How to Define Your Interior Design Budget
Defining Your Interior Design Budget
When you go into a travel agency to book a holiday there are two things the agent needs to know from you. First, which part of the world do you want to visit? Secondly, what's your budget? You may have fallen in love with the idea of spending 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 the travel agent knows you want to visit Italy, and you've been honest about how much money you can afford to spend, then a suitable holiday can usually be found. You may not get the Tuscan villa, but a few nights in some modest hotels in Venice and Florence may fit your bill, and give you pocket money to make the most out of your holiday.
Why is it, then, that many people are so hesitant to tell their interior designer what they can afford to spend on their interiors project. Some people seem to treat the subject of "the budget" like a game of poker. "If the 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".
It's important not to confuse the word "budget" with "life savings". Your budget should be the amount that you are happy to spend to achieve the result that you desire. It is your responsibility as the client to have a clear idea about your budget before you start looking for your designer. Remember that shoe-string TV makeovers are programmed for their entertainment value, not for their practicality or longevity in the real world. Permanent, added-value home improvements designed and supervised by a professional come with a price tag. You are paying for the designer's design expertise; ability to source from trade-only suppliers of furniture, fabrics and accessories; and the time they save you from having to organise and supervise builders, painters, joiners, plumbers, etc.
Once you have decided the sum you wish to invest in home improvements, it often helps to check the feasibility of that budget by allocating portions of it to different areas of expense. For a simple living room refurbishment you might allocate the budget into seven areas; for instance, floorcovering, wallcovering, curtains, furniture, light fittings, accessories and interior designer's fee.
A useful tip is to think in terms of percentages rather than cash. We all think money is still worth what it used to be worth in the "good old days", and even millionaires complain about the price of butter. However, by allocating percentages to 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 an elaborate curtain treatment, you may have to reduce your budget for the floorcovering, or vice versa. This method also helps you to prioritise your decoration requirements. By being honest with your interior designer about your design priorities and your budget, you are more likely to receive an interior design and service that will surprise and delight you.
Check that the interior designer you choose has a defined fee structure and make sure you get this in writing. Ensure that the designer knows your decoration budget and be clear about whether the design fees are included in this budget, or are paid on top. Give the designer the budget breakdown and as much specific information as possible about your expectations within that budget - if you're expecting to get that antique reclaimed parquet floor above all else, then make this clear. If it your desired object isn't within the scope of your defined budget, the designer can get back to you early on in the project to juggle the budget allocations.
The interior designer will welcome clear information on your budget because it is a real time saver for both of you. If the budget extends only to slipcovers for existing furniture, let the designer know this before they set off to pound the pavement in a search for brand new furniture. (Remember, you're probably paying for their sourcing time!)
If poker really is your game there is nothing wrong with keeping a percentage of your budget in reserve without telling anyone (in fact, this is quite a good idea). If the budget runs over (and if the project requires building, plumbing or electrical work, this can happen when surprises like dry rot, rising damp or structural problems are uncovered), you then have a cash reserve. But if the project has run smoothly, and the designer has completed it on budget, then why not use the extra money to visit the travel agent to celebrate!