We are heading into Part 3 today of 10 Things Interior Designer's Won't Tell You. You can learn more about this series and start with Part 1 here.
YOU MIGHT AS WELL USE MY ESTIMATE AS WALLPAPER
Once you've settled on a designer you like and feel you can afford, your first step will be to sit down and go over your budget, with an estimate of how much the job is going to cost. But the fact is, that estimate doesn't mean a whole lot. You're likely to pay 20% more -- at least.
What happens? When designers present their clients with a choice of items -- say, fabrics costing $30 a yard or $50 a yard -- they often don't bother to note that the more attractive option is considerably more expensive than what the budget called for. Some designers will also play to customers' insecurities, assuring them that the job will look unfinished without countless additions and unexpected alterations. "A lot of designers think that if a client says he'll pay $100,000, there's another $20,000 or so hidden away somewhere," notes Joel M. Ergas, a partner in Forbes-Ergas Design Associates in New York City. Caught up in the moment, with the project hurtling toward completion, you may find it difficult to put on the brakes or to switch designers.
You can do a few things to protect yourself. First, before hiring a designer, be sure to ask his references how closely he stuck to his budget. Then feel free at any time to have the designer account for how much has been spent on your job and how that amount compares with the budget. You can also tell the designer that before he spends a cent, you want to see a full proposal with pictures of everything you'll need to buy, and exact prices. Finally, don't just rely on the designer: Keep your own running total of costs. This is a business transaction, after all, not an art project.
Oy, where do I start with this one? First, I don't do this. I tell my clients that they must come up with a realistic budget range and always be comfortable spending the money. More often than not I am saving clients more money than they expected and I always tell them where they can save and where they should splurge.
This isn't one-sided, clients also need to be diligent of their budget because it is their money. Designers should keep an eye on the budget and select items that can fit in the provided budget, but ultimately it is up to the client to manage their money. As a client, if you are uncomfortable with an amount or feel things are not going to be in budget, talk honestly with your designer.
If you'd like your designer to not spend a penny more than $200,000 all-inclusive (shipping, taxes, fees, etc) tell her. Ask her to create a budget showing where the money will be allocated. If you spend more on a coffee table than what is in budgeted, ask her where you are going to make up the difference. I find that clients are typically more comfortable providing a budget range for example $60-75K.
Is there a cushion in the budget for the unexpected? Maybe an electrical panel will need to be moved. Maybe there are structural problems undiscovered until the walls are opened. Perhaps the carpet has been glued down and takes a week to remove instead of a day. These are all things that are unexpected and unforseen and are hard to budget for. No project ever gets by without some issue or snag.
Interior designers are masters at project management. They manage a several hundred moving parts for each project, thousands of details. Something is bound to not go as planned or to be missed. Obviously some designers are better at this than others, while this is a creative job, at least 80-90% is management of details. All these things have an impact on the budget. Perhaps a fabric is backordered and you must reselect, the new fabric is more expensive which effects the budget. Or maybe you decide that you hate the tile you selected after it comes in and you must pay for the restocking fee. Shipping is often not calculated until after the piece ships, making it impossible to provide a whole-cost view of that item prior to purchase.
Of my clients in the past few years, none has given me a firm number to work with. If people are unsure what they need to spend, I have them fill out my budget worksheets. Usually I get an idea of what someone is comfortable spending and we talk about if their vision for the space matches their budget. I never want my clients to think that I am pushing them into spending more than necessary or that they are comfortable with.
As the designer, it is my job to look out for your best interest and to be on your team.
For more information about the costs & fees of interior design, visit my resource page.
read the entire series:
1. SHOP IN THE RIGHT STORE AND YOU MAY NOT EVEN NEED ME 2. MY TITLE DOESN’T MEAN VERY MUCH 3. YOU MIGHT AS WELL USE MY ESTIMATE AS WALLPAPER 4. YOU’D SAVE A BUNDLE IF YOU KNEW HOW I SET MY FEES 5. MY BILLS ARE LADEN WITH HIDDEN COSTS 6. IT’S NOT IN MY INTEREST TO HUNT FOR BARGAINS 7. YOU DON’T NEED ME TO GET BIG DISCOUNTS FROM SHOWROOMS 8. I PREFER BIG PROJECTS, BUT I’LL TAKE WHATEVER I CAN GET 9. YOU HAVE LITTLE OR NO RECOURSE IF I SCREW UP 10. MY WORK IN ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST IS A MIRAGE