Decorating your home can be a very daunting task. One of the key reasons that this is so, is trying to determine what a reasonable decorating budget should be.
The price range and quality of products available on the market is vast, and unless a typical homeowner has done some decorating before, they will likely have no idea what things cost.
It is good to have an idea of the total you would like to invest before you get started, but often times homeowners have no basis for that total, and it can be way off the mark. This is the time to have an open and honest conversation with your designer. A good designer will help you determine a reasonable budget for the needs and wants you have expressed, and if your budget falls short, they may be able to advise you of alternate options.
Money is a private matter, and it is the real reason why clients aren't as forthcoming about their budget range, and why some designers are uncomfortable talking about it. The truth is that if there isn't a healthy conversation about budget expectations in the beginning, you may end up with flooring made of pure gold and diamond crusted lighting. As designers, we love to specify the best of the best for our clients, and sometimes we need limits. It's not because we want to blow your budget for no apparent reason. It is because you hired us for our big ideas and grand visions, which include conceiving plans, ideas and sourcing products and materials you have never seen before.
In some cases, an experienced designer can read between the lines and are able to figure out what you are truly comfortable spending, but we can still be off compared to your expectations. All that guessing game can be avoided if we do a budget exercise from the very beginning.
Let's do one now!
Before I get into how to determine a budget range for each room, can you guess what this beautiful foyer chest retails for?
Yep, you guessed it (or did you?). Around $3500
And then, can you guess how much this one is, that's fairly similar in look and feel?
Yep, you guessed that too! It retails for around $425. It's available HERE by the way.
Why do you suppose that there is such a vast difference in pricing?
Can you see how a similar scenario might affect a decorating budget?
This happens a lot by the way. The differences can be vast, and it is usually based on the quality and construction of the piece, and sometimes, like apparel, is based on the brand name.
Just like this TV lounge area was created for less than $8K, while the one below was considerably higher, you can see why it is so important to talk numbers from the onset of a design or decorating project.
So, just how do I help my clients determine their budgets? It is actually a simple and fun exercise and not as overwhelming as it sounds.
I do what I call a Budget Worksheet. It is basically an excel spreadsheet that my clients and I fill out together. I list all the elements needed to complete each room at the highest level and all the costs associated with that. Clients are often surprised by the amount of things that are listed that they never thought about - things like freight, storage, delivery installation, accessories, cleaning costs, installation, design fees and even sales tax. These are things that as designers we know need to be a part of a design budget, but clients wouldn't really think about.
Most clients know that they need the key pieces for the room, like the sofas and chairs in a living room, but don't even know how many of each they need. As designers, we also know what to include to elevate the room beyond what a client could do for themselves. While a client might think that their builder basic ceiling fan will cut it, we know that a beautiful chandelier would work better. Or they may be ok with the watered-down builder grade flat paint on the walls, while we know that it sucks energy out of the room and a subtle sheen paint finish, a high quality matte finish, or even an amazing wall covering would be so much better.
You actually want your designer to pitch these ideas without feeling limited by a number that's based on nothing. That is what you hire a designer for. We are doing our jobs showing you amazing, unique products, and we are not trying to get you to overspend. This is why this is an exercise we do together, and have that honest conversation upfront. That budget conversation should not disqualify your designer if they are pitching a marble clad two story fireplace! It is then you can discuss porcelain as an option if the cost of marble is out of the budget range. This is the time to explore the possibilities, grand ideas and big visions, preferably without limitations, and then you can always scale back from there.
Here is an example of a portion of a completed page of a Budget Worksheet for a living room. I find it best to do a good, better, best range. Basically good being good quality, better being a few steps above, and best being top quality. Some items belong in the best column - items like upholstery. And some may be just fine in the good column - things like accessories. But it also depends on client's lifestyle and expectations as well. For example if you have kids and pets, you may want top quality upholstery with performance fabrics anticipating the inevitable spills and wear and tear. Or you may decide that you'd rather buy reasonable quality now, and will invest in top quality when the kids get a bit older. This exercise opens up that conversation, so your designer can meet and exceed your expectations.
I typically have my clients assign the cost they would pay for each item in each category. That way, they know it's their numbers. Although, I am also there to give them a gentle nudge of reality. For example if a client wants to assign $800 to the good column for a sofa, $1000 in the better column and $1200 in the best column, I would explain the standard quality they should expect. A client will usually adjust their expectation or adjust the number depending on what's more important to them.
In this living room example, you can see that the budget range would be $15,250 on the lowest end, $24000 mid range and $38,200 on the higher end. Design fees, sales tax and incidentals would be additional.
The importance of this exercise done with clients is to really get them to see how quickly things add up when you are doing a full room or rooms. Most clients are indeed shocked by the number. Why? Because they are seeing the whole number with everything included. Typically a client goes out and buys one piece at a time, so it does not feel like they are spending as much, but if they took the time to add it all up, they are likely paying more than these numbers. It's true. Working with a designer usually means that you get special discounts based on the discounts we receive.
So while the number is shocking, you will see that each line item is very reasonable. It's the sheer volume of things needed for a designer look that adds up to that overall cost. This is where the scaling-back is discussed - replace wallpaper with paint, a synthetic rug versus a wool rug, using grandma's credenza instead of buying a new one, or cotton draperies versus linen ones.
This is one of the many areas we excel in here at Casa Vilora Interiors. We actually enjoy the process of helping our clients set reasonable budgets that match their expectations for their project. That is another reason why we can beautifully furnish a living room for $15K, as well as a living room for $50K+. We know where to spend to achieve the results our clients expect, and the great thing is our goal is always to go above and beyond our clients' expectations.
Can we furnish an empty living room for $5000? Maybe, but we would definitely be setting your expectations as to what you will be getting for that budget. I have helped several young professionals fresh out of college decorate spaces for under $10K. This is ok because they typically don't have kids and the pieces are good enough to last a few years till they transition into the next phase of their lives. In these cases we shopped for previously owned pieces, and client gets a bit more involved in DIY-ing parts of their project. That became a popular way for us to work with young professionals just starting out, by creating curated room packages for them. We design the space, order all items, that are then drop-shipped to client, and they are responsible for following our instructions to finishing off the space. This is not typically how we work, but made this service available to those who would like to work with us but cannot afford the management fee for full service design. Learn more about our Curated Room Packages HERE
Below is an example of one of our curated packages for a dining room. There were actually six chairs, just FYI
Before I end this post, I would like to give you a quick breakdown of standard ranges that you can expect for various rooms in your home. These ranges don't take into account sales tax and design fees. Of course, there are lots of factors that would affect these numbers, including the size of the room and whether there are existing pieces to be used.
Foyer - $1500-$5000 (of course a large foyer could be a lot higher if for example a wallpaper was used. Or the light fixture is on the higher end
Powder Room - $1500-$6000
Living Room - $15000-$45000
Dining Room - $12000-$35000
Master Bedroom - $15000-$40000
Guest Bedroom - $10000-$25000
Kids' Bedrooms - $10000-$20000
Game Room - $20000-$40000
Media Room - $30000-$50000 (with media equipment)
Office - $12000-$25000
Kitchen - $50000-$85000
Master Bathroom - $40000-$70000
Guest Bathroom - $25000-$50000
Part of the value we bring to each consultation is helping you figure out what your budget should be. It's too important to not have a conversation about. We encourage our clients to be as flexible as possible. Allow us to do what we do best - develop the best plan for them with their budget range as a guide but not set in stone. After developing our solid plan for you, we may be a few thousand dollars over. This shouldn't be perceived as your designer going crazy with your checkbook, but instead your designer wanting to bring you the best, so you can live your best life in your home. We know that fancy wallpaper is worth the extra cost because it will make that room sing! And believe it or not, we actually do come in under the budget range sometimes! Hallelujah!
If you are considering a design or decorating project, we hope that you found this information helpful. Please reach out to us and we will happily meet you to discuss your project in more detail. Book a consultation HERE
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