Los Angeles celebrity interior designer Michelle Workman heads down South for a simpler life in Chattanooga, TN. Watch Michelle build her design business in a new setting and completely redesign her southern farmhouse, all while adjusting to the slower-paced life with her once city-dwelling family. New episodes of “Glamour Goes South” will air exclusively on Zillow Blog the first Thursday of every month.
My husband is notoriously tight with money. He is what they call a “professional buyer.” He wants facts and figures and will painstakingly compare pricing options so he knows exactly how much money to allocate to cover the costs. So why is it when I ask him how much we have to spend on a design project he always tells me “nothing” — and leaves it at that?
He is not the only one. Similar to my husband, I’ve had clients (most of them in fact) who have a hard time mapping out a budget. In my many years working as a designer, I’ve learned that people are either afraid that what they want to spend is too little — so out of embarrassment they won’t give a number — or they want to see what I think — and quite frankly, I’m not the right person to determine a family’s budget.
When working with a designer, your best course of action is to figure out what you CAN spend, and then what you WANT to spend. Give the designer the lower amount as a starting point with the caveat that with a well-considered design concept (spending where necessary and saving where possible) your designer has some movement in the budget.
In Los Angeles I would typically tell clients to spend about 20 percent of the purchase price of their home; however, because of inflated prices in L.A., I would recommend a higher percentage in other areas of the country. This budgeting tool will give you a starting point for both your designer and your family’s pocket book. Keep in mind that this type of budgeting works best for lighter renovation, such as new tile and counters in kitchen and bathrooms, new paint, refinished floors and updated furnishings.
Whether big or small you should always feel comfortable talking to your designer about your budget, and a good designer should be flexible and willing to work with what you have on hand. A few years ago I had a smart client in San Francisco who wanted me to give her a design that could be done over time so she could accommodate a larger budget. So, over several months as she could afford it, we swapped out paint, floors, art, accessories and furniture pieces so that after the course of a year her home was completely transformed at a pace that comfortably accommodated her budget. The design turned out beautiful, and she was more than happy!
This month, tune in to “Glamour Goes South” to watch firsthand as my husband and I start to embark on the budgeting phase of our farmhouse remodel — and boy can it be challenging! Need to catch up on the series? You can check out the first episode here.
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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.