Follower Q & A
I reached out to my friends, family and followers recently to ask them if they had any questions for me in regard to Interior Design. I got so many great questions! I’m excited to share those questions here with you, and give answers to them. Maybe this will be an annual occurrence! I have always loved Q & A’s in magazines and newspapers. So, without further ado….here goes!
Q: What are the typical budget ranges for primary rooms? (Decorating and furnishing, NOT remodeling.)
A: As you can imagine, every client is on a different budget. Project planning is important to me so that I can fully inform the client at the initial consultation what actual costs could end up being. When hiring a designer, there are two main types of costs: 1) designer fees to pay the designer for her work and 2) product cost. This answer is only in response to product cost. I will also say that this is the reason I always advocate for a client purchasing a home that falls well under their approved financing amount. It costs a LOT to properly furnish a home. And the bigger the home, the worse that is! So many Americans live in a way that I call “House Poor.” Big house, nice cars, IKEA furniture inside with half empty rooms.
Living Rooms can range from $12K-$50K. Budget Friendly designs range would be $12K-$26K. Mid to Higher End designs would range from $26K-$50K.
Childrens’ Bedrooms can range from $3500-$9K. Budget Friendly designs range would be $3K to $5K. Mid to Higher End designs would range from $5K-$9K.
Kitchen Breakfasts can range from $6K-$30K. Budget Friendly designs range would be $6K-$14K. Mid to Higher End designs would range from $14K-$30K.
Formal Dining Rooms can range from $6K-$25K. Budget Friendly designs range would be $6K-$14K. Mid to Higher End designs would range from $14K-$25K.
Master Bedrooms can range from $10K-$40K. Budget Friendly designs range would be $10K-$21K. Mid to Higher End designs would range from $21K-$40K.
Q: When doing a whole house with many rooms, how do you keep organized?
A: Every client goes through the same intake process and file setup. If I don’t stick to procedure, then the ball gets dropped. I am a creature of habit, and I organize every single project the same way. Smaller projects with just a couple rooms have a working manila folder type file with my notes, sketches and paperwork. Larger projects where I’m doing every room in the home get binders. I use white binders with divider pockets inside, with each binder clearly labeled by client name and year. I use my notes, my furniture layout drawings, and client input to formulate the needs for each room. I then make a checklist for each room; what needs to be hired out (built-ins, painting, etc.), how to treat windows, and what to buy for furniture. That checklist then gets put into a working excel document. Line by line, item by item, I source and work on one room at a time. When I complete one room, I then move on to the next. I always touch base with the client to let them know how far along I am in the design process. We chat along the way too, constantly revising the design based on their input. Eventually, the spreadsheet gets filled out as the design concept comes to fruition. For clients that have a hard time visualizing, I create mood boards showing how it all works together. For clients that can easily visualize, they often opt to not have me create a mood board, as it does cost extra. It is a lot of work! My job seems fun and easy to an outsider, but it’s actually quite complex, specialized, and detailed. See photos for an example of a whole home project binder. I’ve blurred the client names to protect their privacy.
Q: What do you recommend to your clients that want to change everything at once, but can’t because of their restricted budget?
A: You mean not everyone can have their cake and eat it too? Welcome to MY world. I don’t know about you, but I’m as middle-income as one can be. I was raised very middle-income and I still live that way. We have some nice things, but not everything in my home is designer brands or high end quality. Perfect example: Our sectional is from Costco, of all places. While my child and his cousins use it as a trampoline still, I will not be investing in high end furniture. I’m much more like my clients than they probably think I am! So when a client comes to be with big dreams and a small budget, we simply talk it out! I tell them to set priorities. Often times I advise saving up for the more expensive stuff first. Attack the larger ticket tasks first. Then save up again for the next thing. It’s all about prioritizing. There are some things that are worth investing in higher end pricing. Other items….not so much. So I have THEM set big idea goals, while I find a way to make the most of what they CAN afford by tweaking a) the order in which we get things done and b) how to allocate funds for spending in such a way that we accomplish as many goals as we can. I also advise phasing out remodels if they can’t afford a 3-room remodel all at one time. Remodel the rooms that are top priority first, then six months later, do the rest.
Q: How can a designer save a client money in the long run?
A: This answer is pretty direct and succinct. We know things you don’t. We are expertly trained on building codes, textile fire code, standard ergonomics, etc. A designer can save you from buying a sectional that takes up the entire living room. A designer can save you from making costly design errors that may take thousands to remedy. A designer has access to products and pricing that the general public doesn’t, and often times either passes that discount on to the client, or splits the discount with the client. Example: Client goes out alone and spends $15K to furnish their living room without using a designer. Client ends up with furniture that is too large or small for the room, and case good pieces that don’t coordinate well. They paid full retail price for furniture that isn’t cohesive. Not to mention, their windows are still naked and nothing coordinates fabric wise. WHEREAS in this next scenario, client hires a designer to furnish the same living room giving her a budget of $15K. $1.5K gets allocated to the designer for her fees, then the designer curates a room where everything fits perfectly, all fabrics are coordinated, and even the windows are treated in some manner. With designer discounts, client is not paying full retail for some key pieces in the room. Designer comes in under budget and room looks amazing.
Q: How do you establish budget for different projects?
A: Often it is the client driving the budget. I’m just there to tell them if it’s realistic or not. Also, renovation budgets are set more so by the contractor bid than anything else, so we often get those up front and then tweak the design up or down depending on how much the client can spend. I also let the clients know, especially if they ask, how much money it takes to complete a room’s furnishings and décor. Sometimes, their budget just won’t cut it! Even if I were to source from IKEA and Target for some clients, the budget still wouldn’t be enough. I have to be the bearer of bad news a LOT. Home and Garden television shows have set the general public up with expectations that they can easily afford to renovate and decorate, but the reality is….this isn’t TV.
Q: Are there rooms that should be prioritized for resale value?
A: Absolutely! I’d put highest priority on kitchens and master bathrooms, as these are the most expensive to renovate. And as far as furnishing and decorating, definitely focus on what I call the “First Impression Zone.” When you walk in the front door….everything visible at first glance should be properly furnished and decorated. Bedrooms and secondary hangout spaces definitely could take a back seat here.
Q: What changes make the biggest impact on the usability (functionality) of a home?
A: In my opinion there are two main ways to increase a home’s functionability. Make sure the kitchen layout is ideal, with mostly everything you’d need to prepare a meal close at hand. You don’t want the trash can 20 steps away from where you chop vegetables. Also, any storage spaces and built-ins in the home should be modified to create optimal usability by the client. If a hall closet is all shelves, but you need to hang off-season clothing there, then by all means, re-work the layout of that closet. If your media area in your family room was built in 1995 and the built-ins reflect that, it may be time to renovate the media wall of that room to fit more with the larger wall-hung televisions of today!
Q: Can you provide services to clients that don’t live near you? If so, how does that work?
A: I definitely serve clients outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex! I have past clients from all over! Houston, Harlingen, Australia, Florida, etc. Digital Design Services are becoming more and more popular, and I definitely have a section on my website that explains the various levels of services I offer to long-distance clients. Just look under the services tab, under Virtual Visionary. This e-design model relies more heavily on information given to us by the client, such as room dimensions, ceiling heights, window sizes, photos of the room in daylight and evening. The planning phase for this is all done over email. There’s a special packet I have my long-distance clients fill out and return to me. Once I have that, along with their budget, I get to work creating a space that is everything they dream it could be! I don’t often fly out to their homes for install days, so they are often executing the vision on their own or with a handyman. But I’m available via FaceTime or text or email should they encounter anything that they’d need my help with! Most designers today offer very similar services, and I’m proud I’m able to offer this to my clients.