How to look like you’ve spent money on your home even if you haven’t

Lucy Dunn finds affordable ways to make a lounge look expensive

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By Lucy Dunn on

Few people have bottomless pockets when it comes to decorating so in this blog I am going to teach you how to hustle. I am a pro-hustler and doing up a home on a budget is a subject I know well. Homes stuff, in particular furniture, is expensive. There's saving up, and there's saving and saving up. With the exception of beds and mattresses I’m loathe to commit spending a lot of money on something that I will have to live with for years and years. There’s always the worry I might get bored with it, or more importantly, I might move house and it doesn't fit. So, without further ado, here are a 10 purse friendly tips I’ve learnt over the years that you might find of use:

1. Cheat with expensive-looking fabrics

Soft sumptuous texture and glossy, silky fabrics will add an air of luxury, especially if you layer it with contrasting, more natural layers such as wool and linen. This season the high street is full of silk, metallic fabrics and velvet, even velvet armchairs and sofas (check out Made and Urban Outfitters). Velvet pile carpets are super-fashionable now too – the type that posh hotel rooms have that changes colour if the pile changes direction. Your budget probably won’t stretch to the whole house, but it may be worth considering splashing out in one room.

2. Brush up on brass

I’m talking antiqued brass-framed shelving and coffee tables here, paired with glass or marble. Not only is it is very fashionable right now, but some of the pieces in the shops look so glamorous you could almost pass them off as antiques bought from a “little shop in Paris”. Unlike all the mid-century modern stuff, this kind of furniture really hasn’t been snapped up by the collectors yet, which means eBay, Preloved or your local Emmaus may still have the odd well-priced piece knocking around. 

3. Never skimp on curtains

Limp, cheap panels will always make a room look limp and cheap. They’re fine if your windows have triple glazing, but being woken up at dawn with the light flooding in and a draught whistling through can be miserable. There are loads of secondhand curtain shops in the country, but if you’re on a strict Ikea budget, consider doubling up and layering your curtain panels on top of each other or buy a pair for each side of the window (cheap curtains tend to skimp on width).

You could also invest in a curved shower curtain rod for your curtains – this is called balloon drapery and is a classic interior designer’s trick to make a window look grand. Or you could get a local seamstress to add a lining. We did this to our Ikea curtains and it cost about £80. For a little more, you could invest in these detachable metallic linings from John Lewis that will really trap the draughts. To keep heat in, direct the metallic side towards the room. To keep heat out, direct the metallic side towards the window.

Opulent prints are a fast track way of making your room look rich, you just need to stop worrying about matching colours and just let yourself go




Opulent prints are a fast track way of making your room look rich, you just need to stop worrying about matching colours and prints and let yourself go. Splurge on a few crazy cushions, a busy rug and a throw or two. Add something irreverent into the mix: by this I mean an animal head, a bust, an eccentric-looking lamp, or a cocktail cabinet. Any decadent, unexpected twist will make a room look instantly more expensive. I wrote about this last week and you can find an edit here.

5. Jazz up your walls

When it comes to ornate wallpaper, it used to be you had to spend a fortune to get something superior, but nowadays there are lots of sites such as Wallpaper Direct – it’s just a case of calling in samples. Rockett St George and Graham and Green are a real favourites of mine, while you can find some brilliant vintage rolls (in batches of one or two's, so just enough for a chimney breast wall) and large wall murals on Etsy.

6. Go homes shopping without leaving your house

Someone gave me this piece of advice a few years ago and I’ve tried and it works. Simply go round the rest of your house and flat and see what you’ve got and if it would work the sitting room. Simply switching stuff from room to room will probably just be the update you need. Plus it won’t cost you a penny.  

7. Put a knob on it

Go onto Ikeahackers.net for inspiration, pay a trip to the hallowed Swedish mecca, then pass by Anthropologie on your way home - they are the one-stop-shop for elegant cupboard knobs that will elevate a Hemnes chest of drawers faster than you can say “meatballs for one, please”. Sounds obvious, but little details like these make a room look more loved and lived-in.

7.  Consider an “off” colour

Something adventurous and bold like a teal blue, rich mulberry or burnt paprika will look a little more unusual and expensive and will set your room apart from than the standard swedish-style monochrome look that’s so popular right now.

8. Paint everything in it...

Paint your walls, skirting, door and window frames in the same colour to get an aristocratic “drawing room” look. Don’t forget to take your ceiling into consideration – it could also be the same colour or a lighter shade of the shade you have on your walls; it doesn’t have to be white. Even though paler colours will make a room feel lighter, darker colours look more warm and decadent. Think about where your sitting room is facing. If it’s a chilly north-facing room, do you really want all that cold, northern light flooding in to a minimalist white room?

9. Work out sofa tactics

There are no real shortcuts when it comes to sofas: they’re either cheap, uncomfortable and abit flammable-looking, or tasteful and expensive. Shop-direct websites such as Made, Cult FurnitureSwoon Editions or Milboo are great places to try however and prices are good. Made even now has showrooms around the country. You can also buy secondhand – people on eBay practically give sofas away, but do check how old the one you're buying is (if possible, ask to see the receipt). You don’t want to end up with something with a cracked inner frame, or needs restuffing or the foam replaced. A general rule of thumb is to think how long you are going to be in your place for – sofas rarely travel well from old house to new as dimensions of sitting rooms and door widths can vary.

10. Bookmark the bargains and always be on the hunt

The things that make a sitting room sing aren’t always the things you went looking for, so when it comes to finding second-hand gems, I set up email alerts on Gumtree and Preloved. I also try to avoid the usual suspects (Ikea) and have a good nose around Dunelm, Tesco Home, George At Asda and H&M HomeSainsbury’s Home is also a goodie, but you'll find a bigger range in store than online, so find your nearest store here

Office furniture suppliers can be good hunting grounds too – look beyond the ugly desks and chairs and you'll often find great modular shelving and filing cabinets which are cheaper and sturdier than any you will find in interiors stores. These make great toy or clothes storage and can be spray-painted in a jiffy (which is about as far as I will go when it comes to messy DIY). Even those ugly black frame tables can be transformed. The legs and frames are sturdy and utilitarian, a style that is are very much in vogue now – just visit your local timber or stone merchants to find wood and marble kitchen worktop offcuts to replace the laminate tops.



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