Redesigning on a Budget: How to Create Divine on a Dime

by Shayna Smith
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A redesign of any space does not necessarily require a substantial budget. One of the things the present economic climate has taught us as designers is to think creatively and repurpose elements, and to be resourceful when it comes to selecting furnishings, elements and other improvements. For some clients money is not an object when it comes to creating a home style or updating an existing one. For most however, budget is where the story begins and a designer who can work collaboratively with respect for that budget is one that clients will appreciate.

In fact the true talent of an interior designer can be tested with a challenging budget. It is interesting because it forces a marriage between creative expression and innovation to bring the look together on target. More and more we are seeing projects that involve some degree of participation from the client or resources that are provided by the customer to help offset the cost of the renovation. Whether working with a qualified interior designer or independently, there are a number of frugal options to update, enhance and make any space work better for its purpose.

How to Make a Plan and Set an Accurate Budget

The first place to start any project is with a firm understanding of the budget amount available. A qualified renovation or interior designer will use software combined with their extensive industry knowledge to provide an accurate estimate on the cost of requested services.

Clients can be surprised and taken back by the cost of some capital projects which need to involve certified tradesman. Plumbing and electrical, heating and cooling or natural gas fittings and installation must be completed by a licensed professional for both quality results and for legal compliance according to government guidelines. There can be serious consequences to using unlicensed utility professionals including nullifying insurance if installation is found to be faulty due to negligence. There are many things that you can choose to cut corners on during a renovation, but the utilities and trades skill areas are not one of them.

Once the amount of man hours and the cost of materials, equipment rental and building demolition or construction have been factored (including cost of removal of debris) the comprehensive budget may also include things like new flooring, furnishings and fixtures, cabinetry and other interior elements. Contractors will use software such as Sage Estimating or Clear Estimates to arrive at an accurate cost. If that cost exceeds the amount budgeted the process begins to simplify and eliminate some requests in order to make the project scope fit the available budget.

It is important to remember that a professional contractor will make every effort to project manage the construction or renovation while avoiding expenses that may exceed the allowed budget. However some circumstances (particularly with older structures) can lead to additional work requirements which can elevate the cost of the project. Structural problems are common causes where framing has to be replaced to current commercial or residential code. Building on top of a problem without rectifying it for safety reasons is illegal and established contractors will refuse to build over an unresolved issue in the structure for legal liability reasons. While this seems obvious to architects and designers, it warrants careful explanation at the beginning of any project.

Getting Interior Creative on a Dime

As we discussed, working with a client on a tight budget is an interesting challenge for any design team but it can be a very educational and rewarding experience. If the capital projects involved in the renovation consume the largest part of the allocated budget (and that is common) the leftover resources available for interior design elements may be minimal. Does that mean that the client will not realize their vision for the interior space? Absolutely not! What it means is that the design team will have to pull out its ingenuity and true creativity to realize an interior outcome that will satisfy the client despite budgetary restrictions. That is where the challenge begins.

There are a number of ways to source repurposed interior elements that can be utilized in a renovation project. Everything from flooring to cabinetry, countertops and fixtures can be acquired online and at a discount if you are willing to forgo the usual retail channels. Habitat for Humanity for instance, is an amazing resource for purchasing discounted interior elements. The charity receives a number of donations and when they are not able to use the products in a project, they make them available for sale to consumers and contractors alike. It can be a great place to get things like interior and exterior lighting, flooring and plumbing fixtures (sinks, toilets) at an incredible discount, allowing you to stretch your contract budget further.

Finishing elements such as interior furniture, accessories and artwork can also be shopped for in a frugal way by looking for deals online. There are a variety of local coupon websites that provide great rebates and incentive offers from local retailers. Shopping for furniture or other finishing pieces such as occasional tables, office furniture, plants or other elements? CouponsHQ and similar sites should be used to explore the offers provided. Simply click on the coupon and use it online at the brands store or download and then print to save money right away on your purchase from recognized small and large retailers in your area or nationally.

Everyone loves having creative license and a budget that allows for purchasing fabulous elements to create the perfect look for your client. But the reality is that interior designers and architects must start to change their perspective on budget and design projects to address a more frugal and prudent social shift in corporate spending. It’s not a burden to take on a strictly budgeted project but an opportunity to really explore your own skill as a contract designer to find the best options and alternatives, while sticking to the design schematic.

A little challenge never hurt anyone, but sticking to a contract remodeling or redesign budget will win you laurels with the businesses and organizations who appreciate your frugality and ingenuity to design on a dime, even at the corporate level.