The High-Low Project: How Much Will Decorating My Home Really Cost?
Ever wondered what an Architectural Digest-worthy budget really looks like?
Neal Beckstedt for Derek Lam
I'm going to be really transparent here. Well, as transparent as I can be in a post about budgets, finances being such a personal subject and all.
I know, that sounds like a total cop out, but I can't tell you all the nitty-gritty of my client's budgets, and I don't have insider info on pricing for the rooms we're about to look at (so I'll be making it up based on research and similar purchases I have made for clients).
But I do believe we need to know just what we're signing up for when we start a decoration project. There is so much detail that goes into a home, and it adds up quickly, no matter your budget tier!
Groves & Co. for Michael Kors
So hopefully my next disclaimer will be even more transparent than the last:
The budgets I'm about to reveal are out of touch with my reality, too. I, and many other designers, cannot afford to decorate their own homes the way they do their clients', even with all the trade resources at our disposal... which is also part of the reason I don't even have accent pillows yet in my own home! (The other part being it's hard to decorate for yourself, and I can't make up my mind.)
Since I've clearly been inspired by HGTV before, I thought it would be fun to use the old school High-Low Project concept, too, breaking down a luxury budget and providing wallet-friendly substitutions.
If you're in the design world at all, you've probably heard of the Kips Bay Showhouse, but if you aren't, you have to look it up! An annual fundraiser (chaired by Bunny Williams) for the local Boys & Girls Club, the Showhouse is fantastically decorated by many of the nation's top designers.
According to Curbed, the "canvas" for this year's Showhouse was listed last year (pre-decoration) at $51 million.
With that as our reference, let's try to break down some (very) rough estimates in this Kips Bay family room by Juan Montoya (above- I'm in love with it!):
This could vary, depending on the level of customization involved in the pattern, color, and fiber content. 100% silk would be a lot pricier than a wool/silk blend, or a faux silk. So, I'll assume it's all silk, and keep the number fairly conservative, just in case.
Cane Back Chairs: $11,000 each
I'm finding conflicting info on these. Supposedly they are Josef Hoffman reproduction, and if so, not likely as pricey as noted. Pricing based on similar period chairs by Pierre Jeannearet.
Okay, this one is a made up price.
Here's how I got it: a custom, locally-made sofa that I would price out typically retails for $8000 (maximum) in labor. I don't know exactly what fabric Montoya used, but I know there is a good bit of Josef Frank in this room, so I'm assuming fabric runs around $200 per yard, and we'll need approximately 20 yards.
Then there are contrast buttons, and pillows, so I'll be generous, and allow an extra $1000 allowance for those details.
Cabinet is by Otto Schultz, and I'm finding similar, but smaller, ones on 1st Dibs for around $12,000.
I'm ballparking this one, too. It could be high, or it could be really low. Custom draperies entail a lot- fabric, lining, interlining, trim, hardware, installation, and obviously, labor.
So, (drumroll, please) we're already at $127,000, and that doesn't even include all of the furniture, artwork, or accessories! You get the point. Decoration adds up!
So how can we recreate the style on a more realistic budget? (If the Showhouse budget is your budget, then you can hire me here, and ignore the rest of the post :))
The look for less:
I like the tone of this next to the sofa, and the color variation plays nicely with the watercolor draperies. The scale against the draperies is much better than it looks in the photo.
However, since we did invert the carpet colors, you could totally get away with some deep blue walls (and if you do, yes, the sofa comes in ivory).
These are Kelly Wearstler's Graffito watercolor print, similar in pattern and tone to the fabulous Showhouse draperies. (KW's "Channels" is another pattern option!)
Chairs: $900 each
Take the back cushions off these guys, and you've got a fairly decent budget-friendly dupe! You could always have seat cushions customized to look a little more like the "real" ones; the tufted detail Montoya's come up with is really great. (Scroll up if you missed it!)
I'll admit; this one was tough. I imagine the Montoya sofa isn't so leggy, but the arms on this guy are really nice. Ballard has an option with the tufting, if that's the detail you're interested in. It's still leggy, but maybe we do an ottoman or cocktail table with some more visual weight (no open space underneath) instead.
Chairish is your friend here! I found all kinds of pieces that could work as a replacement for the Otto Schultz, and quite a few for even less than the Paul McCobb linked. Just browse the "armoires & wardrobes" section.
Or this Lunar print paper could be super fun to play up Montoya's inspiration; he named our original room "The Moonlight Room"!
However, committing to a paper definitely depends on how bold you're willing to go. I like the cleanness of the Showhouse a little better than our budget paper options, so there are such a thing as wallpaper dots that could replicate the look more simply, or plain walls are great, too.
We did it!
The total for our room came out to $12,900, far, far less than Juan Montoya's dreamy space!
I realize that's still out of budget for some people, like me, but hopefully it gives you the idea that you can do it, and where to even start doing it.
Wayfair, Overstock, estate sales, whatever; it's totally possible to recreate a designer look on a budget- if you have the time and are willing to hunt. No, it won't be the same level of luxury, but it will be home.
Let me know what you thought of the budget breakdowns! If you'd like to see more, send me an inspiration room or two, and I'll see what I can do!