How to Ask Your Interior Design Clients for Their Budget (with Hilaire Pickett-Martin)

Episode #301 the Wingnut Social Podcast

How do you get that elusive budget from your interior design clients? Stick around and find out! On today’s show, we’re discussing client communication and transparency. Guest Hilaire Pickett-Martin is here to tell us to not shy away from answering (and asking) the tough questions with your interior design clients – plus how to ask your interior design clients for their budget!

Hilaire Pickett-Martin grew up (quite literally) in the business. She is a graduate of Elon University. Hilaire handles Design Lines’ communications, and applies her enthusiasm and passion to promoting the firm. She also oversees all the accounting and day-to-day operations. Hilaire uses her inborn knowledge of the business to pitch in wherever she can. Outside of the business, her favorite vacation spot is Whistler, British Columbia, and she recently learned to wakeboard and snowboard.


Hilaire says transparency starts at the first meeting with your client. It’s important to really listen to your client and understand their challenges. What does your client ultimately want? Use your first meeting to get to the bottom of their goal. Hilaire sets expectations along the way, even in the initial design presentation. She may show her clients design choices that have big lead times; she makes sure to articulate these timelines to her clients. She also tries to get a sense of the client’s budget and timeframe (even if it’s a range) to make sure they align with her vision. Hilaire is very authentic in her conversation with her clients, being fully honest if she doesn’t think something can be accomplished within their budget and timeframe.

How do you get your client to tell you their budget? There are several different approaches. If your clients have a number but are just hesitant to share it, Hilaire recommends asking for a range – “give us a high, give us a low.” Another approach is to identify pieces within the space that the clients are willing to spend money on. You can find a budget range by value engineering specific pieces. Value engineering is a fancy way of saying “working within a budget.” There are 3 things you can have – price, function, or quality – but you can’t always have all 3. You might have to sacrifice one or the other. If you value engineer the price of an item, you may not have the best quality. At the end of the day, you have to pick what’s important and what you want to spend the money on.

Being transparent during the final steps of the design process is just as important as being upfront in the beginning. So you’ve procured furniture and it’s on purchase order – having open communication about delivery is crucial. Obviously there has been a huge amount of pressure on expediting over the past few years due to supply chain issues. Hilaire is very open about deliveries, letting her clients know that the timelines and delivery dates are subject to change. She feels people have been relatively understanding of these delays coming out of a pandemic. Additionally, Hilaire and her team are present for every install. They make sure everything comes off the truck in great condition, and if they’re not, they let the client know and work towards repairs or returns. Lastly, they communicate with their clients at the very end of the process upon invoicing.


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“Feeding the Soul” by Tabitha Brown

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