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5 Great Reasons to Tell Your Designer How Much You Really Have to Spend

 Design by Sabrina Alfin Interiors; Photo by Dean J. Birinyi Photography, all rights reserved.

Design by Sabrina Alfin Interiors; Photo by Dean J. Birinyi Photography, all rights reserved.

It's an age-old problem:  clients are reluctant to tell designers their actual available resources for a project because they think designers will spend it all and more, and designers get frustrated when they design concepts for champagne spaces when the client really only has a beer budget.  Here are five reasons why clients should be truthful and transparent about their budget:

1. Clients will actually save money in consulting/design fees in the long run.
Here's the deal:  when you don't share what you really want to spend upfront, designers will make design assumptions in the concepting phase that can have a significant impact on the cost of materials and construction.  If you select an idea based on incorrect budgeting assumptions and come to find out later that concept will cost a good deal more than you wanted to spend, the designer will have to go back to the drawing board.  And that means that money you could have spent on materials and finishes will now be spent on re-design time.  Ouch.

2. S/he will be in a better position to know where to splurge and where to conserve, based on the cost of the entire project.
Few people approach designers with a "money is no object" mandate.  (And if those clients are out there, please call me!)  :-)  The key for designers is to make every project look like a million bucks even if the client has a fraction of that amount to spend. Our method is to find a "star feature" that really dresses up the space.  In a kitchen, it might be bespoke cabinetry.  In a bedroom, it could be a fabulous custom upholstered bed. When you splurge on the star feature, you can then find harmonious "supporting actors" that are far more budget-friendly.

3. Your designer's trade relationships can often be leveraged for better deals.
Let's say your living room furniture selections are coming in over budget by a small percentage, but you've fallen in love with everything the designer has proposed.  If your designer has a good relationship with her vendors, sometimes she can call in a favor or two to see if they might be willing to negotiate.  

4. Sharing real numbers builds trust.
And that really is the bottom line, isn't it? When you trust your designer to act in your best interests instead of assuming her recommendations are self-serving, it's far easier to conduct business and have what can sometimes be difficult conversations.

5. Money misunderstandings can be a major contributing factor to a bad experience.
As in a marriage, both parties need to feel comfortable that they are benefiting from the relationship.  Which is why it's important to truly understand the contract the designer is asking you to sign and the process for how your money will be spent. It's also important to understand time charges and what items are in (and out) of scope.

Finally, it's a good rule of thumb to understand that stuff happens on even the best-planned projects:  finding unanticipated problems lurking behind newly demolished walls, a seemingly never-ending inclement weather pattern that keeps the contractor from installing those windows, or a worker strike at the furniture factory that puts your order behind by several weeks.  Make sure you account for budget contingencies and also build in a few more weeks to the finish date.  Projects that are completed exactly on time are the exception, not the rule.  By managing your expectations, the little surprises along the way won't stress you out.

 



 

Sabrina Alfin