Design Budgeting 101: What does it REALLY cost to furnish a room?
Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Your budget ... It's the single most important factor in any designer/client relationship, yet seems to be the most elusive and uncomfortable to talk about. At Tiger Oak Designs, transparency is key, so today I am going to break it all down so that you can feel confident about your budget and avoid unmet expectations. The truth is, most people have never furnished an entire room from scratch before, and when a designer gives them an estimate, it's easy to see how heads could explode. I have taken the time to line item each piece so that it is easier to see how you get to the grand total.
A few things to consider before we dive in:
These budgets are meant to be a guide - not a hard and fast rule. Clients tend to exceed their budgets when picking out furnishings, so I purposefully budgeted each item at the higher end of the spectrum to account for that. These numbers are variable and there are plenty of options in between.
There are two price ranges for each budget: mid-range and high-end. Mid-range would be your Pottery Barn-type pieces, whereas high-end would be trade-only, custom items. Of course, with both sets, there are places where you could (and should) splurge, and places where you can get by with something more affordable, in order to get the most bang for your buck.
When designing a room, there are usually one or two "hero" pieces, and the rest are all supporting cast. These are the big showstopper items: a large piece of artwork, a rug, a sofa ... but there can only be one or two. Deciding on your hero(es) early on will help guide you on where to invest and where you can pull back.
These budgets are for furnishings ONLY and do not factor in any design fees, labor or renovation costs. If your project will include tearing out walls and laying new flooring, you should be prepared to increase your budget accordingly.
Last but certainly not least, you need to have a realistic set of expectations:
THE LIVING ROOM
Due to its size and function, the living room typically contains the most furniture. When thinking about your budget, the two items you should invest in are the sofa and the rug. The rug grounds the entire space, and is often the first item I select when designing a living room. A rug sets the tone for the room, adding personality, texture and pattern. It can be thought of as the biggest piece of artwork in the room, so it's not an item I suggest skimping on. Second is the sofa, for reasons that should be obvious: the sofa is the workhorse of the room. You sit on it every day! A less obvious reason for spending good money on your sofa is that you will want to invest in a high quality performance fabric, especially if you have kids. Crypton is my favorite performance fabric because of its ability to bead liquid and its stain resistance. It is also one of the few fabric on the market with antimicrobial properties, odor resistance (do you have pets?), and it is very durable. Performance fabric isn't cheap, but it is worth every.single.penny, and a quality sofa will last you a decade, or more! If draperies aren't needed to be the hero of the room, they are a great area to save on if your budget is tight. Almost any room can look chic with a simple neutral linen, hung extra high. Accessories and mirrors can be purchased at a discount store like Home Goods, and you can often fine a decent floor lamp at a big box retailer. However, table lamps should always be purchased from a reputable lighting source. I would recommend a height of 30" or more for most table lamps, and you aren't likely to find that sizing in a traditional retail store. Remember, these budgets are guidelines, and a 200 square foot living room is going to require less furniture to feel finished than a 500 square foot room will.
THE DINING ROOM
The formal dining room seems to be going out of style lately, and I believe that's just because people don't have the right dining space. Since a dining room is often enclosed by four walls, and not opened directly into the rest of the home, this is the perfect space to create a really moody atmosphere. When you have a dining room that makes a bold statement, you're going to want to eat in there, even if it's just for take-out! The dining table and chairs are the biggest pieces you're going to have in a dining room, but here's a little secret - you will only ever see the TOP of the dining table, never the base. I know it's hard to resist a table with a killer base, but the fact of the matter is that no one sees it. What they will see is the profile of your chairs, and you will need a lot of them, so that is where the bulk of your investment should be focused. The chandelier would be my next focus, because it's kind of the nucleus of the room. You want something opinionated and always bigger than you think, so this also isn't somewhere you should skimp. Wallpaper and draperies are also a great way to infuse personality into the dining room, and are available in a wide range of price points. A buffet or sideboard is necessary to host lamps as well as a great dessert spread, and to anchor artwork. It should be sturdy and well-made, but if you have other focal points in the room, this is a place where you can chose a more simple and affordable piece over something big and bold.
The bedroom is a room that is often over-looked simply because it's not a guest-facing room. But self-care is not selfish, and I believe that investing in the place where you begin and end your days will make all the difference in the world to how you feel and function. The bedroom has only one hero piece, the bed, so make it a great one! Regardless of if you prefer upholstered or wood, it should be well-crafted and beautiful. Clients often feel like they may not be able to fit a large bed in a small bedroom, but I disagree - a large bed, even in a small space, makes the room feel bigger and more inviting. In addition to the look and feel of the bed, the mattress is definitely not a place where you cut corners. Most people invest in a mattress once every 15 years, and you should expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 on a high quality mattress. Over 15 years, a $5,000 mattress only costs you 91 cents a night. If you have the room, a bench at the foot of the bed should definitely be included, and if you have a true primary suite, a small sitting area with a chaise lounge, table and a soft rug is such a luxurious addition. I never suggest purchasing a complete bedroom suite from a big box retailer, so your nightstands can be a place where you save or splurge. Many clients think a rug under the bed is an unnecessary purchase, but without one, the room feels unfinished. Adding a rug (yes, even on top of carpet) helps anchor the bed in the room and gives it a more polished edge. If you are lucky enough to be blessed with a large closet, you may not need a large dresser, and can instead go with a smaller chest.
The belief at Tiger Oak Designs is that in order to set expectations and create a room that you will love for years to come, the budget needs to be well thought out - regardless of its size. I understand that budgets can be a point of contention between significant others, and it is my hope that these guides will serve you well as you embark on your next project, and that you may do so with confidence. If you are interested in learning more about the services offered at Tiger Oak Designs, visit the design services page here!
xx - Natalie
"When your home shows up well for you, you can show up well for others"