A great-looking house doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, some of the best ideas come from having a decorating dilemma to solve without the budget to simply write a check.
Jessica Duncan is a young designer whose style might exceed her budget, but she wouldn’t let it. Upon graduating from The University of Georgia with an interior design degree, she faced her toughest assignment yet―decorating her first house.
Here she shares her budget-friendly tips and nifty style tricks that she learned along the way. Starting out, Jessica employed a little bit of common sense: “I still have that college mentality of ‘what can I do for free or for less?’ ” she confesses. These tips are great starting points.
The inspiration for Jessica’s design struck in the form of a 30-yard bolt of black-and-white houndstooth fabric that was on sale for an amazing $30. “I loved that fabric,” says Jessica, “and it was such a bargain. Even after the window treatments, upholstery, and pillows, I still had plenty of extra.” Leftover fabric doesn’t have to go to waste. Use it down the road as seat cushions on new finds, lampshades, and even place mats or a tablecloth.
If you can’t score a bargain on fabric, definitely find a pattern you love and use it. Get more usage out of smaller yardage by covering accent elements―such as pillows, lampshades, stools, side chairs, and the backs of cabinets―with it. (FYI: It takes about 1 yard of fabric to make one 18-inch pillow.)
For large pieces, such as a sofa, opt for a neutral slipcover. You’ll save your budget from reupholstery costs and give yourself more freedom to alter the look. This is always a good thing!
Gone are the days of buying a matching suite of furniture at one time. “For a great expression of personal style,” advises Jessica, “explore creative alternatives to incorporate ordinary pieces in unexpected ways.” In the kitchen, for example, Jessica uses two bookcases as a freestanding pantry. “Just because it’s a bookcase doesn’t mean it has to be used in an office,” she says.
Other ideas: A dining table can make a great desk. Small dressers, which offer plenty of storage, can be end or bedside tables. Armoires are the most functional of all. Use one as a closet in the bedroom, an entertainment center in the family room, a bar or china cabinet in the dining room, and even a computer center in the office.
Don’t turn it down: You never know how you might be able to give new life to an old or passed-down piece. Jessica almost declined an unattractive, secondhand dining table. But after covering the structurally sound piece with a new, funky tablecloth, it pulls the whole dining room together.
Furniture and accessories don’t have to go solo. Combine items to maximize their advantages. Jessica created the shaded chandelier over the dining room table by pairing a modern light fixture from IKEA with a more traditional shade from Ballard’s Backroom.
Extra savings: The shade was discounted for a small tear in its lining, but when placed above eye level, no one can tell.
Reupholster and reuse: Embrace all of your inherited furniture. Older pieces can give your home character and timeless charm. Paint, fabric, and even wallpaper can go a long way to taking a dated piece and making it new again. Just be sure you’re not ruining the value of a nice antique by altering it.
Two heads are better than one: More people equals more ideas. While shopping, you might stumble across a great find but have no idea how to use it. A girlfriend might be able to offer a terrific suggestion.