If you've been keeping up with the blog for a while, you'll know I talk about budgets often. With HGTV creating the idea that we can have stunning spaces on a dime, designers and contractors are often like salmon swimming upstream in trying to equate your budget with your design vision. Back in Manitoba, we'd use the expression "a champagne drinker's taste on a beer drinker's budget".
I'm working on the final selections for a bathroom renovation this week and am doing my darndest to keep it within the budget. However, with a slim budget and large expectations, that can create a bit of stress in my job. When speaking with my mentor a few weeks ago and talking about managing budgets for clients, she noted that she lets her clients know the price of the labour and the materials separately because you can always select less costly materials, but she would not underpay her trades. And she's right. You can go from $30/sq.ft. tile to $5/sq.ft. tile and if you have the right installer, it will look like a million bucks! Or, you can go with the $30/sq.ft. tile, find the cheapest person out there and it will likely look like crap.
Can I Get A Discount?
If you've ever worked in retail, the most frequent (and sometimes most annoying) words you'll hear are, 'Can I get a discount?' Don't get me wrong - I'll take a cost savings any day of the week. And on product, there is markup that allows a cushion to maybe ease your bank withdrawal. After nearly 10 years in the design and construction industry, I also see that question coming up often for trades (and designers), the presumption being that we are willing to work for less because you asked us to.
Next time you're thinking about asking a person doing work for you for a discount, consider this: if another company came to you to hire you for the job you're doing now, would you be willing to give up 10-20-30% of your salary just because they asked you to?
When you ask labourers (and I'll include any hired services - designers, therapists, chiropractors, etc) for a break on price, you're asking that person to lower their salary just for you and at the same time, you are communicating a perceived lack of value in their offering.
Let Me Share My Discount!
Having established my business for a few years now, I've built relationships with suppliers and those relationships often grow into a price break on materials and products I purchase. Most designers will receive a discounted rate as well and some will pass on the savings, others won't.
I do my very best to find the best priced item in the design style my clients love and will happily share my designer discount without being asked. That is a perk of hiring a designer! And often times, the savings I can bring you through my network will cover part of, sometimes all of, the design fees you pay me to do the work for you.
Think about that. I do the work, bring everything together, saving you hours of time searching, countless moments of stress (and wrinkles), not to mention gas and at the end of the day, you virtually receive all that at no cost because of the savings I pass along. Makes you think.
Fantasy | Reality
Going back to the bathroom I spoke of earlier, I am all for stretching every dollar as far as possible. However, do your research ahead of time. If you have a $5000 budget for a bathroom, you likely won't have stone countertops, fancy tilework or high end fixtures. You may have to give on a lot of items in order to gain enough capital to get a nicer faucet. If you have a $15 000 budget on the same size bathroom, now you have financial room to put in a few nicer elements, or get creative with the tilework.
Be open to suggestions on how you may be able to get a similar look for less, even if you have to sacrifice a bit to do it. And bear in mind, add ons (like shower wands, diverter controls, jetted tubs, closed side toilets, etc) can drive up your total cost very quickly. When we did our upstairs bathroom renovation, one thing I would NOT budge on was having a dual control shower system. I wanted to be able to control the flow of water and temperature of water separately. It took me weeks to find something that worked and was at a price that my guy was ok with but it was still more than he had originally budgeted. So I found a far less costly light fixture, mirror and medicine cabinet and the savings on those three items made the shower control work within our budget. And it was totally worth it. I love showering with the independent controls, when I shave my legs I don't feel like I'm wasting water and when I clean the bathroom, I don't have to have the faucet full blast to get hot water. I love it!
Get Comfortable With That Nasty Word - COMPROMISE
As in all things, design projects require compromise, and not just with your housemate. A great designer will help you find a compromise that you actually feel good about and still create a beautiful space that you love spending time in. When you reach that place, you have found the golden room my friend!
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As always, thank you so much for reading! May you love your home and your very own beautiful, personal spaces.