When decorating your home with items, it is important to first determine a style or theme for the space. Consider the overall aesthetic you want to achieve and select items that fit within that theme. It is also important to consider the functionality of the space and choose items that will enhance the functionality of the room. Additionally, consider the color scheme of the space and select items that complement the color scheme.
It is helpful to create a mood board or a list of items you would like to include in the space, along with inspiration pictures. It is also important to consider the size of the space and choose items that are proportionate to the size of the room. Finally, it is essential to plan a budget for the decorating project and stick to it.
You don’t need to whizz off to the shops; rearrange what you’ve got. Move paintings, tables, even china from room to room. Change the furniture arrangement, reupholster existing pieces, paint your wood furniture, add new knobs to a soulless cabinet. Often many of the things you own are fine, they just need a tweak to make them fresh. Shopping at home can be your most inexpensive resource.
Before you start worrying about what you can and cannot afford to buy, consider what you should get rid of. Dated, worn, or damaged items could be doing the look of your home a disservice, and if they’re non-essential, removing them can give your home a clean slate. One of the worst offenders in rental apartments is vertical blinds. Plus those college posters you’ve been holding on to. Bin, bin, bin.
Choosing classic pieces in neutral colours will enable your furniture to have a long and diverse life. Neutral items can be moved from room to room throughout the years, and by switching accessories, cushions, lamps, throw rugs, art, they can easily be transformed when tastes change. Opting for versatile items in neutral colours and finishes means you’ll only have to incur a high cost once, rather than every few years.
Throw in some black
No matter what style your interior — modern, traditional, or eclectic— introducing a black element such as a piece of furniture, painting or accessory will add instant edge.
Go to different parts of town
Both geographically and culturally. You’ll be surprised not just at the different looks but the difference in price. From Next, Dunhelm, The Range To Homebase or in the US (any houseware outlets).
Use your imagination
When you are on a budget of zero bring all your powers of observation and imagination to charity shops, discount outlets and clean-up weeks. Scour bargain shops for cut-price remnants that will transform a crucial cushion. Clean-up week is great fun – there can be better chairs in council clean-ups than in most shops selling furniture.
Op shops and school fetes are great for books. You will find unique objects, things you will have for the rest of your life: things that look good, feel good, and say something great about you to the world.
Split costs with a stylish friend
For a money-saving shopping secret, split costs and sets. The bateau lit sofa in the living room at our country house was part of a set, but it was expensive, so a friend and I both chipped in — I took the sofa, she got the two armchairs.
Shop wisely and well
Avoid making hasty or compromised decisions you’ll repent at leisure. When you have a budget, it’s easy to buy things for the price, rather than buy good things. If you buy a bad sofa, for instance, you will always want to replace it as soon as you can.
Visit auction houses because they have sales
A good place to snag bargain antique furniture, paintings, mid-twentieth century design, good porcelain, and more. I recently picked up a pair of English upholstered library chairs for $50 each, a Swedish-look dining chair for $55, and a pretty French writing table with original paint finish for $150.
Pull it all together with affordable accessories
Inexpensive Chinese porcelain, woven trays, placemats, and basketware can really stretch a budget and still get the last layer of personality.
Choose affordable art
Affordable art is easier to find than you think. Seek out reasonably priced online sites like Easy Art. And for maximum impact, hang artwork en masse in a group rather than scattering it around a room.
Look at the shape of furniture before you look at the fabric
Don’t fall madly in love with a $700 sofa from a vintage store just because you happen to love the navy velvet. Remember: you can refinish or reupholster anything.
Love something? Buy just one
Beware of duplication. Don’t always buy the same thing. For instance, you have a stunning coffee table you love. Then you see a gorgeous brass side table that resembles it. The coffee table won’t look as special if it has a matching design.
When buying inexpensive items, simple things are safest
Cheap things usually go wrong when they are tricked up. Look for household staples in your colour palette.
Think of bargain shopping as a treasure hunt and apply your usual quality standards
Enjoy looking for the gold among the dross. Don’t pay top dollar for things you know you’ll see on sale. Wait for the big sales for items like sheets, towels, china, cutlery, glasses, knives, pots and pans.
Discount shops are a necessary stop for canny decorators
You’ll dig deep for treasure but it’s worth it. Go to areas in your city where there’s a critical mass of these shops, so you can compare and contrast. Most of what you’ll find will be rubbish but five per cent will be pure gold – the sort of artefacts that make a home unique, and for a tiny price.
Plant stands, trays, tables, chairs, woven placemats, Asian porcelain figures, storage boxes, storage containers, wicker coasters, noodle bowls, glassware, oil pourers, ceramic vases, stoneware plates, teapots, white towels. Look for natural textures, muted colours and minimal decoration.
Mix quality pieces with less expensive finds
When it comes to collecting, not every piece has to be precious. It’s much more important to find things you truly love. That is the point of collecting.
Be original. It makes economic sense to start collecting something that is out of fashion, or has not yet become a fad. We know people who collect cake stands, rattan trays, brooms, convict bricks, and books with silly names. They’re all fascinating.
A gallery wall of paintings, prints and even framed tea towel, give artist Rachel Castle’s colourful home plenty of personality and style. Photography: Sharyn Cairn
Go for gallery glam
Give a humble piece of art the appearance of a masterwork with oversize mounting and framing. When surrounded by a 15cm mount, a small print will look important. Mount an object as simple as a shell, vase, mask, or sculpture on Perspex plinths, blocks, and stands, to make them look like something out of an art gallery.
Also, consider investing in original artwork by local up-and-comers and find out when art colleges are having student showings of original works at affordable prices.
Be your own best stylist
Found art and objects can look fabulous even if they’re free — it’s all in the art of how they’re arranged. Perfect the techniques behind your wall-mounted art collages and vignettes, even if they aren’t filled with the world’s priciest designs. The trick when you’re broke is: don’t let your standards drop.
Focus on the layout
Make the most of the space you have. Really work on designing your space to optimise each room’s flow and feeling.
If your spaces are small, consider manoeuvres that will make a room feel larger than it is. Carve space out of every niche, and optimise every alcove.
Find a focal point (like a great, big, artwork or mirror) and arrange seating around it. Consider views into rooms and place furniture in a way that complements or contrasts architecture.
Sarah looks after corporate enquiries and relationships for UKFilmPremieres, CelebEvents, ShowbizGossip, Celeb Management brands for the MarkMeets Group. Sarah works for numerous media brands across the UK.
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