City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Featured Image

Featured Article

Home Decorating on a Budget


Article by Donna Hoffman

Photography by Peter Rymwid Architectural Photography

Do interior designers really think about decorating on any sort of budget? 

Do high end designers like me even know about the b-word? 

Let us define our terms. When I say decorating on a budget, you hear one thing, I hear another, depending upon who I am talking to.  

When I speak with clients about designing their home, part of that discussion always addresses their total project size (known as their scope) – and – their total budget.  

All humans have a budget. Period. Whether it contains the words millions, thousands, or hundreds in the sentence is the real consideration.  

Rule #1 in design; Honor the budget. Yes. Even clients who have budgets in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars want just as much budget respect shown as those clients show have a budget in the tens of thousands of dollars.  

Money is money. It likes to be used well and respected.  

Now, by virtue of this post, you may have clicked on it to read this to see if “budget” means low cost. 

In truth, the word “budget” means different things to different people. 

In the world where I practice design, budget is a resource to be respectfully managed and controlled. 

In the DIY machine world, budget usually means lowest cost. 

So, ok girlfriend. Let us roll up our sleeves and look at Decorating on A Budget, meaning lowest cost. Here are great strategies and style hacks.  

Tip #1

Have a total budget set. And rather than using a fixed number, pick a range. It will be easier to work with that way. Example: $5,000 to redo my living room becomes $3,500 -$4,500 to redo my living room. That gives you some budget elasticity.  

Never ever proceed with a, “I don’t even know my budget”. Yes, you do. You at least know your “comfort range” so start there.  

Tip #2

Create a total purchasing list, line by line and assign budget values to each line. This will increase your monetary control. It allows you to see how you are doing as you shop. Do I use a line item budget as a designer, even if I’m working with a very large budget that has a lot of “wiggle room” in it? You bet your cute bottom I do.  

There is no amount of money you could pay me in a design fee to design any project without my doing a forecasted line-item budget. I don’t care the total size of the budget. The budget itself determines everything that can and cannot happen in any project. Equally, it clearly points the way to where you do and do not shop. (What we call “sourcing.”)  

Tip #3

Get the emotion out of your budget. Budget is just a thing, like a paint color or fabric swatch. Don’t judge your budget and you’ll be clear headed and ahead of the game when going through the process. 

Tip #4 

Trading up in cost on the most important item in the room will pay big dividends. Splurge on the dining room table and cut back on the chairs. You don’t have to go highest cost, within your total budget range, on everything.   

Tip #5 

Lean heavily on lower cost items to give you the big splash you’re looking for. These include light fixtures & lamps, wall color (hello, accent wall or ceiling?), accessories (tabletop, wall art and pillows if applicable). This will free up some “spend” for your larger items.  

Tip #6  

Be willing to phase your project if, due to budget, you simply cannot get everything done now…but…here’s the million dollar tip:  

Plan it all now ‘as if’ it is all going to be done now.  

This way, you can wisely select which items you’ll move ahead with now. This will give you the comfort in knowing that you’re aiming in a single direction so that when you can buy more in a year’s time, even if an exact item is no longer available, you’ll already know the concept you’re working in and find replacement “like items”. 

So, the answer is yes, you can design on a budget.  

But it requires dispassionate and strategic thinking. And if it is of any consolation, take heart knowing that everyone has a budget. Even at the luxury end. 

Go get ‘em girlfriend!