Budget First for Design Projects

Budget First for Design Projects


After you set your budget, pencil out the cost of your inspired ideal to see how reality compares.

Maybe you’ve just purchased your first place. Maybe you’re reveling in a newly empty nest. Or maybe you’re celebrating the end of your child’s destructive toddler stage. Whatever the reason, you’re game to give your interiors an upgrade. So what’s the next step?

It’s not fun, it’s not flashy, but what you must do first is formulate a budget. This is where professional designers start, too, for the money dictates all the decisions that come after. So take a look at your accounts and come up with two totals: what you want to spend and how much you are willing to spend. Be honest. Then use these numbers as the low and high markers for your budget.

Now it’s time to get granular. Determine what types of items you will need to purchase for your new room. For this step, don’t just rely on memory; use photos as your guide. If you’ve caught the design bug, it’s likely you’ve already cobbled together a good number of inspirational images. But if you haven’t yet done so, take the time to pull some together. Pinterest is this designer’s favorite resource, but shelter magazines and Houzz.com are great options, too.

Once you’ve found a few rooms you like, take a close look at the pictures. Ones that show the same room from multiple angles work best. What do you see, specifically? Make note of every single object shown in the photos, and list them on a spreadsheet, each item on its own line.

This process acts as a kind of check, so you get an accurate idea of what is needed to furnish a room. It’s easy to remember the big stuff: the sofas, tables, and chairs. But a space needs much more to look its best. Lamps, rugs, throw pillows, artwork, window treatments, pretty objects to dress the shelves and tabletops: Each has a role to play, and each warrants a place in your budget.

Once you have your list, assign every item a price. Go to the websites of your favorite stores to get an idea of what those objects sell for. Tally everything; you may well be surprised at the heft of the sum. And don’t forget to account for some necessary extras. Tax and shipping, for example, will add about 20 percent to your base total.

After you’ve gotten a sense of the cost of goods, it’s time to account for labor. Do you need a painter? A handyman to help with assembly or installation? An electrician to install light fixtures or mount a TV? Most vendors are happy to provide a quote for their work, or you can get a rough estimate through some online sleuthing.

With these numbers in hand, you’ll have a sound idea of how far your budget will go. And if you find yourself with some extra cash, consider hiring a decorator for help. Such a pro can help ensure your room looks great, and that is always money well spent.

Sarah Coombs is an interior designer in Alameda.

Published Oct. 11, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

Faces of the East Bay