Decorating a new home can be expensive.
While you may not have $20,000 to overhaul the design of your home, that shouldn’t matter, says Ariel Farmer, an interior designer with Homepolish, a popular interior decorating startup. Homepolish is among a crop of new sites — like Hem, Remodo, and Houzz — that help homeowners decorate their homes at reasonable budgets.
“A small budget doesn’t mean you should settle for subpar design. There are so many opportunities to create big impact at an affordable cost. My go-to design trick is the Ikea Rens sheepskin — whether on the floor or thrown over a lounge chair. It never ceases to be chic and sophisticated,” says Farmer.
To help you find the right design for your home, Farmer offers six simple home design guidelines for you (and your decorating budget) to follow.
1. Make a plan and assess what you need
The first question Farmer advises you ask yourself is what are the pieces of furniture you want to keep and which are the ones you’re willing to part with?
If you have the budget to buy a set of new furniture, Farmer suggests you look into buying foundational pieces that are color-neutral.
“If you’re going to look for new sofas or chairs, I would go with either a nice beige or a light gray color,” she adds.
For those homeowners who may be reluctant to part with existing pieces of furniture, they can always mix in new pieces with the old. If you’re looking for new furniture, Farmer suggests homeowners visit online sites that sell attractive furniture at favorable prices, like Wayfair, One Kings Lane, Target, and Dot & Bo. If you’re operating with a tight budget (like $1,500 and under), Farmer says sourcing thrift stores and Etsy, which you can use to find furniture items close to where you live, are affordable ways to find new furniture.
2. Avoid buying matching sets of furniture
Furniture stores that offer a $699 deal for a furniture set that includes a sofa, a love seat, and an ottoman may sound appealing. But Farmer suggests you avoid those deals altogether.
“Your furniture will actually have much more longevity if you focus on each item individually,” says Farmer.
Instead, Farmer advises you dedicate more of your decorating budget toward a new sofa. You can also find a new lounge chair or ottoman in a thrift store and reupholster it.
“It’s better to have a living room full of furniture that is collected over time than a big box store deal that looks dated in six months,” says Farmer.
3. Choose paint colors and hardware design
“Before you get too heavily involved with the furniture pieces, make sure you do things like picking out the paint colors, figuring out if you want to swap out any hardware [like door handles and faucets], and what kind of hardware you are going to replace it with,” says Farmer.
For instance, swapping out door handles for new ones in the kitchen and repainting the front of a door white can “elevate the design,” she adds.
4. Work out the floor plan
Before you design the space, figure out how you want to use the space.
“Are you going to entertain a lot? Will you need seating for additional people? Do you want to have a more formal sitting arrangement?” asks Farmer.
Answering these questions will help homeowners tailor the layout of the furniture in a way that will be conducive to their lifestyles.
5. Think about the home’s aesthetic
“I always remind clients to think big picture,” says Farmer. “It’s important not to let decor and fabric options overwhelm you. At the end of the day, a pillow is just one moment in the grand scheme of things.”
Homeowners should instead have the shell of the space figured out and know what types of furniture are going to be needed. Determining the finishes and the materials of the space beforehand will allow for a more seamless design process.
6. Personalize your decorations
Hanging family photos in a wall gallery pattern, stocking your favorite books in your bookshelves, and using living designs (like trees and plants) can bring a personal touch to any space.
Art is another way to personalize your living spaces, especially if you don’t want to paint the walls to bring in colors and pattern to the room, says Farmer.
Websites like Minted, 20×200, and Tappan Collective offer wall art at affordable prices.
Design isn’t just limited to home goods. One client of Farmer’s had spent $700 of the $1,000 he set aside for his design budget and was looking for one last affordable decoration.
“We just bought a small fiddle leaf fig tree and put it in the corner of his living room, and that alone had such an impact,” says Farmer.