Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We-Design-Day: Money Talks

There is something funny about talking design budgets just days before Christmas… But budgets are important – whether it’s a redesign, a lipstick & eye shadow makeover or a new build we must all look at what we can afford versus what we wish we could afford.

I’ve worked on projects both ways – where we designed the budget around the project needs and where we had a set budget and we designed the project to fit. Of course, unlimited or ‘unset’ budgets are the best because you get to cover all the essentials and design the space as it’s really needed. The reality is, those projects don’t come around often (if at all) and it’s very easy to have champagne taste on a Kool-Aid budget.

One of the questions I get asked often is what should my budget be? There are of course all kinds of formulas that I could put out there but the essential thing to remember is to spend what you are comfortable with. I would never want to see a client stretch their budget to a point of being uncomfortable or have them later regret the money they put into their home because they spend 20 years paying it off. Conversely, you do often get what you pay for and if you spend $400 on a couch and it falls apart six months later, it wasn’t a good investment either.

Budgets often rely on scope. If you are doing a new build, you want to ensure your money is spent where the investment will be best realized. Windows, adequate insulation, good heating and cooling and quality construction are always essential. Next, decent appliances (if you cook) followed by floor coverings. Making sure the things that stay with your home are good quality will always help your resale. Window coverings are a good investment but one must always take resale (of a home) into account with any fixed furnishing. Spending thousands on window coverings will not see a return if you resell your home.

Life cycle costing is another area to look at. Spending $4000 on a sofa may seem extreme but if you have the sofa for 20 years and sit on it daily, that works out to $0.54 cents a day. Granted, very few things last 20 years and we all know the family with the wine coloured velour sofa with matching chair! That’s where style comes into play – if it costs $4000 but you don’t want to own it in 20 years, maybe it’s not worth the investment. Furthermore, from an environmental stand point, if we all owned our things for 20 years, our landfills wouldn't be so crowded! I like to reuse as many soft furnishings as possible. Slip covers; paint and other tricks can extend and revive the life of well worn pieces. If the mechanics are still good, new foam and fabric can revive a great sofa or chair. Recycling pieces and searching for used items can be a good idea too. It’s taste and style dependant and if you’re patient, you’re likely to find something fab at thrift stores too.

For our home renovations, I usually come up with a pretty detailed budget, go to Management (my husband) for approval and then begin the project. This time, with money tight, I’m going to set a budget first and design towards it. Or design within the confines of a strict budget – depending on how you look at it.

Electronic spread sheets can be a great tool for design projects. You can record purchases or preplan your budget and have it do the math for you. This helps you keep an exact tab on the spending and allows you to categorize purchases. Next week, I’ll share a template with you that you can use to track your project.

As promised, I’ve got a nice downloadable for you. I’ll release these in phases over the coming weeks (as they take time for me to make – if you’re hurried, you can download a DWF viewer and use a search engine to find more free AutoCAD blocks). This week, I’ve got kitchen and bathroom fixtures (sinks, tubs, etc). All scaled at ¼”=1’-0”. You can print on card stock and cut out. Then begin to work arrangements on the graph paper I shared last week.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas! I’ll be back next We-design-day with more downloadable furniture blocks and my budget spreadsheet.

Kitchen & Bath Fixtures

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