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Crack the art of estimating the cost of your home improvements

by | Nov 21, 2022 | Cost & Pricing, Design Tips & Trends, General interior design tips

Estimating the cost of your living room update is more straight forward than you think.  Our guide takes you through putting a room budget together and why the cost of updating you rooms may surprise you.  Here’s everything you need to know.

If you are planning a room update, you’ll no doubt be excitedly starting to think about what the end result is going to look and the colours and furnishings that will go into it.

Perhaps you are going to do a start from scratch renovation, or maybe hope to achieve a smaller refresh of the room with just replacement soft furnishings.  Unless they are of historic importance in a listed property, most rooms after 10 or 15 years of use need an overhaul. Even a modest refresh can result in other furnishings in the room looking a bit tired or dated, and before you know it there’s much more that needs to be done than you had anticipated.

At this you point might be starting to feel a bit daunted or overwhelmed about the scale task ahead, and wondering where to start.  Well, I’m here to help you with one very important aspect – deciding how much you want to invest in the update.

Contrary to popular belief, understanding what the investment budget is going to be is one the foundation blocks to the interior design of a room, and here are the steps you need to go through to build that budget.

  1. List all the furnishings going in the room and whether it needs to be replaced, refreshed or retained. This should include all the furniture, flooring, soft furnishings such as curtains and cushions, artwork, lighting and accessories.  Go into plenty of detail, such as 1 x 3 seater sofa, 2 x armchairs, 4 x table lamps, 1 x 3m x 2.5m rug etc etc.  You might like to set up a spreadsheet to help keep track of everything and how many items of each thing are needed.
  2. Estimate what the ‘things’ are going to cost.  Put an estimated figure against each item of what it will cost to replace or upcycle.  If you’ve recently updated other rooms you might have some idea of prices, but most people will need to do some online research to find out.  The best place to start is an online store – at the price point you are most comfortable with.  This is not about actually picking furniture at this stage, it’s about understanding what things cost.  So for ‘good’ furniture pieces you might look at John Lewis, for ‘better’ pieces have a look at Heals and for ‘best’ items then LuxDeco is a good website to peruse.
  3. List all the trades people by activity that you’ll need to involve, for example a painter & decorator, upholsterer, flooring contractor, handyman, electrician etc.
  4. Estimate what those tradespeople will charge.  If you haven’t had work done recently, then ask friends, family or neighbours what they spent on say a decorator or new flooring, or curtains.  You’ll want to include a subtle question or two to check that they have the same expectations of quality from their trades people that you do.
  5. Total Everything Up. If you are using a spreadsheet like Excel this is relatively easy to do.  Have one column for the list of items, another column for the estimated price, a further column for the quantity needed, and final column for the total. Use formulae to add up the total cost.
  6. Review.  Look at the total figure – this is your starting budget.  Are you surprised by how much it is?  How far away is it from what you had in mind to spend?  If it is what you are happy to spend, then great you have a good starting point.  If you are shocked by the total, be comforted that you will be not alone nor foolish in feeling this.Most people are not up to date when it comes to the price of furnishings and the cost of making improvements to your home.  Almost everyone we work with initially underestimates what they need to spend to meet their aspirations for the room, even those with deeper pockets, and this is why it is so important to go through this process at the start of your interior design or renovation project.

    It’s worth being aware that you are more likely than not to have a surprise and it might not be a pleasant one.  So, what’s next?

  7. Rank each item.  If the figure is higher than you are comfortable with, then go back over the costs and rank each item in terms of importance to you within the room, ie, 1 for most importance and 3 for the least.For example, if you are going to spending a lot of time in the room relaxing then the comfort of the sofa will be of high importance and it should be ranked as a 1.  If better lighting for reading is vital, then that’s a 1 too.

    Perhaps you have dogs or small children and the rug may get things spilled on it, and may need to be replaced in 5 years’ time, that can be ranked as a 3.  Maybe the artwork will be less expensive prints to get the room finished, which will tide you over until you discover the original art you like, they could be ranked as a 2.

    By assigning a number to each item, the store or range you select from can be tailored accordingly, which gives you better control over your budget.

  8. Don’t be put off, here’s what to do next.  By now you’ll have much more detail and understanding of what the investment needs to be to have a room looking like you want it to.  If the figure still doesn’t match what you want to spend at this point, don’t be put off, remember this is a plan on paper only and you haven’t committed to buy anything or hire any trades at this point, and so the project can be divided up phases to enact as and when you can.
  9. Why estimating your budget is important.   The purpose of going through this exercise is to help you decide what is important to you in terms of quality and costs, and where you are prepared to splurge and which items you can save on.  It allows you to be well prepared for each room included in the project ahead and have total control over your expenditure.Layering
    Mixing up items of high value with those which are less so gives the room a layered look, and much of the time people can’t tell which are the cheaper items.  As interior designers we frequently make furnishing budgets go further by doing just this, by selecting some star pieces which will easily distract from those less important and often less expensive items in the room.

    Home Contents Insurance
    Going through this exercise is also useful when updating your contents insurance – no-one wants to be under insured.  In fact most insurance brokers actively encourage clients to do this.

You might feel that exercise this is a lot of work, and of course it can be for someone who doesn’t do it day and day out, but do have a go as it will give you a very powerful starting point for your project and so much more control over the decisions you will need to make, and the timing of them.  Remember, knowledge is power as they say!

Establishing Your Budget is Part of Our Service

Putting together a list of what will go into the room and calculating the necessary furnishings investment is something we at The House Ministry do for our clients as part of our foundation stage, because we are very practised at knowing what furnishings the room will need and estimating what the price ranges are likely to be.  We have the added bonus of being able to select from trade only suppliers, to give us greater choice of products and customisation at reasonable retail prices.

If you are at all apprehensive about the cost of working with an interior designer then this is a great exercise to go through together to ensure everyone is on the same page!  Naturally, the clients we work with want their finished rooms to be beautiful, cohesive and unique and because we agree the investment level with our clients at the start of the project, we can relate every design stage and design decisions back to deliver that, and as you would expect, their investment is always respected.

If you are interested in having a no obligation chat about working with us or just have some questions, please either email us or book a call back with me.

Julia Murray
Crack the art of estimating the cost of your home improvements 2