BlogDesigner Advice

Budgeting 101: How to Plan For Your Next Interior Design Project

Establishing your budget is the first, and often one of the most challenging, steps in the design process but it’s imperative that you set a budget to avoid unmet expectations and miscommunication. A budget communicates clearly with your designer about your expectations for furniture quality & design, and what you’re willing to pay for both.

Budgeting can be a confusing step for homeowners and clients, due to their uncertainty about what a reasonable price is to get their space “looking and feeling” the way they want it to. To help communicate with homeowners about what it can realistically cost to decorate a room, we created this blog post. This post is chock-full of our best tips & tricks for budgeting for your next interior design project, along with a few ways that you can save money.

Design by GreyHunt Interiors, Photography by Stacy Zarin Goldberg and Christy Kosnic

 

A Good Rule-of-Thumb:

First, we want to start-off with some disclaimers (just so that everyone is on the same page).

  1. Every project is different, and so is every budget. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” budget for designing a room. Budgets rely on critical information such as the size of the room, the quality & brands of furniture required, and the specific pieces/amount of furniture you’ll need to purchase. Budgets also don’t always fall into the three categories we’ve laid out below. Often, our clients select a variety of pieces from each price category to create their own customized budget. For example, a client may select a trade brand sofa, but choose to save money with retail-level chairs. Mixing & matching pieces in a design to meet your budget is one of the many things that a professional interior designer does for you. **To help create your own estimated budget download our personalized budget worksheet here
  2. Budget with your home’s value in-mind. What you should spend on a home renovation, or even just on furnishings, depends on the overall vale of your home. As a general rule of thumb, we suggest allocating about 7-10% of the home’s value for interior design expenses. This will give you a design with predominately “Economy” level goods, and some “Mid-Range” products. If you’re looking for “Designer” level finishes, we recommend budgeting about 25% of the home’s overall value. For example, for a $2 Million home we would suggest budgeting around $500,000 to decorate & design the whole house at the “Designer” level, and about $200,000 to decorate & design at the “Economy” level (think basic finishes and inexpensive furnishings here). *It’s important to note that these prices would not include home renovation expenses (construction costs, etc.). Feeling like that’s a lot of money? We understand! Keep in-mind that lots of clients have items that we can work with (ex. re-upholstering, re-finishing, or using pieces as-is) which can help save money & reduce expenses.
  3. Plan to go over-budget: I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not. With our years of experience we’ve learned that people (on-average) tend to go over their budget. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to stick to a budget. It just means that client’s often add features or upgrade finishes as the design process progresses. All of these additions in-turn increase the scope and cost of the budget. To avoid unexpected overages (or disappointed expectations) we suggest that our clients add about 20% to their initial budget estimate. This will leave wiggle room for upgrades, and allow for more accurate financial expectations. For example for a $2million dollar home if a client budgets $500,000, and adds 20% they’ll end up with an estimated budget of $600K. Now they’ve got plenty of wiggle room within the budget for any changes or upgrades.
  4. Account for what’s NOT included. Another small disclaimer-  the example budgets we’ve laid out below include ONLY the cost of the furniture & décor. They DO NOT include things like renovation costs, labor & installation expenses, and design service fees. When working with an interior designer, we can help you to foresee & plan for these kinds of additional expenses.

 

A Designer’s Budget:

Interior designers are in-fact professionals, but of course you already knew that. We only say this because homeowners often fail to realize the benefits of hiring a professional (and yes, these benefits can include saving you money). Need to know more about the benefits of hiring an interior designer? Read our blog post Hiring an Interior Designer- Why You Should Do It” Here. For the purpose of this post, we’re just going to discuss the ways that hiring an Interior Designer can impact the budget.

First, Interior Designers have access to exclusive furnishings and finishes, called “Trade Brands”. These higher-end furnishings, fabrics, lighting and décor are only available to interior designers and people who work within the “trade” (hence the name). These products are often of superior quality and design, and are typically offered at wholesale pricing to designers (meaning you can save money vs. shopping on your own).

Second, Interior Designers use their design expertise & experience to “value engineer” your project. Now what does that mean? “Value Engineering” means that a designer looks at the overall scope of your project and then decides where to splurge vs. where to save, while still achieving the same overall aesthetic & design quality. This may sound easy, but trust us…it’s not.

Third, and this one may seem unnecessary to say, but interior designers actually do work hard to stay within your budget. As long as you have clear communication and realistic expectations, a designer is always going to work to stay within your budget. We may sometimes suggest more expensive upgrades or features, but that’s only to make our clients aware of all of their options. Sometimes clients choose to increase their budget after discovering what would be possible if they spent just a little bit more money.

 

Price Categories:

Now, to get down to the brass-tacks of why you’re really here- What is all of this really going to cost you?  As we said earlier, every project (& therefore every budget) is different. To simplify this complicated topic, we created 3 categories for the various price-points of furniture.

  1. Economy: First, we have the entry level category, which we call “Economy”. This level would include furnishings and décor from big box retailers such Target, Wayfair, Amazon, Ikea, and more. These items are often designed for limited-time use and are oriented around a customer’s desire to save money. Though these items can be fashion-forward, we do caution clients that this category may lead to quality disappointment and won’t meet their expectations in the long-run. If you’re looking to save money, we suggest using this category for small decorative pieces such vases, frames, and décor.
  2. Mid-Range: The second category is called “Mid-Range”, and it’s oriented around moderately priced retail brands; such as West Elm, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, and more. This category is great for clients looking for better quality, but not looking to make life-long investments in furnishings. These furnishings can be fashionable, but often trend towards more practical designs (to appeal to the widest audience). We suggest that clients use this category as a budget-saving alternative for smaller pieces; such as side tables, ottomans, and occasional chairs. Pieces that aren’t heavily used, and won’t endure lots of wear are great from this category.
  3. DesignerThe third and final category is called “Designer”. This category is comprised mainly of trade brands such as Sunpan, Arteriors, Made Goods, World’s Away, and more. Though you’ve likely never heard of these brands, designers are very familiar with the quality & style that they offer exclusively to the trade community. These products are going to be of the highest quality, and often include semi-custom and custom design options. Furniture from this category is going to be a life-long investment, and can later be reupholstered for an updated look. We of course, recommend that our clients plan for the majority of their furniture & décor to come from this category, but we do understand that budgets can require lower-cost alternatives. We go to Market every season to preview the exclusive new products from these trade brands. This way, we’re able to offer our clients’ the latest and greatest of what’s available.

 

Budgeting By Room:

To help you better understand the costs associated with each of  these categories, we’ve created price charts for three different room design scenarios. We created a chart for budgeting a living room, a dining room, and a bedroom. These are the three most common spaces clients ask for help with, and they tend to be some of the most heavily furnished rooms (so they’ll give you a good idea of what a full budget will look like).

THE LIVING ROOM:

Design by GreyHunt Interiors, Photography by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

The living room is one of the largest (and often one of the most heavily furnished) rooms in a home, making it one of the most expensive to design. A living room budget can vary greatly based on the size of the space. When it comes to selecting furniture for the living room, we advise our clients to invest  in the sofa & rug. Not only are these two of the largest & most used pieces in the room, but they’re also what sets the tone and overall style of the space. We suggest that our clients select these items carefully, as they’ll likely be in the home for many years to come. Spending more on the sofa & rug will create a higher-end finished product as well. If you’re looking to save money in the living room, we suggest limiting the amount décor and accent furniture to help save your budget for fewer, better pieces.

THE DINING ROOM:

Design by GreyHunt Interiors, Photography by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

The dining room is another space where the budget can vary based on a few factors. When budgeting for a dining room it’s important to consider: the size of the space, the number of people you want to seat, and how you plan to entertain. When we design dining rooms, we advise our clients to invest the majority of their budget in the table & chairs. These pieces set the tone and scale of the space, and will be pieces they keep for years to come. We also advise our clients to consider splurging on the rug, art, and chandelier, if possible.  These pieces will really bring the “wow factor” to the dining room. Looking to save money? Reduce the number of accent pieces (such as china cabinets, bar carts, etc.)  to allocate more money towards the main furnishings.

THE BEDROOM:

Design by GreyHunt Interiors, Photography by Christy Kosnic

Your bedroom is your sanctuary, so it’s no place to skimp on spending. We suggest that our clients invest the majority of their budget in their bed. The bed frame & headboard are a lifelong investment, and they’ll be in the room for years.  We advise our clients to think about how much furniture they’d like to have in the space. Are they looking for just a dresser and nightstands? Or would they also like a seating such as a bench, lounge chair &  more? The budget will need to be increased to accommodate any of these additional furniture pieces. If you’re looking to save money, go for lower-priced items that you’re more likely to change over-time (such as your nightstands, lighting, and accent décor). If you’re really tightening your belt you can usually find high-end looking bedding at mid-range retailers. Especially if you’re looking for simple & minimal duvet covers, sheets, and quilts – these stores have great options for all of that.

A Disclaimer:

As we stated above, when establishing a budget for your next interior design project you have many variables to consider. Think about the size of the space, the amount of furniture needed, and the quality of brands you require.  And remember, no budget and no project are exactly alike!

 

We also ask that you note that the numbers we’ve proposed are just general estimates, to serve as a starting point and a guide. These budgets and prices are not guaranteed, nor required.  Often our clients select various items from each category to create a project that works for their budget. Not sure about your budget? Download our personalized budget worksheet here to to help define it.