Fran and Dave LRThe budget is such an important part of decorating, yet often it’s the one thing no one wants to discuss. People can fear giving an exact number, but that number will set you free. Thinking about a realistic budget at the beginning of a project lets you know what you are getting into, And it saves time (which equals money). Remember: Decorators need the restraint of a budget or we will waste time (which equals money) shopping for things that are unrealistic to your needs.


How much is your style going to cost? Let’s say you want to redo your living room. You picked up some good design magazines to see what you vibe to. But now you have to deal with the fact that what you like has maybe $50,000 worth of custom furnishings, and most likely another $25,00o worth of labor, installation and design fees. Do you have $75,000? If so, give me a call to set up an appointment.

If not, let’s break it down: You want to redo your living room. Let’s say you have $20,000, which is still a great deal of money and a substantial investment. The first thing I would suggest is that you split the amount in HALF. Half will be allocated for furnishings (plus tax, delivery charges, and tipping delivery people on all that furniture). The other half will be budgeted for all the work and labor that is going to be needed (painters/ installers/ decorator’s fee/ etc). 

cal's room before 1In terms of the labor, painters are going to charge you, say, $1,500 to paint an average size living room. But don’t forget you have to buy the paint (and the paint supplies) so let’s round it up to $2,000. Then, drapes and drapery rods need to be hung by someone. That “someone” will charge you at least $65 an hour. I always suggest rounding up to be safe, so three hours at $65 is about $200. Are you having some  built-in shelves installed? $2000. Also, who is installing the light fixtures and replacing all the light switches with dimmers? Exactly. Add another $300. Finally, your decorator, who has organized everything, shopped for and picked everything and most importantly, creatively designed and conceived everything will charge either a percentage of all the purchases, a flat fee, or use an hourly rate (that includes the time spent emailing you new options for that couch you said you liked but now want something different). A good decorator could cost anywhere from $2,500 to maybe $10,000, depending on who you hire. 

Let’s say you spend $5,000 on having a decorator help you create the living space of your dreams. You’ll have around $500 left from the twenty grand that can go to wherever is needed. The idea here is to set your budget, round up for inevitable issues that arise, and hopefully you will come out ahead, or at least with a little money left in the budget to put towards that something special that you can’t stop dreaming about.

Soho one bedroom Alecholland.com This brings up two issues and options.

1. You need to accept that decorating your living room the way you want might cost more than what you anticipated, and you must reach deeper into your pockets. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I believe fully that living in a space that is inviting and comfortable and puts a smile on your face every time you walk through your front door is crucial for a good life. So spending what you do have available (NOT WHAT YOU DON’T) to create this is a life necessity of sorts. But beautiful things can cost. That said, the luxury of say, a stunning Fortuny lamp like in the space above,  can bring a lifetime of style and comfort that can also become a cherished heirloom. Weigh the odds. 

rug vs rug2. If and when the money isn’t in the bank, you and your decorator must get creative. Can you paint the room yourself? Is there a $300 rug at West Elm (above, right) that would work just as well as the stunning $2,500 Madeline Weinrib rug you’ve had your eye on (above, left)? would some simple wood slat blinds be a different but stylish alternative to the $5,000 silk drapes you originally had invisioned? Are you willing to get a bargain with a floor sample?  There is ALWAYS a solution. 

Bottom line: Being realistic about what you want to spend and what you have to spend is the first step always. Always. Xo.

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