Assuming you’ve figured out what you want your home to look like and have made the decision to decorate the home yourself, you need to come up with a budget. Instead of trying to guess what the project might cost, start out with a figure that represents what you’re willing to spend. Make a list of the rooms you want to decorate, and list the items you will need to purchase for each room. (Don’t overlook wall treatments, flooring, lighting, accessories and labor.)
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There are some areas where you should spend more money, and some areas where you can scrimp. Most professionals agree that seating should be a priority. “I don’t like scrimping on a good upholstered piece,” says Woodland Hills, California, designer Alana Homesley. “If you have a quality sofa, it can last you for 30 or 40 years.”
Claudia Juestel, the owner of Adeeni Design Group in San Francisco, agrees. “Buy the best mattress you can afford and the best sofa you can afford,” she says. Even when she’s working with a small budget, Juestel will order custom upholstered pieces, because they will get used more than anything else in the house and will last for decades.
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Don’t pinch pennies when it comes to flooring, either, Juestel says. Quality materials will affect the overall appearance of the house and will often reward you when it comes time to sell.
So where does that leave you? It might sound like the pros are suggesting you spend money on everything, but there are plenty of areas where you can save. Lighting, wall finishes, rugs and accessories are areas where you can get away with spending less. “You can go with a sea grass rug instead of a wool rug and still have a wonderful room,” Caccoma says.
There’s even some leeway when it comes to that sofa or dining table. While designers advise buying the best you can afford, consumers have access to more furniture options at a range of prices that’s broader than ever before, thanks to the Internet. There used to be little middle ground between low-end furniture and the stuff you see at designer showrooms, Luff says. Now “you can get a tremendous variety of looks for a variety of price points,” she notes.
Saving money doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing quality, either. Instead of settling for a particleboard desk or cabinet, consider looking for a used wood one at a thrift store, antiques shop or flea market. “You can always get more in vintage,” Juestal says. The quality will be better, and you can paint it or refinish it, or send it out for restoration. And when you no longer want it, you can resell it — something you probably can’t do with that chipboard version.
Some designers recommend investing in the spaces that are most public — your living room and dining room, for example — and scrimping in places like bedrooms and the family room. “You can always save at the back of the house and splurge in the front of the house,” Luff suggests.
Other experts say you should spend the most money where you spend the most time. In other words, if you live in your family room and rarely use your living room, invest in the comfort and durability of your family room furnishings first.
If you don’t plan to remain in the home for long, don’t invest a lot of money in things like window coverings, custom rugs, wallpaper or other items that might not go with you when you move. Choose normal-size furnishings that can work in a variety of settings — not items scaled to that particular home. Avoid buying oversize sectionals, corner cabinets or towering armoires, as they might not fit in your next home — or even make it through the doorway or elevator.
Even the best plans can go awry. “I’ve never run into a project where you don’t have surprises,” says Luff. Be prepared and include a little cushion in your budget.
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