When I first moved into my new home, it was painted in multiple shades of beige and yellow. Trust me, it was not good. Most of my furniture was functional, but was nothing special. We also needed to do some renovations. We slowly figured out through trial and (many) errors how to upgrade and not break the bank. Hopefully what we learned will help you maximize your dollars and time!
1 – Name Your Style
Jillian Harris’ bedroom graced the cover of Style at Home last month and shows off her Soft and Feminine style.
This is really important because before you buy anything new, you want to have a plan, otherwise you’ll just collect random stuff. (Um, guilty as charged). Are you classic, modern, contemporary, boho, scandi, french girl or California cool? There are so many different styles, so its good to narrow it down and give it a name that works for you. It can be “Scandi Boho Moroccan” or “Seaside Shabby Chic” or “French Salon” …what would you call your style? Have fun with it! Then, when you do buy something, or decide what to keep, you can ask yourself “Does this really match my style?” “Does it match my color scheme?” Or, “Will this end up being a return or giveaway?” Part of living in a luxuriously decorated home is a harmonious look throughout, so its good to know what will make your home feel cohesive, and not a stockroom for trends. Be smart with the budget you have.
Here are four fun quizzes to get you started!
2 – Make a Vision Board
Do you want your home to feel like freshly baked cookies, feathery softness and a hit of contemporary furniture? Then buy what makes you feel cozy and fits your style.
Take the time to find inspiration as a starting point to decorate. This will help crystalize your style. Add photos that look the way you want to feel at home. At first grab everything you love. Eventually a theme will emerge. You’ll start seeing room colors that reappear. You’ll start seeing a couch or lamp on repeat, or if country homes always seem to pop up, take note. If metal reoccurs, then you know you prefer industrial. Whether you use magazines and catalogues, Pinterest or apps, travel pics or friends’ homes; give yourself the time to daydream. Then name that dream if you haven’t already in step one. Then, add a word that signifies how you want to feel like “happy”, “soft”, or “cool” or whatever emotion you want to feel. If it means something to you, that’s all that matters. Then before you buy anything, make sure it makes you feel the way you want to feel at home, and matches your style.
3 – Define Luxury and Prioritize
Jenna Lyons and her Elegant Brooklyn home on the cover of a 2008 Domino magazine. Domino defines the “new luxury” as being about “simple pleasures”.
How do you use your space? Is your favorite activity Netflix in bed or on the couch? Then plan to prioritize spending on a comfortable bed or couch, and skip overspending on a dining room table you’ll rarely use. Are you someone that equates luxury with sparkle, gold accessories and soft throw blankets? Or, are you someone that defines amazing storage and everything out of sight as the ultimate luxury? Maybe you need to treat yourself to excellent storage. Are natural materials, plants and contemporary designer finds your idea of luxury? Then start saving for the designer finds you want.
Once you decide what your definition of luxury is, you can decide what your priorities are. Decide where to splurge and where to save. (Hardware like kitchen taps are a good place to splurge, whereas white subway tiles look great and are inexpensive.)
If you want a leather couch, an oak dining room table or an Eames chair and can’t afford it right away, take the time to save up. Head to vintage shops, shop on e-bay, or if copies will work for you, then wait for a sale at big box store. (We scored on our dining room chairs by waiting for a Structube sale).
Your best bet to save money is using time to your advantage. Remember the quality triangle. There is quality, time and money; but you can’t have all 3 at once. Pick the 2 that matter to you most. Choose what you’re willing to give up to get what you absolutely want. (With renovations especially, quality work is worth waiting for.)
If you can wait some time, save your money for quality pieces. If you can’t wait, and are willing to give up quality, buy a copy.
If soft materials and candle light is your idea of luxury, then treat yourself to soft sheets on sale at Winners, Pottery Barn or West Elm. Be selective when buying the items you care about most.
4 – Hire a Pro for an Hour
Blogger Emily Schuman’s book Cupcakes and Cashmere at Home is a great resource that exemplifies how hiring a designer can help. She shares where she splurged and where she saved.
Many of us think that we can’t afford to hire someone, or that it’s a waste of money. One hour with a pro will only cost around 100$ and it will save you hours of painting disasters. A professional decorator can help you pick a cohesive color scheme that will make your entire home feel put together on purpose. Once you know your style, and you have an inspiration board; a good decorator or designer will help you bring it all together. A pro can help you define your style and design a room before you renovate. Their experience is worth paying for in the long run.
When selecting a painter, ask around for someone who is good and not too expensive. Ask your real estate agent and your decorator for recommendations. A professional paint job will elevate your home.
5 – Personalize and DIY
Joanna Goddard’s Brooklyn home (Cup of Jo) is a perfect example of how framing your children’s art can look lux by treating personal items as art.
Save money by personalizing a big box purchase. Add gorgeous Anthropologie handles to a storage unit from IKEA. Paint that antique furniture you love the shape of, but not the color . Reupholster your couch. Paint all your frames the same color and make a gallery wall. Create large-scale art with your kids and make your own modern art to create a focal point in your living room. This not only saves money for those big purchases you need time to save for, it also makes your home feel personal. It helps tell your story, so your home doesn’t feel like a copy of someone else’s space.
6 – Declutter, Simplify and Organize
Declutter and simplify so that the items you love most can shine.
There is nothing luxurious about searching for something when you are running late. Get rid of what you don’t need and try to keep everything “in its place”. It may sound impossible, but leaving your house calmly is more enjoyable, don’t you think? I also find that an organized home helps me think more clearly and feel relaxed when I walk in the door. By having less stuff and simplifying your home, it will feel more luxurious. (It also helps our planet.)
Maria Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can be overwhelming, but the idea that you should only have what you love in your home is a good objective. Why keep something in your home that doesn’t add to your daily pleasure?
The book that helped me is The Comforts of Home. Writer Caroline Clifton-Mogg takes you through every room and explores how it should be organized for maximum comfort, in many cases using what you already have.
Another book that helped me rethink my approach to decorating and understand how to find my style is Domino: The Book of Decorating. I love the idea that if you truly love something, it will work in your space, and it doesn’t matter where you bought it. This is one of the first books that redefined luxury and talked about mixing high and low pieces. I also loved The Perfectly Imperfect Home which gave me a useful understanding of why a variety of lighting sources is so important (i.e. why you should put dimmers in every room) and how to set up a room.
At the end of the day, once you define luxury for yourself, and figure out your priorities, you’ll avoid waste and maximize your budget so that your home feels luxurious. Don’t rush the process, take your time, let your style evolve authentically and have fun!