The starting point of a new project always involves exciting discussions as clients bring a range of ideas and vision to the table. I love showing families how design can transform their environments and shape their day-to-day lives for the better, whether in a single room or an entire home. But along with fun discussions, every project also requires open dialogue about everyone’s least favorite subject: the budget.
Within the interior design industry, project budgets are known to widely vary based on factors like location, personal tastes and the overall scope of work — but that doesn’t mean talking numbers should be avoided. Instead, I like to approach the budget conversation early and often, maintaining transparency at every stage in the process. I’ve found budgeting starts with education and continues with proper management to keep everyone informed and on track.
Today, I’m sharing what to expect when budgeting for an upcoming project, and why design services are an investment worth making.
ESTABLISHING A PROJECT BUDGET
Building the framework for your project budget means starting with the end in mind. When your project is complete, what do you hope to accomplish within your home? What value do you want to be added to your space, and how will it impact your daily life? Once you’ve answered those big picture questions, you’ll be able to identify the services and financial commitment needed to take steps forward.
Next, it’s important to understand both the obvious (and the not-so-obvious) elements to include when developing an overall budget. For clients who haven’t previously worked with an interior designer, planning for expenses like design hours, install, receiving, construction or permits might be brand new territory. Understandably, it can feel overwhelming, but educating yourself from the get-go will help as you navigate budget decisions in the stages ahead.
As you start putting together an initial budget, it’s also helpful to identify the top project components that you’d like to prioritize. If you’re working with budget constraints, think about which areas you’re willing to invest and which areas you’re willing to be more flexible. Also, when thinking about key elements like finishes, fixtures and furnishings, always consider the type of quality you’re budgeting for and be sure to prioritize accordingly.
OUR APPROACH TO BUDGET MANAGEMENT
Now that we’ve touched on some basics, I want to hone in on the J Miller Interiors approach to project budgeting. In previous posts, I’ve detailed my full design process, which always begins with a client discovery call. During this initial phone consult, we begin the earliest budget conversations, which later evolve into a more nuanced discussion as we begin working together.
Sometimes it can be difficult for clients to know exactly how to budget for their projects, and I’m always happy to offer guidance and provide perspective on what we can accomplish. Once we’re in the proposal phase of the design process, I provide clients with a detailed fee estimate for their project, along with a custom budget guide, which gives clients a sense of price ranges on furnishing selections. My approach to design often involves sourcing one-of-a-kind, custom or vintage items with heirloom quality, and I make sure those investment-worthy pieces are reflected in my client’s breakdown categories.
Each designer bills their work differently, but at J Miller Interiors all projects (no matter the size or stage) are priced at an hourly rate. We provide a “what to expect” document covering the receiving process during our initial consultation, and also use a receiving warehouse for many furniture items, which is billed upon the project completion.
I fully understand that no one likes surprises when it comes to expenses, which is why it’s so important to develop a detailed plan and maintain transparent communication from start to finish. While navigating your project budget isn’t always easy, designing a beautiful, functional space that’s customized to the needs of your family is an investment that lasts a lifetime.