Great Design at Affordable Prices

Most of us have always made purchasing decisions—especially big ones—with a careful eye on getting value for our money. Intrinsic in the idea of value is the intersection between what something costs and what it is actually worth.

It used to be that design was only for the high end of the construction market. Affluent homeowners were clients, modest homeowners were consumers (with all the distinctions between service and product that that implies).

HGTV changed that. With shows like Design on a Dime, we were taught how with a little creativity and elbow grease—and most importantly a talented designer—we, too, could have a room with vision and panache. At almost any budget. I mention this show specifically, although there are many others on multiple networks that do the same thing, because it’s a show where a minimum of costs and materials and a maximum of talent on the part of the design team results in spaces that look and feel like they cost much, much more than they did—a perfect example of what something costs being far less than what it is worth.

In remodels the product you purchase is only half the story. Good design—even when executed with cost-effective products—improves quality of life, increases the value of your home and saves you money in the long run. While the upfront costs of a working with a discount remodeling outfit (whether a box store or small showroom) can seem lower, they can be misleading. There can be mistakes—and the costs of replacing or fixing them. Even worse in some case, the emotional, physical, and mental costs of living with an inadequate design solution. (For a concrete example of how professional design can improve a home read my blog postings from April, 2010).

In some cases the cost of hiring a professional designer with experience and vision is exactly the same as hiring a firm with a product-oriented focus. Even if the designer appears more expensive up front, the reality is that designers can often help you offset the cost of their fees with discounts on materials. And designers will typically spend anywhere from two to five times longer on your project than a sales person would (in planning hours, not project duration). The experience they bring to the table can help you avoid costly mistakes.

And even if the designer costs ten percent or even twenty percent more than the discount outfit, you can amortize that cost against the years you live in your home—with the quality-of-life benefits that your designer has created specifically for you and your family, based on your specific needs. Let’s say your project budget is $50,000 but to hire a designer and implement her solution adds ten percent to the bottom line—that’s $5,000 increase for a total of $55,000. Even if you sell your home in five years, you have dramatically improved your quality-of-life for a mere $83 dollars a month. If you plan on living in your home longer, then that number makes even more sense. You’ll get the perfect, uniquely-yours solution for what some people spend on lattes in a month.

Don’t assume you can’t afford great design—just ask!! The answer might surprise you. That being said, beware of the title “designer” on a business card. Most “designers” that you meet in a retail setting are really glorified sales people. Did they guide the process or did you just hand them some measurements and say, “What about this… what about that?” You need someone who can evaluate your needs and make suggestions that you haven’t already thought of. Someone who can think creatively and, yes, challenge your assumptions, helping you to see new possibilities in the same old space.