Cameron Woo, an interior designer and the President of the Interior Design Confederation Singapore (IDCS), talks about the hidden dangers of engaging companies that offer interior design services for “free”.


I would like to talk about a situation that’s happening within the renovation industry. In the course of your search for help with renovation, you may have encountered companies purporting to offer interior design services for “free”, as long as you buy something or you engage them to renovate your home.

Let me be clear about this: Anything of value cannot be free. There are retailers that offer free interior design assistance, in the event you purchase a minimum number of furniture pieces from them.

There are also contractors, and even some interior design studios, who offer free design in the event you hire them to build your project.

It is not free -– you are paying for this by buying from or engaging them. Some of them may be offering free design services because they are not properly trained to provide the full suite of interior design services as well.

The core competency of interior design professionals is interior design. If this is free, what else are they in business for? Be careful! Free might mean poor advice or lack of competency. Anybody who is an expert in what they do should be in demand.


The professional interior designer offers much expertise and value to help you achieve your dream home. People frequently make the mistake of budgeting only for construction and/or the supply of goods, and forget about the design part of the project. This may be due to the confusion created by contractors purporting to offer free design services.

Errant contractors tend to avoid establishing a design and a budget based on a clearly defined scope of works, to take advantage of inexperienced clients by plying them with additional costs known as Variation Orders. Without a clear set of design documentation drawings and specifications describing quality of materials, finishes and fittings, the project is likely to run overtime and over budget –- resulting in a project literally carried out “on the run”.

A professional interior designer can set the right expectations for the client in terms of the process, and time and money required, as they are often underestimated, due to the time — consuming nature of setting a budget and making plans to maximise it.

I have heard many horror stories of homeowners doing this and going broke, or relationships destroyed, or both! I have said many times –- what a client is ultimately paying for is peace of mind.

This is Part 2 of a 3-part feature. Look out for our next issue where Cameron will talk about the hidden dangers of engaging companies that offer interior design services for free. 

Read Part 1: The difference between an interior decorator, interior designer and architect here.

This article was originally published in the May issue of Home & Decor.