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5-Star Décor on a Two-Star Budget

You don’t need a lot of money to make your home look like a million bucks. Find out how you can create luxury spaces for a lot less.

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5-Star decorating on a low-budget

One of the biggest misconceptions about interior decorating is that you have to break the bank to make a room look spectacular.

Not so, says Andy Rioux, a Montreal-based interior decorator who has built a successful career out of creating lavish, rich interiors on virtually any budget.

The trick, he says, is to have vision, an ability to think out-of-the-box, and a willingness to be flexible with your ultimate design goals. Of course, knowing how to trick the eye with a few insider tips can help, too.

Here are five key points Rioux says everyone should keep in mind when giving a room a makeover.

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1. Be Budget-Conscious

“You can’t make miracles. Don’t expect to furnish a whole space and still have thousands left for a fancy TV,” says Rioux. He advises to look around your home to find as many pieces to salvage as possible.

“Converting something you already own for a new purpose is a great way to save money,” he says, citing one instance where he took apart shelves and glued them side-by-side to make one large vertical mount that he then backlit with a $40 neon light. “You end up with a fantastic decorative piece that is not only stylish, but unique!”

Similarly, consider these other money-saving tips to help you get more bang for your buck:
 
•    Don’t be quick to rip out your wood floor. “By sanding it to the wood grain, then staining and re-varnishing, you’ll get a rich-looking floor that costs thousands less.”
•    Use your old kitchen cabinets to make a custom-made wall-unit.
•    Convert a table top into an interesting room partition.

Bottom line: Don’t spread yourself too thin; put your money where it matters most.

(Pictured: Using two shelves for an ambiant lighting piece, and recycling a wall panel and painting it black, Rioux was able to spruce up this loft for a minimal fee.)

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2. Focus on Design

We often come across awkward spaces, including tight corners to odd nooks or beams, which could impede our design goals. “You shouldn’t be afraid to knock down a wall or two,” says Rioux. “It’s not as expensive as you may think and could be done within the same day, if the person knows what they’re doing.”

Bottom line: It may be more advantageous to knock down a bothersome wall than to try to design around it.

(Pictured: Rioux replaced (and moved) an awkwardly-angled bathtub in favour of a more spacious shower to give this bathroom some much-needed breathing room.)

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3. Play With Lighting

Lighting is a great and inexpensive way to give your space that “wow factor.” It’s also a common trick-of-the-trade in magazine photo shoots.

“I like to play a lot with lighting. I’m not the type to buy lamps,” says Rioux who finds that adding lamps can sometimes add unnecessary clutter. “If I need to light a room, I would, for example, backlight a headboard with inexpensive LEDs which would then illuminate the whole wall.”

Bottom line: A few well-placed bulbs can make an ordinary room extraordinary.

(Pictured: With the help of some easy-to-install purple LED lights, Rioux added some extra depth and pizzazz to this downtown Montreal penthouse.)

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4. Maximize Your Space

Rioux is a big advocate of the minimalist approach, noting that “just having one or two eye-catching pieces like an oversized painting,” can be enough to punch up an entire living area. And of course, “the less you buy, the more you save.”

As you try to get the most out of your square footage, you may also want to consider these tried-and-true techniques:

•    Having cupboards run all the way up to the ceiling.
•    Turning a wall into one large mirror (which, as Rioux points out, “can make a 750-square foot apartment look twice as big”).
•    Finding as many storing possibilities as possible, (for example, taking the legs off an ottoman and converting it to a storage unit).

Bottom line: A piece just can’t “look good”; if it isn’t practical, you’ll wind up spending more on extra storage pieces.

(Pictured: By turning an entire wall into one large mirror, this relatively-small condominium appears to have doubled in size.)

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5. Shop Smart and Efficiently

Rioux believes you can do some of your best bargain hunting without ever leaving the house. He suggests browsing online rather than hopping from store to store. If you don’t see anything you like you don’t have to waste time travelling. Likewise, you can flip through magazines, and then take the time to find a distributor who carries a cheaper version of something you like.

Also, stick to dark, earth colours, which will never go out of style. On the other hand, accent pieces can be flashier since they’re easier and cheaper to buy and replace.

Bottom line: Low-cost versions of just about anything do exist-it’s up to you to take the time to find them.

In the end, Rioux says, “it’s not about how much money you spend; it’s about being creative, inventive and incorporating things that you never would have thought would go together. When you have the right eye, and the willingness to take chances, a $15,000 space can look as good as one that costs $100,000. A little originality really does go a long way.”

(Pictured: Rioux found this fabulous chair at a flea market for $40 and restored it himself. The mirror was originally a stainles steel shelf from Ikea.)