Interior Design and Decorating Denver

How to Determine Your Interior Design Budget

Budgets! This is the most challenging aspect for clients to plan for and designers to manage. And it’s often the point where a project will break down and can cause a client/designer relationship to go bad. No one particularly enjoys the money conversation, but it’s important to discuss budgets early and often.

The truth is, it’s really hard to set a reasonable budget before a room is designed, products are priced, and bids obtained from contractors and trades people. First, I’m going to discuss why it is so difficult to create a reasonable investment amount and the pitfalls that I see my clients fall into. Then I’m going to cover how we establish an investment amount for our interior design projects. And finally, I’m going to share my Budget Planning Tool to help you set a reasonable Target Investment for your next home design project.

Interior Decorator Denver

Why is it so hard to set a reasonable Target Investment for Interior Design Projects?

1. Misinformation online
2. Wide range of costs
3. Volume
4. Other costs



There is a lot of misinformation online and on HGTV shows (I know, because I was on one 😉 ). If you search on how to establish a budget or average budgets, they are always low. For example, an “average” for a bathroom remodel often includes data from DIY, or for a fix and flip or rental properties. Is that the correct data set for your dream master bath retreat? Probably not. Also, many people in the “high-end” brackets aren’t going to complete the data or participate in these surveys, skewing the data to a lower average.
As a result, many people do honest and thorough research and think that it is reasonable to remodel a kitchen for $25k or a bathroom for $7k. And those are just not reasonable or realistic numbers.

Wide Range of Costs for All Products

“You’re the designer; can’t you tell me what this will cost?”
I dread this question because no I can’t just give you a number off of the top of my head. It is very difficult for me to advise people on what their project will cost before the design work begins and definitely on the phone before I’ve seen your home or heard your goals. There are so many options at various quality levels and price points and every client is comfortable in a different range. Let’s take a sofa for example. One client may expect to spend $8,000, another $3,000 and yet another $15,000. That is a large range for just one piece of the room. Given that range, over every item in a room, it is impossible for me to tell a potential client what it will cost before we get to know them and begin a design plan.

“What did the last {fill in your room} project cost?”
Historical data is also hard to draw from. Prices and labor costs are constantly increasing. If I completed a kitchen remodel last year, a similar kitchen today is going to cost more and it’s difficult to say by how much. And now we have a new game of tariffs to consider… Also each client has different priorities and things they value. It’s not comparing apples to apples.


Volume and Quantity Totals

A common approach clients take is to make a total room estimate because it just “sounds right”, like $20k for a living room or $60k for a kitchen. On the surface those amounts seem reasonable and $20k or $60k are not insignificant amounts of money! But the breakdown happens when you spread that budget over every single item or labor that is required for the room. The total sounds like enough, but it’s not based on a quantity, or reality.
This pitfall is understandable, based on the way that clients may have furnished their home in the past. Typically a client goes out and buys one or two pieces at a time, so it may feel like they spent $15,000 on the room in the past, but if they took the time to add it all up, they very likely paid much more. So the new $20,000 budget to redecorate the living room is not enough and may even be less than they spent on the room before.
We’ll come back to the subject of volume later.


Other Costs

The last pitfall is that of overlooking a whole category of “other costs” that you may rarely think about or add to your budget estimates. Those include things like freight, storage, delivery, accessories, cleaning costs, installation, design fees and even sales tax. If we are remodeling or decorating an entire room, these costs start to take up a significant portion of the budget. You can easily add 15-20% for accessories, 8.5% for sales tax and 12-15% for freight and delivery costs.


Ok, those are the challenges to creating a realistic budget, so how does Beautiful Habitat work with clients to arrive at a reasonable project investment?

Interior Design and Decorating Denver

Early in the process, I will discuss the Target Investment with our clients. The Target Investment is the amount that you hope to spend for this particular project and scope of work, like our $20K living room and $60k kitchen examples above. At the same time, we are collecting everything that you want to achieve as your design Wish List. Sadly, the Wish List and the Target rarely align. So how does Beautiful Habitat handle this?

First, we ask questions to assess your spending and quality Comfort Level. For example, we need to know if you are comfortable with a $10,000 sofa or a $5,000 sofa, a Subzero or a GE refrigerator. Once we understand your comfort level, we design to the Wish List, by selecting items at the appropriate Comfort Level. We work to solve any problems and frustrations with the space, make it beautiful and create the perfect design for you, your family and the architecture of your home.

Then we present the whole room or home design, along with the full project investment, at Step 6 – Design Presentation. When we go through the entire design and costs, you’ll see that line by line our selections are really reasonable. But once all of the pieces are added together, it very often is above the Target Investment. It’s a problem of the volume, or the number of items needed to complete the space.

By presenting the full design with all the costs, we provide our clients with ALL the information that they need to make rational and informed decisions. We walk our clients through the value decisions, helping you decide how and what to spend. Are you ready to tackle the full project and investment? Do we eliminate the steam shower? Paint instead of wallpaper? Do we separate the project into phases? We create the dream home, and then guide our clients to allocate their money in a smart, strategic way.

In some cases, we may have selected one or two items that are above the Comfort Level, but that really customize your design or add a perfect, unique touch. This shouldn’t be perceived as your designer going crazy with your checkbook, but instead your designer wanting to bring you the best, so you can live your best life in your home. Remember, that is what you hire a designer for – a design you couldn’t achieve on your own. We are doing our jobs by showing you amazing, unique products. We are never just trying to get you to overspend.


Is it possible to estimate a reasonable budget before I call a designer?

During a Home Design Review, I may walk clients through a Budget Planning Tool so we can establish a reasonable Target Investment. It is basically an excel spreadsheet that my clients and I fill out together. We review the room and list all the products, finishes, fixtures and labor needed to complete each room along with the other costs. Very often the grand total is a shock to my clients, but then they see how quickly things add up to complete a room.
Because budgeting is so challenging, I’m offering my own worksheet as a free download.

Wondering how to plan your project budget?



If you are considering an interior design or decorating project, we hope that you found this information helpful. Please reach out to us and we will happily meet you to discuss your project in more detail. Book a Discover Call with me today.


For More information about working with an Interior Designer, check out our other informative articles.

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How to Get the Most From Your Interior Designer

5 Questions You Should Ask an Interior Designer Before You Hire

When Something Goes Wrong on a Project