering into months-or-years-long relationship, it’s important for you to go into it with eyes wide open. 



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Our Philosophy
There are spaces that are just “done,” and spaces that really sing.   We create the latter.  In order to do that, we develop a big-picture concept or vision for a home or a room, and we affect as many elements of the space as the project allows, in order to bring that concept to fruition.  Given the sheer amount of effort and money and time that go into doing a renovation (even a small or mid-sized one), we think it’s so important to really consider all the functional and aesthetic potential of a space – not just pick things for it.  We help our clients create homes that are not only cohesive and functional, but interesting and layered. 

Our Aesthetic
We are unabashed lovers of modern design.  But we love to work within traditional architecture to integrate more modern elements while showcasing original details.   Having practiced design in both San Francisco and Chicago before Boston, Stephanie brings a unique ability to blend styles without watering down the overall impact of the space.  Lighting as art, natural materials, surprising moments of pattern, vintage touches, and smart space planning are some of our specialties. 

What We Do
As an architecturally-focused interiors firm, we especially love projects that afford an opportunity to influence space planning/layout and finishes, built-ins, and decisions such as trim & door styles and hardware.   These elements can have a tremendous influence on how a space feels.  We create furniture layouts and elevation drawings in-house in AutoCAD.   Our projects range from full-home renovations to single-room design.   Because we create complete spaces, we do not take on partial-room projects or “finishing” projects.  (If we’re working with you on a larger project and you have a few a la carte needs, of course we’ll help with those!  We just require that at least one or two rooms are being re-designed completely). 

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Inquiry Phase

From the time you first reach out until the time we kick off your project, here’s what will happen:

Complete Website Inquiry Form

We ask that you take this initial step, to put your project on our radar and help us understand the basics of your design needs. Please allow 48 Hours for us to respond. 

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Discovery Call

15-30 minutes, free of charge.  This is a mutual fact-finding mission.  Is your project something that we can / want to take on?  Are we the firm that best meets your needs?  Do we hit it off? 

On-Site Consultation

90 minutes, $450.  Show me everything!  Let’s cover your whole wish list, and I’ll share all the ideas & tips that I can. We can also chat high-level numbers around what furniture and various design projects might cost. Two goals for this consultation are 1) to get to know each other better and help you decide whether to hire us, and 2) to determine a clear scope of work for us to estimate in our Design Proposal.  

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Proposal & Term Review

You’ll receive two documents via email, 3-5 days after our on-site consultation.  One will be a Design Proposal, reiterating the scope we talked about and including an estimated number of design hours / total cost to complete the project.  This is the one you’ll DocuSign if we move forward.  The other are SFD’s Terms & Conditions – signing the Proposal is agreeing to these.  Please read them closely. 

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Proposal Approval & Retainer

Once you sign the Design Proposal, we’ll send you an invoice for a retainer, which is 10% of the estimated design fees, to be applied to your final project invoice.  




Project Set-Up

  • Develop project timeline and establish a review schedule and key milestones. 

  • Site visit to gather additional dimensions, photos & video. 

  • Import existing floor plan into AutoCAD, or create an as-built plan from measurements taken on site.  

  • Set up in Studio Designer Client Portal. (this is our billing and purchasing software)

  • Establish a shared Pinterest Board.  We like being able to have an ongoing “visual conversation” throughout the project and to be able to refer back to key example photos.  If you have any existing Pinboards or Ideabooks you’d like to share, we’d love to see those as well. 


Conceptual Design

  • Create scaled furniture plan in CAD, identifying areas for built-ins.  

  • Decorative Lighting Plan (recommended locations of ceiling fixtures and sconces, if different than existing). 

  • Develop a color story and material palette for the home.  

Schematic Design: 
Providing your contractor the information he or she needs to give you an accurate bid 

  • Create rough elevation drawings of any key design elements like built-ins, kitchen cabinet walls, bathroom vanity walls

  • Develop general direction on levels of finish quality, for bidding purposes.  For example: cabinet quality level and door style, trim profiles, stone & tile type & quality and ballpark cost per square foot, plumbing quality level.  

  • Work with GC to ensure cost assumptions for millwork, shower doors, house hardware, and other finishes are in line with the design direction. 

  • Create a detailed budget for things that will NOT be included in GC’s bid: furniture, window treatments, wallpaper material and install, decorative lighting, art and accessories.

Architectural Design: actual specifications of architectural details

  • Floor, ceiling, and wall finishes 

  • Stair finish and handrail / spindle design

  • Plumbing fixtures and finishes 

  • Stone & Tile 

  • Trim and Door Profiles 

  • Decorative Lighting

  • Door, window, and cabinet hardware 

Design Development

  • Create detailed elevation drawings for custom millwork and vanities

  • Elevation drawings for all walls of kitchens and bathrooms, (and other spaces as needed), indicating placement of plumbing, tile, sconces, and mirrors.

  • Drawings and bidding for any custom furniture

Furniture Selection

  • Select and price options for each furniture item in the approved plan, meeting size and durability requirements 

  • Gather material / fabric samples to view in context of overall palette

  • Create client "sit test" agenda, client visits showrooms for sit testing when possible / as desired

Construction Admin


Construction Admin

  • Document architectural finish selections in the form of “Schedules” to be delivered to GC: Paint, Tile, Stone, Plumbing, Lighting.  This is what keeps everyone organized during the finish phase of construction.  
    Attend weekly site visits with GC [or as needed for smaller projects]

  • Ongoing as-needed correspondence with subcontractors [painter, plumber, electrician, stone fabricator, tile installer]

Purchasing and Expediting

  • Gather final pricing, lead time, and shipping information and create formal proposals for the selected items.

  • Place orders for furniture, lighting, window treatments, decorative hardware, and wallcoverings.

  • Create and issue weekly expediting report with Estimated Ship / Delivery dates for each item.  


  • If client is accepting goods, communicate general placement direction. Periodic site visits to perfect installation.

  • If warehouse is accepting goods, review photos for accuracy as items arrive. Attend installation to provide direction to DSI Team.

  • Site visit at beginning / end of wallpaper installations to provide direction to installer as necessary.

  • On-site placement of cabinet hardware.

  • Ensure proper light bulbs are on site and ready for electrician during lighting installation.

Art and Accessories

  • Art & Accessory shopping & sourcing [typically large key pieces of art are selected with furniture/billed at Design rate, but smaller pieces & accessories toward the end of install]

  • Accessory purchasing and styling on site and returning items as necessary. 

  • Gallery wall design, selection and coordination of custom framing as necessary.

  • Meeting on site with art hanger to provide placement direction. 

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Design Time is billed at $175 per hour. Activities in the Design Phase of our process are billed at this rate.   

Execution Time is billed at $95 per hour. Activities in the Execution Phase of our process are billed at this rate.  All Travel time throughout the project is billed at the Execution rate. 

Minimum Project Requirement
$4500 in Design Fees
, or ~a full single room design.   


We also ask that you be ready to ready to execute the design (i.e. purchase the components) for at least a single room in full.  If we design a room and then the clients decide they want to finish it “over time” rather than on the timeline we initially agree to, it becomes difficult & inefficient for us to manage from a resource standpoint.  And, we generally would prefer to take on projects that result in completed spaces.   This doesn’t mean you have to complete your whole house at once!  Just (at least) one full room at a time.  


We add a standard 20% markup to the trade price for all items, not to exceed the retail cost of the item.  This markup covers the inevitable circumstance that the tracking, expediting, and troubleshooting time associated with a given item will be more than what is estimated.  COVID-19 has caused the work time associated with each item to balloon, often involving multiple re-selections.  We try to minimize time billing in these circumstances, but this standard markup helps to cover the extra time and some of the overhead of running a small business.  

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Client access to sales, promotions, and memberships are not exceptions to the above markup policy. This includes the RH membership.  You are welcome to use your membership to purchase items outside of the scope of our work together.  If an item from RH is going into a room we are designing, our markup will be applied (or we will happily source elsewhere). 



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For goods that SFD is purchasing for your project, you will receive a detailed Proposal(s) that will contain key details about each item as well as pricing, for your approval.  These will be sent on an ongoing basis as items are approved during review meetings. Proposals are sent via the Client Portal on our purchasing software, Studio Designer.  There will be a button to click “Approve.”  Once approved, a “Pay Now” link will appear, with instructions on how to process payment via secure ACH (bank-to-bank) transfer.   SFD covers the 1% fee on behalf of our clients.  Payment in full is required before SFD purchases any goods.  Personal checks are also accepted.  Payment via Venmo, Zelle, PayPal and other methods is not accepted at this time, because of the complexity of managing various fee structures and transfer limits.  

Design Time 
You will receive monthly invoices around the 5th of each month, outlining in detail the design hours and activities executed during the previous month.  Payment is due upon receipt via ACH Transfer or Personal Check.   




Purchasing of Goods: Furniture, Fabric, Lighting, Wallcoverings, Rugs, Art, Accessories
Stephanie Freeman Design purchases all products that we specify.  It’s the only way to keep projects organized and ensure we reach the goal of a complete and beautiful space.  This is stipulated in our Terms & Conditions.  

Purchasing of Architectural Materials and Services
For architectural materials such as tile, stone, plumbing, cabinetry, and appliances: generally, we simply specify these items at cost, and either the clients or the GC purchase them (subject to the GC’s terms/markup).  So, you will not be paying a markup to both SFD and your contractor on these items.  Some designers purchase these items and mark up. However, whomever purchases them is generally the responsible party for receiving the delivery, ensuring the items are correct, and ensuring that nothing happens to them between delivery and installation. We feel GC is better suited to handle this.  We do request that, if we have worked with our preferred vendors to specify tile and plumbing fixtures, the order goes through that vendor.   Specification of plumbing is complex and time-consuming, so the rep who is investing that time should receive the business.  The pricing our vendors extend may be a few more dollars than an online plumbing clearinghouse, but the level of service is 10x better and believe us…STUFF HAPPENS.    



For renovation projects, or those where no one is on site to regularly accept deliveries, furniture and decorative lighting items are shipped to our warehouse, DSI (Designer Services, Inc.).  DSI inspects the items upon receipt, sends photos to SFD, and we coordinate with vendor if there are any issues.  Goods are stored until an install date is scheduled, and then DSI provides white glove delivery and assembly in your home.  This service adds an estimated 10% to the cost of goods (this is in addition to the vendor’s freight cost). 

The alternative is for the client to accept deliveries on an ongoing basis.  A few things to know about this route. 
Clients MUST open and inspect each item that is delivered within 24 hours.  If the item is simply put in a garage boxed, we may not know about issues until weeks later, when we have lost leverage and the ability to return or exchange. 
Clients will always be made aware of delivery charges and options at the time of purchase.  We typically add white glove delivery if it’s an option.  If not, THERE WILL BE BOXES.  Sometimes big ones.  We have vendors who will do refuse removal / dump runs for a fee, and we will be happy to arrange this service.  Just know that refuse is unfortunately part of furniture deliveries.

SFD can occasionally meet deliveries, such as when client is on vacation.  However, more often now with COVID-19, shipping companies are giving us only 1 possible date with a 4 or 6 hour delivery window.  Sometimes they give us a call-ahead, sometimes they just don’t.  And yes, they will always arrive in the middle of that important Zoom call.  We simply do not have the staff to be on-call for single pieces of furniture on an ongoing basis, so we share these unpleasant facts upfront, to manage expectations that it can be a time-consuming endeavor to receive items directly.  But many clients choose to do it. 

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I’m a pretty candid and honest communicator, and tend to tell it like it is and not sugar-coat things.  We take this job very seriously, but also rely heavily on humor to get us through the stressful bits, as well as the knowledge that there truly are no design emergencies.   

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Business Hours

8:30am – 5:30pm, Monday through Friday. We know you may need to reach out on evenings and weekends when you are free, just know that our responses may be held until business hours.   We do not schedule design presentations on Fridays, in order to have time set aside for design work and other internal SFD tasks.

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Text Messaging
Yes, we use it. Just please, think before you text.  If it’s important feedback or photos or a request, we ask that you email instead, which allows us to stay more organized.  Please do not text on evenings & weekends unless urgent.  We know that thoughts and concerns often arise on evenings and weekends when you’re home from work, but that is also our time to recharge and be with family, and it’s easy to end up simultaneously texting five clients at 10:00pm if we don’t set boundaries.

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Timely Correspondence

Once it’s time to begin your project, we’re allocating a certain amount of womanpower to it and planning our other project workload accordingly.  We need your partnership and timely responses in order to keep your project on track.   By all means, go on vacation and be offline!   Just know that if we are consistently not hearing back from you, your project goes on hold and we have to re-asses timelines once you’re back in the conversation.   

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Please consider who the stakeholders are for design decisions, and ensure everyone can be present at our design reviews.  For larger review meetings, it’s important to have the discussion live, and not have one partner recap for another.  Unless they reallllly don’t care.  We also love having kids review their room designs, and often send image boards & samples home for their comments!



Thank you for taking the time to read and absorb all of this.  We know it’s a lot, but find that the whole process runs so much more smoothly when clients know exactly what they are signing up for.   We look forward to talking more about your project!  If there’s anything you’d like to chat about in more detail, please don’t hesitate to reach out directly at: 

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