Picking out a new sofa? Sites offer design advice for cheap

FILE- This April 17, 2018, file photo shows the Wayfair website on a computer in New York. Several sites have made it more affordable to get design help without anyone ever stepping inside your home. Havenly, Wayfair and others are charging less than $100 a room to connect users with an interior designer who can pick out a sofa, show you how to rearrange furniture or offer other design help. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Hiring an interior designer is expensive, and the chances of an HGTV host bursting through your doors are slim. But several sites have made it more affordable to get design help without anyone ever stepping inside your home.

Havenly, Wayfair and others are charging less than $100 a room to connect users with an interior designer who can pick out a sofa, show you how to rearrange furniture or offer other design help. The sites also make money if you buy the furniture and other goods that the designers recommend.

Even though you’ll have help from a designer, make sure you have a sense of what you do or don’t like. The sites depend on your survey responses to come up with a design plan.

“You want to ensure you’re giving the designer an accurate representation of your taste so you receive a design that you’re happy with,” says Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert at deal site RetailMeNot.

Here’s what else you need to know:

WHO IT’S FOR: Those who need help filling an empty room or sprucing up a den or bedroom with new lighting or pillows. It’s not for those who are seeking help with major renovations, like a bathroom or kitchen remodel.

WHAT IT COSTS: A flat fee is typically charged per room. Prices differ: Havenly’s fees start at $55 for a design refresh and then up to $169 for a full room makeover. Wayfair offers a $79 and $149 option, and another site, Decorist, charges $299 a room. Do an internet search for coupon codes since the sites often offer discounts to new users. Both Havenly and Decorist also allow people to ask designers questions for free through their sites, which is a good way to test the type of advice you’ll get before buying.

And make sure to read what you’ll be getting. Some may not offer revisions, phone chats with designers or 3D layouts of what the items will look like in your room.

HOW IT WORKS: After a quiz where you pick out styles and colors you like, you’ll be asked for room measurements, photos or videos of the room. You’ll be matched with a couple of interior designers and be able to look at pictures of their past work and select one of the designers. A budget can be set so that designers will know how much you’re willing to spend on new items. The sites say that they vet the designers, many of whom already have their own design firms and are looking to make extra cash or boost their cliental through the sites.

BUYING FURNITURE: Havenly and Decorist recommends products from furniture sellers that it partners with, such as West Elm and CB2. Wayfair, meanwhile, recommends items from its own sites as well as other. Havenly gives those that paid for its design service a $50 credit if they buy $200 or more in goods.

There’s no obligation to buy anything that the designers recommend, and you can use the advice to “find the exact item or a similar one at a lower price elsewhere,” says Skirboll.

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