It’s no secret that people love HGTV and turn to it for research on their own project.  HGTV has been a wonderful thing for interior designers, providing home viewers with a taste of how beneficial it is to work with a designer.  When Kathy started in the industry 40 years ago, most people thought interior designers were just a luxury service for the elite.  They had no idea that designers could save the clients’ money by understanding what’s available in their budget.  HGTV put interior designers on the map. We are so grateful for that. The tough part, however, is that the timelines and budgets can be frustrating for homeowners when they compare what they see on TV to what it might be for their own home. 

What to Include in Your Budget – What You Don’t See On TV!

There can be unrealistic expectations of what the designer provides, what their services costs, and what the project costs. Most viewers know that a budget relayed for a project in California would not necessarily relate to their home in Georgia.  However, it’s difficult to convert the prices you see on TV to your specific geographic location.

We are not claiming these shows are fake or intentionally misleading in any way. But because not all of the design process can be shown in a 30 minute tv show, we wants to highlight some things that may throw a person off when setting expectations for their home remodel project.

1. Design Fee

It’s not that the show doesn’t talk about budgets. There always seems to be the call to the client asking for more money because of some unexpected hidden cost.  However, the designer doesn’t break down what their design fee is and what is included.

Interior designers charge in a variety of ways, whether hourly, fixed fee, or by the square foot. The services they provide can include drawing space plans and elevations, selecting materials, and creating presentations to allow the client to visualize these decisions. The sheer number of 3D walkthroughs and renderings some designers present on these TV shows would likely cost the client thousands in design fees. You also see the designer spending hours on site visits to the project, meetings with other trades, etc.  In the real world the designer is compensated for these visits.

2. Furnishings

You might be thinking, doesn’t the designer get paid a percentage of all the furnishings? Yes! In most cases, depending on how the designer structures their fee and purchasing process, they will make a profit on the sale.  However, it is extremely rare to see a discussion of the furnishings budget on a television show.

Insider note: In fact, some of the furniture you see on these shows is just “staging” furniture which is taken away after the cameras are gone.  Some homeowners on these shows end up buying the furniture from the designer. Keep this in mind, for your budget and discuss with your designer.

So, How Do I Set A Budget?

How are you supposed to know what you need to save for your project?

1. First, decide what your scope looks like. Are you tearing down walls or just replacing furniture?  Be specific.

2. Next, do some research based on your location for what your project might cost. If you are still unsure, be ready to have a candid conversation about budget with your designer. 

3. Make sure to find a reputable and educated designer who can help you determine if your budget is realistic and ask them what builders they’d recommend.

In the end, using experienced professionals can save you time and money.  An honest team with an honest budget will allow you to look back on your completed project in a positive light.


Design shows are fun to watch.  It’s a great way to get inspiration and ideas for nailing down your aesthetic style.  Just take the numbers they present on these shows with a grain of salt.  Find the right team to work with to create a realistic budget. To give you a jump start, we have included a few helpful articles below regarding budget and working with a designer.  We look forward to hearing from you to discuss your budget and next home project!


Helpful Links:

Here’s What Designers Want You to Have Ready When You Call

How Much Does a Bathroom Remodel Cost

How Much Does a Kitchen Makeover Cost


Disclaimer: although these articles are helpful, please be mindful that time and project location can affect cost. 


Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email