The B Word: “Budget”

Every project should have one, right from the beginning. A clear budget will make your life a lot easier, and save the unpleasant surprise of a huge credit card bill afterward. If you know what you can afford before getting anything, your project will run a LOT smoother!

I always say to think of it in a similar way as when you bought your home. You probably met with a few Realtors, and told them what you could spend to be able to afford the monthly payments. A little research on-line, and you hopefully saw a bunch of places. At some point, there was probably a realization that you could purchase a home for maybe $500,000, or 1 Million, or 10 Million… you’d still get a house for any of those prices, but they would look very different, and be in different areas. Once you knew your comfortable purchase price, you could spend more of the time researching only those homes that you could afford.

It is the same when you are re-designing or re-decorating your existing home.

If you can define your REALISTIC budget, you will know where to shop, and save a lot of time. By “realistic” I mean that you should not go too high or too low based on what you can afford. By no means should you over-extend yourself and spend double what you should just to “keep up with the Joneses” (or, Kardashians, for that matter) nor should you get a lesser quality, just because it’s less money. In other words, if you can afford a mid-range piece, there is no need to get an Antique from Sotheby’s or a press-board piece from Ikea that you have to put together yourself, and will leave you on your floor scratching your head with a screwdriver.

As far as a process, plan to budget for the big work first: contractors and other labor can cost a pretty penny. Get some estimates so you know what you’ll be dealing with. I recommend getting at least three estimates from contractors or any other people who you are considering to hire. Remember: the cheapest is not always the best. On the same token, if one estimate is really high or really low compared to the others, that is something I would question before making a decision.

Then, you may want to make a list on all the furnishings and items you need to get like paint, tile, rugs, etc. Break down the total budget by each piece so you know what you can afford. So, allocate a few thousand for the sofa, the same for the bed, chairs, rugs, lighting etc. Remember to add cost for taxes and shipping costs. These add up quickly.

Stay within the amount you have allotted for each item! If you do happen to go over on one thing, you should spend a bit less on something else to stay within your total budget amount. Yes, you can splurge on something you love here and there, but make up for it somewhere else!

One thing that is important to know is that if your budget is on the lower end, this will demand you put in more time yourself (looking for sales and things that cost less can be very time consuming) and more creativity… maybe re-purposing something you already have in a different way, or trading items with family and friends to give each of your homes a fresh new look.

If your budget is on the higher end, you can, and should, expect a better quality. Everything from fabrics, craftsmanship, hardware, details… if you are choosing to purchase a quality piece of furniture, by all means the piece should reflect that in every way.

As with all things, you get what you pay for.

If you would like to get a quality piece at a bargain price (and honestly, who doesn’t?) remember that the item may not be exactly what you originally wanted. Maybe you found something at a Sample Sale? Or some kind of Clearance? It’s important to note that there has to be a little bit of “give” if you’re getting something at half-off! The wood may not be exactly the right finish, or the upholstery may need changing or the size may be a little different from what you originally had in mind. Think about if (A) you can either live with it, or (B) the cost to make the item the way you want it to look.

As a Designer, I always ask my Clients to define their realistic budget for me very early on. This saves everyone time throughout the process. I always try to save money for each Client, and at the same time, will only show them pieces and make recommendations based on what they can comfortably afford.

If you are working with a Designer, my best piece of advice is to define your budget before you even pick up the phone to schedule an initial consultation. This way, you will both be on exactly the same page, and there won’t be any surprises in the end! Then you can focus on making your home look GREAT!

For more information on budgets and the Design Process, make sure to check out

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