What 5 Designers Learned About Their First Big Budget Projects

While some professional interior design lessons apply no matter the size of the project, it’s fair to say that big budgets can often bring outsized challenges. And this is especially true for designers who are green to high clientele and less experienced with rarer requests and collaborations. AD PRO brought in a handful of experts to weigh in on the lessons learned in their first big budget projects. Here are their ideas.

Leverage your client’s connections

“Our first big budget [project]- in fact, there was Nope budget – was doing an apartment for an heiress [on] East 72nd Street in New York,” recalls Todd Davis, a director (along with Rob Brown) of Brown Davis, which is based in Miami Beach but has had projects all along the East Coast. “We were brought onto the project because the original designer and general contractor were not a good fit for the client.”

It wasn’t just the blank check that resulted in a museum-quality residency: “Among other things, we learned a lot about lighting,” says Davis. “The client donated a wing to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the director of the museum was its curator. We worked with the museum’s lighting staff to design lighting that showcased Monets, Van Goghs and paintings by other masters.

Don’t spend all at once

Courtney McLeod’s first large-scale commission was a prize, literally: Through an auction, her new client secured her services to design a piece. “Months later, they asked me to renovate their newly purchased home in Sands Point, Long Island,” says McLeod, founder and director of Right Meets Left Interior Design, in Manhattan. “My company said ‘yes’ to designing their 9,000 square foot 1920s home in just under six months for the family of four to move in over the holidays.”

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The designer knew not to move in a hurry and empty everything, despite the generous budget. “We quickly realized the importance of working with original elements in ample space, juxtaposing old and new for a modern look with an appreciation for the character of the home,” she says. “One of the most important lessons this project has taught us is that you don’t have to destroy everything to create something completely fresh and new. We took advantage of the architectural details, from the millwork to the ceiling moldings, allowing these features to inspire the design.

Because McLeod had acted wisely from the start of the project, there were resources available to complete the job with the same energy and creativity that she had had at the start. “This project taught us to go over budget for small items, art and props,” she says. “Design and budget fatigue can set in in the later stages of a project. By properly planning the essential finishing touches from the start and clearly communicating the importance of these elements to the client, we were able to create a complete and coherent design.

Opt for unique keys

“Our first big-budget project proved to us that you really can design amazing spaces that make clients happy and allow us to realize a vision without having to value anything,” says Jay Britto, a director (with David Charette) of Britto Charette in Miami. “The reality is that the bigger the budget, the more we can improve the interiors of our projects.”

Front line: Let customers with smaller budgets make the obvious choices. “For example, rather than applying wall covering everywhere, we installed integrated doors and used wood panels throughout the residence. Integrated doors sit flush with the ceiling and offer a more polished and modern look than standard doors. Britto says that “a larger budget also allows us to work with exclusive suppliers, with exclusive and collectible lines that are not mass-produced. Working this way adds a rich touch, elements that are not available to everyone. On this first big budget project, we were also able to source pieces from galleries, which was really special. »

Make sure your team is up to your level

Designer Gil Walsh says his “first major design project was going pretty well”, until the “hiccup” arose. “Lighting is an important part of interior design. Even a small problem with the lighting can derail the whole project,” says the designer, who has offices in Martha’s Vineyard and West Palm Beach. “The client loved the paint color chosen and was even more impressed once all the walls were painted.”