Category Archives: Budgeting

How much does it cost to do up a house?

Before I became an interior designer I would dread the inevitable ‘so what do you do for a living’ question when I met new people. My actual job title made no sense to anybody outside my organisation (or most of my colleagues for that matter), and ‘work for an insurance company’ just sounds soooo dull. And if the person asking did look interested it was only because they were about to bore me senseless with the scintillating story of their last insurance claim, or ask me how they could get cheaper car insurance. Don’t care, don’t know, being my responses to both if I’d had too many sav blancs. When I became an interior designer I thought, at last a sexy job title I can be proud of! But this has now created a new problem. Being put on the spot.

Amelia Wilson Interior Designer Cumbria

Picture from my recent feature in Cumbria Life explaining my move from Insurance to Interior Design

Interior Designer FAQ’s

There are 2 questions I get asked all the time. The first is “What colour should I paint my living room?” (It isn’t always a living room it can be any room in the house). People ask me this question without providing any other background information, such as room size, what the light is like, what colours they prefer or what furniture they have. And they look at me expectantly like I should have the answer. I’m an interior designer not a psychic mindreading magician.

Interior designer Cumbria Amelia Wilson moodpboard

Moodboard for the red dining room project, it took me to mediate between the homeowners to agree on the colour of this room. Before and afters still to come.

The second FAQ is “I want to do up my house how much will it cost me?” My quick answer to this has become, “How much do you want to spend?” But I thought I would share my approach to the long answer with you as it’s actually a really good question.

What’s my budget?

Most of the people I work with really have no idea how much it’s going to cost them, and it’s not just the first time buyers. I met a lovely couple last week, and one of them was a minister. They had spent most of their lives living in church houses so they had never had to replace a kitchen or bathroom or do any major renovations so had come to me for guidance. Not spiritual obviously.

Whether I am doing a single room or a whole house the first thing I do with most new customers is estimate the cost of the project so that we can agree a budget. To do this I need the answers to three questions, which also shape the overall brief:

1. What work is needed?

This isn’t just how many rooms they have, and whether it includes a kitchen or bathroom, but also the state of things like the windows and doors and the plumbing and electrics, i.e. the things that can really eat into your budget.

2. What is the desired look?

This covers both style and level of quality. Are we talking top of the range German kitchen and solid wood flooring, or secondhand furniture and ready-made curtains, or a mixture of both?

3. What are the priorities?

What do we spend money on and where do we compromise in order to keep within budget?

I then give the customer a spreadsheet like this for every room so we can look at the figures together and agree a budget.Interior Designer Cumbria Amelia Wilson

If we’re doing the whole house there will also be a summary that looks something like this:

Interior Designer Cumbria Amelia Wilson

The true cost of home improvements

I’ve found that when I work on whole houses we typically spend half the budget on labour, unless the customers can carry out work themselves. But I still do all of this early estimating before I bring any trades in to quote. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, I’ve been doing this long enough now to know roughly what things cost. Obviously there are things I can’t estimate, especially when you get into bespoke joinery and mysterious damp problems (for that I really need Damp Gary), but my estimates for most things are usually pretty accurate.

But more importantly I don’t like to waste peoples’ time. If we need to make compromises, and this means customers doing their own decorating, then I’d rather establish this before I bring a decorator in to price the job.

But the main reason for this early estimating is that in order to get an accurate overall cost for a room you need to have designed it. But you don’t want to design a room and go to the trouble of getting quotes from trades for a look that the customer will love but can’t afford. You need to manage your customers expectations and to do this you need to know what your budget is.

So what does it cost to do up a house?

So as you can see there isn’t a simple answer. But I will go out on a limb and say that if you have a two or three bedroom house which you want to completely redecorate and furnish, with a medium sized kitchen, an average sized bathroom, and one ensuite, then the figures in my examples above are pretty realistic for midrange in terms of quality. Obviously you can always spend more or less but I wanted to leave you with something to ponder now the Christmas decorations have come down leaving your rooms looking tired and bare.

And if you think you might want my help get in touch quickly as enquiries have been rolling in since I became a local media sensation…. (a customers words not mine after seeing my features in Cumbria Life and The Whitehaven News!)

Amelia Wilson Interior Designer Cumbria

Picture from my recent Cumbria Life feature

The Affordable Kitchen Transformation

If we were playing Family Fortunes this would be the top four answers to the question Why do people procrastinate about changing their bathrooms and kitchens? 

  1. Cost
  2. Mess
  3. Time
  4. Too much choice

But imagine if you could have someone do ALL the research, AND make all the decisions, AND deal with all the trades, how amazing would that be? Well you can. Employ me and you eliminate answers 3 and 4, which is why one of my customers called me last year and told me he wanted to do both his bathroom and kitchen before Christmas. Last week I showed you his new bathroom and today I’m going to show you his new kitchen. But not without showing you some before pics first……

The diabolically dated kitchen

So this kitchen had everything and none of it good – dated kitchen units, broken appliances, missing tiles, fusty carpet, bad lighting, and tired decor.

Affordable kitchen transformation before image

It also had some old fire damage, and damp walls caused by bad rendering outside and a leaking stop tap behind one of the cupboards. And if that wasn’t enough, when we ripped out the kitchen we found that the previous owners had concreted the middle of the floor but not under the units where we had old loose tiles on a dirt floor. In some old Victorian terraces they didn’t grout or seal the floor tiles so that any water could just drain into the ground…..and you wonder why pleurisy was so common.

Affordable kitchen transformation before image

The plan

The customer wanted a light, modern kitchen, but like the bathroom I had a limited budget to work with so this needed to be an affordable kitchen transformation. We had quite a few practical issues to deal with before we could fit a new kitchen. So to minimise costs we agreed the layout would stay the same and the washing machine and the fridge freezer would stay. We also agreed we would take advantage of the partnership I have with Cockermouth Kitchen Co.

Cockermouth Kitchen Co

I’m an independent interior designer and can work with any kitchen supplier I choose to, but I do have a partnership with Cockermouth Kitchen Co which we formed a year ago. I did this for a number of reasons:

  • I like the style and quality of the kitchens and other products they supply
  • They can offer affordable, mid-range and high end kitchens and their pricing is right
  • They use the same great quality carcasses in all their kitchens available in a million colours and finishes
  • They have really excellent fitters
  • They’re a great team – and good relationships are important when your customers are spending a lot of money on a new kitchen

I can still work with other suppliers and shop around, but if a customer buys their kitchen from CKC they will refund the customer my design fee.

It’s a partnership that works for everyone. The customer gets a great product and a good deal. I get to work regularly with a trusted supplier who I have a strong relationship with (so I can call on favours when I need to). It works for CKC  because I introduce customers to them and take some of the work away from them. Win win win. CKC also employed me to design their huge new showroom so I have somewhere to take customers to show them what they can expect when they work with CKC.

So without any further wittering from me, here it is, the affordable kitchen transformation.

The Affordable Kitchen Transformation

We chose a simple white gloss kitchen from the Porter range by PWS.

Kitchen Transformation - Affordable contemporary white gloss porter kitchen by PWS fitted by Cockermouth Kitchen Co and designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Quartz and granite worktops might be hardwearing and provide the greatest protection against scratches and stains but if you don’t have the budget you don’t have the budget and there are some very good quality laminates available now for a fraction of the cost. We chose a dark grey slate effect laminate worktop by Durapol.

Kitchen Transformation - Affordable contemporary white gloss porter kitchen by PWS fitted by Cockermouth Kitchen Co and designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Surprisingly one of the things that can rack up the cost when you buy a kitchen is the end panels that get fitted at the end of any run of cupboards, which you normally purchase to match the doors. The way to avoid this cost is to pick a carcass colour and finish that closely matches the doors so you don’t need to add the panels.

Kitchen Transformation - Affordable contemporary white gloss porter kitchen by PWS fitted by Cockermouth Kitchen Co and designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

We installed new integrated appliances, including an oven, microwave, hob, hood and a slimline dishwasher.

Kitchen Transformation - Affordable contemporary white gloss porter kitchen by PWS fitted by Cockermouth Kitchen Co and designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

We picked simple stainless steel handles and a sink with drainer and mixer tap in the same finish.

Kitchen Transformation - Affordable contemporary white gloss porter kitchen by PWS fitted by Cockermouth Kitchen Co and designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

We improved the lighting by adding new ceiling spots and under cupboard lights and used simple pale grey metro tiles as splashback.

Kitchen Transformation - Affordable contemporary white gloss porter kitchen by PWS fitted by Cockermouth Kitchen Co and designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The walls are painted one of my favourite grey colours – Chic Shadow by Dulux. And the floor is a very affordable but hard wearing sheet vinyl from the Gripstar range by Tarkett.

Kitchen Transformation - Affordable contemporary white gloss porter kitchen by PWS fitted by Cockermouth Kitchen Co and designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

I think the thing I was happiest to see go is those ugly vertical blinds, which we replaced with simple roller blinds from one of my favourite online suppliers Blinds2Go. In case you’re wondering why the blind is shut the wall outside needs painting and I didn’t want it to distract you from the shiny new kitchen.

Kitchen Transformation - Affordable contemporary white gloss porter kitchen by PWS fitted by Cockermouth Kitchen Co and designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

A new kettle and toaster and a few matching accessories and we were done.

Budget

The average cost of a new kitchen used to be £15,000. But since the UK voted to leave the EU there have been price increases, even from UK suppliers. Because they have to source some materials from outside the UK I suspect this will raise the average by 10-20%. So I am very proud to tell you that even after all the additional plumbing, electrics, plastering and flooring work the final cost will be less than half the average.

Affordable kitchen transformation - old lady with shocked face

Shockingly good value don’t you think? So if you’ve been thinking you can’t afford a new kitchen hopefully this has given you a few ideas as to how you could. And if you’re a local give me a call I’d love to help you.

The Budget Bathroom Challenge

One of the great things about being an interior designer in Cumbria is that I see jobs of all shapes and sizes. And contrary to what you might think I enjoy the budget jobs just as much as those with more to spend. The Northerner in me loves to see how far I can stretch a budget and still achieve a bit of wow. A few months ago I wrote about my Budget Bathroom Challenge. The bathroom was finished well before Christmas but I’m a bit of a perfectionist and there were a couple of minor snags to fix before I showed you the finished result. And now it’s ready for its close up….hold on to your hats you won’t recognise this room.

The Budget Bathroom Challenge

If you’re a regular reader of my blog (thank you lovely people) you might remember this is the customer who knew his house needed work, particularly his bathroom and kitchen. But a combination of time, budget, overwhelming choices and the upheaval had caused him to procrastinate. That is until he slipped in the shower and pulled the curtain rail down and some of the tiles off the wall. That was when he called me.

Budget bathroom - before image

As you can see the bathroom was more than a little tired. But because of the size it had huge potential.

Budget bathroom - before image

It even had lots of existing storage space which we could improve.

Budget bathroom - before image

The Plan

Changing layout is something you should try to avoid if you’re on a tight budget because of the cost of labour and materials but the customer was desperate for a separate shower. We also knew we would need to plaster the whole room, another additional cost. So to keep it within budget I shopped around for fixtures and fittings, limited new lighting and suggested a sheet vinyl floor and acrylic panels instead of tiles which we would limit to wet areas.

As the property is Victorian we wanted to keep some traditional elements. However, traditional bathroom fittings tend to be more expensive than contemporary ones so we made a small saving by keeping the existing sink and just replacing the taps. (Tip – look for tap packs rather separate sets for the bath and sink to save a few pennies).

Bringing in separate trades to do everything can also be expensive, and make your project take longer but I work with a great fitter Ben Butler Joinery & Home Improvements. and Ben (and his colleague Will) do everything except plastering and painting which is a godsend.

Modern bathroom with traditional elements in a Victorian terrance house designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors

I was initially planning a pistachio green colour to add warmth and a contrast to all the white fittings, but I then discovered the customers favourite colour was blue….. So goodbye pistachio, hello Windblown Blue by Valspar.

Budget Bathroom - Windblown Blue by Valspar paint

The Final Reveal

Light modern budget bathroom with traditional elements in Victorian terrace by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

I’ll pause for a moment so you can scroll back up to check this is the same bathroom……

So the finished bathroom now has a large walk in shower enclosure with a powerful 2-outlet thermostatic shower and recessed storage for shampoo bottles. I originally planned to include a heated towel radiator above the bath and a tall column radiator by the door until I found this Tissimo towel radiator which gives out a whopping 4649 BTU’s which is plenty hot enough for this bathroom. (Tip – buy a plumbed towel radiator and a dual fuel element so that you can run the radiator off the electric in the summer to dry your towels).

Light modern budget bathroom with traditional elements in Victorian terrace by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Check out that stone flag effect vinyl floor, looks like tile doesn’t it?

We managed to squeeze a 1600mm long bath under the window. Thats only 10cm shorter than a standard bath, so unless you’re a giant you’d probably never notice.

Light modern budget bathroom with traditional elements in Victorian terrace by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

This left plenty of space for the toilet and sink on the wall next to it. There’s nothing worse than knocking your knees on the bath when you sit down, or cracking your elbow on the sink when you reach for the loo roll.

Light modern budget bathroom with traditional elements in Victorian terrace by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

We used white metro tile effect acrylic wall panels inside the shower, behind the bath and above the sink. If it wasn’t for the fact that most people use grey grout these days and these sheets are all white they’d be easily mistaken for tiles.

Light modern budget bathroom with traditional elements in Victorian terrace by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The old cupboards had old shutter style doors and very few shelves which were slatted so stuff would fall through. The customer now has much better storage with access to the boiler, space for the laundry bin, and extra shelves for toiletries and towels. And you’ll have to take my word for it as I’m not showing you a picture of the shelves. Toiletries and packs of loo roll aren’t pretty and would spoil my post….

Light modern budget bathroom with traditional elements in Victorian terrace by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

We were economical with the lighting to keep costs down and just replaced the central light fitting and added a matching wall light above the mirror and a recessed spot above the shower.

Light modern budget bathroom with traditional elements in Victorian terrace by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

And lastly, a new window blind from my favourite online supplier Blinds2Go. They do a great range of very affordable made to measure blinds and curtains and will send you free samples which always gets my vote.

Light modern budget bathroom with traditional elements in Victorian terrace by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Budget

This is a good sized bathroom, everything except the sink had to be replaced, and we needed to do a lot of joinery, plastering, plumbing and electrical work. For a project like this you can typically expect to spend at least £7-8k, but (drum roll please) we did all this for just over £5,000 proving two things:

  • Employing an interior designer can save you money
  • Budget can still be beautiful

And most importantly the customer loves it. What do you think?

Come collaborate with me

Some might think its easy being an interior designer. I mean it’s just picking paint and furniture isn’t it? (Raises left eyebrow sarcastically). But I would challenge anyone who thinks it’s easy to design a room for someone they just met and get it right first time.

People rarely know exactly what they want. If they did they wouldn’t need an interior designer. And don’t be thinking their homes provide all the answers. Yes there are clues, but most peoples homes include (a) things they like, (b), things they once liked but don’t any more, (c) things they bought on a temporary basis and never replaced (I suspect this accounts for a large chunk of IKEA sales…), and (d) things they never liked but were either gifts, inherited or came with their partner when they moved in….You all know the conversation, “no no, I want you to feel like this is your home, so of course you can bring your (insert offending item)”. Be grateful if it’s only a novelty phone, and no I’m not telling you what Mr W has inflicted on me over the years.

Novelty Homer Simpson telephone

Novelty Homer Simpson telephone

So a big part of being an interior designer is figuring out what a customer will like and I’m proud to say that so far I have a 100% success rate. But as the title of this blog suggests, I do my homework. After I’ve snooped around their home looking for clues (with their permission of course), I interrogate them ask a whole bunch of questions. Depending on the customer I sometimes use images to draw out what they like, and encourage all my customers to send me pics of anything that catches their eye.

Houzz has a fabulous Ideabook tool which facilitates this process. I recently collaborated with one customer using this tool. Between us we uploaded 20+ images. She added things she liked and I added a range of rooms and colour schemes to test what she’d told me she liked and didn’t like.

Monochrome Scandi style bedroom in Ideabook on Houzz

This image helped me rule out purely monochrome schemes as the customers husband said this room was too grey

We don’t realise how much info we take in when we look at a picture, which we subconsciously judge, categorise and file for potentially future use. When you get someone to really look and pick out what they like or don’t like it and then summarise the findings for them it can often surprise them.

Blue and grey Scandi style living room added to an Ideabook in Houzz

A room my customer liked after telling me she didn’t like blue unless it was her jeans.

I use this tool for elements within a design too. I have one customer who has a split level bungalow and we want to replace the staircases. I know I know, you’re now thinking ‘bungalows don’t have stairs’. Well they do if they’re built on a hillside. The bungalow is all single-storey but you have to climb a few stairs to pass between some of the rooms. I used an ideabook to show the customer images of different contemporary staircases so we could agree on the design.

Lighting on staircase in Ideabook on Houzz

I used this image to show the customer how we could light up their new staircases

Many of my customers have no idea how much it might cost to update their home. When this is the case I help them by putting together an estimate based on what they want to do and the look they are aiming for. We then use this to establish a budget, which I make sure we stick to. This is why I’ll never be the next Kevin McCLoud or George Clarke – who wants to watch a homeowner achieve their budget, or heaven forbid underspend…..

I usually come up with a plan for a new customer quite quickly and will often run this by them to check I’m on the right track, and maybe show them the colour palette I’m thinking of using. If I get a positive response then I’ll start working on the designs.

Colour palette for Scandi style new build project

The colour palette I agreed with my customer for her Scandi inspired new build after collaborating on an Ideabook

Depending on the size or scope of the project it can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to pull it all together. When I’m doing full houses I like to start with one or two rooms so the customer can get comfortable with my work. I find that gaining their trust early on speeds up the whole process – no need to keep checking back.

By the time I’ve finished designing a room I’ll have a presentation for the customer which includes a mood board, floor plan, samples of any flooring, fabric etc. and a list of everything to go in the room, where it’s from and how much it will all cost.

Mood board by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd for a kitchen project

Mood board for a recent kitchen project

And then the real work starts.

I book all the tradespeople, order everything we need and then watch it all like a paranoid control freak hawk until the work is done and they’re ready for me to come and add the finishing touches. This is where I  can relate to Mr McCloud and Mr Clarke. Things never go smoothly however organised and efficient you are. Things will break. Deliveries will not turn up. Tradespeople will get delayed. You just need to be ‘on it like a car bonnet’ which fortunately is my specialty.

Now most people would find this exceptionally stressful, but not me, I thrive on it. And the satisfaction when you’re finished and the customer is beaming makes it all worth while.

Customer review for Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

So if you were one of those people who thought my job was easy, do you still think so?

 

 

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Today I am on a high which I desperately needed after the last 10 days. Scratchy (the cat) was diagnosed as having kidney disease when I got back from Kenya and it broke my heart watching him deteriorate. He was eating almost nothing and getting weaker and weaker. He perked up for a few hours when Mr W came home last Thursday and spent the evening purring on his lap, but it was short-lived, and on Saturday we had to take him to the vet for the final time. We buried him in his favourite spot in the garden, under a tree where he used to watch the birds and reminisce about a time when he could chase and catch them. He was the friendliest cat in the world and my buddy for almost 17 years. I miss him terribly.

So I needed today. It started this morning with a trip to my step-daughters to drop off some of the new furniture etc for her conservatory which I have redesigned and am decorating as a Christmas present. The coffee shop theme has really come together with a dark wood floor and matching furniture, and soft furnishings made from recycled coffee sacks. As a surprise I designed some ‘selfie’ coasters using photos I downloaded from her Facebook page, with matching placemats showing photos of her and her boyfriend. I used Snapfish to create them, and in black and white they look very cool. If the boyfriend doesn’t last at least she can still use the coasters! I would have liked to wait until I had everything so I could install it all and dress the room but car space wouldn’t allow it. The high came when she sent me a text when she got home from work saying how much she loves everything and can’t wait to see it finished.

image image

Some of the ‘selfies’

The second high came this afternoon when I met with a new client to discuss re-decorating her whole house. She has just returned to the UK with her husband after a 4 year stint in Australia on business. The house had needed updating before they left but as they didn’t know if they would return there was little point. The house has been occupied while they were away but poorly maintained so they are both desperate to gut it and give it a facelift. As I walked through the house with her discussing what she didn’t like (everything) and the additions she would like (lots) I realised this is my calling. I know that with the right builder I can improve the layout and give her a lot more storage space – what every girl wants right? I also know just the look she wants and how to create it without clearing out her bank account. The project management will be key though. With so much to do we have to prioritise, not just for implementation but also for budget purposes. They need to replace most if not all of the windows so I’ve suggested we price this first, to figure out how much of their budget will be left to replace the kitchen and bathrooms and redecorate. I’ve also agreed to draw up plans for a new layout upstairs, and for the installation of a downstairs loo and utility room at the end of the kitchen so that we can validate these plans with a local builder and price these changes. Starting with upstairs means she can get her clothes out of storage, and if we’re going to have builders traipsing in and out its better to do this before we redecorate downstairs. Once the upstairs is done they’ll have somewhere clean to retreat to when the work starts downstairs. Planning and budgeting were a daily part of my old life so all of this is right up my street. There are also plenty of opportunities to be creative. I am so excited.

When you’re a child adults always ask you what you want to be when you grow up. I find myself doing this with my friends children. When I was a child I could never answer this question, as I just didn’t know. Now I can, I guess this means I need to grow up….  🙂

In memory of Scratchy, Feb 1998 – Nov 2014. RIP

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