Updated: Sep 29, 2018
Some people have a natural design eye, if you're in the camp that leans towards needing outside inspiration, you're not alone. Achieving the concept of a "well designed" home is subjective and varies from person to person. For some, a well designed home is one with clean lines, living a minimalistic lifestyle, while for another, it could mean having every wall filled with your favorite local artists' work. Whatever your personal style, there's a way to refine it, keeping true to your particular design interests while approaching the aesthetics of a well appointed, designer home.
As with so many things in life, it's all about the details. A few thoughtfully placed vases can set the tone for what is to come. First let's discuss:
Room Styling and Furniture Placement
Sometimes all it takes is to reimagine what you already have in a new light. Start with your favorite home magazines, pictures on the internet, or create a Pinterest board, which will produce 100's of inspirations. Print out a few pictures that are in alignment with how you want your home (maybe start with one room) to look. Home stagers have been using what the homeowner already owns as a basis for a staging platform since staging became a "thing". Most stagers use what's there, they just repurpose (plus add some fresh pieces) it to inspire a new look and feel in a room desperate for a refresh.
If you're up for a challenge, take everything out of the room. Take the pictures down off the walls, move most of the furniture out of room. Start with a clean palette. Designer Tip: Come up with a design color scheme and mesh it from room to room. Is it time to paint? Paint can transform a room in an instant. While it does take a little while (to do correctly), paint offers one of the biggest rewards on almost any budget.
There are a variety of websites that have room simulators and there's even more apps on your smart phone that can help you (re)design your spaces. Whatever your medium, pen and paper or a tech-savvy app, find a way to reimagine what you want out of the space. Using your inspiration photos or Pinterest board, pick out pieces in your home that resemble the pictures you like. For most people, they tend to stay within a particular design style, they just want to improve upon it. If you're trying to restyle your room and your current style is on the traditional side of the spectrum, and your desire is to have a super contemporary space, reimagining likely won't get you where you want to be - you'll have to spend some money to get there. If you're overall design style is leaning towards an aged European design with a coastal influence and your current style is transitioning from Ikea basics, you may not be as far off as you think.
Room styling is about creating a cohesive feel without designing a themed room per se. Let's assume you're starting with a living area space, like a family or living room. Once you have fully embraced the vision for the reimagined room, let's start with the largest pieces first. If you have a couch with good bones, keep it. If it's a burnt orange and the color isn't working, you can find really nice slipcovers that will transform any old couch. Slipcovers are not what they used to be. You can find slipcovers that range from ultra tailored to very relaxed. Once you've identified your style, find a slip cover that resembles the inspiration pictures. Does your coffee table or end tables support the new style? If they do, great. Place them. If not, can they be painted? Would removing the top center and replacing it with a glass top or other type of medium get you closer? If you're handy with tools (or know someone that is), repurposing existing pieces you once loved, can be very rewarding.
As you add pieces back into your space, try to stay true to the inspiration photos. Bringing everything back in to the room will likely just frustrate you and make you realize you haven't dusted for a while. Try to be very purposeful with your design.
Fabric and Art Suggestions
Let's assume for a moment the furniture you've decided to keep in the room is neutral-ish. Instead of opting for a floral slip cover or paying to have your favorite chair reupholstered in a stripped material, consider keeping the large items as neutral as possible. You can go wrong with a grey, light beige, the best of both worlds, a "greige" color. Here's where the fun comes in. Go to your local décor retailer or shop online for new pillows. Throw pillows are comparatively inexpensive to purchasing new furniture. Pick pillows that are in line with the color and fabrics in your inspiration rooms. Pillow can be changed out seasonally or the next time you decide to makeover your room. Pillow are where you can create pops of color with an impact. Purchase new pillow that provide a variety of texture, color, and size options. This will change the look of the room as soon as you toss them on the couch. Building off your pillow colors, choose a couple of complementary lamps, maybe a picture frame or two. If you own artwork, do you have artwork in any part of the house that you can reimagine into your new living room space? This will save you a ton of money. If you don't have artwork, or you're not able to move existing artwork around, have you considered making some? I guide you back to your Pinterest page. Of course, you're not wanting your space to look like an arts and craft fair, so don't get too carried away with making too many wall art pieces, unless of course, you happen to stumble upon a creative outlet that make put some extra money in your pocket. For the rest of us, we can usually, with considerable though, create a piece of wall art we are proud of, even if very simple.
Reworking your existing living space is only the start. There are numerous way in which you can achieve a well designed home on the cheap. As a designer, there are several tips that you may find useful when trying to have a well-designer home.
My Designer Tricks and Tips:
Fake the height. Creating a strong vertical space create the illusion the room is large than it is. There are a couple of design tricks designers use to add depth and height to a smaller space. If you're painting a kitchen and have tall cabinets, consider painting your ceiling 50% lighter than the wall color. This trick the eye into thinking the ceiling height is higher than it actually is, creating visual interest.
Try ceiling to floor curtains, make sure they go all the way to the floor. A light, bright window treatment drapery panel will do wonders to create the illusion the ceiling is 100' tall. If you're design inspiration is more of the monochromatic palette, choose draperies that are a hint darker than your wall color. This way you know that they are there but they don't fade away into the wall. Window treatments in general are a great way to add instant pizazz to your rooms. One of my absolute favorite window treatments is a Mezzanine Layered Shade. They're visually interesting and allow lots of natural light to come through, keeping your room bright.
Full bar. If you enjoy a cocktail here and again, and you have a well-appointed bar, don't hide it. Many people think stowing all alcoholic beverages away is good design. Here's my take on the bottle thing, many bottles are very interesting to look at, in and of themselves they can be a form of art. If you're able to color coordinate your alcohol bottles with your décor, you've added a layer of interest and texture to your living space. Use what you have.
Add a spectacular backsplash. While having a backsplash is nothing new, what is new are the types of materials available today. Tile options range from sea glass to mosaic, to metal. Having a backsplash from counter to ceiling (or almost to the ceiling) in your kitchen in a complementary color or texture option will go a long way. It adds an element of drama to your kitchen, even if you're not ready for a kitchen makeover. Adding a dramatic backsplash will help you fall back in love with your kitchen until you're up for a full remodel.
Art - Put Your Favorite Pieces Upfront. If you love it, showcase it. Use your love of art of antiques as a feature in your home. Create tasteful vignettes displaying trips abroad or something that was left to you.
Use of Mirrors: Pretty much everyone knows that the use of mirrors is great for making a space appear larger than it actual is. Leaning a framed floor mirror against the wall is visually interesting. It is functional as well as beautiful.
It's the little things, the details make a difference. The placement of an items is nearly as important as the item itself.