Friday, August 15, 2014

The Importance of Working to a Budget

The Importance of Working to a Budget

I can't stress this enough. Budget rules! You can have the best ideas in the world but if your client can't afford it then those great ideas will go nowhere.

One of the keys to being a successful interior designer is being able to work to a budget.

Here are some tips to help you with this.


  • Lists - yes a boring list. Get your client to write down everything they want in priority order. This way you can focus on incorporating into the design what is most important and spend the money wisely. They need to be realistic and know that they won't get the entire wish list but will get the most important things.
  • Shop around. Know your products and how much they costs to install. Some items may be cheaper to purchase but cost more to install. So you don't achieve a saving, sometimes it can end up costing you more for a lesser quality finish.
  • Be realistic at the beginning when you set a budget. Don't stretch people too far at the front end as lets face it - any job, be it a new home or a renovation always has additional costs that come up along the way no matter how well you plan. You don't want your clients to feel uncomfortable and worried that they can't pay to get things finished.
  • Leading on from above. When setting a budget always factor in a contingency. Depending on the complexity a 5%, 10% or sometimes a 15% allowance over and above what you believe it will cost. That will be your true budget. 
  • Let your clients know up front if you don't think they can achieve what they want with their budget. They may not thank you for it, but better that than getting half way through a job and then telling them. That is not good for business!

  • Most of all think creatively. Don't always take the easy option. There are more ways than one to achieve a result. You are a designer and you need to think that way - look at what you want to achieve and plan how you can do that, it is sound design practice to price an option three different ways before you build it or purchase it to be able to find out the most cost effective option.  
Best of luck with sticking to your budget.
Another article on budgeting for DIY jobs




Saturday, June 14, 2014

Always Have an Opinion on Design

Always Have an Opinion on Design

This may seem like an obvious statement, but I have recently been put in my place about sitting on the fence.

Here is the background.

I had been working for a company that managed insurance rebuilds and repairs after the Christchurch earthquake. This was a very labor intensive role, a very emotional role and a role where I had to turn off my "design" way of thinking and focus on managing the process and the client. This was initially difficult as I love having input into how a new home will look. My job was to progress the rebuild or repair from taking the scope of work, through design, consent, and into construction. This sounds reasonably straight forward. It was but along the way there were constant battles between the client wanting to change things and the insurer letting them know they could but would have to pay for it. We all know when it comes to money there is always conflict! Therefore to keep the process as smooth as possible, the less change the better. So in my daily life, I stopped making comments on how I saw the new plans, I had no design input and for want of a better word, "processed" the clients on their journey to a new or repaired home rather than "guided".

I now have a new role, I am a Design and Sales Consultant for a New Home Building Company in Christchurch. With this role, I have to take the clients on a similar journey. I am organizing their design with the architect, liaising with engineers and geotech engineers, keeping them informed of progress, presenting them with costs and obtaining their building consent. I do not have to manage the build of their new home, but I have to make sure that they love what they are going to get when it is completed.

So, early on on my job when asked a question from a client about which cladding I preferred and why, I didn't have an opinion. Oops, wrong approach! I had trained myself to stay neutral, and now I have to be the person that the clients rely on providing good and qualified advice. I am happy to say that I learned the hard way and I am pleased that I now reply with not only my opinion, but reasons why you should use a specific cladding in one area and not another, which ones are most cost effective, which have the least maintenance and what is popular and in fashion at the moment. Everything the client wants to hear to be able to make informed decisions.


Have an opinion - love it or hate it and why?


The lesson that I have learned, (which I knew but had neutralized) after over 20 years of working in this industry is to not only have an opinion on design, but also ensure that you have the information and knowledge to back that opinion up. Why else would a client come to you if they don't believe that you can help them make critical decisions on their new home?

This works for Interior Design as well as Architecture.

I have one last comment. I am Lee Brown and I set up this blog years ago. For some reason, I set it up under the Google account for our business and as the years have gone by and Google have updated many things, Chris is the person attached to the account - his profile has taken over my blog! So when you read through the blog, you are listening to Lee, even though you see a picture of Chris!

Don't for get to check out our website interiordezine.com and register for a free ecourse in interior decorating, color or curtain design and join the many others who have increased their knowledge of design.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Always Keep Searching for Something New

Always Keep Searching fro Something New

As usual  I am on my "high horse" about products. There is so much choice when you are an interior designer that it can become easy to just specify what you know and become lazy. This is my advice for you today, don't - keep searching for something better. There are so many new and exciting products becoming available that it is difficult to keep up with but if you don't you will miss out on exciting opportunities to create something special.

I am currently working with a client and they want a large feature wall coming from the outside in - they want it to be concrete and look really special. The obvious way to achieve this is create a concrete tilt slab panel, but this is a very expensive option as the wall is very long. I just happen to stumble upon an alternative solution when I was looking at tiles - it is a very large tile that looks like concrete has been poured over timber and the finished result is a wonderful timber texture in a porcelain tile format that looks like a concrete wall. It looks great and I think it will be a perfect solution for the planned feature concrete wall going into the house, it looks good, is easy to install and is more cost effective that the solid concrete option and it will speed up the build time.

In our office we have wall paper that fools everyone, it also looks like concrete panels. From a distance it creates a three dimensional effect, it appears to be made of something solid, but up close you can see that it is a textured wall paper.

There are thousands of fabulous wallpapers around now that can really make a difference. I recently designed a bar, it was very structured in look and it need a little bit extra to finish it off. I chose a wallpaper with circles and there you have it the last piece of the puzzle to lift the entire look of the space.

wallpaper makes a difference

You can get tiles that have a mirror finish, multi-functional products.

Vinyl has become a new tool for designers. There are numerous designs of wall decals around to create feature walls. These are versatile, permanent or temporary if you want to change a look frequently, like in a retail store.

Check for environmental choices of products, you will find that there are options now that have been designed and produced from recycled materials or are easily recycled when their use has ended. Take some time and read a bit about what you are specifying. Ask the sales representatives questions, check with the retail salesperson about just what you are specifying or purchasing. It all adds to your range of products that you can use and your general knowledge when a client asks you to design an environmentally friendly interior.

I hope that this insight into my world helps you make good design decisions.

Here is some information to get you thinking about bamboo flooring

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