An Interior Architecture Project differs from an Architecture project to budget and programming, in one way; the sheer spectrum of interior materials and the varying market prices. Costing and budgeting are two aspects of any design project that exist in the broad umbrella of programming and differ from each other in some ways. Costing and estimating is the act of market research to determine the costs of materials and services specified in an interior architecture project while, budgeting is a tool to allocate the funds into categories and maintain a proportionate balance in materials, procurement, services, and other costs to complete the project within a stipulated time. One of the tips on budgeting is an ascertained time that plays a very important role in budgeting, as the time frame affects the budget directly.

Budgeting for an Interior Architecture project is in conjunction to design and after completing the initial costing and when an ample amount of data is available for reference. Typically in large projects, the client hires a Project Management Consultant, sometimes even before the Architect, to research, budget, and put together a feasibility report for the client and his interests. Although this practice prevails as a norm, it leads to the diminishing role of an architect in the larger scheme of the project and therefore leads to a lop-sided, monetary approach to the practice of architecture. In smaller projects, the architect still dons many hats and is virtually responsible for the entire project and everyone involved. First, let us examine the budgeting of an Interior Architecture Project from the client’s perspective.

Client’s perspective | Tips on Budgeting

The ideal process to follow is to hire an architect to make a preliminary design and then work up costs for the basic design with estimated market costs and other assumptions, as there can be no budget without an estimate and no estimate without a design. One of the fundamental concepts that go wrong is when the client sets a budget before hiring an architect or expects an architect to work out a budget for a project before designing or forgets to account for the preliminary design costs. This can easily lead to off-budget buildings or reducing scope at the point of construction. A savvy client is one who takes part in the planning process of the project and understands the importance of programming a project with research and future projections. Some points to keep in mind.

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Preliminary Design ©Pinterest
Tips on Budgeting for your Interior Architecture Project - Sheet5
Scaffolding ©Badal Gyawali on Unsplash

1. Architecture and Design

Budgeting for the feasibility and preliminary designs is important, as this has to be accounted for in the final budget. Budgeting for Architectural fee leads you to your disposable budget i.e., the budget out of 100 that goes into the construction of the project.

2. Construction Cost

Remember hidden and auxiliary expenditures like scaffolding cost, transportation, temporary accommodation costs for the laborers, etc., 

3. Specialist Consultants | Tips on Budgeting

A civil or structural consultant, a graphic designer, a visualizer, etc., are some specialist services you may have to enlist during the design and construction process. Accounting for these costs beforehand may help mitigate undue extras.

4. Contingency

Every budget has a 5% up-flow/down-flow factor which you must account for. Things such as the marble breaks while laying, a vendor delays installation, changes in market price from the day of estimation to the day of procurement, new technologies may emerge and your likings towards a particular material may change.

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The beginning ©Hamish Weir on Unsplash

Architect’s perspective

The architect’s biggest responsibility is to safeguard the interests of the client against the fluctuating market prices and maintaining the budget throughout the project. Research during the programming phase helps in projecting accurately and allocating the right amount of money towards the right program. The architect’s budget is the disposable budget. For an interior architecture project, material cost is the major contributor to the final project cost, and sensitivity towards the selection of material is imperative. After the preliminary designs, a mood board and a material palette give the direction towards the material chosen and the contractors required to install the said material in place. A typical Interior Architecture budget includes costs of the site prep, interior civil work, M.E.P., (Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing), HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning), fixed furniture, lighting, painting, landscaping, movable furniture, furnishings, and decor. As an Interior Architect, there is another aspect to consider, as the building is already constructed, or when an old building is procured and repurposed, there is little scope for sustainability through the planning program and/or the structure and orientation of the building, that is, if you aim to have a reasonable and appropriate budget. In such cases, we can account for a sustainability cost.

Let me give you a few tips while preparing a budget for an Interior Architecture Project:

1. Site prep cost | Tips on Budgeting

This is often the victim of oversight; before starting any Interior Construction, cleaning the site and prepping it, and removing old elements bear a cost. In the client’s interest, you can include this cost in the budget to save the client from some surprises.

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Prepping the site ©Unsplash

2. Interior civil work

While costing for interior civil work which includes, but is not limited to, constructing internal walls, flooring, lintels, plastering, etc., keep in mind that every step of the process has to be budgeted for. e.g., a tiled flooring, apart from tiles and labor, also needs bedding material, spacers (if required), tile adhesive, grout, floor cleaning chemical, and protective floor cover. We forget most of the auxiliaries at this initial stage and costs keep adding up while the work is being executed at the site. 

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A typical work in progress ©Red Brick Design Studio

3. M.E.P. | Tips on Budgeting

While budgeting for Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing materials and services, one must keep in mind the region where the project is located, and hire local contractors to save costs initially and to save maintenance costs. Budget for the unsaid things like, after we place a conduit inside the wall, the plastering of the wall is a separate cost depending on the region and the contractor used. 

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Electrical work ©
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Plumbing ©Karan Bhatia on Unsplash


Air conditioning and heating equipment procurement and installation is an important factor to consider while budgeting as the costs varies wildly with the changes in the positions of the outdoor units and the market costs of an HVAC unit depend on the brand and also on the dealership of the said brand. Account for a fair amount of flexibility here.

5. Fixed furniture

One of the most important parts of an interior architecture project is the furniture and the finishing material on it. A clear understanding of the services and their costs with the carpenter or an interior contractor is important to arrive at a more accurate budget and saves you from a hefty bill at the end, because of the changes in design detailing that may happen in the project’s course.

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Building furniture on site ©

6. Surface finishing | Tips on Budgeting

False ceiling (if any) and interior painting costs are some of the most unreliable costs in India. And the various brands available only add to the confusion. Sticking to sustainable material and avoiding unnecessary levels in a false ceiling will help keep the cost at a minimum. Always mention the brands used in the budgeting to avoid confusion at the time of procurement. 

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Protecting furniture from painting and polishing ©Red Brick Design Studio

7. Lighting

Lighting design is a specialized aim and we may appoint a designer depending on the program of the building. This is also one of the most commonly replaced products in an Interior Project. In my experience, the trick is to go to the manufacturer directly, instead of an imported or assembled lighting fixture. This helps to budget easily as the manufacturing cost has very few chances of fluctuation compared to the changes in import duty, transport costs, etc., faced by imported products. 

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Lighting © Martin Adams on Unsplash

8. Landscaping

Carefully examine the scope of the interior architecture project and include any prep necessary for a landscaping element that comes in at the end, in the budget. Don’t let landscaping be an afterthought, as most of the time it is, in an interior project.

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Landscaping ©Pinterest

9. Movable furniture | Tips on Budgeting

If importing the furniture, always account for relevant taxes and import duties and commissions of any sourcing agents, etc., also budget for installation charges of a local carpenter team, even if you have a carpenter team hired for a different job at the same project, more often than not, this will be an additional charged service. If buying the furniture locally, account for transport damages and replacements or repair. Remember, a budget only works in an ascertained time, you increase the time; the budget gets stretched. Accounting for this error can help manoeuvre the delay without affecting the budget.

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Fixed and movable furniture © Pinterest

10. Furnishings and Decor

As many interior architecture projects are an end-to-end affair, it is important to budget for furnishings like curtains, bedspreads, table linen, cushions, etc., and also for decor like paintings, sculptures, vases, baskets, candles, etc., depending on the function of the building. If art is an integral part of your design, involve the artist in the programming process, which makes it easy to budget the costs and control whims at the far end of a project.

Furnishings and Decor © Dan Gold on Unsplash

11. Contingencies

Material breaks while unloading, labor falls ill, water supply or electricity gets cut off, chosen material goes out of stock or increases in price, complex details lead to importing of labor, etc., are some factors to account for in the budget. Contingencies are not only price-driven but also time-driven, as every agency invested in the project loses money with delays and the burden of which might be transferred to the budget. In the larger interest of the project, the architect must also account for any additional design services that may cost extra, and the overall budget, including the disposable budget, increases in such cases. To mitigate this, deliberating on designs and encouraging client participation is important and once a design is frozen, we must strive to keep it that way.

Tile damaged during transport ©

12. Sustainability cost | Tips on Budgeting

This is a special circumstance as most interior architecture projects will start with an existing building, passive cooling or heating techniques are difficult to introduce and may outweigh the value. Costs for things such as a rainwater harvesting system, a sewage treatment plant, photovoltaic power generation, effective heat-reducing glass, may be incorporated into the budget depending on the project’s status at the inspection stage. 

Sustainable Interventions ©Chuttersnap on Unsplash
Harvesting water for reuse ©Pinterest
Sample budgeting sheet ©Pinterest

While these are some tips to follow while budgeting, there are many more points that an intelligent architect and a savvy client can overcome before a project breaks ground. The more meticulous, the better, because as interior architecture has a long turnaround time, short-term resolutions to mistakes can only lead to unsustainable and over-priced buildings.


Sahil Tanveer is an architect and thinker, who runs a cosmopolitan Architecture studio with work across the country. He believes architecture is all-inclusive and personal. He is continually in search of the unknown, while observing psychology, philosophy, and the influence of culture and society on architecture and design.