Nobody likes to talk about “The Budget”. I think clients are afraid of revealing what they are willing to spend on a project because they are afraid we will just spend it all. While this might end up being true, the reason we ask this question is that we need to know what we can buy for your project. It is our job to get you the best product for your budget. If you have $4,000 to spend on a sofa, but you tell us you have less than $1,000–we may shop at Ikea for your sofa. It may look nice when it arrives, but you will be receiving something that is not the quality that you imagined. Be honest with your designer! Even the client who says, “I can do $4,000 but will be happier if we keep it around $2,500” will end up having a better experience. Of course, if your budget is $1,000 for a sofa–we will make that budget work!
Sometimes a client won’t answer the question about their budget, but will say, “I don’t know, show us what you want to do and we’ll see if we want to pay for that” (We’ve heard that a lot.) This puts us in a bit of a bind–we may end up spending hours searching for products. After we present the options to the client, they tell us that they love it, but it is not in their price range. Unfortunately, we still need to bill the client for those design hours spent researching. So, when you are asked by your designer what your budget is, just answer the question to the best of your ability.
We can do something with most budgets, but the results will be completely different for each one. Be careful when comparing the different levels. Remember to compare apples to apples when comparing products. Below are three examples, Medium, Med-High and Low budgets. The West Elm sofa, the Lee Industries Sofa, sold at Crate & Barrel, and the Ikea sofa are all velvet sofas, but they are different price points and very different quality levels. The old saying is true: “You Get What You Pay For”. If a client has a low budget for the space we are doing, and wants it completely furnished, we cannot suggest the Crate & Barrel sofa for the project even though it’s the better sofa. We will need to use a sofa that is more budget-friendly for the client.
Here are three Design Boards in the different price ranges.
The Medium budget items are from Pottery Barn and West Elm.
The Med-High is a mix of middle & high-range custom and trade-only items. The trade-only pieces are what will set your design apart from other rooms. It is very important to remember that the “Med-High” can escalate quickly and can become tight if the client is looking for high-end antiques & upholstery, etc.
The low budget is based on pieces from Ikea.
**Items not in this chart include wallpaper, paint, installation, shipping, labor (electrician, painters, carpenters), special treatments on furnishings, etc. all of which can add thousands of dollars more.
When a client tells us the budget, we aren’t judgmental. There’s a lot of thought that goes into how we can get them the best room for the money available. At times a client will tell us they want high quality, a quick timeframe, on a small budget. We have to be honest and explain to them that for the amount of money they are allowing, they’re not going to be happy with what products we will be using to stay within their budget and timeframe. It’s The Golden Triangle at work.
Part of our job is to educate clients, and I feel that is what we do in these situations. In these cases, we typically recommend that we create an entire plan that the client will be happy with and one that can be implement in phases.
In my own home, we are able to do things for less by going to consignment stores, flea markets and by sourcing on Craigslist. We also do everything ourselves, we want a certain level of quality with our items, and we are usually not on a tight timeline. We are able to save money but it takes a lot of time. If we do this for a client, the amount of money they would have had to pay us for our time to find an item at a consignment store or auction, pick it up, and have it repainted or reupholstered would have considerably increased the cost and possibly make the item not even worth it.
We like to use vintage items to stretch a budget and add personality to the project. If you are willing to do projects yourself and shop for vintage pieces yourself, you can really stretch your budget. If you don’t like to do these things yourself, paying a designer to do it isn’t necessarily going to save you any money because you will be billed your designer’s fee, but it is going to give you the mix of old-and-new. The results are going to be great, and you will end up with a space that is uniquely yours. It’s a valuable service and worth paying for. Our clients are always happy when we use a good vintage find for them. It’s something that they never would have chosen or found themselves, and yet it is the item that makes the room special!
What do you think about talking about budgets? Are you a straight shooter, or do you dance around the topic when the designer is asking? Just remember, they only want to help you get the most for your money.