Has anyone ever asked you what the hardest part of your job is? What do you tell them? I get asked that question from time to time, and my answer tends to surprise people.
People expect me to say that my biggest challenge is designing the most functional kitchens, or that I struggle with designing the most beautiful living rooms. But those same people are often surprised to hear me say that isn’t the case. In fact, design is the easy part for me.
What I struggle with most is helping my clients understand their investment. Now let me clarify – I spent years working as a Certified Public Accountant, so it isn’t hard to figure out a client’s budget. In fact, I’m pretty good at that step.
The difficult part is helping them understand what they should invest in their new project, whether it be a brand new kitchen or updated furniture and decor.
In an effort to alleviate the difficulties and tensions that come with budgeting for a project, let’s walk through the steps of budgeting for an interior design project together. After all, without a clear budget, your project won’t be successful, and you likely won’t be happy with the results. And we definitely don’t want that!
What is an Interior Design Budget?
Let’s start by defining what an interior design budget is: in my experience, your budget should be the amount that you are happy to spend in order to achieve the results that you desire and reach your goals for the renovation or new build.
During initial project discussions, many clients don’t like to tell me their actual budget because they don’t want to “show their hand”. Sadly, this hinders the beginning of our working relationship, as I find that many clients don’t actually have any idea of what things should (and will) cost.
Being upfront with your designer about your financial situation, your budget comfort zone, and also your hopes and dreams for the space will ultimately lead to the best possible results and increased happiness when the project is said and done.
Yes, I do encourage all homeowners to sit down and determine a range that they are comfortable spending within prior to calling their architect, designer, or contractor. But if you’re really struggling, you don’t have to do this alone.
As long as you come to the table with an honest look at your finances and broad goals for space, I am here to help you sort through your wants and needs, hone in on the specifics, and narrow down a realistic interior design budget based on my knowledge of what things actually cost.
What Impacts Your Interior Design Budget?
There are many factors that impact a project’s budget (the obvious ones, like materials selected, but also the not-so-obvious ones, like your zip code).
Before we dive into the details, though, I want to reiterate that there are a few steps you need to take before we start discussing actual figures in a designer/client capacity:
- Discuss with your significant other what you are each willing to invest and come to some general agreements.
- Make a giant wish list with members of the household and then combine your lists into a single list of “must-haves” and another list of the “nice-to-haves”. Determine what is non-negotiable.
- Turn off reality TV. I’m not kidding. It is so misleading and will make you crazy, because there are dozens of factors that play into a project’s budget that are never discussed. Some of these include:
- Timeline: Do you have a drop-dead date you want your project done by (the big family reunion for instance)?
- Demographics: Costs are different for different parts of the country, and even different from city to city, depending on where you are located.
- Home Value: You don’t want to over-invest for your neighborhood (unless you plan on living there forever – which, by the way – is a fact for most of my clients).
The project budget is so important that we start asking you about it in our Discovery Call, because we want to get it out in the open right away. This makes it easier for you and for me. It is not part of the conversation you should shy away from…consider it a tool that helps us get from where you are to where you want to be.
Then, during our Remodel Clarity Session, we go in-depth, trying to flush out what you want, what you need, and what you are comfortable with. We go over price ranges with a careful price checklist for each and every item that will go into your space. We call this the “Good, Better, and Best List”.
During our time together, I’ll continually ask you questions, like how much you would be comfortable paying for a new sink? Don’t know? No problem, we’ll show you various options, write down the number, and begin a tally.
By the end of our Session, you will have a preliminary idea of what the entire project will cost. This number is not our quote, but a gauge for you to further develop (in your mind) what is appropriate to spend for you, your family, your home, and your lifestyle.