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Start a Home Redesign Business

Got a knack for rearranging? Get in on the newest niche for home designers.

With the proliferation of home design shows on cable TV networks, as well as last year's return of domestic guru Martha Stewart, interest in interior design has never been stronger. But there's one segment of this industry that's experiencing especially strong growth and presents a great opportunity for creative people who are interested in careers in home design.

Interior redesign (aka interior arrangement or one-day decorating) is a close relative of interior design. Instead of creating an entirely new decorating scheme with new furnishings and accessories, as an interior designer does, an interior redesigner works with whatever the homeowner already owns--including items purloined from other rooms in the home--and rearranges it to give a room an entirely new look. The result is a decorator look without the decorator price tag.

"Redesigners are a 'safe' version of the traditional designer," says Julea Joseph, 44, owner of Reinventing Space in Chicago. "People are no longer looking for an interior designer to sweep into their home and say, 'Dahling, everything must go.' Instead, they're educated consumers who just need someone to pull everything together."

"[Redesigners] are nonjudgmental about the homeowner's belongings, and they'll work with any constraints or within any budget," says Michele Roark, owner of Interior Arrangements By Michele Roark in St. Michaels, Maryland, and vice director of Interior Redesign Industry Specialists, the redesign industry's leading membership organization. "No matter what the homeowner has, a redesigner will work with it and make it work."

"Redesign services appeal to the average person, not the homeowner with the big bucks," says Marcia Smart, 57, executive director of IRIS and owner of Smart Interior Styling in Thousand Oaks, California. "We offer an alternative to high-priced design services that validates and honors the clients' own selections."

Though redesign isn't a new industry, the idea only recently caught on when HGTV's Decorating Cents coined the term to describe its no-cost decorating segment. Prior to that, Roark, 46, says people's most common reaction to the idea of redesign was, "You rearrange furniture, and I'm supposed to pay you [for that]?"

Depending on the location, redesigners charge anywhere from $50 to $200 an hour, usually with a three-hour minimum. Redesigners who specialize in commercial redesign can command even higher hourly rates. As a result, with the appropriate marketing and local exposure, it's possible for a sole proprietor to earn a six-figure income in this field within just a couple of years.

Typically, redesigners work in one of two ways. Some prefer to plunge right into a room, remove every stick of furniture and every accessory, then bring back some or all the original pieces, as well as items found in other rooms, and arrange everything in a new and exciting way. Because this type of redesign can be physically demanding, redesigners often hire assistants to help with lifting and carrying. Other redesigners prefer to offer design consultations and assessments instead, and never do any hands-on work.

Though the redesign niche is narrow and there are no specific figures available on the number of redesigners nationwide, it appears that the industry is growing rapidly, if the interest in membership organizations like IRIS is any indication. In 1999, IRIS had just 19 members; today, it has more than 600. Similar growth can be seen in the number of TV shows that focus on redesign. HGTV has three programs that emphasize redesign, including Decorating Cents, Design Remix and Free Style. TLC's Clean Sweep also features redesign elements, like the repurposing of furnishings in newly organized rooms.

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This article was originally published in the June 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Time for a Change.

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