By Jason Andersen
Home renovation shows have trained us to believe that anyone can do anything and that everything can be done on a shoestring budget. This is not reality. Unfortunately, real shiplap is surprisingly expensive to buy and install properly, and not all of us have amazing hardwood floors waiting to be discovered under decades-old carpet. Really great interior design done by a professional is expensive – worth every penny, but expensive nonetheless. So, now that I’m done bursting your bubble, I will give you a few tips on moderately inexpensive and often less thought of improvements that you can do now to make your space cool, personalized, and that will leave your friends envious.
Yes, this one is obvious and inexpensive. But, please give up your accent wall. That screams late 90’s, and you can do better. When choosing a palette for your home, I like to find either a fabric, a photograph, or picture that is visually appealing. Color is visceral, and you very quickly know if something hits you the right or the wrong way. Take that inspiration piece and pull out two or three of the neutral colors as your base – and yes, this can include white.
If the inspiration has some strong colors in it, pick one or two. Now compare those to your neutrals. Look at different combinations and see which one makes you smile. That’s how you know you’re on the right track. The less advanced version of this is to use Pinterest and find an interior that you like and pull the colors from there, but let’s try the advanced move first.
Now, what do you paint? Walls right? Well, yes and no. If your walls need an update, then paint your walls in one of the beautiful neutrals you just selected. Now here’s the twist: Your room is probably made up of walls and floors, but also ceilings and doors! These are the two most neglected areas for a paint refresh. Most people think that they should default to white. Think a dark color on your ceiling makes the room seem short? WRONG! It actually raises your perception of the height of the ceiling because it isn’t reflecting light back to your eyes. In my own home, I don’t’ have a single white ceiling. My bedroom has white walls and a dark blue ceiling, and it feels like it is twenty feet tall. Similarly, painting your doors is a great inexpensive way to make your space feel custom. Go ahead, try it. It’s just paint!
All successful interiors have texture and all successful interiors layer that texture. Whether it is wallcovering, then several fabrics, and then some great accessories, each can bring visual interest through pattern and shadow.
Now the tricky part is how do you get that on a dime? Well, interesting accessories can be found all over. Flea markets, antique stores, and even big box stores have great affordable accessories, don’t worry I won’t tell anyone where you got it. Wallcoverings and fabrics are definitely harder to come by, especially if you can’t sew (me included). But it can be done. There are thousands of easily attainable premade pillow covers and wall hangings on the internet. Some of my favorite places to get them are Amazon (yes, I’m serious) and Society6. Go take a look; you’ll be surprised what’s out there if you look.
Wallcoverings can be exorbitant. A trick I love to use is putting wallcovering on the back walls of a bookcase or entertainment center. You get all the bang of a full wall without the expense. There are many pre-pasted wallpapers and even removable options to make this an easy install. Another great inexpensive option instead of wallpaper is burlap. Yes, burlap. It comes in a range of colors and is easily installed. It could go in the back of those bookcases, or it can wrap a wall panel. For as affordable as these options are, you can afford to experiment.
Society6 Pillow Case, $30
Society6 Wallcovering/Art Print, $28
Ok, so this one is a broad topic and not always affordable. But if you live in a condo, you probably don’t have so many doors that it would be completely impossible to get a fresh look with new door handles. If you don’t want to get new ones, get a can of spray paint. But please makes sure you prep the handles: Use high grit sandpaper to rough them up a bit, and then a liquid deglosser to really make the paint adhere. Lightly spray until you cover all the knob and let it dry between layers. Matte black is super hot right now. And don’t forget the hinges!
Cabinet pulls are another great way to freshen up a space with little cost and commitment. And since they are the jewelry of the room, they are a great way to show your personality. I love to get mine from Anthropologie, but there are definitely other great places to find them.
Jason Andersen is an architect/interior designer specializing in hospitality, residential and multi-family design. www.officeadersen.com