Decorating on a Dime

When my husband and I moved to Chicago, we moved into a brand new house with bland, blank walls, and a rather weird great room footprint.  I love decorating (always a fun excuse to shop 😀 ), but I really was having a hard time getting everything to blend in a palatable way that wasn’t boring.  I don’t know how many hours I spent going over paint samples, decorating magazines, shopping in furniture stores trying to find that just right couch that would fit my family of 6 and that perfect entertainment center, not to mention the countless hours I spent shopping for window treatments or looking at catalogs.  It was taking the joy out of decorating my home and became a horrible chore.  When I would find something I liked, my husband would frown and turn it down.  It was a nightmare.

I thought for weeks about what it would be like to be able to hire a decorator, but figured there was no way I would be able to afford one.  I would watch every episode of Nate Berkus I possibly could trying to find inspiration and secretly wish he would call me up with an offer of a free home makeover!  (Who hasn’t dreamt this, now really?)

After a lengthy “discussion” with my husband about the house, he did it – he mentioned looking into finding a decorator just to help us lay the groundwork – not redo our whole house.  We needed someone who could come in, listen to preferences, view the layout of our home, and look at samples with us and help us find something we could both agree on, especially paint.  We did NOT want a boring color filling every wall in our house, but wanted to fill our home with color in every room that complimented each, but was distinct and made that room stand out by itself, plus match the color swatches I’d finally found for window treatments (well, and help us narrow down the swatches, because again my husband and I weren’t seeing eye to eye).  It wasn’t just an investment in our home, but our marriage.

We set down a budget of what we could spend on fees for a decorator and set out trying to find one.  There were a couple of custom furniture places I had been looking at, which were a bit on the higher end side.  I figured if anyone had contact with local decorators, it would be one of these shops.  I hit gold and was lucky, however if you have trouble, I do recommend Angie’s List, which being in a new city, a new state, and not knowing anyone, is a service that has saved us an abundance of time and money finding good contractors.

I contacted the lady I was referred to and we swapped emails for a bit, talking about what I needed.  She gave me a base price for an initial consult and told me her hourly rate.  The initial consult was a flat fee, and the hourly rate did not apply.

Now, I am sure you are wondering how much this wonderful service cost us.  She came over several times, spent who knows how long going over swatches with me, swatches at stores, looking at furniture online and in stores, and then swapping emails again and coming up with a design plan that not only met our needs and what we could afford right now, but gave me ideas for projects I want to do in the future.  Plus, she hooked me up with some great contractors and gave me her father’s (who is a homebuilder) discount with Benjamin Moore paint suppliers (the best paint I’ve ever used).  All of this – the design plan, time involved, swatches, etc. only set us back $150.  And that was for a design plan for most of the rooms in our home plus shopping for furniture for our family room, as well as designing a backsplash for our kitchen (which we haven’t completed yet) and procuring samples for that as well as selecting stone for eventually replacing the countertops in our main bathrooms.

I highly recommend this to anyone who is struggling to make your home flow from room to room.  I imagine I could have cut it down quite a bit if we had just stuck to picking paint colors, but we came way under budget.  We were thinking all of that would be around $500, at least.

We’ll be calling her again soon, as we need to get some new flooring, and as I mentioned above, she is not just a designer, but a mediator.  From talking with friends in the past who were interior designers, and from talking with Jennifer, decorating a home can become a nightmare feud between spouses.  It gave me the joy of decorating again.  I had some creative control, but I had a guide to help me along the way, and keep my husband happy that both of our tastes were being tied together to make a beautiful home.


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