As an Interior Design Consultant that starts many client projects at the new construction or renovation process, I have become an expert in this feild which tends to have many homeowners confused and frustrated when trying to work out budgets and contracts. This management should be done by professionals that are able to gauge the clients expectations, therefore hiring an Interior Designer not only ensures that your decisions are made to your liking for your style, but also ensures that you are making financially sound decisions. Organized management of a project is the core of quality and innovative interior design!

Here are some good tips to follow so that you can be ahead of some of the issues that arise with budgets. As a consultant in this field, I am familiar with how contracts are structured and I work with my clients to make sure that they are aware of any details that may arise in unexpected costs later on.

I advise that you always know ahead of time how your contract with your general contractor is structured. There are typically two types of contracts that builders typically put together. The first one is an “all in” price which means having your home built with all the materials included “soup to nuts”. The other type of contract is Construction Management which means that your are paying your builder to oversee the project, and you pay the subcontractors and vendors directly for materials. There are other ways to structure these projects, but these two ways are the most common that I see for clients, especially with new construction.
There are pros and cons to each, but here are some ways to look at these contracts to determine which is going to be a better fit for your project.
If you are working on allowances from the general contractor, make sure that everything is really included. Take a hard look at the allowances put into place to make sure they fulfill your expectations.

Below is a list of line items that almost always go over budget. This is not because the general contractor is not giving you a fair price. It typically happens because you may decide to splurge in some areas, throwing off the budget, or they were not materials specified prior to the allowances being put into place.

-plumbing fixtures
-paint finishes

1. Beware of the “price per sq ft” on tile. This is what always leads to much confusion if a total budget for all tile and fabrication is not set in place. It is nearly impossible to get a number per sq ft because there needs to be waste accounted for in tile. Depending on the size of the tile, as well as the layout, that number can change, and who is supposed to eat the cost of the extra material? There is also fabrication to consider as well (thresholds, pie shelves, saddles, etc.) Many times there is no budget for this and it falls onto the homeowner. Something to also note is that depending on what type of tile you pick-marble, porcelain, ceramic, etc. that your tile can be anywhere from $4-$50+ per sq ft!)

2. Cabinetry tends to be a tricky issue as well. I always recommend that your architect draws up an initial plan for kitchen cabinets so that a ballpark price can be put together for this early on. Also know what your expectations are for this (painted cabinets, full overlay, inset cabinets, dove tailing, etc.) This is an area where sky is the limit and costs can rise with these “bells and whistles” so knowing your costs early on is a great way to set realistic budgets for your project. The same goes for custom vanities that are being designed for bathrooms.

3. Plumbing fixtures should have a budget set early as this is one of the first areas to tackle. Make sure that you decide on details like a master bath for example, which depending on how elaborate of a shower and tub you do can drive up the costs significantly.

4. Lighting is a cost that many homeowners overlook, but depending on your taste, this number can be a significant cost. It is a good idea to work with your designer on inspiration so that you can set a realistic budget on this. Lighting is the jewelry of the home, so it is not a detail that you want to skimp on!

5. Countertops may be the biggest bust that you can have to your budget. With the trends going into marbles, quartzites and man made stones, you can spend huge money on these finishing touches. I highly recommend getting this quoted early on to set budgets on this, and do your research to know exactly what you want. I could write an entire blog on just stone choices for the home, so my advice is to study up on this and consult with a professional to make sure your are not only being smart with your stone choices, but are also using a reputable source for this as this material must stand the test of time and the wear and tear of daily use!

6. Paint finishes-make sure you are getting good quality paint! The worst thing is to build this beautiful new home and your walls don't hold up!

There are many more details and decisions that go into this process, so this is just the tip of the iceberg! I recommend that everyone knows their costs and expectations as early on as possible so that they can may this process enjoyable and pleasurable. I always stress to my clients that this is a great project to embark on and they are able to customize their home to their liking. There will always be hiccups along the way, but my goal is to alleviate those issues and create a great working environment with client and contractor so they can build the home of their dreams!

Always remember… “Happy Home, Happy Life!”