How much does it cost to furnish a room? I’m going to tell it to you straight. Despite what you may see on HGTV, you cannot redecorate a room for 2,000 bucks. Well, I’m sure that you knew that already, cause you guys are smart, savvy consumers. And yet… I still often get calls from someone who wants to spend no more than 10k to furnish an entire living room. This person, who lives in Westchester County, NY, one of the most affluent areas in the entire world, probably paid upwards of a million dollars for their home and now, think that they can furnish it for a few thousand dollars? Go figure.
SO HOW MUCH DOES IT REALLY COST?
First, the bad news. The average living room that you see in House Beautiful, Elle Decor or Architectural Digest and the like costs at LEAST 100 big ones. Yes, that’s right, a minimum of $100,000. And it could be 30 million if they have a vast and rare art collection!
Okay. Take a deep breath. Don’t worry. Most of my clients. (not all, but most) have no where near $100,000 to spend, but they want the LOOK.
My wonderful client Kerri, in Pound Ridge, NY showed me some photos at our first meeting and when she got to this one:
She said… “That’s what I want, Laurel.” I could see that the table was from Holly Hunt, the fabrics were from Cowtan and Tout. The rug, a wool and silk Tibetan, from Odegard. (most likely). The rug alone could be in the range of $7,000-$12,000! The Murano glass chandelier from Donghia? Don’t ask. Okay. It’s a college tuition. The furniture? This is a very expensive room.
Sitting with Kerri in her old living room, here is what it looked like before we got started.
She had really grown to dislike the traditional stiffness. It felt dark and heavy in this contemporary ranch home built in the 1960’s. It faces north and everything goes GREEN. The walls had a pallid green tint. The window treatments were too fuddy duddy and heavy (and hung too low! and the drapes in the dining area were 3 inches off the floor!) In the dining area is a Country French table and hutch and a dated chandelier. The chairs were big and dark and very heavy-looking. (it’s an L-shaped room and we did do some things in the dining room, like change the chairs, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus only on the living room area)
Furthermore, she had recently redone her kitchen with light cherry cabinetry, apple green walls and orange accents. It is updated and warm and totally did not go with the burgundy and green living room. Kerri is a warm and vivacious young mother of two and this room was not a reflection of her, so we needed a room that looked like it went with Kerri and the kitchen. The clients had already changed the fireplace surround, so that was a given we needed to work with.
Actually, I did a post on this room and it was not finished at the time. (it is now), but that post is here. However, I’ve reposted the photos here as well.
This is the room now. (these photos were taken low because it was for the World’s Away contest and we didn’t have the art yet, so I didn’t want a big blank wall showing.) And YES, we painted out those ugly beams! The wall color is Benjamin Moore Cotton Balls 2145-70. It’s a lovely, very clean, warm white, with a touch of cream. I love white walls in a contemporary home!
(a brief aside. Behind the club chair is a glimpse of this amazing Phillip Jeffries grass cloth. But please notice the small wall to the right of the floor radiator. We added a small wall on both sides to create something of a separation between the entry and living room as before there was none. To the right of the wall is actually a three-foot wide hall, (going back to the bedroom area) but due to the angle of the shot and perspective looks like only a few inches. Kerri was a bit nervous about this change, so she hung up sheets to simulate how it would look. She admits now… “it looks like it was always like that!” It makes so much sense, because with the small walls (the opening is still several feet wide), we could now introduce the cool grass cloth and yet not lose any of the open feeling. It was TOO open! Each time we chat, she tells me how happy she is, every time she comes home from a long day at work.)
how much does it cost to furnish a room? (bottom line prices)
1 Spring Down Sofa (custom fabric) – $3,022.00
2 Slipper chairs (custom fabric and nailhead trim) – $2,385.00
2 Club Chairs (we splurged on the fabric here because it really was the best choice) $4,432.00
1 Coffee Table – $1,570.00
1 10×14 area rug – $2,475.00
2 End tables – $1,582.00
2 Mercury Glass Lamps – $550.00
1 Painting – $498.00
2 Vases – $384.00
5 down throw pillows $600.00
Drapes, custom hardware (L-shaped curtain rods) and installation for two large L windows – $2,738.00
= $20,236.00 (not including S/H and sales tax) I do not charge an hourly fee, so this is the bottom line cost of the room.
That is how much an average living room costs to furnish. Of course, there are no large case pieces. Could the room have cost more? Yes, of course, and I have done living rooms that cost double this amount because we were doing expensive Tibetan rugs and Holly Hunt furniture. However, most of my clients can’t afford to spend that much and so I work hard at finding reasonably priced fabrics that LOOK expensive. Could it have cost less? No, not this room, but for instance, for another job, I could do a less expensive rug and find other pieces/fabrics for less in some cases, but we were going for a particular look.
***Please also note***, that if one were to buy this room from a furniture store, that it would cost AT LEAST 20-30% more. (that goes for online sources too.) However, most furniture stores do not carry designer fabrics and from what I hear… the sales people in furniture stores… well, let’s just say that most lack experience.
If you are interested, here is one example of how an inexperienced designer could get into trouble. We needed to have the linen fabric on the sofa “knit backed.” If you don’t already know, this is a process where a fabric finisher (there are many companies that provide these services) will apply a knit backing to a fabric for strength and stability. This is necessary for ALL linens and chenilles (and some other weaves) unless the mill has already done so. Did you know that? Well, neither did I, very early in my career. But I soon learned after two expensive chairs and an ottoman started unraveling at the seams, literally days after the client received them. In this case, the fabric was a “rep weave” and although, a heavy upholstery-weight, tapestry-like fabric, because of the nature of the weave, it required knit backing to stay intact. Fortunately, the vendor, (after some cajoling) did make good on the fabric as they should have supplied that information on the tag. However, I had to fork it out to cover the cost of the reupholstery. ugh. I hate mistakes, but they are unavoidable. I just try not to make the same ones twice! :]
Back to budgets. Do some of my clients furnish rooms over time?
YES!!! Many of them do. Or they do one room at a time. That is absolutely fine.
Now, what about the other rooms? Well, it’s about the same for family rooms and usually dining rooms. But depending on the style and size of the dining room, number of chairs, windows, rug/no rug, the dining room could be done for less. If one is starting from scratch, the rock bottom minimum with shipping/handling and tax is from $18,000-$20,000. Master bedrooms could be less depending on the size, type of bed, rug and other furniture required. Kid’s rooms are a lot less.
your pricing is spot on and very good actually. It’s better to save and do stages rather than getting inferior stuff that you don’t like in the first price and just buy because you think it’s a “deal. “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin
That Ben Franklin was a smart guy! Thanks for stopping by!
I understand that this article is primarily targeted at a certain social group, a finely defined economic class; however, (I myself and not speaking for others) am aghast. $20,000 for the price of a single room decorated? I could never!
I have a very Hollywood regency, eclectic glam style. My taste run to baroque, rococo, Art Deco and the like. Luckily, my style I largely antique or vintage; so pieces I find interest in are generally used. Still even the best pieces (mother of pearl inlaid complete dining sets including chairs, buffet, ornate table, china hutch) I’d never reasonably pay past $2000 for.
I have a metallic cow skin rug, 6×7 feet, I bought brand new second hand, gorgeous, perhaps $800 retail, I paid $75. Every room in my home has fur rugs or blankets, as accents. A 6×5 sheepskin I bought yesterday for $100. My retail $400 foot stools I paid $25 for each. My Art Deco, 3 panel, 3 piece per panel beveled glass room divider retails for $3000 on 1st dibs, but I paid $50 for it. $8000 black crystal chandiler? $60. I can understand designing from retail markets, specifically having pieces upholstered, perhaps a specific room very intentionally designed using only certain brands could come to cost this, but why? Simply because it can be afforded? Without being affordable? Perhaps it’s just me, but $2000 can certainly make a gorgeous room. $20,000? You can buy a rental property for that in a forth of America.
Actually, 20k is a very low number and yes, we are talking about high-end design and working with an interior designer. We are inherently high-end.
Believe me, I can’t afford 20k either. But that’s the minimum.
Thank you so much for this post
I am currently an Interior Design student and although I am thoroughly enjoying the course I am having a hard time with the pricing of textiles and realising the true cost of decorating .
I am working on estimates for my assignment and working on a budget including the designer’s fee structure and I am a bit overwhelmed. We do have to get paid for our skills, knowledge and expertise.
Glad I found this post to help me with a more realistic cost
Glad it’s helpful for you Kathy-Ann and all the best with your studies!
Lauren-please remind me of what you said about grass cloth, jute, and other natural rugs. i cannot find it but recall your bemoaning the staining issues. Does that apply to all the naturals and is there a synthetic replacement that would work well under a dining room table? Cranberry sauce, gravy, and other assorted food and drink!!!!!
I recommend Sea Grass. It is inherently stain resistant and exceedingly durable. I have used it in dining rooms countless times and everyone loves it!
Laurel, I’m new to your website. Aside from your major contribution to my sanity which was damping down my panic about paint with your fantastic and demystifying paint posts, I love your blog because it’s informative and entertaining, but mostly because you keep it REAL, for real people. Thanks for this important post about how much it costs to furnish a room. I haven’t seen this kind of information anywhere. I voted for you in both categories for the 2016 Design Blog Challenge. Good luck!
Thank you so much Susan–for your kind words and also your votes! much appreciated!
Thanks for this really informative post! The prices really are, rock bottom. Even drapes of this quality cannot be found by the average person “readymade” for a price as low as this!
I think that for most people “buying it all at once” is a shock they find difficult to absorb. They find it easier to rationalize an expensive or even double cost purchase if they do it in bits-not for cost reasons necessarily, but because it really seems to disturb some people that they are spending the money on furniture. They have no problem spending large amounts of money on a new car which depreciates by more than the value of the entire room as soon as you drive off the lot.
For other people its not the furniture expense but the accessories (I’m in this category) 5K for a sofa is OK with me but 200 for a pillow that makes the room and I wig out.
This post is very useful as it provides a convincing argument for those with a reluctant partner for investing in the space they live in.
There’s an online source for “designer drapes” and they start at something like $700 panel. This is for say, a Schumacher fabric that retails for about $110/yd. This is a single panel and of course, doesn’t include installation and doesn’t have any special customization like if one would like to change the header or depth of the return.
Yes, accessories can add up really quickly. A couple years ago, I purchased accessories for one bookcase and it was at least 3k. Nothing ostentatious; it was all purely decorative, down to the fake parchment books. It all added up very quickly!
Absolutely love the yellows mix with orange accents. Your sense of scale with the patterns/textures/ colors and wonderful to see.
Thanks for the inspiration!
Omgggg love the way you decorate! <3
Hi Maryam! Well, you just made my day! Thank you so much!
Thanks for stopping by! I’ve been doing this a while and part of that experience is in being able to garner net, net accounts; not always, but with at least half of what I’m selling. Stores are charging full-retail,[even with their “discounts” it is still a hefty markup] but my price is generally 20-30% less than a store price. They have super high over-heads. Now, some designers don’t realize that they can buy product on their own and are shopping at retail stores and getting a better discount than the general public can get. In those cases, the designer is most likely charging the same as the store price but also tacking on an hourly fee. Hope that answered your question. Best, Laurel
Hi! I love the room. I’m looking to redoing our living room now and this is was really informative. Why did you say this would cost 20-30% more if bought from the store?
Your prices are very good. I would have that sofa at $4000. Lovely room, Laurel. Really fresh and beautiful.