Budgeting Your Design Project


There are two crucial factors that should be considered before even scheduling the exploratory meeting. Time and Money. They absolutely do matter in planning a design project. 

Let's talk about money

  • In the 12 years that I have been designing, I have only once had a client come prepared with an overall budget. You are not alone in feeling unsure!
  • Common situation, "I have a budget, but if I tell you- you'll use it all!" Yes... I will. You see, I can design a living room with trade only furnishings, storage in my warehouse, and white glove delivery, or I can put together a retail shopping list for you to purchase from independently. I use the money you have planned to give you the best possible services. So, I absolutely need to know your budget before I can provide my pricing. Without it, I will give you the largest possible scope, and you'll run for the hills.

So, how do you develop a design budget without knowing typical costs? After all, you don't do this every day. First, ask a trusted contractor for average price ranges in your area. Next, take a peek below at what I've found through my own research and experience:


  • Pacific average pricing is approximately $65,000-85,000. 
  • A good rule of thumb for the design fee is to set aside 15-20% of your overall budget for the design fee.
  • A design fee of $9,750-17,00 is a very realistic start!


  • Pacific average pricing is approximately $23,000-65,000
  • A design fee of $3,400-13,000 


  • Pacific average pricing is approximately $150-275/square foot
  • Based on a 3000 square foot home, a design fee of $45,000-99,000 is realistic
  • A design fee of $6,750 to $19,800 


  • Plan on a design fee of $2/square foot for a full home
  • A 3000 square foot home could be expected to be $6,000 for design selections
  • Kitchen and bath only projects can divide the above number by 3, for $2,000/space for design selections


  • Do some research- take a look at online retailers for average pricing. Don't forget to figure in decor, shipping, and tax!
  • Designer goods? No problem- run over to the Seattle Design Center. Several showrooms list retail prices on their products, even if they are only available to the trade. Consider that shipping, crating, etc. will total to about 20% of the order cost. ($5,000 sofa + $1,000 freight = $6,000 sofa). 
  • Not up for the research? No problem- I will provide you with generic furniture pricing for a small fee. 

How do you work?

Of course, design fees vary based on your project needs, the breadth of the services provided (not all projects are full service). At Waldron Designs, we invite our clients to join us for a feasibility meeting. If the client is fully prepared and is able to provide us with a clear set of needs, goals, expectations, and project budget, we are able to follow this meeting with a proposal.

Yes, we can actually do a proposal without having seen the space. We can do this because we have done so many projects that we are able to develop a healthy idea of cost with enough information. The proposal is non-binding, however, because we also realize that design is a service, not a commodity and there are unknowns. It is important to be prepared for these unknowns and let us know if there is a "not-to-exceed" right away.

After the feasibility meeting, we provide a proposal of the design scope via email. A non-refundable retainer of 10% of the design fee estimate holds space on our calendar. That retainer is applied to the final/construction documents phase invoice. If services are canceled early, the retainer is forfeited. Projects that end with a balance on the retainer receive a credit to the hourly contract administration services, which are billed at our hourly rate.

Sometimes clients want a partial service, concept development only perhaps. We are very hesitant to do this (read here to find out why). So, we work these projects in prepaid "blocks of time". You choose your budget and pre-purchase. Because these ongoing consulting projects take additional scheduling and planning to fit them into our schedule, they are rare and an administration fee of 8% is charged for each block purchased. Contact us to find out more about these services.

Now For the Timeline

  • Design takes time- plan for a minimum of 4-6 weeks for a single space project.
  • Designing your full home? Set aside at least 6 months for the design time.
  • Consider designer and contractor availability- we book out several months in advance
  • Expect a rush fee if you'd like your design timeline sped up.
 Was this helpful? If so, please pin or share the article to help others as well!

Was this helpful? If so, please pin or share the article to help others as well!

Looking again at past experiences, every single project.... every one wants to start NOW. Every project is ready ASAP. Many times people come to me with their homes under construction and they don't know what to do. Moral of the story? It pays to plan your project ahead. We all make mistakes and often times it is thought that no designer is needed, but decisions come up that suddenly show that a designer is, in fact, needed. That's okay! Keep in mind that time is needed and the best designs are not rushed.

Still reading? I have a story for you. 

Once upon a time, there was a sweet and wonderful woman, we'll call her Jill. Jill came to me and said, my house is completely gutted and there are too many decisions for me to make on my own! Jill and I began working together, with the constant calls from the contractor with "I need x NOW". Jill did not want the project to be put on hold, so she urged me to help her make those decisions. However, Jill was very indecisive and was not easy to reach. Nearly a year went by and as each urgent decision came up, it was a sudden rush. Come installation time there were issues left and right. Despite the project lagging, rush decisions meant a lack of research time. Had we halted the project upfront, completed the design in full, then started construction back up- we would have had a well thought out, functional design, saving Jill oodles in restocking fees and contractor fees. 

Rachel WaldronComment