Time for an update.

January 11, 2023

Most of us use a budget at some time when decorating, and for those who do, the benefits can be huge. Budgeting can help you be imaginative and put you on a path toward saving for things you really desire for your home. These are some of our favourite (imperceptibly) cost-saving, quick fixes – many used by top interior designers from convincing faux fireplaces to semi-custom curtains. You don’t usually think of designers as particularly concerned with saving their client’s money. In reality, designers are frequently asked to keep an eye on the left side of the ledger – without letting any of the cost-cutting show. Here’s how some of the best in the business deftly maintain high style with strategies so economically smart, we recommend you try them yourself. Strong ideas, coming up. Try to contain your excitement.

Strong ideas, coming up. Try to contain your excitement.

Simple things are safest. White paint mixed with grey and camel-coloured hues will make any space will look expensive. There’s something about camel that makes everything look high-end. Photo by Paige Rumore.

Find Free Art

Forget investing in expensive art and display pieces that reflect you and your families interests. Anything from vintage baskets on walls to woven tribal trays to white plates or authentic surfboards throughout the home can be the perfect artwork for a family, who want to create a casual and laid-back vibe.

Semi-Customise Curtains

Try repurposing chainstore readymade linen curtains such as the off-the-peg designs at Pottery Barn by adding high-end trim. Get an upholsterer to layer a pale grey modern fringe atop a blue-grey linen band, to edge some standard ivory-colored curtains with the combo. They will look completely custom.

You can create a similar look to expensive steel windows with an aluminium product. The secret is to keep the mullions that divide the glass and the frame around window as thin as possible. Image via Atelier AM.

Open Dramatic Doors

Paint is a necessary finish and an undervalued magic wand. On doors, the architects are known to use popular Dulux or Benjamin Moore paint such as New York State of Mind, a deep blue, to make a standard part of interior architecture look like a statement.

A fully saturated hue becomes a neutral, and doorknobs look beautiful against it.

Make Standard Bookcases Look Built In

Want to make a row of bookcases look like an expensive custom build? Dress up a row of humble IKEA BILLY bookcase with trim or moulding at the top to give them a bespoke look. Adding a library ladder is a great finishing touch.

Use expensive tiles in small, high-impact applications

We are a huge fan of using marble slabs for window ledges, shower recess steps where they get a lot of attention. Marble can be costly, but just a small amount can add a luxe, high-end impact to a space.

Find a Ready-Made Mural

We know of old opera-stage backdrop being found at auction instead of the expensive scenic wallpaper that was the first option. Cost: $400. Effect: Kapow.

We loved the idea of truncating the vertical timber panelling in this bedroom that is also a money saver. Photo by Paige Rumore.

Bookend a Bay Window

If you have an awkward set of bay windows to contend with, and don’t want to blow the budget on a set of custom curtains and custom bent curtain rod – consider installing stationary panels on the wall flanking both sides of the bay to create the softness and height of curtains.

Store-bought roman shades can then be used as the true window covering for light-filtering during the brightest part of the day.

Gussy Up a Low-Cost Sofa

Desperately love the shape and curves of a costly Parisienne designer sofa? Seek out a sofa with a similar profile at a chainstore like James Lane or CB2’s Goop collection and reupholster it in a luxurious fabric to give it a high-end feel – (while you save to invest in the designer piece). Repurposed Pottery Barn linen curtains with high-end trim. They will look completely custom.

Fake the Panelling

For added depth and detail, juxtapose modern style with classic details. A cost-effective approach we recommend is simulating the wall panelling. Instead of raised and fielded panels, use a stuck-on, bead-moulding that is applied directly to walls to imitate architectural features. Just get your proportions right.

Trust in Ticking

High-end specialty fabrics are a big part of the design toolbox, but a few well-priced workhorses can be super handsome and budget-friendly. Think of the residence of John Loring, design director of Tiffany & Co, who covered every piece of gorgeous furniture in his house in inexpensive mattress ticking. We have covered an 18th-century French sofa in our own country house in a simple affordable olive-coloured stripe ticking. 

Paper the Pantry

Add wallpaper in unexpected places. If you are forced to cancel plans for your pantry (or wardrobes) with built-in cabinetry due to budget. Bold floral paper under open shelving can end up being much more powerful and punchy. Sometimes value engineering can work out in your favour. Imagination makes you more creative.

Double the Rugs

If you are uncomfortable spending on a large-scale custom or antique rug, consider laying a simple and inexpensive sisal from Pottery Barn as a large base. Then you can opt for a vintage rug layered on top that is a bit more expensive, but even at a smaller scale it will provid the visual interest and warmth you are might be looking for.

Sub Aluminum for Steel

Steel windows and doors are so popular right now, but the price can be staggering.  You can create a similar look with an aluminium product that resembles steel – it’s all about the proportions. You want the stiles that divide the glass and the frame around the door or window as thin as possible. The mullions should be about 70cm to look like metal windows, but will cost a lot less in aluminium. The graphic, grid quality is really effective in the context of the house. The trick is also to limit the use of the windows and doors to the most impactful areas of the home, the entryway and double-height hall or living area.   

It can fit the aesthetic of the house to have two different types of doors and windows and you’ll save a lot of money.

Get the look and feel of expensive steel windows and doors with similar aluminium products that feature fine profile lines and stiles. Image via Atelier AM.

Love a Lacquer Lookalike

Coveting a clean lacquer look for your bathroom cabinets? But don’t have the budget and know it’s hard to maintain… Seek out hardware companies that do prefinished laminates and are able to achieve a high gloss look at a fraction of the cost with a highly durable finish. Check Richelieu or Laminex.

Opt for Copper Pipes

We love the look of copper pipes for the faucets. They are the fraction of the cost of name-brand plumbing fixtures and help add glamour, integrity, and honesty to the design of any space.

We love the look of copper pipes in kitchens which are a fraction of the cost of name-brand plumbing fixtures and help add glamour, integrity, and honesty to the design of any space. Image via The Grand Kings Road Rome,

Bypass Built-ins

Open to using furniture pieces instead of built-ins? In part because of the ‘decision-making fatigue’ that goes with home renovation. Consider going with étagères in brass or timber which you can easily resell when you’re ready to replace them, unlike built-ins. Plus, they keep the design of spaces, airy and open.

Retrofit a Fireplace

Creating a fireplace would often require a chimney can be astronomical in price. Consider adding a mantle and carving out a space for small alcohol-burning capsules by Ecosmart or HearthCabinet, which makes ventless fireplaces that don’t require gas, electricity or a chimney. And if your space connects to the terrace, the result can be indoor-outdoor living.

Challenging Panelling

Looking for a new twist in an otherwise relaxed room? We loved the idea of truncating the cladding that is also a money saver. Vertical panelling can set up tension in a room, when set against different shapes like the globed pendants and circular tops of the side table in this bedroom, plus the chunky knot of the Citizenry’s blanket that enlivens a monochromatic room.

Mix cheap with expensive: Mixing lighter wood stains and hides, like this handmade pegboard and chainstore faux suede barstools immediately changes the feeling of this kitchen. It’s really that simple. Photo by Paige Rumore

A Lightened Larder

Update your kitchen with suede-look bar stools from chain stores and a handmade pegboard. When you have a modern kitchen with surfaces like marble,  dark stains and concrete floors, it can feel very contemporary and cold. Mixing lighter wood stains, like with the pegboard, immediately changes the feeling. It’s really that simple.

Use Colour To Your Advantage

Against a Pure White paint and a backdrop of camel-coloured hues, any space will look expensive. There’s something about camel that makes everything look high-end, no matter how small or modest the space. As a bonus, camel mixes well with nearly every other colour. One of our favourite tricks for getting a high-end look is to paint features from fireplaces to built-ins, and even furniture, the same colour as the wall. The monochrome look draws the eye and feels very cohesive and intentional. Also try camel’s close relations on the colour wheel: stone, latte, camel, coffee, caramel, straw, butterscotch.  They’re easy to live with, timeless and allow statement pieces of furniture and accessories to shine.  Start with any neutral colour you love and stick with it, using one other shade in a minimal way to set it off. For example, white curtains will instantly transform a room painted all beige into an ultra-sophisticated space.

There’s something about camel hues that makes everything look high-end, no matter whether it’s bargain chainstore buys such as these H&M Home pieces. As a bonus, camel mixes well with nearly every other colour.

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