Finance Friday: Make-over a room like a TV design pro

Source: Budesigns
Source: Budesigns

This post was submitted by Samantha Peters, a contributor on the personal finance blog Paid Twice.  Sam enjoys writing about ways to ensure that your money is working hard and earning you the highest rates of return.  Sam lives in sunny San Diego, California where she enjoys live with her puppy Leona.

It starts out as an ugly, pitiful space—dark, no storage, not functional, no personality—but with just a small budget and a professional decorator, viola! The happy couple walks into a gorgeous, amazing, picture perfect room. Stunned looks. Tears. Hugs.

Ah yes, just another fabulous day on HGTV.

Yes, I’m a design show addict and don’t I wish I could be selected for a room makeover! The hardest thing would be picking which room! Alas, most of us will never have a personal decorator to transform our spaces—it’s up to us.

Watching designers on TV is a great way to learn how to transform your space. But, if you are trying to design and decorate on a budget, you have to be smart about it.

Know what you need—designers on home decorating shows always start by asking the family what’s not working in their space and how they’d like to use the space. The best place to start with your project is to think about the function of the space. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Who will use this space?
  • What will the space be used for?
  • What extras do you need?

Remember, even more important than how your room looks, it needs to be functional.

Know where to shop—I once watched Vern Yip on Deserving Design install a dramatic white pendant lamp as a focal piece over the table. He dubbed it a work of art that would draw people’s attention—I agreed. Then a few weeks later, I found that same light at IKEA for $89.99! That’s right, to decorate like a designer you’ve got to know where to shop.

  • IKEA—if you are fortunate enough to have an IKEA nearby, they can’t be beat for style and value.
  • Thrift stores—high quality thrift stores are great places to pick up unique pieces.
  • Online—you can often find the best prices online using websites like Amazon or

No matter what store you are at, always, always check the sales and clearance racks!

Know where to spend—One great lesson from design shows is how to spend your money where it really counts. Not everything in a room has to be expensive. It’s all about combining pieces—different textures, colors, sizes, and price points—to make a room spectacular.

  • Pick one or two high-end accessories and decorate around them with lower cost items.
  • Put your money into a focal point—a lighting fixture, piece of art or highlight a feature like a fireplace or window with a great view.
  • Buy key items when they are on sale like cheap Croscill comforters and coordinating accessories to make bedrooms into inviting retreats.

Splurge on one or two key elements with big wow factor and then build on the look with more affordable items.

Know how to fake it—A trademark of the budget friendly design shows is recreating an expensive look affordably. This takes some creativity and a good eye.

  • Find similar products with the same look and feel as more expensive items at stores like Target, Home Goods, and Crate and Barrel.
  • Refinish garage sale and flea market finds. Restore an antique chest or add a shabby chic finish to a dresser or chandelier.
  • With some simple carpentry and sewing skills you can take on DIY projects like built-in shelving or make your own curtains and throw pillows.

A few simple techniques—painting, sewing, decoupage and using a hot glue gun—can really save you a bundle.

The design shows have let us in on the secrets of the pros. No matter what your space looks like, or how big or small your budget is—you too can design like a pro!

Readers Response Question: Do you have a natural design sense, or are you hoping to strike it reach and hire the pros?

Infographic Created by: Paper Leaf,
Infographic Created by: Paper Leaf,
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