How do you help clients overcome expense anxiety?


Even clients who have budgets to splurge on their home can freak out about the cost of interior decorating. We asked six designers—Keith Baltimore, Janelle Blakely Photopoulos, Betty brandolino, Penny Francois, Glenn gissler and Kymberlyn Lacy—How they help clients get through these moments of doubt.

Glenn gisslerCourtesy of Glenn Gissler

Plan it
“We develop a furniture plan and a full budget from the start, where we seek to develop a line item for everything and are very diligent to stay within that budget. The result is that once clients approve the budget, we usually find that they stay comfortable until the end. We’ve all heard stories of budgets gone crazy, and we seek to reassure our customers from the start that we are on budget. And along the way, we give them updates on how we’re managing the budget. We have also found that when there are two owners, one person is often deeply concerned about the budget, while the other is more invested in comfort and beautiful results. By setting a realistic budget, the one who is most committed to aesthetics does not have problems with the most cost-conscious partner. —Glenn Gissler, Glenn Gissler Design, New York

Penny Francois

Penny FrancoisCourtesy of Penny Francis

Percentage points
“At the beginning, I always communicate the need to have a contingency percentage for possible budget overruns due to many factors, such as lack of product availability, prolonged delays and unforeseen problems or changes. It’s fine if you don’t need the contingency at the end, and better to be prepared and not use it than not to have the resources available if you need them. Committing to the plan and not making spontaneous changes also minimizes the potential risk of increased budget and fatigue. The more transparent you are about all the associated costs, [the better you can] reduce the potential for budget fatigue. Ultimately, this communication builds a stronger relationship with the customer and your brand. —Penny Francis, Eclectic Home, New Orleans

Keith Baltimore

Keith BaltimoreCourtesy of Keith Baltimore

“It may be necessary to remind clients of their primary motivation for starting the project, which is to improve their lifestyle in a space tailored to meet their personal requirements for comfort, aesthetics and practicality. Their initial approval of plans to bring that vision to fruition is usually not the issue, so if there is a budget issue as the project progresses, we can focus on the most design elements. important and cut back on those with the least impact, reassuring them that they will always end up with what they envisioned without excessively increasing costs. —Keith Baltimore, Baltimore Design Center, Port Washington, New York

Janelle Blakely Photopoulos

Janelle Blakely PhotopoulosCourtesy of Janelle Blakely Photopoulos

Stick to the plan
“We have budget discussions very early on and commit to the total investment almost from day one. Once the investment level is set, we intentionally source within that range, staying on budget and on budget and with our customers. This builds confidence, sets expectations and avoids a feeling of budget fatigue, as they have already anticipated the total investment from the start. —Janelle Blakely Photopoulos, Blakely Interior Design, North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Betty brandolino

Betty brandolinoCourtesy of Betty Brandolino

Window shopping
“In general, customers are more likely to be tired of spending at the end of a project. We often run into this problem when we come on a new construction project to tackle window treatments through our work as a Hunter Douglas dealer. As far as possible, our business plan is to get involved as early as possible with the client, both on the interior decoration side and on the window dressing side. When we catch them at the start of a new construction, we are able to plan every element of the design within budget. When we catch clients in the back and they experience budget fatigue, we evaluate the project, which means we take a step back and reassess priority areas of the house, helping them decide what is most. important to them at that time. moment.” —Betty Brandolino, Fresh Twist Studio, Elmhurst, Illinois

Kymberlyn Lacy

Kymberlyn LacyCourtesy of Kymberlyn Lacy

Talk it over
“I firmly believe that the way you as an industry professional think about money sets the tone for ‘the money talk’. One of the strategies my company has incorporated is to have “money talk” meetings with clients based on the progress of the project instead of just when a problem arises. Another way to eliminate budget fatigue is to provide a detailed breakdown that categorizes item cost, lead time, detailed material description, and subcontractor cost. In addition, my firm provides insight into the cost analysis which breaks down the client’s budget based on overall percentages by category. This gives customers a clear visual representation of where they spend the most and if there are any areas that we need to adjust. I have found that integrating a cost analysis report has been a critical part of the business since the pandemic. Customers are given an overview of the cost and lead time to before the pandemic compared to what things are currently costing and where they are on budget based on the national average. ” —Kymberlyn Lacy, International Flair Designs, Little Rock, Arkansas

Home page photo: A project by Glenn Gissler | Photo by Gross & Daley

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