Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not So Divine Design/ HGTVDIY Myths & Lies

I have just walked in the door and handed her my business card. Just as I am spying her home for the first time, my client grabs her remote. "I have a few things I love saved on my DVR." Then it begins, 22 recorded episodes of Divine Design, Color Splash, Bathroom Renovations and Design On A Dime. ( Designers: does this ever happen to you?)

I always find this to be an amusing challenge, although somewhat disheartening for the wonderful person who has spent hour upon hour worshiping their Home and Garden channels because they saw that perfect room they just have to have in their home. Now I have to explain to them that the budget they thought would cover their dream room will not even pay for their furniture. These shows that once helped homeowners see the potential in their homes has done two things that burn my bippy:
1.They create the false perception that you can do many remodeling projects on your own that truly should be done by a professional.
2. They fail to explain to you the true costs associated with that fantastic remodel they just showed you, leaving you to believe that it can't be much.

As # 1 is pretty much self explanatory, I am moving on # 2. Even worse than leaving the homeowner clueless about the cost of that remodeling project- you have shows that present a room done for under $2,000.00. Let's dissect this idea for a moment. You are watching a show where they are redoing a living room. The fireplace is old, dirty brick, the furniture is OK, but they are reupholstering the two accent chairs with "fabric remnants" and create matching custom curtains. They are going to flank (which means place on either side of) the fireplace with custom bookcases, add some custom made artwork, create a chandelier out of an old light fixture (the big craft project of the day) and add an area rug- which, if they run out of money they will miraculously find in the basement! lol.

OK, so first of all, who's doing all of this work for them? Not the homeowners and not the host. They have a nice little crew of 7 people working feverishly under a tent in their backyard. How much are they being paid for labor? If you were to do the same job in your home, you would have to hire an electrician or a plumber, a seamstress, a carpenter or at the least- a handyman. Labor costs are not cheap. Every specialist's time is worth money, just as a designer's time is worth money. Labor costs are how they make their living. And speaking of the designer, who laid out the floor plan and drew the designs for approval of the homeowner. They are definitely leaving out that important part. That's where I begin to make my money- in the planning and then implementation of the work to your interior.

The tile on the fireplace that they have chosen is a glass mosaic on a mesh backing. Just the tile without the setting materials cost them $14.00 a square foot. Of course the fireplace they are doing goes 5' across and 4' up the wall. Minus the 6 square feet for the opening in the fireplace, they are covering 14 square feet of wall. $196.00 plus tax will just be the cost of the tile. Then there is the cost of the mortar and grout, tools, rental of the tile cutting saw or the cost of labor, which where I live runs around $17.00 a square foot retail. The labor is around $300.00 plus tax. So we're $500.00 into our $2K makeover already and we've barely accomplished anything.

These shows create such a false hope for the consumer that's dying to think they can now do it all themselves and spend next to nothing doing it. Sure there's a bit you can do with a moderate skill set but what about when you watch these shows for inspiration to use when you work with your designer? That show should really give you a realistic dollar figure for what that entire room cost to do in that particular city, accounting for all labor costs and materials. You will usually find that it was probably around $20,000 when you were hoping to recreate it for three grand.

It drives me loco to see so many people who firmly believe they can get a whole new room, furnishings and all, for under $2,000.00. It is just not reality. Sometimes I have to explain things in the simplest way that I know how "things just cost what they cost!" A sofa is gonna cost between $1,800 and $5,000. A built-in entertainment center will cost no less than $3,000. You can get a nice ceiling fan for $200.00 but you will pay no less than $50.00 to have it installed. If you can pay $3,000 for that 52" HDTV with all sorts of technology, let's expand our minds to realize that the whole room might be equal to many times the sum of it's parts! Not so divine anymore, is it?


Angela Todd said...

Yes! Clients of mine record HGTV shows and want to show me their ideal space. They also don't realize labor is a HUGE part of a project and not factored in on design project budgets.

As for my design idol, Candice Olson of Divine Design, her designs have larger budgets than other shows from the network. As I understand it, her clients pay for their transformations and frequently her designs are budgets of 100k or more - but they are divine aren't they? On Candice's show, most of the furnishings, case goods, fabric and lighting she specifies are all part of her private label collection. I recently purchased two Candice Olson glass etched lamps. They were $725 each. This isn't what an average homeowner would spend on lamps.

Thanks for the educational blog. HGTV is a wonderful resource and I find it gets homeowners excited. Unfortunately it can give a false sense of real life remodeling and decorating, but that is what they have us for right? Interior designers help educate and create personalized spaces for homeowners.

Angela Todd

Michelle Ortiz- Interior Designer said...

Oh yes, Angela... I agree that HGTV sure gets their juices flowing. I believe Candice's projects to be the best they show. I would really love it if she would just have one show where she breaks down the cost of her room. Our phone calls would go through the roof then!
Thanks for the comment!

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