Q. My neighbor says my fixation with hiring an interior decorator is bizarre. I'm not rich, but I love nice things. She tells me to get design tips from TV shows and save my money. What do you think? (Joanne in Kansas City, MO)
A. Joanne, thanks for the great question. In our IWI decorating practice in Manhattan, we cater to a variety of socio-economic levels. There are the very wealthy clients who want the best this, the latest that, and the most expensive whatever. There are only 19,000 or so mega-wealthy individuals with high net worth in North America according to our Internet diggings -- these are people with over $30 million in net worth. We don't have these kinds of clients. But wouldn't it be lovely if someone gave us a blank check and told us to leave them alone and let us weave our design magic?
We have many clients who are well to do. They make great livings in fields like real estate development or trading. They get healthy year-end bonuses for jobs well done. And they love to be fashionable, wearing nice designer clothing, sporting the latest watch or handbag, and living in a beautiful home environment. It's not uncommon for these clients to spend more than $150,000 per room to decorate.
We also have clients who are not as well off, but they yearn for luxury and good value in equal measure. These clients' circumstances are more challenging, but we always try our best to serve their requirements. We pull off many professional tricks and devise endless ways to save money on their decorating budget by compromising on specific aspects of their jobs and splurging on others. For instance, we might advise to forego expensive granite countertops in the kitchen in favor of practical, yet elegant building materials (hopefully "green" products). The money saved can go into glam appliances. Or we often select less expensive catalog furniture and add a luxurious custom fabric and trim to give the piece extra punch (of course choosing the furniture in the first place for its great proportions and beautiful details).
Joanne, you might want to use a local "home staging" company or "home stylist" to help you use most of your existing furniture, accessories, and artwork. This may be a great way to use professional decorating help and maintain your budget. Sometimes you just need someone from the outside to come into your home, spot the mistakes, eliminate the clutter, advise cosmetic changes like fresh coats of paint, rearrange things a bit, and come up with a great end result.
But if you want to go the extra mile, and consume a little more conspicuously, you will join the ranks of about 3% of U.S. married couples who hired a professional decorator -- over 7 million couples took the plunge last year. Contrary to stereotype, many of these people were not millionaires. They simply aspired to live in a beautiful and admired home setting. You can get the help of a professional or a design team to inject personality and style into where you live. The best designers will make sure YOUR personality shines in every room of your home. You don't have to be rich to have a beautiful interior. Sometimes all it takes is the right decorator to help deliver great design within your personal budget.