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Havenly Rendering

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Can You Really Get a Good Interior Designer for Under $200? We Give a Virtual Design Service a Try

Are these online designers all they are cracked up to be?

A few months ago, I finally took my ‘adulting’ up a notch and moved into my very first apartment sans roommate. Granted it was about time, since I’m currently staring 30 right in the face, but this was still a big moment for me since I had lived with roommates my entire life.


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After months of searching I found a tiny — and I am not kidding when I say tiny — studio in the up-and-coming Shenandoah neighborhood. And most importantly, the rent was within my even tinier freelance writer’s budget, which for anyone who has gone apartment hunting in Miami knows that's a feat within itself.

Walking into the place for the first time after signing on the dotted line I realized I didn’t know how the hell I was going to decorate my new apartment. I had a few hurdles to overcome, most importantly since the apartment is rather limited on space I knew I needed items that were multi-use (like a table that could moonlight as a seat), furniture that didn’t take up much space but still looked cute (duh) and most importantly I wanted items that reflected me and my somewhat adult taste, something I’ve never really had before.

After signing on the dotted line I realized I didn’t know how the hell I was going to decorate my new apartment.

So I spent the next few weeks doing what every 21st century woman does when faced with a design dilemma: I went to Pinterest. I pinned…and I pinned…and I pinned, until I couldn’t pin anymore. But ended up more confused than when I started.

I also knew an interior designer was out of the question, too. I happened to work for one (in an administrative role, not design) when I first got out of college, so I am well aware of how pricey they can be.

But as luck would have it, during one of my pinning sessions I stumbled across an article discussing these new virtual design services like DecoristBek Design and Havenly. I must admit I was intrigued, and at a fifth of the cost of an interior designer I figured it may just be the solution I was looking for.

I decided upon Havenly, honestly because it was the least pricey of the bunch. Let’s not forget that I am still a writer who tends to get paid in complementary meals and rainbow dust more than actual dollars, so getting the most bang for my buck is essential.

Let’s not forget that I am still a writer who tends to get paid in complementary meals and rainbow dust more than actual dollars, so getting the most bang for my buck is essential.

With Havenly there is a flat fee of $199 and that includes a design consultation with an interior designer, two mood boards, and then up to two edits to your final design where they lay everything out for you. You begin with a questionnaire that asks you everything about the space you want to decorated, to budget, to your taste in music and art. It took me a solid two hours to complete, which I can’t decide if it is because I’m longwinded or if it was just a really comprehensive questionnaire. (Bonus: you can send them links to Pinterest boards of designs you like, so my late-night pinning sessions didn’t go entirely to waste.)

Fast forward a week and I received my two mood boards, which both seemed to fulfill the preppy-with-a-Miami-twist aesthetic I was going for. Once you’re given these mood boards, you’re supposed to give feedback on what you like and what you don’t like about everything. I almost felt bad for my designer, because when you ask me to write my opinion on something, let’s just say, you should be prepared to read. But I picked every piece apart and sent her my thoughts back.

The two mood boards seemed to fulfill the preppy-with-a-Miami-twist aesthetic I was going for.

About another week later, I got an email saying my design was ready. I was so excited to see what my designer came up with since I really loved the mood boards.But the design I received, well, it fell a bit flat. It just seemed like something was missing and it was tough for me to put my finger on it.

I voiced my feedback to my designer pointed out the things I wasn’t so crazy about and she definitely took note, because a week later she returned with another design that was much more to my liking. I was able to combine the final look with a few pieces she scouted in an early design board to make a look that I was happy to call my own.

When I was ready to shop for the pieces, an online shop within the site was set up for me to buy all the items featured in my designs in one stop. Even though they were sourced from a variety of retailers, I only had one cart I needed to add everything to and they then coordinated the rest: purchasing, shipping and logistics.

So was it worth it? For me it was, yes, since I really was clueless and it was nice to have someone guide me along the way. If you have an idea of what you are looking for but not sure where to find the items, Havenly also has a new $79 option that just gives you two mood boards and picks out the pieces for you. But unlike the $199 option, you don’t have a series of revisions and they don’t arrange the room. However, if you're someone who needs to control every part of the process and touch and see everything, I would maybe stick to hitting up local home stores to design your space.

The process was certainly interesting, and I'm glad I finally have an 'adult' feeling space to call mine own, even if it is only a tiny one. Check out the final result below.