As an Interior Designer, I’m asked to find the perfect items for my clients. In particular, I’m asked to help them source the most wonderful items but, most importantly, I have to keep within their budget. They want things that look lovely but don’t cost the earth.


In this blog, I’ll share with you how I shop to make my client’s home look amazing without overspending.


STEP 1: Know your budget

This blog focuses on affordable items for your home, but what does affordable mean? What’s affordable to you might actually be too expensive for someone else. So, the first step is to know your budget and how much you want to spend on your interior project.


Firstly, you need to calculate or get estimates for all of the big stuff, because it’s the bigger jobs that will financially eat into your budget. How much will you need to assign to structural changes. It might be that you’re knocking down a wall or adding an extension. You might need a quote from an architect, structural engineer or builder.

Next, you’ll need to assign part of your budget for any trades that you need because you won’t be doing the work yourself, eg: decorator, electrician, plumber.

This leads on to adding large or more expensive items into your budget for any kitchen, bathrooms, bespoke furniture, handmade curtains, carpets that are being replaced or made specifically for your home. Again you can get a few quotes from different suppliers. Before you go to each supplier, make sure you have a brief written down of what you need so that you can compare one price against another.

After you’ve added the large or expensive items into your budget, you need to calculate how much you want to spend on the rest of the stuff. The rest of the stuff is the smaller items and the finishing touches, like wardrobes, a dining table, rugs, wallpaper, lighting or accessories.


SCENARIO 1:  Your project budget is £50,000

  • Big stuff = £30,000
  • Trades = £5,000
  • Large/Expensive Items = £12,000

The main items of your budget are estimated to be £47,000 so you have £3,000 for the rest of the stuff.


SCENARIO 2:  Your project budget is £50,000

  • Big stuff = £30,000
  • Trades = £15,000
  • Large/Expensive Items = £12,000

The main items of your budget are estimated to be £57,000 so you’re already £7,000 over budget and you haven’t  even included the rest of the stuff. You either have to increase your budget, or you need to look at how you can reduce the scope and lower the price of the main items.


As you only have estimates in your budget, for both of these scenarios, you’ll also need to include a contingency in your budget (somewhere between 10% £5,000 to 20% £10,000) depending on the complexity of your project. This give you flexibility to manage unforeseen circumstances that have cost implications as your project progresses. Never assume things will go to plan because there’s always something that will crop up and take more money out of your pocket. To accommodate the contingency you’ll either need to increase your budget or reduce the scope and lower the price of the main items.


It is a juggle to set up and manage your budget, but it’s the most effective way to help you stay in control and stop overspending.


STEP 2: Shop wisely

Sourcing products can be time consuming and exhausting, but it can help to save you money and optimise your budget when you shop wisely.


I’m frequently asked for a list of interior shops that ‘don’t cost the earth’, but this is a very subjective ask because it depends on what you’re buying, your personal taste and the parameters of your budget. For example, there is a vast difference in quality and price between second hand Freecycle, Ebay, Charity, Vintage or Antique. Likewise, if you buy items that are new and ready made on the high street, there is a huge difference between Primark, IKEA, John Lewis, Liberty and Harrods. Every season, I have a trip scheduled to mooch around the different shops. I like to see their new stock, get an idea of their price points and gain inspiration for any new or emerging interior trends.


To shop wisely, I recommend that you look for shops within your price bracket (for the items you’ll have for a long time) or cheaper shops that are less than your price bracket (for items that you don’t want for very long). You’ll know how much you can afford because you’ve already put together your budget. When tailoring your budget, you could decide to add a little bit more money to one item and then reduce another to compensate. For example: you could have handmade curtains in your lounge (because that’s where you want to entertain friends so it needs to look good) but have flat pack furniture in the kid’s room (because they’ll grow out of it quickly).  You don’t have to buy everything from the same shop.


STEP 3: Make it last

When you’re looking for things to adorn your home, it’s worth considering how long you want an item to last. Usually, the things that last the longest are the things that cost the most, because you want it to be a better fabric or a superior build quality. Although it costs more when you buy it, it’s actually a more affordable item because you have it for a longer time.


Within interiors, you usually only have it for a long time if it’s well looked after. If you’re sharing your home with others, eg: holiday rental, or there are lots of people in the property, items tend to wear quicker. Particularly susceptible to wear and tear are  high touch and frequently used items, like roller blinds, sofa, washing machine, toilet seat, kitchen worktop. For these items, you might decide to choose cheaper alternatives because they’ll be replaced more frequently.


Budget places to shop for everything

The most effective solution to help make your money go further is to put together a detailed budget (best to use an Excel spreadsheet so that it’s easy to change and keep control of your finances) and tailor it so that you know how much you want to spend on every single item. When you go shopping, you’ll know exactly how much you want to spend and can then go to the shops within your price bracket. Start making a directory of the shops you like that are within your price bracket.


During the coronavirus lockdown, online shopping is the norm so the best way to find stuff is through an internet search. You can put in the item, colour and price to see what options you have, eg: Blue Sofa £400 or Antique Yellow Sofa £5,000.  Both will look amazing in your room and are within a predefined budget.


Whether you’re shopping online or actually walking around the shops, you need to have clear parameters of what you’re looking for. Then you can find anything from anywhere at a budget price.

If you’re struggling to find that special item and need my design knowledge or interior expertise to help you find a specific item then I’m always here to help. I can also create a budget for you so that you understand how your money will be apportioned and optimised on your interior project. It will help you stay in control and stop overspending.


Have fun shopping,


BIID Interior Designer

M: 07841 519802