Managing a home decor project

For some people, managing a home decor project can be exciting, but for others, the mention of a decorating project can fill you with dread. The myriad of things that can go wrong- costly mistakes, running out of money, cowboy tradespeople- can freeze you in your tracks and stop you from even starting.

But it doesn't have to be like this. Whether you are taking on a small decorating project, or a large-scale refurbishment, having a clear project plan sets you up for success right from the start.

Here are my top tips for planning a successful project:

1. Be clear about the scope of your project

Ever started to paint a bedroom and then it turns into buying new bedding... replacing the nightstands... getting new lighting... and oh, the curtains need to be changed too? Before you start a decorating project, make sure that you are clear about the extent of the project, and what you are trying to achieve. Changing the scope of the project part way through (known as scope creep) can get expensive very quickly!

2. Start with the end in mind

Most people decorate a room in stages. They choose a wall colour, paint it on, and then start to bring in furniture, soft furnishings and accessories. As they go along, they find items they like and include them in the scheme piece by piece, But after a while, they become stuck and unsure of which cushion patterns to choose, which accessories to bring in, and which artwork to choose. They're not sure how to style a space, or which colours go together well. Sound familiar? It should do because it's how 90% of us decorate our homes. 

The trouble with this approach is that you haven't started with the end scheme in mind. You have a rough idea of how the room will look, but you haven't really planned out the detail. Interior designers plan out a complete room scheme from start to finish, and this ensures that they end up with a complete and cohesive scheme. So before you pick up a paint brush, be sure to plan out all of the details. Bring them all together in a mood board so that you can check all your finishes before you begin. 

3. Create a Budget Plan

As you are creating your design scheme, you should also create a budget plan at the same time. Many people start a decorating project with their heads buried in the sand, not wanting to face up to how much it's going to cost. Instead of hiding from the costs, creating a budget plan actually liberates you because you can see all of your costs from the start, and you can make choices about where to spend, and where to save.

There are two ways that you can build a budget. Either decide how much you are going to spend, and then choose accessories and items which fit into this sum, or choose the things you want to have, cost them and that's how you arrive at you budget. 

Personally, I always recommend the second method, even if it means that you have to save to get what you want. After all, if you make too many compromises, you'll never end up with a home you love, and what's the point of that?

When putting your budget plan together, be sure to research every item you want to include so that there are no nasty pricing surprises once your project starts. Remember also to include the costs of items such as paint brushes, sandpaper and delivery costs, which don't immediately come to mind. Cost out not just the items you want to include, but get quotations for labour too. Make sure that you are getting 'quotations' and not 'estimates', as hidden costs can escalate quickly. Get fixed prices where possible.

And finally, always include a contingency within your budget in case anything goes wrong. 10% is a good rule of thumb to allow.

4. Create a Task Timeline

Once you are clear about your project and your design scheme, you need to break down each large task into smaller tasks so that you can see the full extent of the work that is needed. You can then begin to assign timescales to each of the tasks within the project to make sure that you are being realistic about how much time is needed. Simply writing each task on a post it note helps you to organise the tasks. Make sure that you include time for things like paint drying too. 

This also enables you to see interdependencies between tasks. It may be that you can't start one task until another has been completed, and this becomes particularly important if you are employing several different trades. 

5. Organise your workers

If you are employing workers to carry out some elements of your project, you need to manage them carefully. Before contracting a worker, get recommendations from friends and family, or ask for references and to see examples of their work.

If you are employing someone to do gas or electrical work, make sure that they have the necessary certifications. This also applies to window installations and wood burners too. Check with your local authority about any planning or other permissions you may need; this is YOUR responsibility as the home owner, and a tradesperson may not tell you what you need.

Share your timeline with your tradespeople and ask whether their tasks fit in with this schedule. Share the interdependencies with them so that they can see the 'big picture' and how they fit in with that. Confirm the timeline in writing with your contractors, so that they are clear about the implications of them falling behind with any work. Agree up front what will happen if any slippage occurs. 

Once the project starts, check in with your contractors regularly to make sure that everything is going to plan. Check with suppliers too that items you have ordered are going to be delivered when you expect. 

As my grandmother always used to say, "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs" and she was right! You should prepare for some mess and disruption, and be ready for a few things to go wrong, but if you follow these tips, you should stand a good chance of managing a smooth decorating project. 

What are you planning to project manage next? Let us know in the comments below. 

  • wendy says:

    I have made this mistake many times of will just paint the walls ! my bedroom is now on its 5th sets of curtains and bedding because i never actually planned ahead !
    So from using websites and magazines i make mood boards , I used this method to remodel my kitchen a very expensive project i could not afford to make costly mistakes ? and i am pleased to say it has been a success i am very please with the results . I do now however need to learn how to dress accessories to add the finishing touches .

    • The Home Design School says:

      Planning ahead is so important, Wendy, and that’s great to hear that you have started making mood boards. It makes such a difference!