At various points throughout my career in design I have heard the following: "I couldn't possibly afford you..." including shortly after I left teaching to pursue this as a full time gig. I was flattered then and immediately comforted them with a "Of course you can..." After a decade in the business, my retort was often "You probably can't afford me..." Now I don't have a clever response per se but rather, I opt for "What is your budget?"
The interesting thing to me is that it's very hard to immediately dismiss whether or not a designer is affordable because every budget is different and sometimes you act as a consultant whereas other times you're the entire production team. Now that isn't to say that there are some projects that are really not suited to having a designer involved because of the budget restrictions because there are. I have been approached by prospective clients who have a budget of $10,000 and needed to furnish an entire condo. This would be an example of a project that I would most likely pass up. In this particular instance however, I did say that the living and dining room could possibly be done for that amount however, if I were to do it, it would be done as a lump sum payment and I would spend it as I saw fit in order to fulfill the mandate and that I would do the best that I could with that amount. I knew full well that it was a long shot of a proposal and well I didn't get the gig. You see that would be a fun challenge for me but I couldn't have any restrictions. I would have to be given full creative reign to do with the budget as I saw fit. I'm still totally game for this by the way if you should want to take such a risk with me. (You know that because I am a DAMN GOOD designer, I'd ask you a whole bunch of questions first before I bought a single pillow)
Our #Unionville client has worked with us on I believe 7 different projects spanning almost a decade. I've done both of her daughter's homes and continue to do work for each of them and their parents. While we haven't ever set an actual budget for any of our projects, our client who is very involved and aware of her spending range always makes the call on whether or not she wants to invest/splurge or if we have to get creative. Her home is the perfect illustration of High and Low. We have done almost the entire home now - just finishing off a few last bits but her office was a big deal. Now the entire story on this house reads like a John Grisham novel at times, with the twists and turns and revelations but what started out as a totally cosmetic decorating job has turned into a full scale renovation, new kitchen, new flooring the works on top of decorating. When it came to her office - which is located smack dab in the centre of the house - literally, it had to be functional. That was our initial mandate. As kitchens were being pulled out and flooring completely removed and re-installed anew, the office became essential because it is the hub/mission control. Without order and organization in her office, the became disconnected from her source and it was very unsettling. I believe in Feng Shui terms, her Chi was off and our task was to ground it and get her re-connected. But with all of the unexpected design turmoil, the budget was reduced for this area. So Celia and I started looking at Ikea, West Elm, Crate and Barrel. Big Box stores who have creative solutions on a budget - made possible when designers are actually at the helm. The office itself is awkwardly laid out - it has three transom windows at the top of the room on three sides and it is angled off in the door way because it is right smack dab in the centre of the house. Suffice it to say, we tried every sort of permutation we could think of with this route and we just could not arrive at a solution that was both functional AND had a certain amount of elegance and refinement. You see by this point, we had plans for the rest of the house in place and a look going and these just weren't passing muster. Because of the location of the office, our client didn't want it to look cheap. If it were super functional - which we weren't finding options for - we may have compromised and gone for it but it wasn't the right fit. In an act of desperation, our client agreed to her husband's suggestion that they go to Business Depot and have someone there design a layout for free! (The client and I exchanged knowing glances at this point)
The design that came back was no better than any of our professionally designed layouts given the better looking Big Box options (yes that is really saying something) so Celia and I made a bold move. We talked our client out of the stunningly beautiful oh so fabulous silk hand woven carpet for the living room which was a princely sum and suggested we scale back there and put the money into purchasing a beautiful office suite that we had become aware of. We then looked at the measurements of the pieces we were eyeing and as if Divine Inspiration hadn't already charmed us once, but we were bestowed with the perfect layout and sizing.
Now we did lose out on an exceptional area rug. No doubt about it but given the amount the formal living room will actually be used, we couldn't justify it. The office is the epicentre of this family's nervous system and by creating an elegant work space, we knew we were investing in our client's well-being which was more important to us than a silk carpet. We installed the office today - we've got some decorating left to do so it's by no means a finished product but it is better than any big box Store could come up with and entirely worth it.
A smart investment that happens to be pretty smart looking too.