Wanting a design pro to work some magic on your home? Here’s the awkward part nobody wants to talk about… but it’s the one factor that could have it all come to a screeching halt: your interior design budget. Let’s explore.
I consider myself quite fortunate to have a number of potential clients wanting to work with me. Especially this year. There seems to be an increase in people wanting to revamp the look and feel of their homes, which is great. But the downside is that roughly 30% of enquiries don’t progress past the initial free consult due to an inadequate interior design budget.
In fact, some of the enquiries don’t even make it to the free consult at all. This is usually due to the fact that the client has told me their budget when they’ve filled out the consult form. And I know from the get-go that it’s simply not enough to achieve what they want to achieve. And so then comes the part where I have to email back to explain it’s probably a dream that can’t be realised.
With that revelation out of the way, I think it’s best we discuss budget – warts and all. And I write this post just now because I had a phone conversation that went south quite quickly last week. And it went south the moment I discussed money.
Most People Don’t Buy Everything At Once
That’s probably why budget comes as such a shock to people. Truth is, most of us shop for furniture and decor over the course of a year or more. We invest in a sofa to start, then a good rug follows. A few months later, we secure that dream armchair. And then after tax time or the end-of-year bonus comes through, we can finally afford those sheer curtains.
I absolutely get all of that. But when you work with a designer, and you’re getting all of those products in one hit, they add up. And they add up quickly.
That’s actually one of the bonuses of working with a designer. We conceptualise the entire space for you, get all the products at once, style it all in your home – all without you stressing out, or running around on weekends from store to store.
And trust me when I say that for a room to feel complete, and designed, and fully resolved, you need to spend a decent amount of money.
So let’s do some Math (PS: I hate Math)
This notion of things adding up quickly is what I had to explain to a potential client who wanted to furnish a four-bedroom home with a budget of $20,000. Now, $20K seems like a lot of money. And it is. I consider myself a mid-level designer and so I fully appreciate that this sort of money is not church change.
But during this conversation with my potential client, she revealed that she had already secured her sofa. It was $5000, and so a big ticket item was already sorted.
Let that sink in for a moment. A $20K budget to furnish the entire home. And the sofa was $5000. That’s a quarter of the entire home’s product budget gone on just one item.
Now let’s Examine what it Takes to Furnish a Room
I think you’ll find this exercise revealing. I’ll use a living room as an example, because they are by far the space that people want to transform the most.
To have a living room feel ‘done’, we’d need, at a bare minimum:
- A two to three seater sofa
- A floor rug
- Coffee table
- More often than not, an armchair
- Side table beside the armchair
- Entertainment unit
- Floor lamp
- Art for the walls
- Approx five cushions for the sofa and chair
- Decor for coffee and side table (but I wont even include this)
This is just furniture and decor. For this example, I’m not even going to consider paint, window treatments, installing pendant lights, or anything else that I would usually want to do in a client’s living room.
A Real-World Pricing Example
I’m going to take a mid-level retailer, OZ Design (which I love), and add up what you’d spend if you wanted to shop there to style up your living room.
Below I’ll list a random selection of products, with links, and what they cost (Updated for 2022):
- Cleo three-seater sofa with chaise, $4,399 (view here)
- Huxley floor rug, $2,399 (view here
- Campana coffee table, $1,329 (view here)
- Brody armchair, $1,049 (view here)
- Brooklyn side table, $399 (view here)
- Sari entertainment unit, $2,399 (view here)
- Kennedy floor lamp, $209 (view here)
- Abstract Expression art $299 x 2 (view here)
- Baja cushions, 5 x $84.95 = $206.05 (view here)
Grand total to furnish one living room from a retailer: $13,205.75
Remember, that doesn’t include any smaller decorative pieces like books or candles.
It also does not include delivery charges. Every supplier is different, so you always have to put aside some extra money for this. Hopefully you’re starting to understand why I had to tell my potential client that $20,000 was not enough to furnish a whole house.
But Wait, don’t Designers get Discounts?
I thought you might ask. And yes, for the most part we do. Every supplier is different and gives a different trade discount. Some designers do not pass on discounts. I do, however, share the discount the supplier gives with my client.
Let’s say, as an example, you can save 20% off the topline price of the above living room by working with a designer. That still leaves your basic product total at $8487.08.
That is still over $8000 to do a basic furnish of one room. You might also have a dining room, master bedroom, guest bedroom, entryway, hallway, or rumpus to do as well. And I say ‘furnish’ because that’s all it is. Designing a room takes so much more product and possibly trades like painters, wallpaper installers, art hangers etc.
I told you it was going to be a transparent look at budget, didn’t I?
Clients often get so Cagey about Money
I don’t want this news to scare you. I just want you to go into the process with a clearer idea of how the product charges work. We designers are talented folk, but we can’t work miracles when it comes to budget.
Of course, we are skilled at knowing where to spend, where to save, and how to pull off luxe moments for less (at times). But a healthy talk about budget is going to happen early on in the piece should you wish to work with me. So it’s best you’re armed with all the information.
But here’s the truth: I am not here to rip you off. I will spend the same amount of time working on your project should you go for mid-level products, or if you go for high-end products. So the budget doesn’t really matter to me.
By telling me what your interior design budget is you simply allow me to work out which brands of furniture I can put in your home. You tell me how much money I can spend, and I’ll spend it. It’s really as simply as that.
You don’t have to have a huge budget to work with me, but you do need to have a budget.
So what’s a Healthy Budget?
The best way to find out if you have a healthy interior design budget, is to fill out this form and we can discuss further.
I truly hope this has helped clear some things up regarding product budget. Please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below or email me if you have any questions. Oh and if you want more info on my design fees and how they work, click here. Because outside of paying for products you also have to pay me for my time and skillset 😉
With the exception of the hero images from a TLC project, all images in this post are via OZ Design.
Interesting article. I have to admit I am one of the people who “didn’t pass go”. Firstly, I didn’t have the budget to do everything at once, and secondly the designer (may have been a decorator) didn’t seem interested in my small job (I assume).
In my case, all I wanted was a road map. Eg. paint your walls this colour, hang this type of curtain in front of shutters (or maybe dual track curtains – who knows), but some art here, a couch there, find yourself a linen bedhead in this type of fabric and pair it with some hardwood bed sides… you get the idea.
I see mood boards all the time and I wouldn’t have thought it would be too difficult to construct one along with a mud map. In my case I was dismissed and told that – fabrics change, suppliers change – and the reason I would pay a small fortune for such a service is because the smallest pigment, or texture detail can make or break the room. I do not subscribe to this view btw – I think there exists rules, which can be broken and in that space a buffer to be off by a hue, or shade, here and there.
Most of us have expensive tastes and need a few months (often years) to save up to buy the furniture we really want to fill out a room. But at the same time we want to make sure at the outset that when we do “invest” in the $5,000 couch, we’re not painting ourselves (pun not intended) into a corner and limiting our choices when it comes to getting the rug, paint, or maybe floor coverings when (gasp we can afford to pull up the tiles and have blackbutt timber put down).
Hey George. Sounds like you had a less than ideal experience with a designer. And yes, it sounds like it was too small a job for them, which I completely understand. The designer and client fit is so important. I say this all the time to prospective clients. We may not gel. You may not have adequate budget. The project might be one that I feel I can’t really put my stamp on. A design project is a coming together of your wants as a client, what the home dictates it needs, but also the designer delivering something you could never achieve yourself. The last part is often something I ask myself when taking on a project, and sometimes it’s not a good fit because I am not in a position to be able to sprinkle my flavour on the home. Honestly is important here.
Also, phrases like “I see mood boards all the time and I wouldn’t have thought it would be too difficult to construct one along with a mud map” in all honesty ring alarm bells for me, because clients often really don’t understand the work it takes to get every colour and material just right, but also the size and scale of furniture too. If I had a potential client tell me all they wanted was a road map, I wouldn’t take the job either. I hope you appreciate the transparency here. Every designer is different, some will offer those basic services. But I’m always looking to go on more of a journey with a client, make a real impact, transform it from start to finish. Not just turn up once and give some advice.
Especially in these troubling Covid times, each designer wants to take on the best-fit projects for their individual businesses. And sometimes clients don’t have the budget. It sounds like you are one of those clients. Designers are a luxury, even the ones (like myself) who pride themselves on affordability. Appreciate you stopping by to share your thoughts.
excellent summary and helps with transparency on all sides. Thanks this was really useful.
What a great article—utterly refreshing, insightful and honest. Thank you, Chris 🙂
Chris, this is the best thing I have read in ages! Thanks so much for sharing this. It’s information people need to know. I adore all the images you used in this blog post too. Gorgeous! Love all the texture in the bedroom image.
Fantastic information. We have just downsized and are working with a designer and you have helped make us what we need to do to make life easier for her. Budget is a really touchy subject and you have spelt it out beautifully why you really need to be realistic and honest.
Thanks Denise, glad I could help you and a fellow designer! Hope the new place turns out fab.