There is a fairytale scenario where your interior design project comes in well under budget, super fast…. and is of amazing quality. Now as much as I love a good fairytale, I have to tell you that without some major alignment of constellations and a whole lot of luck, this one doesn’t have a happy ever after.
So let’s taker a closer look at these three elements of a design project.
It is true that if you throw enough money at an interior design project, you can have pretty much anything you want (whether you should want it is a subject for a different blog post.) It is also true that great design can be achieved whilst spending very little. There’s no ‘right’ amount to spend when it comes to interiors, it’s all a blend of your budget, the property itself and the costs of labour, materials and and the products you buy.
I believe everyone who undertakes an interiors project should start with an explicit budget - no matter how small or how generous. It’s up to you who you trust with that information. As an interior designer I ask clients to disclose their overall budget to me, so I can give realistic advice on where to spend and where to save.
No one wants an interiors project to last for ever. No matter how friendly you’ve become with your contractors, there comes a time when you’re ready to have your home back - and the more noise, mess or disruption involved the truer this becomes.
Always allow more time than quoted for anything that involves building work or disturbing existing surfaces. A theoretically simple process like removing wallpaper to redecorate could be straightforward if it’s a modern wallpaper and peels off easily. It could take more time if the paper is very well stuck down. And if you live in an older property and you’re unlucky, it might reveal layers of old paper or paint or a damaged wall surface underneath that needs re plastering. (Look out for this last one in older houses - there’s often a reason that textured wallpaper was put up in the first place.)
The more complex the project and the greater the number of trades involved, the greater the potential of a knock-on effect when any one task takes longer than expected. If keeping the project moving is important to you and you don’t have the time or expertise to manage it yourself, this is where having a good project manager will be really useful.
Have you ever bought something and later wished you’d upped the spec - gone for the better model? Or bought something and later wondered why you paid for so many extra features that had seemed essential but you just don’t use?
Quality in interiors depends on the item. If it’s a functional item such as a cooker or a shower quality is determined by its functions and ease of use as well as aesthetics. Your joy in the look of a product may soon wear thin if it fails to perform or breaks easily (I’m thinking of you, retro fridge we had to replace!)
In some products such as sofas and beds, quality is about comfort and longevity as well as how they look. Expect to wait 8 to 10 weeks, or longer, for many larger items of furniture. Take time to research and test anything you’re going to sit on or sleep in before you buy. No matter how good a sofa or bed looks that won’t make up for a bad back, sore neck or poor quality sleep.
Quality can be very subjective too - especially when it comes to items like artwork or a sound system.
Which of the three is most important to you? Which comes second?
If your top priority is getting the project done to a tight budget
- Allow plenty of extra time to shop for bargains, negotiate prices and do what you can yourself.
- Spend money on things that require skills you don’t have - such as electrics or plumbing. Electrical work should always be done by a qualified professional for safety reasons.
- You don’t have to go for the same quality in everything. Work out where quality has the biggest impact. So for example in a bedroom makeover, the quality of your bed will have a big impact on how well you sleep. So might the curtains - thin curtains may save money but leave you waking earlier than you'd like. An item like a bedside table or occasional chair however could be a sale bargain or reused from elsewhere.
If your top priority is speed
- Limit the scope of what you do.
- Be prepared to spend more.
- But be aware that no matter how well you pay, pushing contractors to work too quickly will probably end in disappointment and frustration (yours and theirs).
If quality is most important to you.
- Allow plenty of time and then add on some extra.
- Work out a budget you can afford but allow ‘wiggle room’.
- Work out your luxuries / necessities - unless you have a very high budget prioritise the items where the finish / spec is most important to you.
- Take time to visit show rooms, test products and view samples.
What would I compromise on?
Speed, almost every time. You’ll soon forget the extra two weeks it took. But you’ll probably feel the impact of ‘blowing the budget’ or compromising on the quality of important items for a lot longer.
If you need help I offer a Design Coach service, charged by the hour, so you pay for as much or as little help as you need.