Whether you are looking for one foundation piece, redecorating a single room, or furnishing a house, one of the most challenging aspects of any interior design project is figuring out how to manage your budget. A design plan built using self-knowledge and a realistic view of your space and lifestyle, not the opinions of others or the latest trends, will help you make informed choices about how to design your home (and save you from costly mistakes in the process).
Determine Wants Versus Needs
Before buying anything or even setting a budget, create a master list that includes what you already own. (You can determine later whether your existing items need to be modified, replaced, or decluttered.)
Next, separate your list into specific rooms/areas and then into needs and wants for each. Your needs list should contain everything you think is essential to the room, ranked from top to bottom in order of importance.
Now determine your wants and needs for each item. You might decide, for example, that you need a low-profile sectional sofa that seats six in a dark, easy-to-maintain fabric. That will give you a clear starting point and a set of parameters in your search for a couch.
Define Your Priorities
Take some time to evaluate and prioritize your list to figure out how best to allocate resources and avoid unwise spending. You might want to start by decorating the room that you spend the most time in before moving on to give yourself a sense of accomplishment and confidence.
If you are tackling your bedroom, your list will probably include a bed. Do you already have a mattress and a box spring? A bed frame or a headboard? A bedside table or two? Bedside lighting? Linens? Blinds or draperies for the window? A rug? An alarm clock? Adequate storage? Do you need/want all of the above? Is there something else that would make your bedroom comfortable for you or your partner, such as a sheepskin throw to keep your toes warm when getting out of bed, a dimmer for your reading light, or a ceiling mural to greet you when you open your eyes? Figure out what is essential, what would increase your quality of life, and what would push it over the top to make it your ultimate fantasy bedroom.
Manage Your Expectations
Once you determine your needs, jot down an estimate of how much each item will cost with the aid of a quick Internet search. Making a preliminary budget will help you come to terms with how much your design plan is likely to cost so you can make compromises and avoid running out of money before you’ve achieved a satisfying result. If you determine you don’t have enough set aside for the ideal bedroom now, figure out how you can get the most for your money in the short term while you save up for future purchases.
Buy Foundation Pieces First
We are creatures of impulse, and sometimes it’s just more fun to buy art or throw pillows than to spend time figuring out what kind of mattress and box spring will be best in the long term. But, when investing in pieces for your home, you should make sure you have the essentials before you start to accessorize. Remember, being disciplined almost always pays off in the end.
Just as cars start losing their value the moment you drive them off the lot, some of your most expensive purchases, such as beds and couches, endure the most wear and tear and rarely hold their value. The best way to determine how much to spend on items is by having a sense of how long you plan to keep them and factoring in how these big-ticket items will enhance your daily quality of life.
How to Calculate Design Risks
Design has become so disposable in recent years that people choose to make do with a lesser product, only to find themselves replacing it every few years. If you are living in a rental apartment with a one-year lease and are contemplating a cross-country move once it ends, it might not be the time to invest in much of anything. But if there is a good chance you'll be in the same place for the next five years, you may choose to invest in well-made essentials rather than frittering away your budget on lots of cheap stuff.
If you are a homeowner or are otherwise feeling settled, consider investing in design classics and antiques that will either last a lifetime or hold enough value that you can recoup a portion of your investment when reselling them later. (Keep your spending in check by remembering that you'll likely not get 100 percent of your money back on any purchase.)
Leave Room for Surprises
When making your budget, be sure to keep a little mad money on reserve for those unplanned purchases that turn your house into a home. If you’ve been thoughtful about your budget, you can give yourself permission to splurge on a piece of art, a decorative item, or anything else that serendipity brings once you’ve got the basics accounted for and in place.