Design on a Dime: Glam Apartment Tips

Design on a dime 2010Last week I reported on the opening of the annual interior design event Design on a Dime. The event featured superb vignettes of of over 50 rooms decorated in all styles - from classical, to whimsical, to "French Fierce" - by an array of truly talented designers.

Before the doors opened to the public and crowds swooped in to buy the incredibly-priced decor, I had the opportunity to talk to four of the designers about their top three tips on how best to design an apartment on a budget.

Here are their suggestions....

Jarret Yoshida

Yoshida's cozy room was chock full of images on his wall and Daniel Craig's furniture. Wha?? "I designed Daniel's apartment when he was on Broadway and he donated the items," says the designer. Apparently, Yoshida has good taste in furniture and Craig has great taste in interior designers.
  • It doesn't have to be expensive "You don't need a name brand and it doesn't need to be new," stresses Yoshida. What does he suggest? Thrfting!
  • Paint comes last "This is a critical mistake that everyone makes," bemoans the designer. "People love to pick a wall color and decorate around it - but it should come absolutely last!" First pick the sofa, see how it fits in the room, add the the design details and let these things inform your decision of what color to go with for the walls.
  • Art is critical Spruce up your place with art. Again, it doesn't have to be expensive and you can get it from a variety of locales - framed or not. But here's what's key - curating. Yoshida says you have to have a good eye to complete this decorating task - and if you're not up to the task, ask a friend with a discerning eye for help - "Don't pretend you have good taste if you really don't. I cannot stress this enough! I wouldn't pretend to be an accountant, you shouldn't pretend to have a good eye!"

Nathan Thomas

The man behind Nathan Thomas Studios truly believes in pushing the interior design envelope (an easy guess from his room's wall-sized mural of a horse running on a beach at sunset). The room also featured a table he found at a thrift shop and covered in turquoise lacquer and white reupholstered chairs on which he artfully poured tempera paint - "It's easy to clean off and try something else!"
  • Play with scale and patterns "Don't be afraid to try oversized lighting or furniture just because you live in a small apartment," Thomas insists. The room also combined a kaleidoscope-like rug and a bench with an entirely different pattern (and don't forget those horses!) and somehow it all harmonized.
  • Have elements of good design There are ways around finding high-priced items with which to decorate. For instance, there were a cluster of objects on Thomas' lacquered table - goblets, a wine carafe, candlesticks, animal statuettes. It could easily look like clutter if you're not careful, but the designer has a solution, "Spray paint!" As a collection of white spray-painted items, the thrift store finds get a classy second life.
  • There are no rules "Just go for it," he declares. Go with what color you want, go with a theme that's fantasy and dreamlike or has some juvenile charm - whatever it is you want...simply do it!

Brett Beldock

As the design eye behind Brett Design Inc., Beldock gives a professional nod towards both high-end pieces and interior decor that doesn't cost much. She cites the design firm Oly as a great place to get your home accessories (the stag head, bird chandelier, and several other items in Beldock's vignette are pieces from Oly).
  • Make a commitment to furniture "Think about furniture as a long-term investment," says the designer. It's not the cheapest route, we know...but if you have to replace your furniture every couple of years, why not think ahead and put some money into a better quality piece that will last a long time and endure many moves.
  • Decorate the way you dress This goes back to the idea of investing in a good piece of furniture. So you have your one high-priced couch - now what? Decorate inexpensively! The super-stylish designer says, "Think about the way people dress. So you've got your expensive Louboutin shoes now match them with some cheap jeans and a top. it doesn't all have to be high-end." In other words, mix and match - a good couch, a less-expensive rug and lamp - and you've got yourself a well-heeled living space.
  • Decorate with wallpaper The designer is riding a wallpaper wave since her own line of graphic, self-adhesive wallpapers were released last week (you can see one of her designs within her Design on a Dime room, see a few more designs on her site). But you don't necessarily need to cover a room or even an accent wall - consider framing a particular print you like (Easily done with Beldock's line of wallpaper that come in 24" sheets!).

Derek Warburton

While not an interior designer per se, Warburton is a self-proclaimed lifestyle guru. And let's face it, the man has some interesting taste - so I thought anyone who could dress a room to look like a bordello (he corrected me and calls it "French fierce") might have some good insight into design on a budget.
  • Shop at Housing Works Warburton gives proper credit to the host of the Design on a Dime - and if you look at their online auctions, they definitely have some great finds. But those not in the New York area can take heart in the overall meaning of Warburton's sentiment - go thrifting!
  • Silk Flowers Flowers are lovely but so short-lived and can become an expensive habit. Warburton suggests silk flowers - "They make such beautiful ones now and they never die!"
  • Make things yourself He points to an ornate tablecloth as an example - "I loved the fabric - so add some simple stitching - and you've got yourself a luxurious addition to any room." Warburton says he used to to do the same trick out of old scarves. Can't sew yourself? Ask a friend!
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