Money Talk: Getting into the Nitty Gritty on Design Fees and Furniture Budgets

Today we're taking a deep dive into MONEY TALK. Everyone knows that taking on a home project costs moola, but just how much of the green gold will it take to accomplish the project of your dreams?

There are lots of layers to this conversation, but today I want to focus on FURNITURE costs and the associated design fees, because that is perhaps a little more straight forward than the construction side of design. We'll take a look at some past LFID projects and talk through what you can expect to pay for similar rooms, and we've created a breakdown, low-to-high, of a typical living room budget to give you a sense of the range of costs.

Interior designer selecting upholstery fabrics

These costs will be practical budget references for projects that would utilize our VIP Fully-Managed Design Service, meaning we source from almost exclusively trade vendors, including lots of custom pieces and trade-only resources. This type of furniture will be a higher quality than most big-name online vendors (think Wayfair, Ikea, Target) and so will require a higher investment. BUT! The great news is—for our VIP clients exclusively—we share our trade discounts. Meaning, they get designer-quality, long-lasting pieces for a very nice price. Perks of the industry!

*Quick clarification: budgets for Designed in a Day and Virtual Design projects will look very different since we use exclusively online retail vendors, so whether you order a $500 or a $5,000 sofa, our design fees stay the same. This gives clients the flexibility to shop in a price range that's comfortable for them and to purchase pieces over time rather than all at once.*

Lauren Figueroa Interior Design, Fabrics and Design Plan

VIP Fully-Managed Design Summary of Phases

Before we hop into specific room budgets, I'll think it'll be helpful to give you a brief overview of the VIP Fully-Managed Design Process and the phases/fees involved.

Phase 1: Discovery Meeting

This up to two-hour meeting ($475) includes our style discovery conversation, big picture visioning, and outlining of a detailed scope of work. This is an opportunity for us to meet with a potential client and make sure we're all jiving with one another—super important in the client/designer relationship!

Following this meeting, there's no obligation on either side to move forward—sometimes we're a great fit, and sometimes we aren't, so we like to be honest about that and hope you will be too. We then present a detailed services proposal based on the scope we created in this meeting. This proposal outlines our process and what it will cost for us to design the space. Clients can then either take the ideas we discussed in our meeting and run with them, or they can move forward with us running the project.

Phase 2: Research, Design, Presentation

This is where the bulk of our creative work happens and is typically the largest fee portion as well. Phase 2 starts at $4,997, which is our average fee to design a living room space. In this phase, we space plan, source items, select fabrics, finishes, colors, and materials, and have every last item and service required for your project priced or quoted out. This phase requires seven weeks at minimum and culminates in a presentation of your entire design project.

Phase 3: Project Management

After the presentation, it's time to execute your project! Our team places orders, receives all items, checks furniture and decor for damages, and stores everything in our warehouse until installation day when we deliver, stage, style, and reveal your completed space! Our project management fees vary depending on the overall furniture budget (however, we do have a set minimum PM fee). For budgets under $100K, our project management fee is 20% of the total furnishings/decor budget (excluding tax, shipping, delivery, and outside services). Because we split our discounts with our VIP clients, it is common for the savings on furniture to completely underwrite our project management fee. AMAZING! It's almost like we manage the project for free...

a living room designed by Lauren Figueroa

Budget Breakdown: Living & Great Rooms

Now that you have an understanding of the investment for design services, let's talk about setting your furniture and decor budgets. Today we'll look at living and great rooms since these, as they are often the largest, tend to be your highest investment spaces when it comes to furniture.

More space = more pieces required = higher budget.

Based on our past projects, I've created a table below outlining the typical pieces you'd find in a living room, usual quantities, and the cost of those items from the good, better, to best quality.

The "good" prices are set at their average low for our trade vendors, but I've capped the higher costs at what tends to be our usual higher cost pieces. NOTE: You can always go higher—think classic Eames Chairs, ringing in at 8K+ a pop for a single chair—but I didn't want to over-inflate the higher budget range, and the case is usually that there is a blend of lower and higher cost items in any given project. I've also not included accessories in this table since that can vary drastically from project to project.

Estimated Furniture Budget for Living Room or Great Room

What I love about a formula like this is that you can get a super quick but fairly accurate idea of what you should budget for your space, and it's easy to swap out prices and quantities based on your ideal floor plan. For example, not all spaces will need two sofas, or two accent chairs, a rug, etc., so you can enter the quantities that make sense for you.

As you can see, the budget range for a living room is SUPER drastic. It's important to decide at the onset what elements are the highest value to you and plan to put your big bucks there. For example, I always prefer to go higher quality on my upholstery—specifically sofas—and if needed, go lower cost on items like side tables and accent pieces. Sofas get the most use of all your pieces, so it's important that they are made of durable, high-quality materials. However, not everyone will feel the same, so the client needs to decide what's important to them and go into a project knowing where they want to invest the most.

Now let's look at a couple of specific examples from our portfolio...

a living room with a lake view designed by lauren figueroa

I) Spring Lake Classic

In this particular room (above), the client had a few existing items (the two side tables and the area rug), so for the sake of getting an accurate budget, we'll say they were starting from scratch and I'll include a cost for those items had they purchased them new. The prices below reflect pricing after our discount was applied:

  • (2) Sofas - $3,600/e

  • (2) Accent Chairs - $800/e

  • (2) Side Tables - $800/e

  • (1) Coffee Table - $2,350

  • (2) Table Lamps - $300/e

  • (1) Oversized Wool Area Rug - $8,000 (it would likely be more for a new rug in this large size, however, this one is vintage)

  • (1) Oversized Rug Pad - $700

  • (10) Custom Pillows - $85/e

  • Additional Accessories/Decor, including plants - $1,500

The subtotal for this room pre-tax and shipping rings in at $24,400. While each of our vendors' designer pricing is different, the most typical discount we extend to our VIP clients comes in around 25% off retail pricing (*we don't offer discounts on DIAD or Virtual Design projects since clients order their pieces themselves through our online trade portal, which is always set at IMAP—internet minimum advertised pricing). In this case, our clients would save $8,133.00. Pretty good, eh?

As outlined in the Phases Summary earlier in this post, for budgets under $100K, our project management fee is 20% of the total furnishings and decor budget (not including shipping, tax, or delivery). In this case, our management fee would come in at $4,880. That means—project management fee included—our client still receives a $3,363 savings off the retail pricing of the furniture, and we completely carry out and install the project. Perks of the VIP service, baby!

A living room designed by lauren figueroa

A living room designed by lauren figueroa

II) Traverse City Dream House

For another example, let's look at the room above from our Traverse City Dream House project (prices reflect the designer discount applied):

  • Sofa - $5,200

  • Leather Ottoman - $1,900

  • Coffee Table - $4,000

  • (2) Accent Chairs - $2,300

  • (2) Side Tables - $300/e

  • (2) Floor Lamps - $400/e

  • Planter & Fiddle Fig - $325

  • Custom Benches - cost unknown; client built these themselves!

  • Area Rug & Pad - $2,000

  • (8) Custom Pillows - $85/e

The subtotal for this room comes to $20,105, pre-tax and shipping. With an average of 25% off retail, our clients would save $6,701.00. At 20%, our project management fee would be $4,021. Project management fee included, our client still receives a $2,680 savings off the retail cost of the furniture when we carry out the project.