Designer's Challenge 101: Tips for Decorating Like A Pro On A Budget


A few weeks ago I was asked by my good friend, Amanda Burdge of AB Home Interiors to join several fabulous bloggers in participating in a "Designer's Challenge".  I didn't hesitate to say "yes"--not only because Amanda is my friend, but also because she's always cooking up some great ideas (like this bootcamp). I thought this would be a great way to get to know new bloggers and see what I could really accomplish with $6k, so I signed myself right up!  The rules for this challenge were simple and brief--the space had to be a living room, and the design budget was set at $6000 (which isn't pennies, but isn't cheddar either).  She included this floor plan:

These dimensions:

And set us free to design to our heart's content, with the goal of going live today!  Here's what I came up with:

$599 -

Empire Mirror | Z Gallerie
$449 -

Wood Leg White Accent Chairs (Set of 2) |
$197 -  (client's own)

Nate Berkus™ Handcrafted Hourglass Table at
$150 - (2 @ $150)

$60 -

$50 - (client's own)

Zigzag Rug, 2.5'x7', Ivory/Espresso/Flax | west elm
$39 -  (**the rug is actually supposed to be an 8x10, so the price is $459, and not $39.)

$20 - (5 @ $20--used to highlight the family's personal & travel portraits)

Discount Designer Fabric - LS Fabrics   (2  18" x18" pillows)

Paint = La Paloma Gray, Benjamin Moore

As listed, the total comes to $4989, minus the cost of the shown items from 1st Dibs.  You'll also note that a few of the items were already owned by the client, which was totally within the rules and helped stay within budget.  As someone who sources and refinishes vintage items, I would include custom finished pieces, and have added these details (etageres & dresser) as visual guides for the client.  Estimated total cost for refinishing the client's current chest of drawers with paint and new hardware ($300) and sourcing & refinishing etageres ($550) is $850 (yes total--my prices are very reasonable!!!). After factoring in $150 in labor costs for having the drapery lined and pleated by a skilled seamstress (I would add the black trim myself), the grand total is $5989 leaving $11 to spare (but I'm sure I could find some way to spend it!).

The concept for this room design was based on a young family who was looking to upgrade their style quotient to a more sophisticated, glamourous, and yet unassuming space, while creating a design that would be welcoming to both sexes.  The beautiful thing about this room is that the whole vibe could easily be changed by swapping out the pillows (think combinations of lime green, royal blue, and/or chocolate brown) and changing the images in the Ribba frames from Ikea.  The Karstad Sofa (also Ikea) is one of my favorites because it's inexpensive, super comfortable, and the fabric is so forgiving (great for kids!).  The updated button tufting on the sofa I've selected also gives it a more detailed look, but if your short on funds, the one without tufting is just as fab (trust me--I have one in my office now). Add a few Watermelon Trellis Print pillows from Pieces  (one of my go-to Atlanta boutiques!), and some sleek new metal feet for the sofa, and you've got yourself a beautiful spot to party on a Friday night or relax on a Saturday afternoon. The white, modern Accent Chairs from Overstock can easily go from desk to kitchen table (you get 2 for $197--what a steal!), and the Empire Mirror from Z Gallerie is a great statement piece that will also allow the natural light from the single window to reflect across the room.  The Tangerine velvet Aubrey chairs from Room & Board brought a much needed "pop" to the room, but their classic, timeless style means that these chairs can be recovered for a dramatically different look time and time again, thus justifying the budget splurge.  Of course I added vintage/custom refinished pieces to the design plan, because that's what I live by! I believe that every space should feature a one of a kind piece, or something that's finished in a way that speaks to the homeowner's personality, and the thrill of finding that perfect score (see here and here) is something that I love to do for clients.

Want to see more? Here's a list of the bloggers participating in this challenge:

Traci Zeller of Traci Zeller Designs
Kelly Berg of Arte Styling
Kelly James of DesignTies 
Kathy Passarette of Creative home expressions
Amanda Burdge of
Susan Snow of  Movingdesignz

Please stop by and check them out--hope you enjoyed!