Designing On A Budget

March 3, 2011

Starved for affordable design ideas? Tired of trying to match the design shows with their unrealistic budgets? For most of us, it only takes one trip through the home center or the furniture store to figure out that our dollar just isn't going to go as far as they show it on television. Dari Roberts, Ideal's Design Center manager, has five steps for designing on a budget. 1. The first step to designing on a budget is to take a realistic look at how much you have to spend. Be honest with yourself on this one so you don't have a room you love and a bill you hate. 2. Step two is to decide how much you want to do for that amount. Is it one room or the whole house? Here again, be realistic so you won't be disappointed. 3. Step Three: Prioritize. If the budget just isn't as big as your dream, you will have to decide what to do now and what to do later. You should do what's most important to you, but these thoughts might help you. Do you have an empty house with a mattress on the floor in the bedroom and not much else? Maybe your priority is to buy furniture. Do you have enough furniture, but it's mostly leftovers and your place looks a lot like your college apartment? Maybe you want to work on one room at a time to develop a more together look. Or is it just time for a change? You have some great pieces, but you're tired of the way your rooms look and you're ready to take it to the next level. Maybe it's time to take stock of which things you really love and want to keep. How you could re-purpose some pieces into different rooms. Maybe you just need to fill in the blanks in your new rooms with the pieces and accessories that will define your new look. 4. Step Four: Once you decide on the scope of your project, you need to find your inspiration. Dari says it's that thing you love that you want to build everything around. "When people come to the Ideal Homes Design Center they usually have something in mind that they just have to have. You need to decide on that item first, so everything else will work with it." For instance, if you have to have stone countertops, pick those out first so the cabinets and backsplash will go together for a completed look. If you're in love with dark wood floors, pick those before you shop for area rugs or furniture. In a bedroom, the inspiration is frequently bedding, since the bed is the largest and first-noticed item in the room. Your inspiration may be something you already have, or it may be something you find new. In either case, it will serve as the guide for all your design decisions. 5. Step Five: Make your master list. Write everything down. Take pictures of your old things and things you are considering buying. Your project is a lot easier to manage if you have it all in front of you. Now you're ready to decide on what things you will need to complete your design and how much you are budgeting for each item. This list should be in priority order with the most important things on top. Designers select the most expensive and hardest to change items first - like flooring and permament lighting. Easier things to change include accessories and wall art. Dari's final words of advice: Shop. Do your homework. Collect color samples so you can be sure everything works together and with your inspiration piece. Don't forget to put a price on everything. It will save you time, money and grief. If you're absolutely in love with the expensive sectional, plan to shop TJ Maxx and Steinmart for the other things. That's how Dari pulls together Ideal's model homes, and the result is stunning and open every day for you to visit and get ideas.
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