Decorating & Design - Design Lesson

Design Lesson: Stretching your budget

Design diva Kimberley Seldon shares seven tricks for working stylishly with limited resources.

My niece Alana recently bought her first house, and like so many others, she spent far more than she ever dreamed, leaving little money for improvements. She asked me for some economical ways to improve the appearance and value of her new abode.

1 Use standard tiles in custom ways
If you purchase typical 12-inch-square stone tiles, you can cut them to create a unique pattern. In a foyer, for example, you might start by outlining the space with a border of six- by 12-inch tiles, then add three rows of two-inch-square ones and fill in the centre with 12-inch-square ones. That creates the look of a prefinished mosaic pattern at a fraction of the cost. If you’re a confident DIYer, buy standard subway tiles for the kitchen backsplash, but form a 
running-brick (staggered) or more complex herringbone pattern.

2 Save with stock materials
Look for ways to combine stock and custom elements. When renovating a kitchen, select stock cabinetry for the lower cupboards but upgrade to custom uppers to improve the appearance at eye level, where the impact is greatest. In a bathroom, work with stock cabinetry but opt for a stone countertop. Pulls and knobs receive daily use, so update a builder's-beige cabinet with beautiful hardware. Today's choices are limitless, in finishes ranging from pewter to porcelain, glass to nickel. Small details can make a big difference.

3 Mix & match at different price points
For a surefire way to create the impression of greater spending, choose good basics from affordable sources like IKEA, The Home Depot and HomeSense, then toss in a few splurges like a cashmere throw, decorative cushions and an artfully displayed collection. With a few carefully selected accessories, you'll kick the style quotient up a notch.

4 Enhance standard draperies
Window coverings are often a huge expense, so go with ready-made drapery panels and embellish them with trim. Hand-stitch or glue a flat braid or tasselled fringe along the inside leading edge of each panel, from top to bottom. Similarly, update an ordinary lampshade with a ribbon border along the bottom rim.

5 Put the accent on architecture

Architectural enhancements like crown moulding and baseboards lend depth and a sense of history to rooms. If your mouldings are small, improve the scale by adding narrow strip moulding two inches above existing baseboards or two inches below crown moulding. Paint the baseboard or crown, the two-inch gap and the strip moulding the same colour to make them look like one piece.

6 Jazz up a shower curtain

Store-bought shower curtains often ride high above the floor, awkwardly revealing part of the tub. Simply sew a deep fabric hem at the bottom of the curtain to create a couture look.

7 Go for gallery glam

Give a humble piece of art the appearance of a masterwork with oversize matting and framing. When surrounded by an eight-inch matte, a small print instantly gains the presence of something valuable. 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.

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