Interior Design Retainer Agreement

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An interior design retainer agreement helps you manage the expectations of clients when it comes to fee structures and making payments on time. A small misunderstanding can greatly deteriorate the quality of your relationship. As such, if you're an interior designer, switching to retainers can provide more predictable income and help you maximize your revenue.

Unfortunately, most people don't know how to start. If you're confused about taking the first step, then don't worry. We're here to help. This article will guide you on what these agreements are and how you stand to benefit. Stick around till the end, and we'll guide you on where to start. Let's get into it.

What is an interior design retainer agreement, and why do you need it?

A retainer agreement is a contract between you and your client that outlines the terms of your services, including the scope of work, the fee structure, and the payment schedule.

Essentially, it is a written agreement that defines the relationship between you and your client and sets expectations for both parties. This can make the beginning of a relationship much easier to understand and erases uncertainty.

One of the main reasons you need a retainer agreement as an interior designer is to protect yourself and your business. You can avoid misunderstandings and disputes with your clients by clearly outlining the scope of work.

Another reason to use a retainer agreement is to ensure that you are paid for your services. The agreement should clearly outline the fee structure and payment schedule, including any upfront fees or deposits that may be required. This helps to ensure that you are compensated for your time and expertise and helps to prevent issues with non-payment.

A retainer agreement can also help to establish a long-term relationship with your client. By outlining the terms of your services, you can demonstrate your professionalism and build trust with your clients. This can lead to repeat business and referrals, which can be crucial for the growth of your business.

A well-written retainer agreement is an important tool for any interior designer. It helps to protect your business, ensure that you are paid for your services, and establish a positive relationship with your clients. By creating a detailed retainer agreement, you can set yourself up for success and ensure that your interior design projects run smoothly from start to finish.

What to include in an interior design retainer?

Here are some important elements to include in an interior design retainer:

1. Scope of Work

The retainer should clearly define the scope of the project, including the services to be provided and any limitations on your responsibilities.

2. Deliverables

An agreement should identify the expected deliverables of the project, such as design concepts, material selections, and final plans.

3. Timeline

The retainer should establish a timeline for the project, including milestones and deadlines.

4. Communication

The retainer should specify how the designer and client will communicate during the project, including preferred methods of communication and response times.

5. Change Orders

Your retainer agreement should address the process for change orders, which are revisions or additions to the scope of work that occur after the project has begun.

6. Ownership of Work

The retainer should clarify who owns the intellectual property of the design work, such as sketches and plans, and whether you or the client has the right to use or reproduce them.

7. Termination

The retainer should outline the circumstances under which either party can terminate the agreement, such as non-payment or failure to fulfill obligations.

8. Dispute Resolution

Lastly, the agreement should establish a process for resolving disputes between you and the client, such as mediation or arbitration.

Payment terms

The payment terms in a retainer agreement are critical to the project's success. Therefore, the agreement should clearly outline the fee structure and payment schedule for the project.

This includes your hourly rate or flat fee, any upfront fees or deposits required, and the method and frequency of payment. It is essential to establish clear expectations upfront to avoid misunderstandings and ensure prompt payment. It is also a good idea to include provisions for late payments or bounced checks.

Working relationship

The working relationship between you and your client is another critical element of the retainer agreement. The agreement should clearly define the roles and responsibilities of both parties, including the scope of work, communication methods, and project timeline.

It is essential to establish clear lines of communication to ensure that the project stays on track and that any issues or concerns are addressed promptly. The agreement should also include provisions for change orders, which are revisions or additions to the scope of work that occur after the project has begun.

Clear communication and a strong working relationship are key to a successful project outcome. A well-crafted retainer agreement can help establish a solid foundation for this relationship.

Why use an interior design retainer

Using an interior design retainer agreement provides numerous benefits for both parties. Here are two main reasons why they are a great decision to incorporate into your business:

1. Predictable income:

One of the main benefits of using an interior design retainer agreement is that it provides predictable income for you. By establishing a flat fee or retainer for the project, you can avoid the unpredictability of hourly billing and ensure they are compensated for their time and expertise.

This also provides greater financial stability and allows you to better plan and budget your resources for the project. This understanding will then lead to greater efficiency and a much more focused approach to each project. Ultimately, a predictable income is great for you and your client as it removes uncertainties.

2. Better client management:

Another major benefit of using an interior design retainer agreement is that it establishes clear expectations with the client. The agreement outlines the scope of work, deliverables, and timeline for the project, ensuring that both parties are on the same page.

This helps to avoid misunderstandings and disputes and fosters a better working relationship between the designer and the client. By clearly defining the project's parameters, the designer can also better manage their time and resources, leading to a more efficient and successful outcome.

How much should I ask for?

Determining how much to charge for interior design services can be a challenging task. The pricing strategy should be based on several factors, including the project scope, your experience level, and current market rates. Here are some pricing strategies and payment methods to consider:

1. Hourly rate:

One pricing strategy is to charge an hourly rate for interior design services. This approach can benefit smaller projects or those with an uncertain scope. Hourly rates typically range from $75-$300 per hour, depending on the designer's experience level.

2. Milestone payments:

Milestone payments involve receiving payments at various stages of the project, such as the completion of the design phase, the procurement of materials, and the final installation. Milestone payments can be a better option for larger projects, as they provide the designer with regular cash flow throughout the project's duration. However, upfront payments can benefit smaller projects or clients who want to avoid multiple payments.

The chosen pricing strategy and payment method will depend on the designer's preferences, the project's scope, and the client's needs. Therefore, it is essential to establish clear expectations upfront to avoid misunderstandings and ensure a successful project outcome.

Industry benchmarks

If you want to know where the industry is heading and what to expect, it pays to do some research. Here are some statistics for the interior design industry to help you get started:

  1. Hourly rates at the top end interior designers typically range from $100-$200 per hour, depending on the designer's level of experience and location, according to Forbes.
  2. Flat fees for interior design projects can range from $5,000-$50,000, depending on the project's size and complexity.
  3. The interior design industry is expected to grow at a rate of 4.8% annually in the US, according to a report by IBISWorld.
  4. The residential interior design market accounts for approximately 50% of the industry's revenue. In comparison, commercial interior design accounts for approximately 25%, and institutional design accounts for approximately 15%.
  5. The global interior design market is expected to grow by about $24.13 billion by 2025, according to a report by PRNewswire.

Create your own interior design retainer agreement with Bonsai

Bonsai offers exceptional client management services for interior design companies. Whether you're an SME or enjoy a global presence, Bonsai can help you engage clients and get on the same page with them. Alongside their CRM services, you can get access to your own tailor-made retainer agreements to use.

Having an effective agreement with your clients can be a great way to start off a fruitful relationship. You can use Bonsai's specialized agreements to cater to particular clients properly. Instead of using the same format for all clients, why not go the extra mile and connect with them much more closely? Bonsai can help with that.

If you want to develop an effective interior design retainer agreement, but can't afford the time or expense, then Bonsai can help. Sign up today for a 7-day trial and enjoy access to tailor-made agreements and manage your customers correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions
Questions about this template.

How does an interior design retainer agreement benefit me?

An interior design retainer can ensure that for longer-term projects you are able to obtain a predictable income stream and avoid the highs and lows associated with hourly or contract work.

Can I create my own interior design retainer agreement?

Creating your own is certainly possible. It should be noted that Bonsai vets all of our templates with counsel to ensure the contracts contain no gaps that can be exploited though.

Template preview

Interior Design Retainer Agreement

Interior Design Retainer Agreement

First Name
Last Name
Acme LLC.
First Name
Last Name
Corporation Corp.

This Contract is between Client (the "Client") and  Acme LLC, company (the "Designer").


1.1 Project. The Client is hiring the Designer to do the following: create functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces

1.2 Schedule. The Designer will begin work on [START DATE] and will continue until the Contract is ended. This Contract can be ended by either Client or Designer at any time, pursuant to the terms of Section 6, Term and Termination.

1.3 Hours. The Designer will work up to [HOURS] hours per month. The Designer will stop working each period if and when those hours are used up. Unused hours do not carry over to the next period. The Designer will be available to the Client from 9:00 AM to 17:00 PM, Monday through Friday. The Designer may agree to be available outside of those hours, but any work that is required to be done outside of those that the Client and Designer explicitly agree to do will be billed separately at a rate of $[OVERAGE RATE] (USD) per hour.

1.4 Payment. The Client will pay the Designer an ongoing rate of [PROJECT RATE] per month. Of this, the Client will pay the Designer a non-refundable deposit of [DEPOSIT AMOUNT] before work begins, to be deducted from the first invoice payment. This deposit is non-refundable due to the Designer reserving their schedule on behalf of the Client.

1.5 Expenses. The Designer may request additional payment for any agreed-upon, non-cancellable expenses, which must approved by the Client in advance.

1.6 Invoices.  The Designer will invoice the Client [INVOICE FREQUENCY]. The Client agrees to pay the amount owed within [X DAYS TO PAY] days of receiving an invoice. Payment after that date will incur a late fee of [LATE FEE PERCENTAGE]% per month on the outstanding amount.

1.7 Support. The Designer will not provide support for any deliverable or once the Client accepts it, unless otherwise agreed in writing.


2.1 Client Owns All Work Product. As part of this job, the Designer is creating "work product" for the Client. To avoid confusion, work product is the finished product, as well as drafts, notes, materials, mockups, hardware, designs, inventions, patents, code, emails, email content and anything else that the Designer creates as part of this project. The Designer hereby gives the Client this work product once the Client pays for it in full. This means the Designer is giving the Client all of its rights, titles, and interests in and to the work product (including intellectual property rights), and the Client will be the sole owner of it. The Client can use the work product however it wants or it can decide not to use the work product at all. The Client, for example, can modify, destroy, or sell it, as it sees fit.

2.2 Designer's Use Of Work Product. Once the Designer gives the work product to the Client, the Designer does not have any rights to it, except those that the Client explicitly gives the Designer here. The Client gives permission to use the work product as part of portfolios and websites, in galleries, and in other media, so long as it is to showcase the work and not for any other purpose. The Client does not give permission to sell or otherwise use the work product to make money or for any other commercial use. The Client is not allowed to take back this license, even after the Designer ends.

2.3 Designer's Help Securing Ownership. In the future, the Client may need the Designer's help to show that the Client owns the work product or to complete the transfer. The Designer agrees to help with that. For example, the Designer may have to sign a patent application. The Client will pay any required expenses for this. If the Client can't find the Designer, the Designer agrees that the Client can act on the Designer's behalf to accomplish the same thing. The following language gives the Client that right: if the Client can't find the Designer after spending reasonable effort trying to do so, the Designer hereby irrevocably designates and appoints the Client as the Designer's agent and attorney-in-fact, which appointment is coupled with an interest, to act for the Designer and on the Designer's behalf to execute, verify, and file the required documents and to take any other legal action to accomplish the purposes of paragraph 2.1 (Client Owns All Work Product).

2.4 Designer's IP That Is Not Work Product. During the course of this project, the Designer might use intellectual property that the Designer owns or has licensed from a third party, but that does not qualify as "work product." This is called "background IP." Possible examples of background IP are pre-existing marketing strategies, code, type fonts, properly-licensed stock photos, proprietary marketing practices and web application tools.

The Designer is not giving the Client this background IP. But, as part of the Designer, the Designer is giving the Client a right to use and license (with the right to sublicense) the background IP to develop, market, sell, and support the Client's products and services. The Client may use this background IP worldwide and free of charge, but it cannot transfer its rights to the background IP (except as allowed in Section 11.1 (Assignment)). The Client cannot sell or license the background IP separately from its products or services. The Designer cannot take back this grant, and this grant does not end when the Contract is over.

2.5 Designer's Right To Use Client IP. The Designer may need to use the Client's intellectual property to do its job. For example, if the Client is hiring the Designer to build a website, the Designer may have to use the Client's logo. The Client agrees to let the Designer use the Client's intellectual property and other intellectual property that the Client controls to the extent reasonably necessary to do the Designer's job. Beyond that, the Client is not giving the Designer any intellectual property rights, unless specifically stated otherwise in this Contract.


The Designer won't work for a competitor of the Client until this Contract ends. To avoid confusion, a competitor is any third party that develops, manufactures, promotes, sells, licenses, distributes, or provides products or services that are substantially similar to the Client's products or services. A competitor is also a third party that plans to do any of those things. The one exception to this restriction is if the Designer asks for permission beforehand and the Client agrees to it in writing. If the Designer uses employees or subcontractors, the Designer must make sure they follow the obligations in this paragraph, as well.


Until this Contract ends, the Designer won't: (a) encourage Client employees or service providers to stop working for the Client; (b) encourage Client customers or clients to stop doing business with the Client; or (c) hire anyone who worked for the Client over the 12-month period before the Contract ended.

The one exception is if the Designer puts out a general ad and someone who happened to work for the Client responds. In that case, the Designer may hire that candidate.


5.1 Overview. This section contains important promises between the parties.

5.2 Authority To Sign. Each party promises to the other party that it has the authority to enter into this Contract and to perform all of its obligations under this Contract.

5.3 Designer Has Right To Give Client Work Product. The Designer promises that it owns the work product, that the Designer is able to give the work product to the Client, and that no other party will claim that it owns the work product. If the Designer uses employees or subcontractors, the Designer also promises that these employees and subcontractors have signed contracts with the Designer giving the Designer any rights that the employees or subcontractors have related to the Designer's background IP and work product.

5.4 Designer Will Comply With Laws. The Designer promises that the manner it does this job, its work product, and any background IP it uses comply with applicable laws and regulations.

5.5 Work Product Does Not Infringe. The Designer promises that its work product does not and will not infringe on someone else's intellectual property rights, that the Designer has the right to let the Client use the background IP, and that this Contract does not and will not violate any contract that the Designer has entered into or will enter into with someone else.

5.6 Client Will Review Work. The Client promises to review the work product, to be reasonably available to the Designer if the Designer has questions regarding this project, and to provide timely feedback and decisions.

5.7 Client-Supplied Material Does Not Infringe. If the Client provides the Designer with material to incorporate into the work product, the Client promises that this material does not infringe on someone else's intellectual property rights.


This Contract is ongoing, until ended by the Client or the Designer. Either party may end this Contract for any reason by sending an email or letter to the other party, informing the recipient that the sender is ending the Contract. The party that is ending the Contract must provide notice by taking the steps explained in Section 11.4, Notices. The Designer must immediately stop working as soon as the notice has been given, unless the notice says otherwise.  The Client will pay the Designer for the work done up until when the Contract ends and will reimburse the Designer for any agreed-upon, non-cancellable expenses. The following sections don't end even after the Contract ends: 2 (Ownership and Licenses); 3 (Competitive Engagements); 4 (Non-Solicitation); 5 (Representations); 8 (Confidential Information); 9 (Limitation of Liability); 10 (Indemnity); and 11 (General).


The Client is hiring the Designer as an independent contractor. The following statements accurately reflect their relationship:

  • The Designer will use its own equipment, tools, and material to do the work.
  • The Client will not control how the job is performed on a day-to-day basis. Rather, the Designer is responsible for determining when, where, and how it will carry out the work.
  • The Client will not provide the Designer with any training.
  • The Client and the Designer do not have a partnership or employer-employee relationship.
  • The Designer cannot enter into contracts, make promises, or act on behalf of the Client.
  • The Designer is not entitled to the Client's benefits (e.g., group insurance, retirement benefits, retirement plans, vacation days).
  • The Designer is responsible for its own taxes.
  • The Client will not withhold taxes or make payments for disability insurance, unemployment insurance, or workers compensation for the Designer or any of the Designer's employees or subcontractors.


8.1 Overview.  This Contract imposes special restrictions on how the Client and the Designer must handle confidential information. These obligations are explained in this section.

8.2 The Client's Confidential Information.  While working for the Client, the Designer may come across, or be given, Client information that is confidential. This is information like customer lists, business strategies, research & development notes, statistics about a website, and other information that is private. The Designer promises to treat this information as if it is the Designer's own confidential information. The Designer may use this information to do its job under this Contract, but not for anything else. For example, if the Client lets the Designer use a customer list to send out a newsletter, the Designer cannot use those email addresses for any other purpose. The one exception to this is if the Client gives the Designer written permission to use the information for another purpose, the Designer may use the information for that purpose, as well. When this Contract ends, the Designer must give back or destroy all confidential information, and confirm that it has done so. The Designer promises that it will not share confidential information with a third party, unless the Client gives the Designer written permission first. The Designer must continue to follow these obligations, even after the Contract ends. The Designer's responsibilities only stop if the Designer can show any of the following: (i) that the information was already public when the Designer came across it; (ii) the information became public after the Designer came across it, but not because of anything the Designer did or didn't do; (iii) the Designer already knew the information when the Designer came across it and the Designer didn't have any obligation to keep it secret; (iv) a third party provided the Designer with the information without requiring that the Designer keep it a secret; or (v) the Designer created the information on its own, without using anything belonging to the Client.

8.3 Third-Party Confidential Information.  It's possible the Client and the Designer each have access to confidential information that belongs to third parties. The Client and the Designer each promise that it will not share with the other party confidential information that belongs to third parties, unless it is allowed to do so. If the Client or the Designer is allowed to share confidential information with the other party and does so, the sharing party promises to tell the other party in writing of any special restrictions regarding that information.


Neither party is liable for breach-of-contract damages that the breaching party could not reasonably have foreseen when it entered this Contract.


10.1 Overview.  This section transfers certain risks between the parties if a third party sues or goes after the Client or the Designer or both. For example, if the Client gets sued for something that the Designer did, then the Designer may promise to come to the Client's defense or to reimburse the Client for any losses.

10.2 Client Indemnity.  In this Contract, the Designer agrees to indemnify the Client (and its affiliates and their directors, officers, employees, and agents) from and against all liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including reasonable attorneys' fees) related to a third-party claim or proceeding arising out of: (i) the work the Designer has done under this Contract; (ii) a breach by the Designer of its obligations under this Contract; or (iii) a breach by the Designer of the promises it is making in Section 5 (Representations).

10.3 Designer Indemnity.  In this Contract, the Client agrees to indemnify the Designer (and its affiliates and their directors, officers, employees, and agents) from and against liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including reasonable attorneys' fees) related to a third-party claim or proceeding arising out of a breach by the Client of its obligations under this Contract.


11.1 Assignment.  This Contract applies only to the Client and the Designer. The Designer cannot assign its rights or delegate its obligations under this Contract to a third-party (other than by will or intestate), without first receiving the Client's written permission. In contrast, the Client may assign its rights and delegate its obligations under this Contract without the Designer's permission. This is necessary in case, for example, another Client buys out the Client or if the Client decides to sell the work product that results from this Contract.

11.2 Arbitration.  As the exclusive means of initiating adversarial proceedings to resolve any dispute arising under this Contract, a party may demand that the dispute be resolved by arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its commercial arbitration rules.

11.3 Modification; Waiver.  To change anything in this Contract, the Client and the Designer must agree to that change in writing and sign a document showing their contract. Neither party can waive its rights under this Contract or release the other party from its obligations under this Contract, unless the waiving party acknowledges it is doing so in writing and signs a document that says so.

11.4 Notices.

(a) Over the course of this Contract, one party may need to send a notice to the other party. For the notice to be valid, it must be in writing and delivered in one of the following ways: personal delivery, email, or certified or registered mail (postage prepaid, return receipt requested). The notice must be delivered to the party's address listed at the end of this Contract or to another address that the party has provided in writing as an appropriate address to receive notice.

(b) The timing of when a notice is received can be very important. To avoid confusion, a valid notice is considered received as follows: (i) if delivered personally, it is considered received immediately; (ii) if delivered by email, it is considered received upon acknowledgement of receipt; (iii) if delivered by registered or certified mail (postage prepaid, return receipt requested), it is considered received upon receipt as indicated by the date on the signed receipt. If a party refuses to accept notice or if notice cannot be delivered because of a change in address for which no notice was given, then it is considered received when the notice is rejected or unable to be delivered. If the notice is received after 5:00pm on a business day at the location specified in the address for that party, or on a day that is not a business day, then the notice is considered received at 9:00am on the next business day.

11.5 Severability.  This section deals with what happens if a portion of the Contract is found to be unenforceable. If that's the case, the unenforceable portion will be changed to the minimum extent necessary to make it enforceable, unless that change is not permitted by law, in which case the portion will be disregarded. If any portion of the Contract is changed or disregarded because it is unenforceable, the rest of the Contract is still enforceable.

11.6 Signatures.  The Client and the Designer may sign this document using online e-signature software such as Bonsai. These electronic signatures count as originals for all intents and purposes.

11.7 Governing Law. The validity, interpretation, construction and performance of this document shall be governed by the laws of the United States of America.

11.8 Entire Contract.  This Contract represents the parties' final and complete understanding of this job and the subject matter discussed in this Contract. This Contract supersedes all other contracts (both written and oral) between the parties.


First Name
Last Name
Acme LLC.
First Name
Last Name
Corporation Corp.