Counting the Cost


Let’s be real, custom themed environments can be expensive. Practically anything one wants custom-created and is not picked out “off the rack” from a discount store is going to be reflected in its cost. With custom themed environments, expense will originate from building supplies, original art designs, custom 3-D sculptures, props, artist’s fees, travel and installation costs, as well as other sources. How to budget for a design project is always forefront on the minds of our clients and hopefully this article will help demystify the pricing of our themed designs.

In our business of creating custom themed kids rooms, there are two types of expenses: Fixed and Flexible. Fixed Expenses are items such as building supplies and travel expenses. Obviously, we have very little “wiggle room” with Fixed Expenses. We can’t change the prices of building supplies or paint costs or transportation expenses. Recently, building costs have skyrocketed due to supply shortages and that increase must be reflected in individual project prices. Most of the time, we have knowledge of the condition of supply prices in advance of project discussions or we can have conversations with clients¬† during the planning about the current changing costs and how it will affect the project.

Flexible Expenses usually involve costs associated with art, design, consulting and time. We control most of that pricing and, while payroll costs must stay the same, art fees and costs can sometimes be adjusted depending upon a project. For example, while we normally charge around $30 per square foot for murals, we may be able to adjust that price for very large projects so the final price is not astronomical. Similarly, the price of a mural may have to be adjusted if it has excessive details or requires special equipment (i.e. scaffolding, lifts or a special paint) or is in a more risky environment (i.e. higher floor or in treacherous weather). Often, when we are attempting to create an project based upon a specific budget, several adjustments are made to the Fixed Expenses in oder to match project to budget.


Starting With Your Budget

Because of this, Imagination Atmospheres has almost always preferred to begin with a client budget and then create a project based upon that budget. This allows us, up front, to adjust Flexible Expenses and plan the Fixed Expenses. If certain building supplies are too high for the budget, we can look at optional methods for fabrication. This way of planning a project can actually save clients thousands of dollars. It also will allow us to evaluate the project and the budget and determine if it may even be impossible to join the two, something which rarely happens but always must be determined at the beginning.

There are certain times when a client wants everything to be a Fixed Expense. In those situations, we price our mural costs at $30 per square foot and $50 per square foot for 3-D themed environments. Those Fixed Expenses allow a client to calculate their project for themselves, without having any opportunity for adjustments in the final cost.

Another cost that must be figured into the production process is for concept drawings. We charge a fee of $1000 for drawings which can be subtracted from the project cost upon signing of a contract agreement. This allows for free concept drawings for projects which we agree to produce, while allowing clients who are in more of an “exploring” phase to still order drawings without signing a production contract.

As you may imagine, there are a variety of costs involved in hiring different theming companies. Each company has it’s own method of developing projects and those costs are as different as the companies. Some companies have a consultation fee, while Imagination Atmospheres offers free consultations on project planning. Some companies charge large flat fees for on-site visits, Imagination Atmospheres will visit on-site free for local clients and for expenses paid for other clients. Always check up front about a company’s additional costs. No one wants to take a surprise hit to their budget, so knowing all expenses at the beginning provides a lot of peace of mind.

While it is impossible to estimate any custom project without knowing its specific details, we can give a few estimates based upon our years of creating themed environments for churches, pediatrics, daycares and more. We are rarely able to do any non-local project for less than $25K. Projects at that level are almost always “murals only” with no 3-D elements. $30K is our basic, beginning budget level for creating 3-D projects. This budget is best for smaller rooms or hallways without special features (very large sculptures, lighting, characters, etc.) We have discovered during almost 20 years of creating themed environments, our average client budget cost is $45K – $60K. While we have created projects for less and up to twice that budget range, that is an accurate budget range for us to make some design magic for you.

Budgets are always flexible and negotiable at the beginning and we will work with all clients to create a project for their budget which will give them an awesome space for their visitors. While it is always helpful to begin with at least an estimate of a budget, we realize sometimes the budget is developed during a process and we can work with clients during that process. Contact us with your budget estimate today and let us get started envisioning a project for you.