Budgeting to Decorate a New House

Pretty textiles are only the tip of the iceberg of costs for decorating a new house. (Photo: jade/morguefile.com)Over the years, I've had many clients, or potential clients, who purchased a new house without planning for the cost of decorating it. This isn’t just about pretty fabrics either; there are many practical considerations such as the need for privacy; heating and cooling (in cities like Boston, HVAC cannot be overlooked), and air flow.

Different proportions mean different furniture needs

New construction homes can be fresh and exciting, but often come with bare windows and rooms that are in completely different proportions from those in older homes. New homes may have large open-space kitchens and great rooms but tiny dining rooms and formal living rooms. Furniture that fit into a standard living room in the “old house” may be too big for the new space, while suddenly the cavernous great room needs a furniture store worth of sofas and chairs to fill it up.

Similarly, master bedrooms are often very large and require full-scale seating areas in addition to the standard bedroom ensemble, in order to cozy them up. And in all of these rooms, area rugs may suddenly be too big or too small to fit.

Consider before you buy

After you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new house, it’s frustrating indeed to have insufficient funds to adequately decorate it. Here are 5 tips for what to consider before you buy: 

1. Window coverings: Assuming you want more than a basic $5 roller shade, covering all the windows in a house can average between $500 to $1000 per window for shutters, wood blinds, Hunter Douglas soft-blinds, and/or fabric window treatments. Some windows will, of course, be less and others may be more, but I’ve always found that this is a good range to consider. 

2. Rugs: Area rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting begin at about $500 per room and can climb as high as $2,500 and more. Unless you have perfect hardwood flooring that you want to showcase, figure floor coverings into the budget.

3. Furniture: Consider how many people will be using each room on a regular basis and whether there are any entertaining needs such as big family dinners during the holidays. Large rooms will need larger furniture, or several smaller furniture groupings to make them comfortable and useful. 

4. Budget: List on a spreadsheet everything you imagine you'd need to buy for each room, and what you own that you'll be reusing. Generally, this will be the same for most of the homes you look at. Do a little research on the cost of new furnishings. Many retail stores have great websites where you can quickly check prices. When I create a budget like this for clients, I have two columns for High and Low estimates, taking into consideration retail vs. custom furnishings, plus a 10% contingency column for sales tax and delivery/set up charges. It’s not necessary to include every single item, but taking into account big-ticket pieces such as windows, rugs and furniture will be very helpful. 

Break free of traditional room types. If you don’t need a formal dining room and will never use it, consider other uses for this area. It may make a great home office, play room or meditation room. If the master bedroom is too large for your existing furniture, consider using one of the smaller bedrooms and turn the master into a shared bedroom or second family room. There are no rules when it comes to room assignments, so when looking at new homes, consider all the possibilities.

Linda Merrill is an interior designer who writes for networx.com.

Updated July 29, 2018.

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