Interior Design Budget
If you are planning a holiday, there are two things you need to decide. First, where in the world do you want to go? Secondly, how much can you afford to spend? You're dream holiday might be to spend the whole month of August in a Tuscan villa, complete with vineyards and pool, but your budget may suggest a trip to the English Riviera in April as being more realistic.
But if you visit an expert travel agent, tell them that you want to visit Italy and be brutally honest about how much money you can afford to spend, then a suitable holiday can usually be found. You may not get the full-on Tuscan villa, but a few nights in some comfortable yet modest hotels in Venice and Florence may fit your bill.
Given that this perfectly reasonable negotiation goes on millions of times a year with travel agents, either online or on the high street, it seems strange that many people are so hesitant to tell their interior designer what they can afford to spend on their refurbishment project. There is a temptation to treat the subject of "the budget" like a game of poker. One expectation seems to be; "If the interior designer thinks I've got less than I have I'll get the whole thing done more cheaply." Or worse; "If the designer knows how much I've got they'll make sure they spend every penny, even if that means over-charging".
So let's try to get the whole thing straightened out. As a client eager to improve your living space it's important not to confuse the word "budget" with the concept of "life savings". Your budget should be the amount that you are happy to spend to achieve the result that you desire. This may include large amounts of cash that you want to spend on items that others may see as frivolous. This doesn't matter if you are happy to spend that money to fulfil that particular desire - "happy" is the operative word. So you need to take seriously your responsibility as the client to have a very clear idea about your budget before you even start the search your designer. And please remember that TV makeovers are put together for their entertainment value, not for their practicality or longevity in the real world.
Permanent, added-value home improvements designed and supervised by a fully-qualified professional will always come with a price tag. You are paying for the designer's expertise, their ability to and experience in sourcing from (sometimes trade-only) suppliers of furniture, fabrics and accessories, not forgetting the time they save you from having to organise and supervise builders, painters, joiners, plumbers and the like.
Once you have decided the sum you wish to invest in home improvements, it's useful to run a rough check on the likelihood of that budget covering the jobs in question. You can do this by allocating portions of it to different areas of the expected spend. For example, if you are planning a simple living room refurbishment you might allocate the budget into seven areas; carpets, wallpaper, curtains, furniture, light fittings, accessories and the interior designer's fee. Instead of thinking in terms of cash, try costing the different elements in terms of percentage of the total budget. Everyone tends We all think money is still worth what it used to be in the "good old days". You know the feeling of surprise when you actually find out what a pint of milk costs "nowadays"...?
By allocating percentages of your budget to various elements of your project, you are better able to see what you can afford (and are willing) to spend on each area of the redecoration. If you want to have very elaborate curtains it might mean you'll need to reduce your budget for the floorcovering. This method also makes you think about which elements are most important to your aspirations and allows you to prioritise your decoration requirements. By getting all of this straight in your own head you're able to give your interior designer an honest appraisal of your design priorities and the budget you have available. This in turn means you are more likely to be given a design and service that will surprise and delight you.
Check that the designer you choose defines his or her fee structure for the job in question, preferably in a comprehensive letter of engagement and make sure you keep a copy of this document. Be sure that the designer is aware of your decoration budget and be clear about whether the design fees are included in this budget or are paid as a separate expense. Give the designer the budget breakdown you've worked out and as much specific direction as possible about your expectations within that budget. So if you want a Victorian antique reclaimed parquet floor above everything else then make this very clear at the outset. If the object of your burning desire isn't possible within your defined budget, the designer can get back to you early on in the project to juggle the budget allocations.
The designer will welcome clear information on your budget because it is a real time saver for them and everyone else involved in the project. If the budget can only extend to slipcovers for your existing furniture, let the designer know this before they set off to pound the pavement in a search for brand new furniture.
Conversely you need to be honest with yourself about how far your money will stretch. In an ideal world you'd have a handle on the current costs of all aspects of home improvements and be able to carve up a realistic and achievable budget at the outset. In the real world however it is only after receiving the initial estimates that the real cost of a project will become apparent. Many people are then faced with a depressing slash-and-burn excercise with their aspirations.
It's shouldn't be considered the designer's fault if your budget fails to cover your aspirations when those aspirations are tested against market prices. A reputable designer will flag any obvious shortfalls at the initial meeting, but their fund of costing experience can't cover every combination of variables they come across, so expect some to-and-fro in the planning when those estimates hit the designer's desk.
Also bear in mind that by employing a designer you have tacitly set a bar for quality that is generally above that found in the high street or on the internet in general. This level of quality will, by definition, be more expensive. Too often this link between cost, high quality and good durability gets lost amongst the figures on the spreadsheet.
Article by Melvyn Fickling
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