Should You Work With An Interior Designer?

As our February design/decorating month ends we have managed to cover it all, from super cheap $50-$100 fixes to a $2,000 Ikea-furnished studio to bedroom do-overs and duvet giveaways, and even working with a decorator. Thanks to all who participated with questions and comments! (Ed.)

Let me be honest. I always assumed working with an interior designer was something rich people did because they were lazy. I mean, c’mon, I’ve lived in many an apartment and I’ve done all right. . . . everything mismatching in a way that. . .matched?

But, as I investigated decorating a bit more, I came across all these beautiful spaces that were created by interior designers – and I got curious. Was it doable? And, what would the experience be like?

Luckily, Kate Marengo of Arranging Order was happy to show me the interior designer ropes. Kate’s been in business since 2009 (after leaving corporate America to do what she loved – whoot!) and totally understands that some of us are on a budget.  She actually just launched an internet consulting biz where for $300 per room, she’ll help you with your own custom design board, floor plan, specific product recommendations (including her discounts), paint color reccos,  furniture placement and more.   She gave me a taste of what she can offer – which I’ll be detailing below**.

The Experience: Determining Our Style

Working with Kate and her team was quite a bit of fun – mainly because my role was all about helping to define my style to help Kate do her magic. I went on and created an idea book – essentially a collection of images that showcased the furniture and room layouts that appealed to me.

Afterwards, the Arranging Order team met me at my home and took stock of the furniture we wanted to keep and what we were looking to upgrade.  Also, what colors I liked and, generally, what I was looking to do to fix it up. They also took photos they could reference as they were ideating.

Arranging Order’s Design Recommendations:

A few weeks later, I was sent the below, with ideas for our living room and dining room:

Living Room












Dining Room












The doc I was sent also had links to all the items Kate recommended as well as their prices, making the purchasing process super simple. Kate and her Arranging Order team were also available for questions to ensure we were happy with her suggestions.

Using IKEA, Target,, and Modani – Kate was able to help me furnish my complete living room and dining room for under $3500, which was less than the budget originally given. I know that for some, that may seem pretty expensive. But, when you think about all the items purchased: two sitting chairs, a full rug, a small rug, a media stand, drapes, and an extendable dining room table and chairs, an accent table and some other small accessories – it was pretty reasonable.

The Final Living Room:

Check it out the below before and after of our living room:


Before Living Room














photo living room




















We’re still putting our dining room together, but check out our finished living room – pretty shnazy, right?  It fits Alex and my tastes of being fun without being too formal. Also, it kinda has that Brooklyn vibe we can’t help but still love, even while residing in Chicago!

The Verdict:

So – would I recommend working with an interior design? Probably!

Let me qualify.

If this is your second or third apartment, or condo, that you envision staying in for some time, consider working with an affordable interior designer, like Kate and Arranging Order. Working with her reminded me of working with broker finding an apartment in Brooklyn, because she made everything easier – and knew immediately what pieces at which stores fit my style. At Ikea, I literally tested every chair I liked the look of – and her selections were not only the most stylish but also the most comfortable and the most affordable. Triple win!

She also had discounts (think 15% off) at larger retailers, so we got better pieces more cheaply – and without the stress of having to wonder how all the new pieces would fit together.

If I had been decorating myself, no way would I have my apartment fully furnished after only 6 weeks. NO F’ING WAY. Working with Arranging Order was just SO EASY and delightful.

Who shouldn’t consider working with an interior designer? If this is your very first apartment, you should probably go it alone and experiment with your own style. Buy some crazy bright paint and see if you like it. Go to Ikea and the Salvation Army and see what pieces come home with you.  Grow comfortable with the idea that your home should represent you. Then, when you’re settling into a place for a few years, consider calling in the professionals.

** Arranging Order provided gratis services to My First Apartment so we could write about the process and our experience.

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Author My First Apartment

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I've lived in apartments in 6 cities (including 2 foreign countries). Does that make me an expert? As of now, my ceiling isn't leaking and I don't have rodents (knock on wood) -- so I'm going to say yes . . . but ask me again tomorrow:) These days, I'm enjoying life Chicago style, but my years in Brooklyn are never far from my mind. P.S. By day I work at, but these opinions are totally, 100% my own.

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