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August 30, 2022  |  Home

Our home improvement expert explains why you don't have to be rich to have a well-designed house

When you look at the covers of home design and decor magazines, it’s easy to think that you need an unlimited budget to have a chic, stylish home. But according to our home improvement expert, Beth Allen, a licensed contractor and founder of HIP Chicks, you don’t have to be rich to have a beautiful, well-designed house. All it takes is pairing the right design elements and being a little savvier about how and where you shop.

Understanding design elements

For Allen, the way you put items together in your home plays the largest role in how well it’s designed. That’s why you may need to do a little homework before you start decorating. Allen said, “You don’t have to have money for good design; you just have to invest time in studying what the right elements of design are.”

Interior design focuses on seven essential elements: color, form, light, line, pattern, texture and space. 

Color

The colors you choose for your home influence its mood. For example, shades of blue and green are calming, so they work well in a bedroom. Brighter colors like red and yellow are energizing, making them ideal for a living room or kitchen. 

Think about how you want your home to feel before choosing your color palette. A room’s wall color plays the biggest role in its mood, but the colors you choose for accent pieces can be just as important.  

Form

Form refers to the shape of items like furniture, artwork, and other furnishings. You can choose from organic shapes, which feature natural, curvy shapes, or geometric shapes, which have sharp, straight edges. Organic shapes give a room a more relaxed, easygoing feel, while geometric shapes provide a bold, modern look. 

Light

Light serves both functional and aesthetic purposes in a home. You can use natural and artificial light, but it’s essential to choose the right intensity for each room. For example, you’ll need brighter lighting in an area like the kitchen where you need to see what you’re doing. In a space like your bedroom where you want to relax, you’ll want softer light.

Line

A space can feature horizontal, vertical, or dynamic lines. Horizontal lines usually provide a feeling of peace and security, while vertical lines are ideal for a bold, dramatic look. Dynamic lines, such as zigzags, give a sense of motion and help an area feel more stimulating. 

Pattern

Patterns help draw attention to specific areas in a space, so they’re often used on walls or fabrics as accents in a room. The right print can pull a design together, but too many patterns can clash and make your home look messy. 

Texture

Texture doesn’t just refer to how an item feels when you touch it. Some furnishings, like a distressed finish on a coffee table, have a visual texture you can observe without feeling it. A well-designed space features various textures. Texture is crucial for items you touch regularly, such as flooring or upholstered furniture. 

Space

Space consists of two-dimensional and three-dimensional space. 2D space captures the length and width of a room, while 3D space uses its height. You should have “positive” space, or areas filled with decor and furnishings, as well as “negative” space devoid of items. This gives a room a balanced feel. 

How to have a well-designed home on a budget

It can seem impossible to create an elegant design for your home if you have a limited budget. But Allen doesn’t believe your finances should dictate how comfortable and attractive your home is. She said, “Everyone deserves a beautiful, safe, and functional space, regardless of the budget.” To create the right look for your house on a budget, you just have to be smarter with your design, shopping, and decorating choices. 

Shop at thrift stores and yard sales

Many home furnishings retailers offer pricey items that can push your budget to the brink. But you don’t have to spend top dollar for every item you use to decorate your home. Allen explained, “It’s more about putting the right things together than it is about how much money you pay for a particular item.” 

That’s why she suggests looking for hidden gems at thrift stores and yard sales. For example, instead of spending $900 on a designer bookcase, find a set of solid wood shelves at a local thrift store or tag sale and refinish it to give it new life in your home. You won’t just find more affordable pieces with this type of shopping, either — you’ll also find unique furnishings that add personality. 

Use items already in your home

Sometimes, you don’t even have to buy all new items to improve your home’s design. Instead, look around your house to see if certain furniture, rugs, or other decor items may look better in other areas of your home. For example, you might move the mirror above your living room fireplace to your entryway to help it appear more sophisticated without spending a penny. 

Make small but impactful changes

If you do use your budget to buy new items for your home, you shouldn’t necessarily blow it all on one or two big pieces. Instead, you can make your money stretch much further if you focus on small items that make a large impact in a room. 

For example, replacing the drawer pulls, knobs, and handles in your kitchen can help it feel like a brand new space without spending too much money. You can also swap out the old throw pillows in your living room with a set in a fun pattern to instantly breathe new life into a neutral couch. 

FAQ

Q. What home design items are worth splurging on? 

A. Allen believes high-quality plumbing fixtures are a design element worth spending a little more on. They’ll last longer and often come with a lifetime warranty, so you’re protected if issues arise. She also recommends splurging on flooring in areas that see heavy traffic, as well as the sofa in your living room or family room that you sit on daily. Don’t cheap out on your mattress, either.

Q. What budget-friendly design project can have a major impact in my home?

A. If you want the most bang for your buck, consider creating an accent wall in your home. You can apply a bold paint color, hang wallpaper in a striking pattern, or use a painting technique or other wall covering to add an eye-catching texture that helps it stand out. 

What you need to buy for a well-designed house on a budget

Blooming Wall Extra Thick Modern Textured Wallpaper

This extra-thick, textured wallpaper lets you create an accent wall quickly and easily. It has a chic, modern look and highly durable construction that helps it hold up well in rooms that see regular use. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Refinery29 Teagan Collection Throw Pillow

With a striking pattern and unique texture, this throw pillow makes an excellent accent piece for a sofa, chair, or bed. It’s made of 100% cotton and is easy to spot clean with mild soap. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

E-Z Anchor Hollow Door and Drywall Anchors

These drywall anchors make it super easy to hang photos, artwork, and other wall decor without a drill. The pack contains 25 anchors, and each anchor can hold up to 40 pounds. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Franklin Brass Satin Nickel 4-inch Handle Pulls

These versatile cabinet and drawer pulls can work with several types of decor, including contemporary, rustic, and transitional. They’re made of durable metal and are easy to install with the included template. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Artistic Weavers Chester Area Rug

This neutral rug can work with a wide range of decor, but its unique pattern can still have a big impact in a room. It’s highly durable and stain-resistant, so it works well in homes with children and pets. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Wooster Brush Silver Tip Variety 3 Pack

These high-quality paint brushes help you get a smooth, streak-free finish on any wall in your home. Each set contains three angled brushes in different sizes, so you can paint walls and trim with ease.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.