interior style on a budget

This, without a doubt is the question I get asked most. City living can be a stretch for even the most wealthy of occupants, so it's always amazing to have some go-to tips to create that statement, unique look without blowing the budget. This is my absolute bible of 10 easy ways to save money and STILL have a pad that impresses! 

1. Do your research

Ok I know this sounds like I am starting with the really boring and non actionable tip but trust me, this is the ONE thing that can hold the key to your ballin' on a not so ballin' budget greatness! As soon as I started to read and learn as much as I could about different eras, different designers, different art movements etc, I really started to understand how I could create those looks without the big budget. It helps you start to see the lines and shapes in cheap objects at the charity shop that no-one else has seemed to notice. It helps you to know what to put into the eBay search box in order to find that vintage bargain. It helps you to understand what colours will work. All of which we will discuss in more detail in a minute but just trust me - do whatever you can to learn about this stuff! You'll be so surprised at what you pick up. I learn in the following ways;

  • Design magazines
  • Design blogs (oh snap, you're already here!)
  • Going to interiors and lifestyle events
  • Visiting antique shops 
  • Visiting art galleries and museums
  • Watching old movies
  • Google it dude! You can not even guess some of the things I put into google. You can literally find out about anything. 

Want to learn more? See these posts I wrote on Art Deco and Midcentury modern

2. Go to car boot fairs and charity shops

So now you get why part one is important right?! As soon as you can start to recognise the styles and shapes of designer pieces (or just cool bits in general) then you can dig them out from the most obscure places where the people selling them don't know what they have. Car boot fairs are perfect for this, as are charity shops. I've bought 3 amazing sideboards that would have cost well over £150 each on eBay from a local charity shop for £20-30 each! They just didn't know what they had and that the style was back in fashion. Which equals a happy Sarah, and a happy you if you're crafty. Always negotiate on price (unless it's under a tenner 'cos you might seem petty) and take cash so that you don't need to leave to go and get it. Having the money to buy on the spot gives you greater negotiating power.

Check out this post I wrote about how to haggle with antiques dealers. 

3. Scour the high street

Once you have a bit of money to burn there are a zillion and one purveyors of fantastical designer goods for sale to spend your hard earned cash on. But there's a lot for us out there before we get to that point too! Once you've trained your eye to pick out the pieces that don't look overly cheap or tacky then the high street can be a fab place to get home things that still pack a punch. One of my favourite houndstooth blankets that gets loads of comments is from Primark. Most of my duvet sets are from Ikea or H&M. I have a ton of bits and bobs from Debenhams, BHS, Dunelm, Matalan, you name it! Yes you have to scour a bit and it takes time, because let's face it there is a lot of fraff out there but you will comes across a few gems that look like they are worth wayyyy more than they really cost. I have a little browse through the high street online stores every couple of weeks to keep up with stock as the good pieces go fast.

I've put together a resource list of all of my favourite online retailers. You can download it by clicking here. 

interior design on a budget

4. Develop your own style

I can't stress this enough, and out of all of these tips it's probably the most important. It's what I build my whole life and blog around and I feel so passionately about it! Please, please, please spend time working out which styles you like and why. It was the most challenging thing I ever got asked to do - for a college project - but it had made a huge difference for the better ever since I 'discovered' why certain pieces resonated with me. It also made me so much more tuned in to my gut feeling on items. You know when you see something and you just linger on it for that second longer than everything else and you're not sure why... that's your gut talking to you. Memories we have from childhood, early associations, emotions and more all play into what we like and why. Why am I saying all of this? Because as soon as you have your own style you don't need to spend huge wads of cash on things. You could buy the cheapest thing but because it fits with your style no one can challenge you on it. Ok, they may not like it, but that doesn't matter because YOU DO! It'll help you to discover pieces based on their happiness / emotional value to you rather than their monetary value. And that's when it starts to get really interesting. 

P.S if you want a little hand discovering your own style, either take my design personality quiz below or check out this blog post on keeping a personal style journal. 

Take my quiz to
find your style

5. Create vignettes

Vignettes or little 'scenes' of decor and accessories are at the very heart of interior styling and making things look pro. This is what I basically do for a job! It's all about finding a little corner or area in your place and then dressing it up to create an image worthy vignette. Use a variety of items in different heights and textures to really create something that's multi sensory. Have your vignettes in places that make sense and aren't too staged - think your coffee table, top of the sideboard, bedside table or entryway. Having vignettes dotted around your house make it fun for a visitor to stumble upon and give your home that little bit of that effortless pro feel!

Check out this blog post where I created 3 different vignettes on my side table for some ideas. 

6. Use eBay followed search

eBay has this nifty little function which allows you to get email alerts when something you want gets listed. Genius right?! I use this ALL THE TIME to keep an eye out for those perfect vintage pieces that I've lusted over for ages. It means that you gets your eyes on it first and can either buy it now, make an offer or enter an online auction to get your hands on that sucker! Now remember when I spoke about doing your research? Here is where it comes into play (again). If you know what you're searching for then you can really find the good stuff. There are some little tricks around that though to find some hidden bargains.

Watch my eBay tutorial video below to find out how to make it work for you and get some absolutely incredible bargains!

7. Go to sample sales

Sample sales are where designer labels sell off their excess merchandise or samples that they have been sending out to press. If you manage to get into a sample sale then you can usually get up to 70% off of the retail prices. 70 flippin' percent people! The way to find out about when sample sales are happening is to get on the brand's mailing list and also follow them across their social media platforms as they will often share the information there. You will need to get there early and join a queue with other bargain hunting shoppers and make sure to take plenty of cash. There won't be any time for you to be shimmying off to the cashpoint. This is every man / woman for themself! Samples sales are likely to be limited to major cities but worth a trip if there's something you've been lusting after that's going to be majorly reduced.

8. DIY some pieces

The best thing I ever did was work out that I didn't need to go to a shop to own brilliant pieces. I've spray painted crappy old things, painted my own artwork, turned postcards into expensive looking framed pieces, created floral displays using cheap supermarket flowers.... you name it. Getting comfortable being a 'maker' again (something I was incredibly at ease doing in school but not really since) has really stepped up my ballin' home on a not so ballin' budget levels. This opens up a whole new realm of brilliant stuff because you no longer need to look at colour, fabric or materials but can instead see the base of something that can be absolutely fabulous with your DIY touch! Shitty £10 bust from the garden centre? Spray paint it neon yellow for a statement piece that looks like it was created by a contemporary artist. Use fabric paint to DIY your own graphic bedlinen. THE LIST GOES ON!

Learn as much as you can about crafting and see how I've done some cool, easy DIY projects for a little bit of inspo. 

9. Get to grips with colour

Being playful and bold with colour is one of the quickest, cheapest and easiest ways to create a dramatic and expensive look. The store own-brands are really stepping their game up when it comes to colour and trends and creating some very affordable ranges that only a pro would be able to tell apart from their more luxurious sisters. Yes - I firmly believe that designer paints brands are well worth it (as you can see in my video) but that doesn't stop you from having that edgy look on a budget. Check out the interiors magazines to see which colours are being used to create different dramatic effects but don't just follow the trends. Try and do a different take on them and always go for colours that you are really drawn to. You'd be surprised what a new lick of paint can do by the way of updating a space and making it look really luxe, even with a few affordable accessories and soft furnishings. 

Cheeky tip - take a swatch of your favourite designer paint colour to your local DIY store and ask them to match it. 

10. Create a statement wall/s

The best thing I ever did in my living room was wallpaper a big feature wall. And when I say feature I really mean it! The key to making your place look ballin' outta control is confidence. You don't see famous designers or interior decorators playing it safe do you?! The more bold and statement-y you are with your prints, pattern and colour, the more that people will think you spent on it. Unless it's ridiculously tacky of course, but then if you followed step one and have been doing your regular research then you'll be able to pick out expensive looking stuff a mile off! If you really can't find a bold wallpaper that's within budget then look at either moving your feature to a smaller wall, create panels, try wallpapering behind bookshelves etc, or even DIY a graphic paint job on a wall. 

Here are three awesome statement wallpapers for under £50 a roll...

Left: Vertex by Albany, £28 PR

Middle: Dhurrie by Scion, £36 PR

Right: Kimi by Scion, £36 PR

Hope this has been useful to ya! Which tip has inspired you to get cracking on create that dream pad of yours?

S x