The proliferation of “real estate porn” on television and on the Internet has created a whole new subculture of amateur interior designers and house flippers. Watching some of these programs can make people feel like anyone can march into a run-down old house and turn it into the coolest space on the block armed with just a credit card and some moxie. Oh, and a few design ideas, of course.
But many folks find out the hard way that their credit cards have limits, and sometimes trying to create a luxurious space in your home that feels as rich and comfortable as the professionally-done designs you see in magazines and web sites seems impossible, simply because the art, furniture, and other design elements used are so expensive. Don’t despair though.
One of the dirty little secrets of the design world is that you can almost always duplicate a look using much more affordable pieces. It just takes a good eye and some patience.
That said, here’s a note of caution: Replacing a couch that costs $5,000 with one that costs $500 may get you the look you want if they’re similar in colour, texture, and design. But the extra costs of luxe items is not always just in their design and rarity: Often it reflects craftsmanship. Don’t be surprised if your cheaper couch simply doesn’t wear well, or isn’t as comfortable. We’re discussing here the superficial look of your space, not necessarily getting equal quality.
Which isn’t to say that you can’t get great looks and quality for a good price – you can. Just keep in mind that sometimes you get what you pay for!
The key thing to keep in mind when trying to create a luxury look for pennies on the dollar is that design, like fashion, trickles down.
What this means in practice is that if you spot an amazing dining room table in a showroom at a fancy store that costs big bucks and just came out, you’re likely not going to find something like it in a cheaper store right away. It takes a little time for the lower-end stores to, well, copy it. You’re always going to have to be six months to a year behind the trends – but unless you plan to redecorate your home twice a year, that dining room table will serve you and your family for years to come, so a slight delay on trends shouldn’t be a concern.
Line up your resources.
You need two lists: High end stores, web sites, and designers where you can see the spectacular and expensive goodies the rich are putting into their home designs, and then your low-cost sourcing places. You need stores that serve lower-end budgets but have aspirations and relationships with designers. Target is sort of the ideal here: Low-prices, targets budget-conscious shoppers, but has relationships with designers like Isaac Mizrahi to bring some style to their offerings.
Once you have your lists, it’s a simple matter of choosing what you want from the Luxury List and then searching for something similar on the Budget List. It’s not always easy, but you can almost always find close matches. Carry a print out of your ideal room with you, or an “idea book” with photos of the pieces you want, and go to every store or web site you can and check on each piece. It takes time, but this is why people pay designers in the first place!
When you’re done, you can be proud to have a room that looks just like something you saw in a magazine – for thousands of dollars less!