Lately, “there’s no place like home” has taken on a whole new meaning. Your space should act as a safe haven, but after staring at the same four walls for an entire calendar year, perhaps it’s become plain that your university era-dotted apartment (looking at that nearly decade-old Billy bookcase) is due for some sprucing. Here, we tapped five design pros for their budget-friendly fixes that’ll transform your drab digs into a mature, considered space.
Splash Those Walls in Colour or Pattern
We’ll admit, we’re suckers for a crisp, all-white palette, but there’s no denying that a paint job (or mindfully chosen wallpaper) can add real richness to a room. “Think of it as crafting a thoughtfully layered outfit; the same principles apply to interior design,” says Jude Kamal, founder of Sansa Interiors. “When you create focal points and cool moments, your room will automatically feel more coherent and complete,” she adds. Every space will require special consideration, but a good rule is to pick one or two areas of interest to highlight with a wall treatment. If going all out on a bold colour feels overwhelming, rely on an earthy neutral palette—right now, Kamal is into light shades of nude and sand—and pair it with white accents. Stumped on where to find modern wallpaper? Kamal likes Juju Papers and Murals Wallpaper for their elegant (and downright cool) selection.
Revamp Your Ikea Furniture with Bespoke Doors
If a full-on reno project is out of the question (lean budgets and fussy landlords strike again), there’s still a way to get the look of an impactful facelift: custom cabinetry doors. Amanda Lwanga, the owner and creative director of Linger Design Studio, in Edmonton, suggests checking out companies like Semihandmade or Canadian-owned Kitch, which specialize in producing premium doors for Ikea kitchen systems and storage units. “Opting to replace cabinet doors in customized colours, textures and wood grains can instantly elevate the heart of your home,” she says. You can cut costs by electing a laminate or thin wood veneer, she offers; hand-picked knobs and hardware, which can be scooped off Etsy at super reasonable prices, can help to further elevate the style factor.
Punctuate with Pillows—and Plenty of ‘Em
Not only prized for their fluffy function, accent pillows bring colour, texture and depth to otherwise flat-looking furniture—a fool-proof foil when you’re working with an otherwise economical budget. “The right pillows can add real maturity to a space; they make a home look welcoming and lived in,” says Gabriella Nassief Borg, the Toronto-based founder of House of Borg. A couple of guiding principles for amassing your own collection: consider tertiary, in-between tones to bring harmony within a space; look for thick-weaved, natural fibres, like repurposed kilim, to lend rich texture; and lastly, opt for an odd number of accoutrements whether it be on a love seat or banquette (it looks a little less staged in appearance, she says.) For higher-end pillow picks, Borg is big on Jungalow, Loom + Kiln and Pepper B., but says Ikea is a trove for budget-friendly options, too.
Create a Scent Story for Your Space
Shifting the tone in a room is sometimes as simple as telling a story through scent. “Smells create memories and can remind you of experiences; they add a sensory layer to a space,” says Ashley Botten, principal of Ashley Botten Design. Candles, incense and linen sprays allow you to “transition from one vibe to another,” she offers, noting that olfactory notes like amber, sandalwood, patchouli and vanilla are classic crowd-pleasers. Just remember, the vessel itself lends as much to the atmosphere as the fragrance does; seek out candles that come housed in a container that can live on once the wick is kaput. Botten’s splurgy, well-rounded picks? Mad et Len’s “earthy, raw scents” and the city-specific fragrances from Astier de Villatte.
Brighten Up with Layered Lighting
If you’re counting on pot lights and plain incandescent bulbs to set the mood, you’re probably asking too much of these one-note features. Krystin Smith, a freelance prop stylist and owner of Hacienda, says wielding a few sources of layered lighting, like overhead pendants, floor lamps and wall-mounted sconces, can completely change a room’s look and feel. “It’s a fundamental part of good design and can add different types of ambiance to a room,” she says. A corner with soft, warm lamp light, she says, creates a cozy place for a reading chair, while a few artfully tucked clip lights will help to illuminate a bookshelf in an expensive-looking way. Traditionally, lighting can cost you a pretty penny, but Smith is keen on the affordable selection at Structube and Article, which offer functional, mid-century modern fixtures that continue to feel timeless.
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