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How Much Does It Really Cost To Design and Furnish A Living Room. Let's Break Down The Numbers.

One of our initial questions when we meet with our clients for their new design project is what is the investment amount they have allocated for their project.

Almost all the time the response will be "I don't know".

I completely understand that a client who has never invested in a full room of furniture, accessories and installation would not even know what that number should be. But what we are usually trying to get at is what is the maximum amount in their mind that they can afford to spend.

Case Study of Interior Design Budget Using A Rendering of A Living Room Project That We Didn't Get Installed.

When it comes to creating a budget for a design project, there are many factors at play:

  • The size of the room

  • The layers that will create the look and feel you are after

  • The needs of the room

  • The conditions of the room

  • The windows in the room

  • Will there be construction - major or minor?

  • The quality you expect based on the longevity, comfort and overall look you expect and desire.

The materials and furnishings that we are able to acquire from our trade vendors is an extremely vast range in terms of quality and price. For example, we could procure a sofa for as little as $700/$800 to over $10,000. Of course there is a huge difference in why a sofa would be available for $800 versus one for $10,000.

Often times when we ask the budget question, a client will then turn the question back to us "how much should I expect to spend?". This is a fair question, but the truth is, because of the same range I discussed above, it is hard for us to give you an exact number. This is early on in the process usually before anything is designed, so we will often pull from historical data (rooms we have designed before), to provide a range. This is a reasonable way to start the budget conversation, but it is somewhat flawed and cannot necessarily be relied upon because no two projects are ever exactly the same - not even for the same client in the same house.

So therefore the budget conversation has to evolve, and typically a hard and fast number based on nothing at the very beginning is not the right approach.

What we always ask our clients to do is to remain flexible, keep an open mind, and allow us to design the ideal space, price it all out, present it, and then tweak from there. As we design, we are keeping a broad range in mind. This is typically the range we discussed with client at the beginning. Sometimes we fall comfortably within the range, and sometimes we do not. But we believe in presenting the best design we created regardless.

There are many benefits to this approach:

  • You as the client get to see the purest version of our combined vision

  • When a hard and fast number is not the biggest factor, we feel the freedom to produce the best design within reason

  • You as the client get to see all the amazing products available to us that we feel is right for you based on the needs and wants that you expressed to us in the context of your project

  • You get to see the exact vision and the total cost and can therefore make the most educated decision for yourself

  • The ability to reverse-engineer if budget is in fact an issue

We are using the rendering above as an example of what you can expect to invest in a single room. We created this less than a year ago, but never got to the procurement and installation phase, so it's safe to use this as an example, since we would much rather not publicly disclose information on actual completed projects, for the sake of the client's privacy.

This living room is a fairly large room, with a soaring high ceiling and large windows. The room itself is pretty builder basic in the before state, with no real architectural features of significance to it.

Of course, we could have just looked past the lack of architectural elements and add furniture and call it a day, but we are big believers in bringing the room to its fullest potential, and one way we accomplish that is through the layering.

It's very much like putting together a delicious hamburger. Certainly we can put the patty between two buns and still enjoy a nice hamburger, or we could add the layers - the cheese, lettuce, mayo, relish, ketchup, and whatever else goes into a delicious hamburger. Haha. You get the point.

In this case, we felt very strongly about adding at least one wall of paneling painted out in the same color as the rest of the room. This instantly upgrades the room, giving it a more custom touch and much more strength than a sea of sheetrock. Cost for paneling and paint $8000

For window treatments, I love to do two layers - one functional layer that can be opened and closed for privacy (the shades), and the second layer for decoration, height and softness (the drapery panels). In this case, we had a lot of windows to work with, and very large ones at that. Due to the style of the room that we were after, natural woven woods roman shades for functionality was the ideal option. They are certainly more pricey than most roman shades especially since they had to be motorized for ease of use. And custom drapery from my signature design fabric in Belgian Linen with Spoonflower available HERE for the decorative layer. Cost for draperies $5000. Shades around $9000

The next layer is the flooring. Our client already chose beautiful wood floors when they had the house built. The beautiful large rug we chose is a wool rug. This is of a very high quality and meant to last for a very long time. Cost of rug with pad is $5200

Lighting is one of those elements that people think is unnecessary, but every room is so much better with layered lighting - task, ambient, decorative lighting. Here we chose a gorgeous chandelier in the ceiling, and two wall sconces that not only bring in extra lighting, but act as an interesting sculptural element in the space. Cost for chandelier $3870 and both sconces $2240. Lamp $350. Find the sconces HERE

The room called for two sofas, and we chose these very high quality sofas in a lush high grade chocolate performance velvet. The deep chocolate color of the velvet is meant to anchor the room, and add some visual weight due to the high ceiling. We also accented the legs with gold metal for that extra custom detail. Cost for both sofas $9356

Two leather chairs will help to round out the seating area, and a wonderful conversation grouping, as well as to balance out the space and bring harmony. The chairs also have gold metal accents for that custom touch. Cost for both chairs $4100

My favorite piece in the room is the credenza. I chose it for the statement it would make in the room, especially on the vast wall that needed something substantial and interesting. The credenza is also a very long piece and really sets the room off. It is one of those things you have to see in person to really appreciate what it brings to the space. Cost for credenza $3740. You can snag one of your own HERE

To make the room as functional as possible, and to support the layered look we love, we brought in a coffee table, console and end tables. We love to add a console table behind a sofa with an open back as you enter the room. Without the console, the sofa just seems to float and not "anchored" in the space. Cost for console table $2400, Coffee table $1000, two end tables $1590

This room required large art pieces, especially on the main wall. That abstract you see is 54x81. Huge! The other piece is out of view. Cost for two pieces of art $2160

The two green ottomans are meant to bring in additional seating as needed, or a place to prop up your feet. Both ottomans $430

Finally the accessories, greenery, pillows and floral in the room. No space is complete without these elements. They bring personality and a finishing touch to the layered look. Cost for 8' tree, accessories, pillows $3340

This brings the room total to around $61770 including sales tax. Freight, receiving fees, storage fees and white-glove delivery fees, and of course design fees is separate.

The prices I listed are the prices that we extend to our clients, which is often less than manufacturer's suggested retail price. You can see from the credenza being sold on a popular retailer website HERE, that it would be a lot more expensive on the open market than we are able to sell to our clients for. The price they have listed is $5625 and it was on sale for $4351.74. Most of the items we selected for this client are not available on the retail market unless you work through a designer. Some are made custom for the project and don't exist in the same specifications until we order them.

This living room is on the higher end of a standard living room, which is usually in the range of $35-45K, but you can see that this room required a lot more than a standard room.

Here's where we sit down with our client and have a deeper money conversation. Maybe client is happy with room and cost just the way it is.

Let's assume that the client loves the design but would love to accomplish it for less, we can make some changes that will still produce a great result. That's where the flexibility and commitment to a great product in the end comes in.

What would I change in this case?

  • If privacy and light control is not an issue, the motorized woven wood shades could be completely removed and save about $9000. It is not uncommon for some clients to want to leave the windows as open as possible if these things are not an issue for them. So why did I show the client shades? Why wouldn't I? It is the perfect backdrop tot he room and if I hadn't shown the client, they likely would not know that it is an option. Now that they see the option in the space, they can choose if it stays or goes. of course, a less expensive material could be discussed as well.

  • There are certainly less expensive sofas on the market with a similar look. The quality would not be the same, as companies tend to value-engineer higher end products to address the needs of the mass market. The mass market will always demand a bargain while staying on trend, so the thing that usually suffers is materials quality. We could also spec the same sofa in a less expensive fabric. The fabric we chose is a rich, heavy-weight performance velvet - the best option for everyday use. Sofas are the "workhorses" in a room, so we do always specify the highest quality fabrics we can. This would be a deep discussion with the client so they understand the difference in quality and comfort, and then they can choose based on their goal and needs.

  • While that credenza is absolutely EVERYTHING, there are much less expensive options available. But why wouldn't I show my clients this beautiful one and let them decide.

  • Same for the rug. Instead of a 100% wool, we could talk about a machine-made polypropylene rug instead. There are some great looking ones being manufactured today. But nothing beats a gorgeous wool rug. Again, client can decide what's most important, but as the designer, I feel it's my duty to show the the best option for the room and let them decide.

  • There are of course other items we can tweak as much as possible to meet somewhere in the middle with the client. We will never compromise quality, comfort and beauty, so a deeper budget conversation needs to happen, and of course some flexibility and trust goes a long way.

Our goal is always the same as our clients; for all our clients - bringing great design at a price point that works for them. This ultimately means that we all have to remain flexible and realistic as the budget conversation evolves.

So you may ask, "can I accomplish a living room like the one above for $10K, or $20K?", and my honest answer would be, "it would not be possible". Anyone can buy furniture and place in a room, and even make it look nice, but our clients come to us for more than placing furniture in a room; they want the design that is right for them. We really try to respect that.

We can design a living room for $20K, but the client would have to understand that they will likely be replacing a lot of the items in a few years. That may be the right choice for another client out there. This budget conversation is super important to figure this out from the start.

If you are looking to start your next design project, let's talk about how we can help.

Limited time reduction on our in-home consultation fee, so reach out soon. Expires August 31st, 2023

Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!


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