Michael Ferzoco is the principle of Eleven Interiors, the interior design firm he founded in 2005. Michael is a regular contributor to my blog adding a fabulous design component to the conversation. You can reach Michael at [email protected].
Given the “new economy” in recent years, most prospective clients considering a design project have had to tighten their belts. I’ve had my share of clients approach me with financial trepidation about starting a new project. They may have the finances, but they may want to implement the project in phases. And many, I have found, are also a bit leery of beginning a project without some kind of certainty that they’re budget will be honored. As professionals we owe it to our savvy clientele to “put it on the table”… to let them know exactly where they are financially at all times during the life of their project.
Budgets are a tricky conversation to have with a client. They often feel like they’re taking a leap of faith by telling a designer that they have a given dollar amount to put toward their project. I always insist on defining the budget. There can be that cat and mouse game where the prospective client explains what they want to do and then asks “how much do you think that will cost?” Well, it could cost a little or a lot, depending on how much they have available to spend! Yes, a kitchen can be renovated with Ikea cabinetry and basic granite countertops or it can be done in custom cabinetry with all the bells and whistles and Caesarstone countertops, or perhaps it’ll fall somewhere in between.
Every client’s project is important regardless of the budget. There are $20k clients and there are $500k clients….but to each of those respective clients, that’s a lot of green.
In an effort to “keep it all on the table”, I’ve always prepared a detailed budget and presented it to my clients at the beginning of a project. Inevitably, over time, that budget will change (the built-ins cost X instead of Y because they decided on a more, or less expensive, wood or finish; or they absolutely had to have those vintage chairs), but the client receives an update every week with the respective line item highlighted for their review and approval. That way, both of us can be assured that there won’t be any financial surprises at the end of the project. Good faith, all around. They share information with me and I share it with them. It makes the entire process so pleasant.
A client’s budget is the most important piece of information they can share with me. Of course, chances are highly likely that I’m going to spend it because that’s what they told me they had available to spend! But more than that, knowing the budget allows me to present clients with product that will work within that budget.