HOW much?

I would like to start with two examples…on of regret and a second of trying to put one over on a client:
I received a call not long ago from a woman that said she had reached out to me, for help designing a new construction home here in Kansas City, over 12 years ago!  You know what she told me?  She said that she had she wanted me to help her 12 years ago (based on my experience, personality, professionalism and portfolio), but went with another designer to save a little money in the large scope of building a home.  She said that was one of the biggest mistakes she ever made!  The designer she had chosen had created a house that was the designer’s style, not hers.  The client had felt pressured by the designer uncomfortably throughout the process, she spent way too much money and then the worst news of all…the client then hated the house (or strongly disliked it I am guessing) from the day they moved in!  FOR 12 YEARS she lived like that!  That was the wrong designer!  She knew who she wanted, but went with a less expensive person to save a few dollars.  That ended up being a very, very expensive mistake. 

There is a vendor in town that came up with a “percentage” of how much to allow for your interior furnishings and details for a full home. A past client was the one that shared this with me. The vendor said people should expect to pay “one forth to one half of the cost of the home.” I would like to ask, how can that retail store judge that? That seems crazy to me. It is an uneducated guess and I think THAT is the crazy part. Watch out for uneducated guessers. If they don’t have your blueprints or floor layouts in hand and know your expectations of quality before they give you an estimate, how can they know a dollar figure? If they answer without serious thought and real numbers and plans, steer clear. That may be your whole experience with them.

My tips:

Be realistic.  Time is money. Take your own time into account. If you think it won’t take too much time and you should do it yourself, make a list of all of the items you will need to select. Now make a generous guess of how long it will take you to do each item. Now triple it. Seriously…I have done it a hundred times. Just picking the item is 1/3 the work you will need to dedicate to it that was the “easier” part. I hope it was the right decision… 
Think of the repercussion if you don’t like the final outcome. Period. 
Don’t build or remodel and then fill your home or office with marginal furnishings.  Would you put a Yugo engine in a Ferrari frame?  Why not?  It’s an engine, right?  Furnishings are what you USE and TOUCH every day.  They are just as important (if not more important) than the structure, so allow a realistic budget for those with the structure.
Walk through a home and/or look at photos together to discuss the level of quality you expect.  By having an idea of the level of finish you are wanting and some general costs, you can start to have a realistic feel of what you can expect your project to cost. 
Share your budgets with your designer so they can help you determine if they are spot on.  A designer with enough experience can help you nip any issues in the bud and won’t be a “guesser”, which is priceless.
Do it right and make it gorgeous!

Jill Tran

Co-owner and lead interior designer at Tran + Thomas Design Studio in Kansas City

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