Determining the Design Project Budget

Filed under Budgeting, Clients

Determining the Design Project Budget

What is the most frequently asked question on any design project? That’s easy! “What is your budget?”

Guess what? At the onset of ANY project, whether interior design and furnishing or remodel, no one knows. You can give an estimate for a high-end kitchen remodel or a new build, but as you know, the actual number varies widely because of finish selections.

In the beginning, a client usually doesn’t exactly know what they want – the designer doesn’t know at all what the client wants.

So how do you determine a budget? Does the client make it up or does the designer? Neither party wants to start a project until they know the budget.

The only way to determine the budget is by asking questions, lots of questions. This will help both parties determine of Scope of Work, as well as your Client Proposal. Also, both parties must understand that the budget is just that- a budget. Final pricing depends on finishes, fabric selections, etc. This is often the cause for the discrepancy between budget and actual numbers.

There are also other reasons for budget fluctuation:

  • Your client changes their mind
  • Your timeline gets extended (time=money!)
  • Selections may not be available during your timeframe
  • Selections are damaged
  • Unknown pre-existing problems are unearthed

You get the point!

Remodeled living room and fireplace

What kind of questions should you ask? No matter what the project, the questions land in two different areas, Lifestyle and Design. Oh, and don’t worry, Return on Interiors has extensive questionnaires created for all different types of projects! Examples of questions are mentioned below.

Client Questionnaire

  • Lifestyle
    • Why do you want to (what is your purpose for?)… remodel the kitchen, redo the living room, add on to your home?
    • How do you live in the space?
    • Who lives in the space?
    • Who would you like to live in the space?
    • How would you like to live and function in the space?
    • How often will you be living at the house?
    • Will you be entertaining in the space?
    • Do you have special tech needs?
    • Examine the existing space and determine what the client likes about a space?
    • What do they not like about the space?
    • Will you live here for the next 10 years or are you planning on selling the home?
    • Do you prefer to invest in quality products?
  • Design
    • What enhancements are you considering?
    • What existing items should be incorporated in the design?
    • Do you want to a prettier space? A more functional space? A more organized space?
    • Is there a style that you are looking to achieve?
    • What quality finishes do you like?
    • What is your favorite room in your house? Why?

Scope of Work and Client Proposal

Based on the questions you ask, you can put together a Scope of Work and Client Proposal. Remember, your client isn’t working with you to select IKEA furnishings. They are working with you to design a space (room, rooms, kitchen, bathroom, new home.) If it was easy, they would have done it themselves!

So, your scope of work should include a design fee and a price range for furnishings. Why a range? Well, each room design is a balance of:

  • Price
  • Quality
  • Time frame
  • Project location
  • Customization
  • Finish/fabric

I give my clients a list of items they will probably need and a range of prices. Some designers do a low-medium-high (economy-business class-first class) based on square foot. Others use programs like Studio Webware to put in actual items needed by room with low and high price ranges. I have done a little bit of everything, myself.

To help you determine the budget, scope of work and client proposal, you may already have questionnaires that you use with your clients. However, Return on Interiors, provides in depth questionnaires for all different types of projects from design to remodels. In addition, you get budget worksheets, that I use for general budgeting. I also give a budget worksheet to the client, so they feel in control of their budget.

Return on Interiors


Click Here to Download the ROI® Design Budget Worksheet

Obviously, some clients are Excel savvy and go to town, but this worksheet, where you can add and subtract items is helps everyone easily keep on track.  To help with your design budgeting, please download the Budget Worksheet! You can grab that here.

If you have any other ways to determine your budget, please share them!!



PS. Don’t forget to grab the download!