Designing your home is pretty much like putting together a stylish outfit. Not everything has to be expensive, or even cheap. You can achieve a fabulous look – and impress other people – without going broke by remembering these little tricks:
1. Buy one or two high-priced items – Achieving style on a budget is a very delicate balancing act. If you only have room to buy just one ‘splurge’ item, I’d recommend that you invest in good flooring. A good engineered or solid wood floor sets the foundation for a beautiful interior, pretty much like a good pair of shoes or a well-made handbag sets the tone for a stylish outfit. My second recommended splurge item (you don’t have to do this all at once) would be granite or quartz countertops. Floors and countertops are like women’s jewelry. If these look expensive everything else will, too.
2. Don’t buy everything in one store – Part of having an interesting looking interior that shows your exquisite sense of taste is to display an eclectic mix of local and imported stuff as well as high- and low-priced items. A pricey sofa and set of dining chairs from Baker or Restoration Hardware, for example, can be complemented by inexpensive accent chairs and tables from a vintage shop or an Asian import store (lower manufacturing costs in Asia make inexpensive furniture possible). Reproduction Chinese horseshoe back chairs, like the one pictured above for example, can be had for $ 125 apiece at a Chinatown store and can serve as great accent chairs in a traditional or contemporary living room.
3. Avoid making things matchy-matchy and keep things simple – Stay away from matching furniture sets and buy your sofas, accent chairs, dining table (& chairs) and various accent tables from different stores. Being overly coordinated shows an incredible lack of imagination (and initiative) by allowing stores to pre-select things for you. It’s similar to buying a perfectly coordinated track suit, t-shirt and shoes from just one manufacturer. Be wary of kitsch, though. Just because you bought something from your recent trip to Paris or India means that it has to be on display. Edit your stuff relentlessly – or even buy an hour or two of an interior designer’s time to comb thru your stuff to see what looks good – and don’t just buy things because you find them to be “cute”. Remember, less is more whether you’re putting an outfit together or styling your home.
4. Be wary of labels and shop around first – Brands are an assurance of a certain level of quality but there’s certainly no need to pay through the nose for this. Just like you can buy a Dior or Chanel bag for thousands of dollars, you can also buy labels like Coach or Kate Spade for a lot less. These are also nicely designed and are sometimes even more durable than their European counterparts. And don’t be scared of IKEA. Although it’s got a humble reputation, you can still find smart-looking sideboards (among other things) here that can seamlessly integrate with the expensive European furniture that you’re pining for – seriously. And with regards to timing your purchase, keep in mind that many retailers will also put their merchandise on sale right after Christmas or during Thanksgiving, which is the best time to buy from pricier establishments.
5. Invest in the basics – You may currently own really beautiful furniture, or may be setting aside some money to buy some nice stuff. But if you’ve just moved into a house that needs some work, I strongly suggest that you work on the house first and save the furniture purchase for later. It’s like putting fancy rims and tires on a 30-year old clunker. At the end of the day, it’s still a 30-year old car even though you’ve dressed it up a bit. People will notice the “old car” more and not the new accessories as much. It’s the same with a home. It’s always a great idea to take care of the “basics” (i.e. update your kitchen, bathroom, flooring and paint ) first as these will even enhance the value of your home – and tell people that they’re entering a special place – before upgrading your furniture.