Interior Designer Undercover: The “Good” Budget

“The key to happiness is low expectations… Lower… Nope, even lower… There you go”

Ramblin’ Mama

When it comes to “budget-friendly” interior design budgets, I can’t agree with Ramblin’ Mama more. You must alter your expectations. In the case of “budget-friendly” budgets, it may mean raising your expectations of what the actual costs of an interior design project are.

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I don’t mean that in a condescending way. In fact, I refuse to call this category “low budget” because it seems exclusive and snobby. Also, design projects are rarely ever low budget, even when your budget is “budget”. In fact, what I am about to share with you is a realistic “budget-friendly” budget. It will be very eye opening and you may be scratching your head thinking “THAT’S not a low budget project!! That’s A LOT of money!!”.

My point is you have to be realistic about what it costs AND what you get for that price.

bedroom with a good decorating budget


The Influence of the Media

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, media outlets like HGTV and Houzz have done a number on expectations. They’ve inundated us with gorgeous images of home interiors that are usually out of reach for even most upper-middle-class budgets. Because I know what home renovations cost in the real world, watching HGTV is maddening. When I look at the budget of the average “Fixer Upper” and compare it to the end result, I think “NO WAY!!! NOT POSSIBLE!!” People don’t understand that the show has sponsors who help subsidize the project and that the furniture and accessories are not included in the final price tag. Not to mention that Jo Jo isn’t really charging for her time and services because she’s getting paid by the network.

…And don’t get me started on Houzz. It seems like it’s an “every man” kind of platform, but in reality it is chock-a-block full of million+ homes that cost tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) to remodel.

What is a “Budget-Friendly” Budget?

I would categorize a “budget-friendly” full-service project as anything under $15,000- $20,000. I am not alone in this. Some of my colleagues have recently covered the same topics and they came to a similar conclusion. Sarah Wilson at Chansaerae Interior Designs, LLC. covers the topic of a “budget-friendly” budget in this blog post. I also have a budget guide that you can download here that reviews costs of furniture in a “budget-friendly” project.

Why so much, you ask? Three reasons:

  1. Good design takes time and time is money. Full-service interior design is a time-consuming process and most designers charge full-service projects by the hour.
  2. Good, skilled trade labor is also costly and most designers do not recommend cheap labor because we want the job done well.
  3. Decent quality furniture and home goods are not cheap. … And good designers don’t specify junk.
good interior design budget
A “Budget-Friendly” Budget Project

The Project

All of that being said, you CAN access design on a budget, but it’s probably not as low as you were hoping. The room I’m going to break down for you today cost about $12,000 as a full-service design project. If it had been done as an edesign project it could have been closer to $7200, but the client would have needed to implement the design plan himself. Keep in mind that to stay within his budget, the client repurposed several pieces of furniture. Here’s how the costs break down:

  • $5700 for approximately 45 hours of design and project management time
  • $6200 for furniture, finishes, accessories, window treatments, and trade labor
    • Custom headboard – $1150.00
    • Duvet- $390.00
    • Custom pillows- $430
    • Ready-made drapery- $530
    • Custom art- $230
    • Dresser- $850
    • Lamps- $165
    • Refinish nightstands + new bar pulls- $400
    • Paint & paint labor- $750
    • Mattress- $1000
    • Other items and goods not itemized
good interior design budget

The really cool thing about this project is that we completed it just before a local home tour. The client’s home had been selected as a great representative of keeping the historical integrity of the home, while still making it look contemporary. The home was built in 1949 and had been in the client’s family since it wad built. I was fortunate enough to be at the home during the tour and got to hear feedback on the space. Several people commented that he must have worked with a designer because the space was so “well appointed.” Boy was my head inflated by the end of the day!

To date, this is still one of my favorite projects. Working with a “budget-friendly” budget comes with its own challenges and at times can be more time consuming than working with larger budgets because at the of the day it’s our name on the work and we want it to look impeccable, so it may take extra time to find products that we can stand behind and that fall within the client’s budget.

bedroom with good interior design budget
Another Great “Transitional Classic” Good Budget Look!


Great Expectations

Back to my original sentiment. When you have a “budget friendly” design budget it is a lot of money, after all $15k is not chump change, and if you have chosen to invest that chunk of change in your interior environment to make daily life a little happier and a little easier, you expect great results. And you can get great results. My best advice if you want to avoid sticker shock is look at the projects on Houzz that you like and look at the budget the designer has listed. This will give you an idea of what to expect if you want to achieve a similar look.

Hope you found this post helpful! If you’re interested in learning more about budgets, make sure you download my interior design budget guide the “Good Better Best Workbook.” If you would like to work with Paradigm Interiors, you can schedule your complimentary design style consultation here.

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*This post may contain affiliate links, when you click on them or make a purchase using them I may make a small commission.

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