Turnkey service for interiors

Rachelle DeGeorge

For a typical new construction or renovation project the owner of a senior living community is responsible for bringing together the best of many talents. As the owner, you’ve hired the architect and possibly a developer or owner’s rep, and now you need an interior designer. With so many interior design firms vying for the chance to join your team, how do you know if a design firm’s proposal will include a true turnkey package? What does this term mean and how do you obtain such a package?

Turnkey interior design is an industry term referring to interior design firms that provide material specifications and selections for everything within a senior living community and who purchase the furnishings to complete the interior design concept. However, the process each design firm uses to achieve these results may vary drastically while the design fees do not vary as dramatically. To accurately compare the services provided among interior design proposals and not just the bottom line design fee, the Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements need to be more specific.

First, know what you want from your interior designer. The architect is the first design discipline hired. On most projects, the architect works with designers either sourced from within the architectural firm or with an outsourced independent designer. The architect can provide the owner with a list of the services they expect the interior designer to provide for the construction documents. For example, some architects want the interior designer to provide sketches of interior millwork and others prefer the interior designer to use computer-aided drafting (CAD) to complete the details of the interior millwork for construction documents.

To compare design firms, each proposal should include those specific items that you, the owner, deem most important.

By using the architect’s list you can compose the key requirements in the RFP for accuracy in comparing design firms. Each proposal should include those specific items that you, the owner, deem most important. The following should be considerations in the package:

  • Include a specific and detailed scope of services for the interior design firm to agree to include in the interior design contract. For example, in the general description: “Contract Documents: to produce the necessary drawings and documentation to ensure that the interior design is executed as conceived.”

  • Specific and detailed description: “Contract Documents: to produce the finish plans, finish schedule/legend, floor pattern plans, furniture plans, interior millwork elevations, sections and details in CAD format to ensure that the interior design is executed as conceived.”

  • Request a separate scope of services the interior design firm includes in its design fee. By requesting a separate list of those services which make the interior design firm unique, the possibilities will be reduced for misinterpretation by the owner in the review process to make an initial decision for short-listing.

If, in the RFP scope of services, procurement services are required, request a description of how services will be rendered and a separate fee structure. This allows the owner to immediately know if the interior design firm handles procurement in house or if they use furniture dealerships and/or purchasing agencies.

Since interior design is as subjective as art, and this is a marriage between you and your consultants for the duration of the project, interviews are recommended before final selections. However, by making these few changes in your next RFP, you should be able to better know if you are comparing apples to apples in scope of services and the bottom dollar. In this economy, many decisions are based upon the dollar, so be sure you understand what you are getting for your money.

Rachelle DeGeorge is principal of Studio 121 in Nashville, Tenn. She can be reached by email at

rdegeorge@studio-121.net or by phone at (615) 469-4121. Long-Term Living 2011 November;60(11):48

Topics: Articles , Design