Many clients seem reluctant to discuss the budget, almost as if it does not matter, and that there is no limit to their spend.
There’s no denying that interior architecture is an art, one that is magical to the user and it takes many a resource to create this magic. It is a fallacy that good design does not need to consider the budget as an important parameter. Budgeting involves being cognizant of present costs and any future upkeep.
The magnitude of a budget can range from a few hundred to millions, and this information is vital at the onset of a project. Nevertheless, during my 25 years of designing experience, very rarely have I come across a client who is willing to tell me their budget from the start. The level of funding can deeply influence a project, so we should always address this issue beforehand.
The client has a certain vision, one that is articulated using words and, at other times, using a strategy and measure of feasibility. And sometimes, it is realised through a process of discussions when all the scattered pieces of the puzzle fit together to make a sensible picture. In all the above scenarios, there will almost always be a fixed budget.
The pre-function lobby at Amity University Dubai
Always discuss the budget beforehand
When project cycles have no budgets allocated, the ‘interiors’ sector, which is one of the last stages of design, ends up with budget allocation issues. This leads to solutions that may not be appropriate for the purpose, resulting in a space that is not what the designer envisioned, nor what the client expected.
One of the reasons leading to this situation is that interior architects and designers are not informed of any budget constraints beforehand. Another reason could be that the designer hired for the project would not be made aware of the cost of the items used and implemented. And of course, there is always that element of surprise – some unexpected and unforeseen circumstance that is beyond anyone’s control. All such situations can have an impact on the schedule and pace of the project, as well as the remaining budget, leading to an unplanned end result.
Envisioning a new project and putting it together piece by piece can easily become a costly affair. Bringing architects and spatial designers together at the negotiation table puts the client at a distinct advantage – they then have all the technical knowledge and material specifications necessary to ensure that their vision is fulfilled well within the budget. Also, it saves valuable time and effort for both client and designer.
Leave it to the pros
My advice to clients would be to trust the architects and designers with their budget, and ask as many questions as possible. Most of the time, clients underestimate the cost of projects, be it retail, hospitality or residential. Doing some research on market prices and costs before venturing into the management and organisational processes of a project would be extremely beneficial for them.
Also, by trusting their designer with the budget, clients have a higher chance of meeting project goals, deadlines and expectations.
The lobby at Amity University Dubai
Advice for interior designers and architects
In any project, the element of chaos and lack of clarity would most likely be due to a lack of transparency. Most clients will tend to shop around and not know how to compare apples to apples.
While this most definitely is a problem, designers should become aware of current market trends, and be knowledgeable enough to provide cost information and budgetary estimates. This will help in providing an overall picture to the client. A systematic process of value engineering should be done by the designers, as they are equipped with the objective and creative knowledge that is required to reach a consensus between the vision of perfection and a limited budget. In this way, the client’s preferences are retained and the design philosophy is embodied.
The auditorium at Amity University in Dubai Academic City
The supplier’s contribution
Suppliers play an integral role in project execution, because it is their resources and materials that are being used to bring a vision to life. This is why it is necessary for suppliers to have complete and utter transparency with designers about their prices and services.
The entire process of design is borne of a threefold relationship. Without equal contribution from all sides, the end result will fall short of the original inspiration and vision.
In the end, what I am trying to emphasize is the importance of budgets – they don’t just fulfill the purpose of obtaining figures and numbers, but also improve the design process to make it efficient and streamlined.