4 Steps To Develop A Design Budget For Your Home – A Resource Blog

Contemporary modern living room with Eames lounge chair and white marble stone fireplace wall
Contemporary modern living room with warm neutral tones and a laid back luxurious feel

Developing an interior design budget on your own requires a bit of work, especially if it is your first time. There is so much planning that goes into each project that can rival a wedding such as products, labour, shipping, taxes and more. It is essential that you put a game plan together with careful planning and budgeting to avoid unexpected costs that can add up quickly and will help keep your project on track.

A well thought-out budget is critical to a successful design project and we have prepared this article to help you develop your budget similar to how we approach it with our own clients. This process will give you a thorough understanding and a good foundation for doing the project on your own — or coming prepared to work with us at Level Studio! The best place to start your interior design project is by researching and gathering as much information as you can. This exercise will help you better position yourself financially and help visualize and communicate your desired outcome.

1. Define Your Scope of Work

You have to come up with the final vision in mind. What will the big picture look like? Before you start opening your walls or ripping out your kitchen, you must gather your WANTS and NEEDS list to develop a plan and then research what is involved. For example, do you want to retile your bathroom or foyer floor?

Look up what kind of material will work best with moisture or in high-traffic areas, Understanding variables is also part of the process. A well-suited material for one room can be the complete opposite for another.

2. Develop a Vision, Measure Twice & Plan

After you figure out the rooms you want to do, you’ll need to create a concept and plan to iron out the details. We recommend measuring your room, including any existing furniture to remain, windows, doors, and anything necessary to your space.

Then you need to determine the scope. Are you renovating the kitchen but leaving furniture for another time? Did you just move into your new pre-construction home and only need new furniture? Or is it a full-scale reno with new furniture?

From our experience, most clients underestimate the cost of the renovation and the money they had allocated for new furniture gets buried in unforeseen issues during construction. Another common issue is most people have never added up all the pieces of furniture that go into a room because they usually buy them at different times and have unrealistic expectations of what a room will cost to furnish.

A quick exercise for furniture and decor is to make a list of all the furniture pieces in a room such as a living room and put a rough number beside each piece that you would be comfortable spending money on. Add it all up and then cross-reference it with some of your favourite stores to see what the pieces you gravitate towards are going for. It’s an eye-opening exercise and we give you the tools to do it at the end of this article.

Start your process by using Pinterest, Instagram, or Houzz to collect and save the inspiring photos you gravitate towards, even if you like an image and do not know why SAVE IT! As you start accumulating inspiration you will see a relationship between some of the photos you saved and pinned. This will be your go-to as these inspirational photos will help you connect the dots for your furniture layout and plan. 

Ask yourself, are you into the neutrals, or do you like high contrast, bold spaces? Are you considering built-in walls or shelving units, or ready-made pieces? Do you want a sectional sofa to enjoy while watching TV or a loveseat with lounge chairs across to create a social-like atmosphere? Do you want the space to be open or partitioned for better acoustics and functionality?

The list goes on, and having asked yourself these questions will give a better vision and plan of how you want your space to look. These questions are essential and need to be asked as they WILL all be factored into the budget. For example, to get an open concept look on the main floor of an older home, it will most likely require the inclusion of a large beam to support the floor above as you are probably taking down a load-bearing wall. Ask around what is involved to do that and the costs associated with it.

Have you heard of Measure Twice, Cut Once? The same rules apply when developing a plan and vision for your new design space. Suppose you have trouble understanding scale and size. In that case, we recommend pulling the old fashion painter’s tape and mapping out the furniture pieces you want. If you have dining chairs or stools, make sure to give an extra 36” inches of space to pull out. After you have planned most of the furniture, pretend you’re living in it and imagine how you will walk through it regularly. Will you have space to walk through even with your hands full of groceries or a tray of food?

Once you have everything figured out, go ahead and measure each piece and make a note. Keep these measurements on standby as they will be critical when you’re searching for your furniture in Step 5.

3. The ‘Pick 2 of 3’ Rule

Diagram of 2 of 3 Budgeting

In most cases, you can ONLY pick 2 of 3.

Do you want GOOD QUALITY with FAST Delivery then it will more likely be EXPENSIVE.
Do you want CHEAP cost with FAST Delivery, then it will more likely be POOR IN QUALITY.
Do you want GOOD QUALITY with the CHEAP cost, then it will more likely be a SLOW Delivery.

4. Create A List of Needs & Products

Finally, here comes the fun part. We went ahead and created a FREE DOWNLOADABLE spreadsheet template where you can now input your researched furniture. Since we’ve done this many times, we thought this would be helpful to document and make your journey a little smoother. If you’re a traditional kind of person, you can also do this by hand. The formula is quite simple.

You can use Google to research product prices. Search up the local retail furniture stores that you are most attracted to and browse their catalogue. Do keep in mind that cheaper furniture may require more time or extra costs to assemble.

You can identify basic things based on your design concepts/inspiration such as your choice of sofa and whether it’s leather, fabric, linen/cotton, synthetic fabric, or faux leather. The power to envision your design concept and make a game plan is crucial as fabric choices alone will significantly impact your budget.

Google Spreadsheet How To Budget

On our Google Spreadsheet, you’ll see your columns: Item, Dimensions, Quantity, Budget, Subtotal, and Notes. The orange rows separate the Rooms. You can duplicate these rows and continue to list your furniture items. Update dimensions, quantity, and the price per item, and once you input these numbers your subtotal will automatically update itself.

Note* We left a 10% contingency with your budgeting for any unforeseen circumstances, delivery charges, installation charges etc. This amount is a safe cushion, especially when you are developing a budget for your design project.

We also left an average sum of 15% for accessories that are vital to your budget. The typical estimate is 10-20% depending on your taste. Accessories will also make a notable dent in your pocket and you should actively include them. So go ahead, look at the artwork, coffee table decorations, bookends, down-filled cushions, books, centerpieces, floral arrangements, and even candles/fragrances and list them down!

That’s it! You’ll start seeing how things can tally up quickly. We hope this proved to be helpful to your budgeting process.

Our Advice to You:

This is a marathon, not a sprint, and it will take a lot longer than you think. Take it one room at a time and limit your scope instead of trying to do everything at once. Interior projects have many components that can be overlooked if you are redesigning for the first time. If you cannot financially support your entire scope, save the kitchen for next year and take on a smaller room now. It is easy to be in the mood to refresh everything with so much inspiration and motivation from T.V, Instagram, and Influencers but don’t bite off more than you can chew.

At Level Studio, we are a full-service interior design firm that provides our clients with exceptional service, taking your project from start to finish to create unique, functional interiors. We understand taking on any interior design project can be extremely overwhelming and if you have an upcoming interior design project where you value time and expertise in the industry, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!