Reality Check: What does it cost to furnish a room?

Money talks can be a little awkward.  I don't relish talking about money and I don't like telling people how much money they should spend...  but it's part of my job.  Often when I'm called into a project, clients don't know how much they should spend on a room.  Budgets are a very tricky thing and I often have to help them figure out where they should be at on their budget.



People often fear telling a designer their budget because they fear she will "spend it all."  Well, guess what?  We will!!!   A designer's job is to know the client's budget and do as much as she/he can with that budget.  If a client tells me she has $45,000 for a room, I'm going to use every cent of that $45,000 to get her the best quality she can afford.  Similarly, if a client has $18,000 for a room, I'm going to use all of it too so that she can have the best she can afford.  Is the client who spent $18,000 getting the same thing the client who spent $45,000 is?  No, definitely not.   If a client really has $15,000 to spend and tells me he has $10,000, he's only shooting himself in the foot  (This hasn't ever happened, I promise :)  because I'm going to make decisions and present based upon a level of quality & value that's lower than what he can really afford.

When clients ask me "how much should my room cost?" it's difficult to answer.  I can do something with almost anything, but the results will be totally different in different budgets. 

We're lucky that we live in a time where good design is accessible at affordable prices.  But...  we have to be careful that we're comparing apples to apples when comparing goods.  For example- the ikea sofa, the Pottery Barn sofa and the Lee Industries Sofa...  All are at different pricepoints and at different quality levels.  Quite frankly, you get what you pay for.  If a client comes to me with a lower budget for the living room and wants it completely furnished, I can't spec a Lee sofa for her even though it's the better sofa.  I have to go with a sofa at a lower pricepoint.

I thought it might be interesting to see what a tyical bare-minimum living room budget would look like at 3 different pricepoints:  low- medium- and medium-high    (I'm not going higher than that into high-end because the sky can really be the limit.)... NO thrift/ flea purchases are in here either..

                                 LOW                                      MID                          MED-HIGH
Sofa                           $500                                     $2200                             $3500++
2 Chairs                     $250                                      $2600                             $4400+
Wool Rug 8 x 10        $350                                      $2000                         $5000+              
coffee table                 $100                                     $750                                $2000+
3 occasional tables       $100                                    $1200                              $3900
2 table lamps               $100                                     $300                                $900+
2 floor lamps             $80                                      $600                                $1600+        
4 curtain panels-          $25                  off the rack    $400                               $1800+
Curtain Hardware        $40                                       $750+                             $1000+
2 natural woven shades   $50                                    $240                              $750
light fixture                $20                                        $350                              $1000+
throw pillows              $125              off the rack     $500                              $1200+          
Art & accessories-  $50                                     $3000                             $5000+
SHIPPING/ DELIVERY- x                                        $                                   x
electrical, installations, labor - x                                x                                     x
hardware, wallpaper,etc.-  x                                       x                                     x
_______________________________________________________________________
  TOTAL                  $1,850.00 +                           $14,140.00 +                       $33,850+

...And then think that I didn't put in items like wallpaper, installations, SHIPPING (this is BIG!!!  10-20% of the cost of the project), labor, paint, archictural details, special treatments on furnishings, etc. so add in thousands more $$$$)

The low is pretty much based on Ikea's prices, the mid is kind of a Pottery Barn budget and the mid-high is a mix middle & high-range custom and trade-only items, which is how we typically design rooms in our business.   Again, I can't stress enough that even the "med-high" can easily go waaaaaay up from there & that even this would be "tight" if the client is really looking for high end antiques, fabrics, upholstery, etc.

Even if the same designer were to do rooms with these 3 different budgets, the rooms would be completely different and you would know by looking which was which. 

{ikea...  notice that putting Ikea stuff in a room that's already architecturally interesting (the horizontal paneling)  adds some oomph to it...  I really like the general idae of this room but with slimmer-profiled furnishings and a truly crusty & old gold oval mirror, some natural textures and a better light fixture, it would be much betta and put it into another league.}


{pottery barn...  same here...  no pattern either.}

[House Beautiful...  see the difference?  It's all in the lines & the quality.}

... There's never any judging when a client tells me his or her budget...  there's just serious brain scrambling to figure out how I can get them the best room for the money we have.  There are times when clients tell me what they want and then tell me their budgets and I have to be honest and say, "For that amount, you're not going to be happy with what you get"  because what they want and what they want to spend are so far off.  In this case, I typically recommend that we create an entire plan that the client will be happy with that he or she can then implement in stages to offset the costs.

In my own home, we were able to do things for less by going to thrift stores & flea markets & by using craigslist and by doing everything ourselves, but we wanted a certain level of quality with certain items (our sofa, rug, lighting, fabrics.)  We were able to save by finding an amazing sofa for a steal on craiglist and having it reupholstered (pic below), but it still cost us $1500 or so and it took a lot of TIME.  If I had done it for a client, the amount of money they would have had to pay me for my time to find the sofa on craigslist, go pick it up, and have it reupholstered would have considerably reduced its savings and possibly not even have been worth it. 


{our craiglist lee sofa- photo by Helen Norman}

When furnishing a room from scratch, it can feel scarily expensive.  Most people begin the process after they move into a new place & realize they need furniture...  they've already spent so much purchasing the house and now they have to furnish it.  In the initial "budget talk" many of my clients are blown away when we do simple calculations and come to an average pottery-barnesque-priced living room that costs over $15,000 without including things like wallpaper and special treatments and SHIPPING... 

I like to use vintage and flea market finds to stretch my budget {and add style you just can't get with all new items.}  If you're willing to do things yourself and seek out cool items and refinish them and rework them, you can really stretch your budget.  If you don't like to do things yourself, paying your designer to do it isn't necessarily going to save you any money because she will have to upcharge the items or bill you hourly, but it is going to give you the mix of old-and-new results you want and I highly recommend it...  It's a valuable service worth paying for.  My clients are never happier than when I come in with a good vintage find for them that they never would have chosen or found themselves that makes the room.

What are your thoughts on budgets?


xoxo, Lauren


If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

100 comments:

Lisa, An American Mom said...

Lauren, this is a fabulous post! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on budget and specific scenarios. Coincidentally, we just moved into a brand new home and it is DAUNTING to think about how much decorating we need to do. We are Pottery Barn-type folks all the way but I would love to include vintage/flea market finds here and there. Frankly my biggest challenge is going to be making it realistically kid-friendly as we have two young boys and a dog. Anyway, you've given me some great food for thought here. Thanks!

Christie said...

This is a great post! I love the three pictures you chose. I would love to see more like this.

~ Christie

sanctuaryhome said...

Excellent post, I am going to bookmark this and review before meeting with a new client. Many times, I avoid this discussion as much as possible with a client. Thanks for putting this all together in such a concise way.

Jane @ The Borrowed Abode said...

Really great post. I think my ideal is a mix of a) finding pieces over time, rather than buying a room in one sitting. (Plus, it's no fun if there's nothing to hunt for!) and b) selecting a few high quality basics and filling in with less expensive items. I think a budget-friendly room can look like a pricier space if you have the right eye for it.

The scariest thing for me was the slow realization of JUST HOW MUCH STUFF COSTS. Like rugs. And armchairs. Holy cow! It's just so much money, just for one room. That's why I'm glad I'm slowly accumulating pieces over time.

Oh, and when I think of how much I spent on cheap knick-knacks and clutter, when I could have been saving up for a single large item...sigh. That's a lesson to teach my daughter some day.

Red Door Home said...

Enjoyed reading your thoughts on budgets. I definitely agree that you get what you pay for. I have always been one to wait for what I want and have nothing rather than buy something which I can afford instantly. I think in the end you save money by saving for better quality items because they don't have to be replaced as quickly.

Julienne said...

What a fascinating post. Thank goodness I am an auction addict! It has also taken us all our lives to furnish our home. We started with orange boxes covered in bargain box fabrics as coffee tables and hand me down pieces. Young people don't seem to do that anymore!

Jenny at LGN said...

Lauren,

This is an AMAZING post!! I've bookmarked it and can't wait to share it with future clients!!

Thank you!!
xx

Karla said...

FABULOUS!

I can't tell you the number of clients this week alone, when asked the budget question, have hummed and hawwed and refused to give me an answer. Definitely will be refrencing this post often :)

Karla

traci zeller designs said...

Lauren, seriously this is the BEST post you've ever written! and your blog is awesome so that is saying quite a lot!!! xoxo!

GlamaMama said...

Hi Lauren,
I can't tell you how many times I have met with clients who don't want to tell me their budget...which is sooooo frustrating trying to pull it out of them. You have raised some great points is this fabulous post which I will be sure to use for a future client who is too "shy" to discuss budget...but wants it all!!
BTW: Great blog!
All the best,
Christine aka @GlamaMama

Hannah said...

Agree with everyone above! Very well written. I will be stealing these ideas to share with clients!

Mothership said...

From a non-designer, THANK YOU for explaining this. I obviously don't think like a designer and am usually flummoxed by your process. Your frank explanation makes so much sense.

Babs Blog said...

Fabulous post! I'm sharing this with a couple fellow designers---we were all lamenting about the "budget talk" the other day. You really nailed it and said it in a frank but sensitive way. :) I think I'll be sharing this with future clients, too. :)
Thank you! Great, great post!

Lori Andrews said...

Great post. I am always on the high end of your numbers with my clients. I prefer to do the room in stages over multiple years if they need to save up for the quality pieces. Budget wise, If they are not forthcoming about what they can afford at first, I always start by asking- "Do you have a million dollar budget?" That usually gets the the client to at least think about what they can afford. teehee.

Michelle said...

Great post Lauren...definately a low med high thing with furniture...most high end designers only do custom pieces, but I think the space is read as a whole, so even furniture someome else may have, may look different when the designer shushes it up...all the items for a room do add up...that;s for sure.

Haven't been over here for a while...what a comfy place to be :) Love the new photo and look!

Best,
Michelle

Megan Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much for putting everything into perspective. I'm decorating my home with a budget that's less than the one you put together but thankfully I got a lot of furniture free from family that I'm slowly replacing, and there's also a lot of thrifting and DIYing going on.
But I do know that the $500 ikea sofa I want to buy won't be as good of quality as a $2000 one. However it will be better than the one I have now, and I'm okay with that!
For example. I could always paint the piping on an ikea sofa myself making it look more like the sofa's from House Beautiful.

Dixie Sargent Redmond said...

This was an interesting post. I agree, that something can be done with every budget. We all have limits, some of them are absolute and some of them are where we'd like to stop. I like that a designer can see a room happening for $2000. Yes, we all would like those House Beautiful rooms, but sometimes we have the Ikea budget.

MyLittleHappyPlace said...

Great post, Lauren - and especially pertinent to me!

Single Stone Studios said...

You've written a couple of posts like this recenlty and I just love your honest explainations of the design process. I also really liked the comparison photos in this post. Very interesting read, really enjoyed your perspective.

MaryBeth said...

If more information like this was out there I think people (clients) would already have a starting point and feel more comfortable with knowing and being able to tell you the budget.
Thanks so much.
MB

Carmella said...

Well done post, Lauren! It's great for people to see the comparison and understand the cost if furnishing interior spaces. This is what a builder/architect does with the structure of the home and people seem to expect it, but somehow, that same expectation of cost, on the client's part, doesn't always transfer to what's inside the house!

Carol@SofasandSage.com said...

Hi Lauren. I never tire of hearing other designer's takes on budget. I did a post called The #1 Most Dreaded Question in Design a while back on how to handle the topic. I received some emails that some designers appreciated some of the language -- check it out, maybe you'll find something useful.
http://www.sofasandsage.com/2010/09/1-most-dreaded-question-in-design.html

Thanks for putting perspective on the amount of TIME it costs to save money and get things done :)

Erika at BluLabel Bungalow said...

Lauren, what a well written post! I couldn't have said it better myself.

Hopefully it will not discourage people from inquiring about design services, but to educated them and look at it as an investment into their homes and lifestyle.

Again, thanks!

The Third Place said...

Lauren,

GREAT POST. I would love it if you would do a follow-up, and illustrate the differences between budgets for your ignorant clients (like me.) What trade-offs am I am making between the $10,000 budget and the $30,000 budget?

Susie @ Maddie's Nest said...

Lauren, I remember you talking about this on the SRT as well and you make great points. I get a lot of design inquiries and the people say they want to use craigslist, etc. to keep budget down. I don't think people often fully grasp the time it takes and that we are in a business....to find the perfect item takes time. I also think it is hard to work with the client who has no budget idea (or hasn't yet discussed financial expectations with their significant other.) Have a great weekend.

anishka, allied member ASID said...

A well needed post...will share this!

Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle said...

This was really interesting to me. I'm of the mindset that you should put the bulk of your budget into good quality pieces like your sofa and chairs. There is a fabulous, huge vintage store where I find excellent deals on unique pieces at good prices. I found two faux bamboo benches there this summer for $77 total, for example. If you know where to shop you can get a great look at just about any price point.

40daysof said...

Your thoughts and explanations on budget are very reasonable. But I know in my case, my husband would not believe you. I'm sure after he knew you for a while and you delivered a room on budget, he would. But initially there would be a huge amount of distrust. Unfortunately, he works with lots of people who have hired designers in the past and has heard many a horror story about going over budget. In the most recent and aggregious instance, it was by as much as $50,000.

Emily said...

great post! I just recently moved to VA and am in the process of doing all of this and it is costing so much more than I thought!

Antiqueaholics said...

Loved this post - its so true. Once I see the more expensive, quality version of something, its hard to be happy with the less expensive item. I never decorate a room all at once as I enjoy the experience of looking and know that I'm happier and more comfortable to do it over a period of time. Having said that, if I ever see an antique or vintage piece that I like, it comes home with me and I will find a place for it.

Maria Killam said...

Lauren, this really is one of the best posts you've written but there is so many it's hard to count them all! Love the way you wrote it with the pics too!
xo
Maria

Wives said...

Lauren-
This is such a fabulous post - I am going to recommend this to so many people. It's really the ugly truth about $$ and how much it costs to look great. You do a wonderful job with your finds and making it look like home, and not all shiny and new - I really admire that. Often when you are buying tons of new things, you feel like you are losing an integrity and honesty that you get with hand-me-downs or refurbishs or FINDS :)

Alexis said...

THANK YOU! You just explained what I have never had the right words to explain to my clients. I just linked your blog to my new facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Alexis-Solomon-Design-Studio/145359728842908

A Flair for Vintage Decor said...

Loved this post...great information and thanks for taking the time to lay it all out there so honestly!! Happy weekend! Take care, Caroline

pve design said...

Excellent post. Back to the old adage, you pay for what you get. Love to see more examples of costs as you share your designs.
pve

Karen said...

Such a great bit of information. I especially liked the part where you explain the flea/thrift market finds are great if you are handy yourself but if you have to hire someone to refinish/redo a piece it may negate the savings. Thanks for such an insightful post.
Karen at Garden, Home and Party

Sarah Cruze Designs said...

BEST post EVER! I simply do not know how you have the time to write so eloquently and give such beneficial advice! and I don't even have any kids, yet! :-) You are amazing. THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts! ~ Sarah

Peggy and Fritz said...

This is such a great post. I wish blogging was available when I attempted my design business 7 years ago. It would have made life so much easier and allowed me other avenues to follow instead of puttig it on a shelf with the hopes of one day doing it again. Your post hit the nail on the head. One of the things I learned most and HGTV is the cause of a lot of it - people want this grand House Beatiful room on a $3000.00 budget and/or they want it all now on the budget they are proposing. Your post and enlightening your readers (I know many are designers) but others are people seeking design inspiration your post on your time is 100% correct. People don't realize on a small budget how much time is used by a designer because you have to be resourceful and really look. That's when sometimes it's best to step away and give them a design concept and as their budget allows they can acquire the pieces. I always encourage people to put their money into the larger items. You can cheat more with tables, coffee tables, chairs, vs. a sofa. I'm not saying you can't spend money but it's easier on those items. I think you explained it so well...and frankly, after doing it for a short time on the side I would spend hours of my time and not get paid. This post just gave me my Oprah Ah Ha moment. Thanks for always keeping it real and educating your readers. The reason why you are successful and will continue to be is because you truly are authentic.

Bryant Park Designs said...

Lauren -
This is terrific! Thank you for addressing a tough question...I'm sure I am not saying anything new, but the budget question is always the toughest. In this age of cynics and skeptics we need to trust each other more and believe that we, as designers, really do have our clients best interest in mind!!!
- Becky

Gaidig said...

I agree with Jane @ The Borrowed Abode; the sofa quality is what makes the biggest difference in these rooms (architectural details aside). One of the big differences I see is the tailored upholstery versus the sloppiness of the slipcovers. I think that even a lower quality new sofa looks better than a slipcovered one. Slipcovers are for making your dorm room sofa passable when you move into a house. Can you tell that I am hating my slipcovered sofa? I wish I had a budget to go out and replace it!

Also, having worked in an architectural firm, I totally agree about understanding the budget up front. A good architect or designer will build in allowances for things to go wrong, etc., but the client's budget can be put to best use if everything is considered in the design phase, rather than turning the tables late in the project. A professional wants to give you the best you can afford.

Copy Cat Chic said...

GREAT post Lauren :) I'm bookmarking this post and will be sending some of my clients to it for SURE. lol

LiveLikeYou said...

Thanks for this post Lauren. I'm going to bookmark it and use it on all my clients. It's the eternal struggle and this simplifies the explanation BEAUTIFULLY!

misslivviebelle said...

I'm not a designer, but I love redecorating my home. I never really set a budget for my projects because my best friend in the whole world is spray paint, so if I can spray something, I do it!!

Looking at your 3 room choices, I would 100% take the IKEA room over the other 2, no matter what the cost. That room looks comfortable and lived in. The 2nd room looks like the couch is wearing jeans, and the 3rd room would make me nervous to touch anything! Don't get me wrong, the 3rd room is very pretty, but doesn't look like somewhere I could relax and be comfortable.

Sherri Cassara said...

I really appreciate this post Lauren. My weakest thing is invoicing. My favorite part is where you wrote that paying your designer to do it for you isn't going to necessarily 'save you any money' ... "It's a valuable service worth paying for". This is exactly the encouragement I needed to hear today as I am doing some DIY things for a client and it is not a good 'deal' for them but the end result will be what they want. I will remember this post when I am invoicing and feeling bad. Thank you!

Shelly said...

Bravo! So well written that I'm going to repost this. I want all my clients to read this since it perfectly describes the design biz/dilemma. Great post!

EmilyAnn said...

This is such a great, informative post. I am not a designer, just a student that loves reading design blogs. I do have a question for you that I've wondered about for a long time. What happens when a designer goes over-budget? Does she eat the cost herself or pass it along to the client? Is there some sort of design etiquette when that happens?

Squeak said...

This was a fabulous post! However, now that people know what they can expect for a $2000 budget or a $12,000 budget, why would they hire a desgner? All they have to do is pick up an Ikea or Pottery Barn catalogue (or visit an Ikea or Pottery Barn store) and select a roomfull of furniture. I always thought the point of hiring a designer was to get a room that was unique and special. Or are you just using these companies as an example of what can be had at these price points?

Holly Irwin Fine Art said...

Hi Lauren, This was a great, informative post. I like your living room more than any of the others you showed us!

Seagrass Interiors said...

Lauren,

LOVED this post! This is the one area that I always struggle with. Money is SUCH an uncomfortable subject! I find myself procrastinating getting back to clients because I'm afraid to "break the news." This is so incredibly helpful!

Melissa

AnneHH said...

BRAVO!!! You are soooo great!! This has needed to be written about and no one tackles these issues better!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Hope to see you SOON.
Big hugs!
Anne

Aubrey said...

Well said, girl! I agree with all of the above comments and I'm so glad I found your blog through House of Turquoise! Amazingly simple and well explained!

http://loveallthingsbrightandbeautiful.blogspot.com

Micalla Laurel said...

This post is SO helpful! Thank you!

I came across your article in Better Homes & Gardens and was OBSESSED with your house! To find you also had a blog, made the obsession even bigger. I LOVE my daily blog intake - and you are one!

This post is PERFECT for me. I recently graduated with a degree in Interior Design, and have played with the idea of (slowly!) starting my own business. The breakdown of pricing is oh so helpful for this fresh graduate, who is still figuring out the worth and cost of things in the "real world."

Laura@Developing Designs said...

AWESOME way of putting it all out there, up front and honest. It is amazing to the homeowner's (and sometimes designers too LOL) just how quickly things really do add up in a space. Till you sit down, start listing things and really paying attention to the details, the bottom line can be quite shocking for most. Love this post.....there is so much to learn or teach with this. It's never feels quite comfortable for people to talk about money/budget, this post will certainly help others to get there. You are so brilliant! :) xo

Tammy@InStitches said...

Great insight on pulling it all together. I personally love to mix high, medium and low in my home. The highest pieces I'll keep forever and the low ones I can switch out and keep things fresh and new. A lot of items go into the final price of window treatments like labor, lining, interlining, trim, fabric, hardware and installation so there is a little play in the budget depending on what you pick.

jvwhome said...

Great post Lauren! One I will definitely bookmark....
have a great weekend and thx for sharing!!

Annie said...

Great post - my sister-in-law designed the pillow (and chair?) fabric in the House Beautiful picture - so it was a special treat. I recently made some pillows using that same fabric - wish I had those sofas ...

SHERRY HART said...

Lauren...that is a well informed post. as designers, it is important to know the budget and if there is room for getting that one item that is so fabulous but will throw you over! Taking the time to find things on Craigslist is easy for us but impossible for the client. That is why they hired you, but it would use way to many billable hours to do that on a project.

Acquired Objects said...

I'll be honest here, I have expensive taste and I like things to last so I always buy the best my money can afford even if it's only one item for the year. I'm very patient I'll also wait forever until I find just the right piece.

Joey said...

I like the layout. Clean and simple.

Kris said...

Love this post! I will be completely redoing our living room in Spring and this helped me put things into perspective.

missyz said...

Very helpful post! I recently came to the same conclusion as red door home. I need to stop buying the cheaper version of something. I end up getting rid of it and wasting more money in the end. I am on the hunt for better quality pieces! Something else I learned on this sight, DO NOT BUY ANYTHING YOU DO NOT LOVE!
Thanks again

Leah Kennelly said...

What an awesome post, Lauren. And what funny timing - we are doing a post about this really soon. Phoebe bases it more on square footage (since we are typically doing more than just one room), but this is another great way to put it. Budget (and paint colors) are the one of the most common questions we get. It is sad and shocking how expensive it is to get a magazine look at home - your high-end budget was just the tip of the iceberg with all of that! - but it is true. I think you are right that clients should know what they are getting with them set a budget and not be disappointed when it doesn't look like HB, ED, etc. Amazing post, as always!

Leah Kennelly said...

What an awesome post, Lauren. And what funny timing - we are doing a post about this really soon. Phoebe bases it more on square footage (since we are typically doing more than just one room), but this is another great way to put it. Budget (and paint colors) are the one of the most common questions we get. It is sad and shocking how expensive it is to get a magazine look at home - your high-end budget was just the tip of the iceberg with all of that! - but it is true. I think you are right that clients should know what they are getting with them set a budget and not be disappointed when it doesn't look like HB, ED, etc. Amazing post, as always!

Roxanne Lumme Interiors said...

Lauren, PERFECTLY said! I will put a link back to this on my site. As always, YOU ROCK!
HUGS,
Roxanne

classic casual home said...

This is a very good budget summary! With my clients (and I have then in the high, middle and low categories), I always prioritize the design stages, so that if we can't do it all at once, they know what is next. Also, I try to incorporate any collections they may already have as it adds personality (at no extra cost). Thanks, Mary Ann

Katherine @ Grass Stains said...

Lauren, This is a wonderfully informative, honest post ... it's not surprising to me to read about the difference between cost and quality, but it's a little depressing. ;) Reason being, if you and your spouse aren't on the same page financially about what to spend on furnishing your home, it will be hard to ever achieve the look and feel you're truly going for.

I will always have a blended Ikea/PB home, because I'll never be able to convince my husband that anything nicer is worth it. Which is really OK ... he has many other stellar qualities! But right now I'm working on what you talked about with an overall long-term plan and implementing it slowly. Hope it works! :)

Katherine @ Grass Stains said...

Lauren, I know that this happens a lot. PK at Room Remix had the same problem, and now at the top of every post, she puts in big, bold letters, "This is a post from Room Remix, the blog." I'm not sure if she was ever successful in stopping the plagiarist or not, but that is still at the top of every post, and it's probably been over a year ago that it happened. You might check with her ... http://roomremixblog.blogspot.com/ Hope that helps!

Dad said...

Hi Lauren,

Good idea giving folks an idea, I still remember when you took me to the store to furnish our lake house family room, I freaked out at the prices but now it's 7 years later and our expensive furnature still looks great and crisp

Love,

Dad

Janell @ Isabella and Max said...

I find people I work with are nearly always surprised at the cost of a room design when I list everything required and total it all up! The problem with going low, unless you score great deals on quality pieces, in the end the room will actually be expensive as things have to be replaced within a couple years as the sofa wears out, etc.

Great post! Janell

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Great post, Lauren! So fun to read your take on this subject. I don't do a lot of decorating for others right now, but most that I have worked with have really limited budgets.

Myself, I'm a collected over time decorator & that is the most fun for me. I can see by your lists that I'm between Ikea and PB in pricing for most of my stuff & I'm OK with that. It is amazing how much it really costs to do a room from scratch & get stuff that is even mid-range quality. I will always have a home decorated on a budget & that's just fine too. Adding those special finds really make the difference too.

You have such a great eye & your pics show it! Loved the BHG article of your home too, it was a knockout.

Danielle@Fresh Quince said...

This is one of the best posts ever...I am going to share with all of my friends, especially those first time home/condo owners. And as a regular Craigslist addict, I see so many items from Ikea and not many of them look that great. xxDanielle

Belinda said...

I'm not a decorator or designer so this was a big eye opener for me. Just to let you know from someone who does not do this on a regular basis, I had NO idea the cost can go up that much just from furniture and decor. Honestly, I like to change up things so much that I hate to spend a whole lot on things that I know I would replace in say 5 yrs. Even the couch, yes. I was considering an Ikea couch for the new living room, simply because I have a 2 yr old daughter that I'm sure is going to stain that sucker. Now I'm not sure if I want to do that or not. I can get a nice sofa from a furniture store and just have a good stain guard put on it.

Just to let you know, most people that don't do this for a living figure its the designers choices that make a room look like the house beautiful pictures, not the furniture you can afford. I/we think that its all on how its put together. Old and new things, mix of expensive and cheaper items. This post will help those, like me, that need to know we have to PAY MORE for those certain items that are really gonna MAKE the room! Thanks for this wonderful post!

CocoShack said...

GREAT post!
You can definitely see where the money goes when you spend a little more. I'm also a Craigslist hunter for those more vintage or antique looking items, but I always like to mix old with new (which in my case usually means expensive haha).

For some inexpensive wall art, I like to create my own! check out my photography shop if you are interested... cocoshack.etsy.com

xo,
Dana

autumn said...

really wonderful post. thanks for laying it all out. i don't think i have seen a post like this on any other blog, and i really appreciate your frankness about how much things cost. it's not cheap to live beautifully, but it is worth it--even on an ikea budget.nhaving guidance from a designer is so key too===having a plan really helps to save money in the long run.

Sheila said...

Fantastic post! Thank you for sharing. I especially love the cost breakdown and comparison.

Jennifer said...

Great post! Very informative. I'm of the 'save to splurge' decorating mentality. I'll save where I can to be able to splurge on things that make the biggest impact. But you're right, there really is no comparing the Lee sofa with the Ikea one! Maybe I'll get lucky on Craig's List one day, too ;)

Sarah said...

Lauren,
As usual, thank you for being candid about the design process. The room comparison images were fantastic.

mytinyrobotheart said...

great post! i've been interested in designing and i have one question though that i'm not sure about... where do you add in your fee? is it hourly? or a percentage added onto the room? or a percentage added onto each item purchased? or a flat rate? a combination? i think i would be so excited about shopping for someone else that i would spend all of the budget on stuff and cut into my own earnings just to make it the best that i could....just wondering....

silly6 said...

I love your reupohlstered couch. I have inherited a VERY nice couch ($6,000 in 1981). It's in Perfect condition but needs an update. I am trying to decide which type of fabric wears best for a family with 4 young children. Any suggestions? I really need help in decided that before I can move on to other areas of the room.

Wendy said...

Excellent post! I've shared almost this same post (shortened version) with dozens of clients. Some get it. Some don't. I think what you said is right. The world we live in is full of beautiful photos, catalogs, and the internet. It makes a beautiful, expensive room look completely accessible. It's just that Decorators aren't magicians! We can do a lot with a budget but we can't turn your $3000 budget into a $30,000 room! (Although, I've seen some very skilled decorators make it come close!)

Megan {Honey We're Home} said...

Hearing that figure is a bit shocking- at first. I'm mentally calculating the cost of our living room now and I can see that it all adds up pretty quickly. Our sectional (PB) was a huge splurge for us, but it's good quality that should last. How much is the designer on top of the actual budget? Is it a percent of the total cost or by the hour? I would love to pick a designer's brain on things like drapes but don't need a whole room redo. I always wonder if I should consult someone for those "little" things that give the room such impact.

Niki said...

Fabulous post! You put it perfectly...sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes it takes a little creativity to get the right look and sometimes you have to be realistic about what you can get for the dollar. While shopping for a loveseat the other day, I was told that you can estimate the life of a sofa/loveseat would be 5 years if you have kids. That sort of changed my thoughts around a little. I start classes in interior design next semester (a departure from what I currently do). Surely I'll learn more about this then....LOVE your blog!

nouveaustitch said...

This post will be a great help as I continually must explain that having window-treatments, say, made expressly for a client's room by a local workroom or sewist, does not mean the w/t's will cost less than PB. Quite the contrary. That's custom, folks, and custom will reflect the price of fitting the specifications to one's unique setting and quality construction methods.... which do not come in at $5/hour!

Excellent post!

Ellen

Porchlight Interiors said...

Thank you so much for doing this post Lauren...I'm sure designers all over the world will be using this to explain the whole budget process with their clients (me included)! Well done! Tracey xx

Naomi Stein said...

What a great, thoughtful post! I always discuss budget upfront, and most of my clients prefer to give a range. I find they are almost always willing to splurge on those special items and delight when I find them a steal. It's important to remember that this is an investment they will live will for many years. An extra $1,000 might hurt a bit now, but will be forgotten soon. Whereas a lumpy sofa will be remembered forever!

Jen said...

Love this post Lauren. I came here by way of Maria Killam. Most clients dont have a clue how much value a designer brings to them. Your post is eloquent & comprehensive. I love how you share the picture, the numbers and the true value of a designer.

Jennifer Duchene
Home Makeover Mixtress
http://home-decorating-makeovers.com/

Lazy Gardens said...

In this case, I typically recommend that we create an entire plan that the client will be happy with that he or she can then implement in stages to offset the costs.

Excellent idea, and it leaves the chance of a lucky find open. Who knows, they might find that Renoir on Craigslist.

A Delightful Design said...

Hi! I'm a new follower and came over from Colour Me Happy--what a fantastic post. It's so important that our clients understand that we truly want them to have the best they can afford. Great post!!
abby

Leigha said...

Love this post! As we designers know, you get what you pay for (most of the time). Whether you pay with money, time, effort, elbow grease, research, etc...you generally get what you pay for.

Great post!

Leigha

Things That Inspire said...

Catching up on the blogs...this is a great post. I remember when I refreshed my living room a few years ago, and I was so thrilled to have a 10,000 budget - I was not replacing any upholstery or rugs. The designer I hired was very honest with me and said that we would not be able to do much on that budget - mainly because we needed to replace the window treatments, and window treatments are SO expensive! We ended up spending 15,000, which mainly went towards the window treatments, the new coffee table, art on the wall, and a new mirror for the adjacent front hall.

On my new house, I wish I had quadruple the budget, but with all of the cost associated with building the house, I am going to have to take it in phases. My designer is going to spec everything for the main floor, and provide finish guidance for the basement and second floor. She begins with a budget for each room, based on the items that the client already has, and evaluating the items that a client needs. It is truly amazing to see how everything adds up!!!! The window treatments in particular - they add so much to a room, both in the look and the cost.

One other interesting thing to note - when she does a proposal for a piece of furniture, she includes all of the associated costs (shipping and her upcharge). She will break it down if I request it, but she says that clients are often shocked by the shipping charges and will decide against an item because of the shipping, which she says is usually 15% of the cost. She thinks that it works better to just present a flat number - and I must admit, I agree. It is easier for me to agree to a number without getting all wrapped up in how it breaks down.

Carrie said...

Thanks for this post. I had always wondered about how much it would cost to hire a decorator and what I could expect to get from the experience. I'm enlightened!

paula said...

You have a very beautiful room. I love this place.

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Ami said...

Just came across this post and I love it! Money is never comfortable to talk about, but very important for putting together a cohesive plan. Thank you so much for writing about it and putting it so tangibly.

diana said...

Nice blog.i m very delighted to know about the budget.its very informative and useful post. thanks lot for sharing.
link for home decor and wall decor items
http://www.decor-collection.com

lavitapetite said...

I feel like the decorating gods answered my prayers by finding this post. I have my first real client and I was lost on how to discuss budget. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an helful post post!

lavitapetite.wordpress.com

lavitapetite said...

I feel like the decorating gods answered my prayers by finding this post. I have my first real client and I was lost on how to discuss budget. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an helful post post!

lavitapetite.wordpress.com

Marissa Waddell said...

Lauren,

I have come back to this post again and again, and I think it's about time I left a comment to say thank you!

I have such a hard time explaining to people that miracles can't always happen. I love how you word it-- "for that amount, you're not going to be happy with what you get."

I wish I could make this post required reading for some of my clients!

Marissa
www.roost-home.blogspot.com

arrielle_p said...

It looks so inviting and comfortable. Thanks for sharing those lovely photos. Wish to have that sofa on my makati condominiums. :)

Nadine Neilson said...

Thanks for your post I will refer to it.
It is the same deal in Australia, I and other reputable designers will squeeze as much and as best quality I can into the budget I am given. Its hard to talk about money but it's important.
I've just blogged a budget breakdown on a medium to high bedroom on http://journeyhomeliving.blogspot.com.au/
in case you are interested. Thanks again.

macmoore011 said...

Thank for this informative post because I am thinking about to hire an interior designer for furnishing my living room. But, when I heard about the prices, they are very high. But, I think that your post will be a help definitely. Help me to sort out this problem, as well. So, thanks for sharing.


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