Sarah Richardson’s Budget-Friendly Decorating Fixes
Canadian HGTV star Sarah Richardson shares seven tips to stretch your decorating dollar from her new book, At Home: Sarah Style.
DECORATING ON A BUDGET
Even professional designers know the importance of sticking to a set budget. Just ask Sarah Richardson, whose skill at balancing luxurious investment pieces with thrifty picks has made her one of Canada’s most in-demand designers, and a fan favourite on HGTV shows like Sarah’s House and Design Inc. Here, Sarah reveals her best budget-friendly decorating strategies-and the secret to how she manages to off-set the cost of her high-end splurges!
Thrifty decorating tip #1: Paint a focal wall
In our youngest daughter Fiona’s room, vintage treasures abound. The teak bed with built-in side tables got a new lease on life with a fresh spray of powdery aqua paint, as did the base of a vintage saucerlike lounger (formerly dressed in the scratchiest brown plaid upholstery, it bears no resemblance to its pre-makeover self.) Zigzags, dots and Dalmatian spots help channel a spirit that is youthful yet not juvenile, and the bold geometric wall treatment was a quick and easy paint project achieved with a roll of painter’s masking tape and three quarts of paint. The best part about a pattern like this is that it takes minutes to tape it up, and you can instantly see if you like what you’ve designed before you commit the time and paint to make it permanent.
Photo: Stacey Brandford
Thrifty decorating tip #2: Scour flea markets for budget-friendly finds
I’m often asked where I find all the vintage and antique elements I use in my design projects. I frequently visit consignment shops, estate auctions, and vintage furniture dealers, but if time and schedule permit, I like to blitz the project at a big outdoor antique show in a single day. I start by making a list of everything we are looking for, organized by each room (with pertinent dimensions if a piece needs to be a specific size), and tick it off as I go along. The botanicals on the walls were five dollars each, and the chandelier, ceramics, accent tables, and accessories were assembled from different dealers at the same show. Talk about a worthwhile one-stop shop!
Thrifty decorating tip #3: Repurpose an antique
There’s no need to struggle with designing and then commissioning a custom vanity when you can convert an existing antique piece of furniture to be exactly what you need. The original character and charm are simply an added bonus, and in this case the original pine washstand came with a shaped gallery around the sides, which was removed to accommodate the marble top, then added back on. The little details of design inspire me, and this porcelain vessel sink was chosen as a nod to the ironstone bowl that would likely have sat atop this washstand originally.
Thrifty decorating tip #4: Breathe new life into an old bathtub
I’ve long been a fan of botanical engravings, and this fabric buzzing with bees and blooming with country-road flowers feels crisp and modern in sunny citrus yellow. Reinforce your fabric choice by painting the outside of your old enamelled bathtub-and even the mirror frame-and a matching hue for an instant pick-me-up!
Thrifty decorating tip #5: Invest in cost-conscious countertops
Custom-fabricated kitchen counters are pricey and require two site visits (first to measure, then to install), but solid butcher block can be ordered online in lengths that can be cut to size on-site, saving both dollars and hassle.
Thrifty decorating tip #6: Paint your own carpet runner
When I lived in a loft apartment in my twenties with a girlfriend, I decorated our stairs with vintage house numbers and a colourful paint runner. Nearly two decades later I repeated myself and spent the better part of a weekend transforming this simple country staircase from plain to playful. You’re never too old to have a sense of humour, and a little DIY is always good for the creative soul.
Thrifty decorating tip #7: What I never pass up at a flea market
If you’re looking for high-quality lighting at bargain prices, be on the lookout for vintage alabaster lamp bases at flea markets and consignment shops. I’m often amazed that I can buy carved solid stone for what a basic new lamp might cost, so I always snap them up.
FURTHER READING: At Home: Sarah Style
For more quick decorating fixes, family recipes and designer insights on how to fall in love with your home all over again, check out At Home: Sarah Style by Sarah Richardson (Simon & Schuster, 2015).
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