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A Budget-Friendly Residential Interior Design Process

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

Over the pandemic, our studio has been taking on select pro bono and low bono work to cultivate our creativity and serve our community with our gifts.

We have worked recently with a sweet family that asked us to redecorate their 13-year-old daughter's basement bedroom. The intention was to transform her bedroom into a space that makes her feel inspired and safe after spending some extended time hospitalized. After chatting with the clients, it became clear that the daughter's design style is minimalist, youthful, and a little bit edgy. She loves black, yellow, and grey. This meant leaning into cooler neutrals and using beautiful accents of yellows to warm and brighten the space. We were working with a smaller budget and managed to revamp this room for less than $400. With some intentional design moves, we were able to completely transform the ambiance of the room.


Step 1 | Organizing the existing

Cleaning, decluttering, and organizing your space can make a substantial difference in the feeling of the environment. One of the first things we did was shift around some furniture and ensure that the layout was the most functionally and visually pleasing it could be. For the most part, everything was already organized really well so we only made minor changes. By simply reorganizing things and ensuring that everything had a home, the room became so much calmer. We lean towards keeping surfaces clear and being super intentional about what is on display. The key is to really utilize your drawers, cabinets, and closet space. Putting things away and styling your surfaces is what sets apart a room that looks okay from a room that looks designed.

Step 2 | Assessing for purchases

Once we had a more simplified canvas to work with and were happy with the layout, the creative designing began. We went through and measured everything. This is so important when you are considering the scale of pieces you are bringing in. We looked for what was missing. We usually style in the "rule of odds," so if there were only two pieces of decor on a shelf, we would note that we need a third item in a certain size and colour for that location. We also noted more practical things that needed a facelift, like replacing outdated lighting fixtures and chairs. We made a list and tried to find the perfect items online, so that when we went into stores we had a purpose. This helped me to avoid buying too much or too little.

Step 3 | Shopping

Shopping in person, rather than online, gave me some flexibility to change our minds when we saw items in person and replace them with something similar. We also thrifted so many beautiful pieces. We hardly ever buy decor brand new. Buying secondhand is an affordable way of getting high-quality, timeless pieces. The items we sourced brand new, we ensured were not overly trendy and wouldn't grow stale in a couple of years.

Step 4 | Setting up, styling, and accessorizing the space

When we decorate we use some pragmatic tips that make styling simple.

  • We use the rule of odds. Things arranged in odd numbers are more appealing, memorable, and effective than even-numbered groupings. This applies to throw pillows, shelf decor, hanging wall art, and more.

  • We pay attention to scale. We think an interior as a city in which you are designing a skyline. Varying heights of furniture and decor create visual interest.

  • We always strive for asymmetrical symmetry. This design oxymoron creates aesthetic pleasure. For example, the client had two desks set up. One for vanity and one for studying. We hung a mirror on one side, and a chalkboard on the other. There is a decorative lamp on one side and a study lamp on the other. The desks are accessorized symmetrically but they do not perfectly match.

Aside from these tips, intuition plays a role when decorating. Keep on shifting and adjusting things until they look beautiful to you.

Next, we want to highlight three larger-scale design moves we made that created a great difference in the space.

  • We hung floor-to-ceiling curtains to make the room feel grander, increase privacy, and clean up sightlines.

  • We hung artwork under the window. This is super unconventional, but it is an elegant solution for a large piece that the client loves and wants in her room but did not seem to have the wall space for. Hanging the art here avoided a cluttered feeling that we could have easily fallen into if we had cramped it onto another wall. It also doubled the size of her window. Basement windows are so high that the area underneath may be an opportunity for artwork. Consider it!

  • We switched out the outdated ceiling lights for contemporary light fixtures that created a bright, soft light quality.

Because this client is so young, her style may change. We ensured that her larger and more expensive furniture pieces are in neutral colours and simple designs. These items are completely timeless and ageless. When designing for young people, we strive to be bold in representing their current style while giving space and freedom to grow into different styles. Our client will be able to change her decor to match this growth if she chooses years down the line. She now has an amazing base to start with and can simply swap out pieces with confidence that she will always turn out with a cohesive and stunning room.

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