5 expert tips on setting (and sticking) to a budget with your interior design projects

That age-old issue of setting and sticking to a budget – we have expert help from designers

kitchen renovation rules, sky blue kitchen cabinets, view of garden via crittall doors, herringbone floor, basin in island, vintage rug
(Image credit: Neptune)

So you've decided to undertake an interior design project but have you set a budget? It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and as a result, costs can spiral pretty quickly. That's why setting a budget from the start and sticking to it is so important. 

'What you want to spend on a project vs what you actually end up spending on a project can end up differing quite a bit. But not every home project needs to be a budget buster,' says Joey Conicella, president, of SOCO Interiors. 

The key is to have a clear idea of what you want and to do your homework first in terms of costs, that way, your project can go as seamlessly as possible and hopefully, within budget. 

Expert tips on setting and sticking to a budget 

Designing your space, whether it's one room or the whole house is meant to be an enjoyable experience. But the one thing that can bring down the fun of it is budget. And it really is the most important consideration, so we have asked interior designers for their top tips on how to set a budget for your interior design project, ad then (just as importantly) how to stick to them.

1. Be realistic by getting plenty of quotes

kathy kuo painted exposed brick living room design

(Image credit: Kathy Kuo)

'The golden rule for setting and sticking to a budget is to be realistic! Do your research, get quotes from different sources, and always add a contingency to your budget for the unknown and unplanned,' says Joey Conicella.

Always have a little extra put aside for splurging. Joey adds: 'Don’t assume that you’re going to be frugal with every aspect of the project. Build room in the budget for one or two special moments and you won’t have buyer’s remorse when the time comes to make the purchase.'

headshot of Joey Conicella
Joey Conicella

Joey Conicella is president of Soco Interiors, a high-end, residential interior design firm based in Winter Park, FL. Joey’s career has spanned over two decades, working both in the interior magazine publishing space as well as the design firm side of the industry. Joey pulls inspiration from his favorite places to spend downtime including the coasts of California to the eclectic and electric pulse of Miami

2. Set expectations from the start

sticking to a budget, red and pale grey living room with red bookcase, patterned armchair, floor light, rug, artwork

(Image credit: Joshua Smith / Read McKendree)

'I always do a line item budget for every item that is shown on the floor plan. I allocate funds to each item to make sure we can stay within budget,' Joshua Smith, principal and founder, Joshua Smith Inc.  

'I remember the first time I presented a budget to a client and the husband’s response was, “You mean to tell me that 20% of the overall budget is on custom throw pillows.”  We both laughed and I said yes! I told them we're thinking about the throw pillows as works of art; they are custom fabrication, custom sizes, and glorious textiles selected from amazing fabric houses.'

This is why it's so important to list any accessories you want from the start too, we tend to think about the structural elements like glazing, joists and planning, but it's also about those smaller pieces that can add up dramatically if left unchecked.

'The other big ticket item is rugs,' adds Joshua. 'People are often surprised at the cost for quality rugs, especially spaces that need larger than standard stock sizes. It all comes down to setting expectations and educating clients all throughout the process.'

Joshua Smith
Joshua Smith

With projects on both coasts, Joshua Smith Inc, offers full-service residential interior design – and life-changing spaces. Joshua draws on decades of experience transforming functional spaces into inspiring environments that engage the senses and nourish the soul. By cultivating the connections between mind, body, spirit, and space, he helps his clients elevate their experience each day.

3. Allocate funds for each stage

living room/sunroom with grey sectional, view outside, footstool blinds

(Image credit: MR Architecture + Decor)

'To ensure budget adherence in interior design, strategically limit project scope, completing it in phases if needed,' says David Mann, president of MR Architecture + Decor.

This is a really vital point that David makes, and ensures that the project can be managed without causing the usual stresses. Keeping to a budget per phase makes it easier to deal with. David adds: 'Maintain a realistic timeframe, making timely decisions to avoid extensions, fostering efficient and cost-effective design outcomes.'

headshot of David Mann
David Mann

MR Architecture + Decor is a New York City-based architecture and interior design firm with nearly three decades of experience creating exquisitely crafted environments that are both beautiful and functional.

Over the years, founder David Mann has assembled an extraordinary team of architects and designers with a passion for the built environment and a dedication to quality, artistry, and innovation. Driven by a spirit of collaboration, MR is committed to working closely with clients from the start of a project to completion, to achieve a result that elicits the uniqueness of each assignment and embodies the individuality of the people who inhabit it.

4. Have an upfront conversation with your designer before starting

sticking to budget, open plan kitchen with dining area, white countertops, statement pendant lights, open shelving, black cabinetry

(Image credit: Living with Lolo / Life Created)

'We find that clients almost always have unrealistic expectations about what it costs to furnish a room,' says Lauren Lerner, CEO and founder of Living with Lolo.  

The more research you can do before your project starts the better, it allows you to keep an eye on the prices of items that you may want to include – paints, fabrics, and wallpaper can all get expensive. 

'At the beginning of a project, we always present our prospective clients with a minimum furnishings investment so they can understand what is needed to invest in the spaces in order to have the end result be like the images in our portfolio. Having this conversation upfront keeps the client from having sticker shock and allows your process to continue to move forward,' 

Lauren Lerner
Lauren Lerner

Lauren Lerner is the principal designer and founder of Living with Lolo, the interior design firm based in Scottsdale, AZ, since 2017. Fueled by her love for clean lines, mixed metals, colors, and timeless pieces, Lerner thrives on bringing a client’s home to life from the very beginning.

5. Don't splurge on trends

sticking to budget, large metal bed four poster style but curved, large rug, white walls and drapes, tree, neutral accessories

(Image credit: Urbanology Designs / Matti Gresham)

'In the pursuit of a beautiful home, it's common to splurge on fleeting interior design trends that do not stand the test of time,' says Ginger Curtis, CEO and founder of Urbanology Designs.

With so much emphasis on trends these days it's hard not to get swayed by current styles, but with your projects, you want to ensure you are always thinking about creating a home that never dates. 'Invest in high-quality, timeless furniture pieces that offer quiet luxury,' advises Ginger. 'While it's wise to allocate the budget conscientiously, compromising on quality can be a misstep. A truly well-designed space combines higher-end furnishings and decor with more budget-conscious items.'

Ginger Curtis
Ginger Curtis

Ginger Curtis, a design visionary renowned for her transformative approach to creating spaces that elevate modern living. In 2015, she founded Urbanology Designs, an award-winning design firm, following an inspiring triumph over an 18-month battle with cancer. This life-altering journey revealed to her the incredible influence of neuroaesthetics on our well-being. Rooted in simplicity and elevated by extraordinary beauty, interiors by Dallas-based Urbanology Designs bring organic luxury to life. Their soft, modern approach allows clients to relax in the warmth of a comfortable and crafted home. Their design-forward sensibility looks beyond today’s times, trends, and whims to create homes with longevity and intention.

It can be easy for budgets to get out of control during an interior design project, those shiny elements that catch the eye that you didn't see before you started, or a structural issue that crops up unexpectedly. 

The key is to be as organized as possible and to do your research months in advance. Talk to your interior designer at every stage and most of all enjoy the process, interior design projects are transformative in every way. 

Sophie Warren-Smith
Contributing Editor

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.