Priceless Tips For Budget-Friendly Design

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall
Credit: Shutterstock / Followtheflow

Achieving a designer look in your home doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. It’s possible to create a sophisticated style without breaking the bank, but it does take planning and purpose. Budget-friendly design requires imagination, creativity, resourcefulness, and a few tried-and-true tips.

Reimagine existing furniture and home decor with paint, new hardware, or reupholstering. Shop around for the best price and try places like secondhand shops, overstock construction suppliers, and ReStores. Go to carpet suppliers when you need large area rugs. Source items from IKEA and contact companies that specialize in customizing these stock pieces. Don’t neglect lighting in your overall design plan.

If you’re tired of the same old thing when it comes to your home’s design, don’t let your wallet hold you back. Great design isn’t relative to your bank account. Sure, you may need to make compromises, but these tips will get you a designer look for less.

8 Ways To Get A Designer Look On A Budget

Whether you’re starting from scratch or desire a fresh look, these tips keep your design plans from outpacing your bank account.

1. Shop Around For The Best Price

It’s always wise advice to shop around before you make a purchase. One advantage is that taking your time helps you decide if you really want an item. It’s easy to get swept away in the excitement and thrill of creating a space, making it tempting to splurge and buy before fully thinking about a design choice.

However, shopping around can also save you money because you can find a better deal, especially if you shop online. Many online retailers feature the same exact items as each other but at different prices. This interesting tidbit is because of something called white-labeling.

Manufacturers send their products to multiple retailers. These retailers then price the item as they see fit to match their overall brand. A site that comes in handy to find the best price on furniture and home goods is

For example, a sofa that sells for $2,199.99 on Wayfair is also available from English Elm for $2,159.00 and Bed, Bath, & Beyond for $2,038.49. Several other retailers are selling the same couch for higher prices.

Although these price differences may seem negligible, other examples have a much broader range. And if you’re designing an entire room or house, every little bit helps. The moral is that it pays to take some time to dig a little deeper to find a lower price.

2. Don’t Dismiss Dupes

Dupes are furniture pieces and home decor items that resemble luxury, on-trend items but come in at a fraction of the cost. Tools like Google Lens can help you find similar images to a piece you admire. You can also use the shopping feature on Google.

Key in what you’re looking for in the search bar, followed by “dupes” or “replica” and you’ll likely get back many options. These replicas are kissing cousins to the real deal, looking extremely similar but are drastically less expensive.

3. Create Custom Solutions Out Of Ikea Bases

Anything custom typically comes with a high price tag, especially custom cabinetry. But what if you could slash the price by using mass-marketed pieces and giving them a custom facelift? Many companies are starting to offer this as a service.

For example, you purchase stock kitchen cabinet boxes (no fronts) from IKEA and use a company to create custom fronts. Or you choose a large IKEA sectional and find a company that specializes in unique slipcovers for these pieces.

Some companies that customize IKEA pieces are Reform, Norse Interiors, and Semihandmade. And the makeovers don’t stop at kitchen cabinets and sofas. Many companies also offer custom solutions for wardrobes, dressers, chairs, and more.

4. Reimagine Your Existing Pieces First

Sometimes, you get so used to what you already have that you can’t see it any other way. But old furniture and home accessories that live in one room may be exactly the piece you need for your new space. New hardware, paint, stain, upholstery, or a few fun details can transform an existing piece into precisely what your new design needs.

5. Pay Attention To Lighting

If you have an elegant space, but the wrong lighting, your whole plan can fall apart. Lighting plays a large part in how a room looks and feels. Therefore, when designing a space, don’t forget to plan your lighting instead of making it an afterthought.

Use a variety of lighting types and sources, including ambient, task, and accent lights. Choose a color temperature that feels good to you and keep it the same throughout the space. Mixing different color temperatures in one room is a non-negotiable design mistake. It can make the space feel awkward and unbalanced, not to mention be uneasy on the eyes.

6. Visit Secondhand Shops

Save your wallet and the environment by sourcing some furniture and items from a secondhand shop. Check out your local area for thrift shops or places that specialize in overstocked construction or architectural supplies.

Places like Dirt Cheap Building Supplies or Habitat for Humanity ReStores feature surplus, returned, or slightly damaged items. Merchandise includes tools, paint, supplies, flooring, tile, shutters, doors, and other construction and design materials.

When buying secondhand, always look over things carefully since there might be no return policy. It may be trickier to find the quantity you need of certain items, which could limit you in some cases.

Also, be wary of purchasing items that look or smell questionable, like throw pillows with a musty odor. Stick with furniture and decor you can easily clean, and be confident of their condition. In other words, skip things like mattresses, bed pillows, and stained rugs.

7. Check Out A Carpet Supplier For Large Area Rugs

Rugs get expensive, and large rugs can easily reach the thousands. Instead of purchasing a rug, visit a carpet supplier to see if they have something that might work. They can cut the carpet to the size you need and finish off the edges for you.

You won’t get all of the design choices and patterns you would get from rugs. But if you’re flexible or need something with a simpler design, this idea could save you hundreds. If you’re going for a more eclectic or funky design, consider layering several smaller rugs to cover a large area.

8. Embrace Samples

Before you make any changes, whether painting, installing new floors, or reupholstering furniture, get samples. Test out how the textures, colors, and styles look in your space before committing your choices to the entire design. The testing phase saves you lots of hassle, time, and money, since you won’t end up doing something you later regret.

When trying out options, see how they look in various types of lighting and at different times of day. If something you’re considering doesn’t offer a sample (i.e., tile from a second-hand shop) find something as close as possible to try in your space. Or, purchase one tile or a small swatch of fabric, etc. before buying the full amount of what you need.

Great Design Doesn’t Need To Drain Your Wallet

Take time to plan and research your design to save on your overall costs. The extra time also helps you closely examine your plans to make sure you want to proceed with your decisions. Before buying all new items, reconsider how you might change your existing pieces.

For things you need to purchase, check multiple sources for the lowest price. Visit second-hand shops, ReStores, and overstock suppliers to get good deals on materials, supplies, furniture, and decor.

Overall, your most precious resource when it comes to budget-friendly design is time. Going full steam ahead and making quick decisions often leads to overspending. Therefore, consider all aspects of your design, especially lighting, and don’t rush the process.

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Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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