Living Well

Creating a Custom Room on a Tight Budget

Looking for ways to create a custom room on a budget?  Good design is paying attention to the details; this does not mean every single piece has to be high end as a well-designed room includes items from all pricepoints.   It does mean, though, choosing carefully where to save and where to splurge.

In this TV segment from NBC-13 Daytime Alabama, I give a few tips on how to create a custom space while watching what you spend.

Here’s a quick summary:

1. Paint. It’s been said many times, but for only 25 bucks or so, a gallon of paint can make the biggest impact on a room!    Paint can tie a room together in a way nothing else can.   Of course, the lighting and size of the room affect the color of the paint, so be sure to buy some samples before purchasing the gallon.


2.  Buy neutral upholstery and customize with pillows and artwork. Buy the best you can afford on your upholstery as you want it to last, but customize the room through your accessories.   Sofas, chairs, and bedding can take a beating, so buy the highest quality you can afford.  Yet, you can accent with unique and lower-priced accessories that are in vogue and can be changed out when you tire of them.  I, as you know, love the neutral palette as it is easy to work with and keeps taste in check.  Throw unique pillows on top, and you have custom design instantly.

Here’s my living room.  See how the chairs are neutral-colored so that I have space to play?  Believe it or not, the centerpiece — the big amber vase — was not expensive, yet it makes the room.   Also notice the throw pillows — they add personality but are not a huge financial commitment.

3.  Ready-made panels. See the built-in with the sheer panels?  I used sheers because of their texture — and the price — and then tied custom silk panels on top of it, rather than using a full panel of the silk.   I have created a custom look, without the upscale price, while adding another layer to the room.

I have been known to take a readymade panel (make sure it is lined/interlined and full enough!) and have my workroom sew groisgrain ribbon across the bottom when working on a child’s room.  This is a great window treatment for when the budget may not be as flexible as a public space in the home.

4.  Unique lamps — Accessories are the details that pull a space together.    Take a vase, wire it for a lamp, add a custom shade and wa-lahhh — immediate charisma!

5.  Hand-me-downs — Rather than getting rid of some of the furniture you inherited, why not update it with some upholstery or a new stain or wash?    Mixing today and yesterday can be gorgeous if done with finesse.


Bottom line:  When on a budget, creativity must step in!   Good ideas are what customizes a room, and those ideas can still be easy on the wallet.  An affordable custom room is an enjoyable custom room!