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High Design, Low Price
When interior designers do their own homes, they often mix pricey designer pieces with inexpensive items from places like Ikea and Target. Here’s how. By Denise Kersten Wills
In her kitchen, Raji Radhakrishnan used Crate & Barrel’s Big Sur table ($1,800) and bench ($800), relative bargains in a house full of expensive antiques and artwork. Photograph by Matthew Worden.
Comments () | Published August 1, 2009
Great Home Design Guide

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Looking around Raji Radhakrishnan’s house in Ashburn, you’d never guess she’s a bargain hunter. Her stunning Georgian manor was featured in Metropolitan Home last year.

But Radhakrishnan, a rising star on the local interior-design scene, has blended ultra-high-end pieces—including art by Roy Lichtenstein and pricey antiques—with inexpensive finds from Crate & Barrel, eBay, and Ikea. It’s nearly impossible to tell the high from the low.

Take the eye-catching club chairs in her master bedroom: Radhakrishnan bought them on eBay for $200 and paid $800 to have them re-covered in scraps of different fabrics. She thinks they could now sell for at least $4,000.

In her family room, a $12,000 custom sofa sits atop a sisal rug from Pottery Barn, and the curtains are from Ikea. She redid her powder room for less than $1,000 using marble she found on sale for $75, a faucet and sink from Ikea, and a long bench repurposed as a vanity top.

Thanks to the recession, such resourcefulness is in. Designers say they’re hearing from clients—even wealthy ones—looking for ways to squeeze more from their budgets.

Designer Jennie Curtis, who is based in Sterling, likes to use accessories from HomeGoods—especially throw pillows and glass and ceramic objects—in even her high-end projects. She says it’s fun to have one or two inexpensive finds mixed in with exquisite antiques.

A smaller budget can lead to creative ideas and a more interesting finished product. “It’s the quality of the thinking that counts,” says DC designer Mary Douglas Drysdale.

How do you save money without sacrificing style? Designers often have much smaller budgets than their clients do, especially when they’re starting out. We asked what strategies they used in their own homes.

Free Design Fixes

In a space that has started to feel stale, try this trick: Take everything out, including the art. Add pieces back in one at a time, not necessarily where they were before.

Don’t push all your furniture up against the walls; designers say this is one of the biggest mistakes they see. It’s counterintuitive, but pulling furniture closer together and at least a few feet from a wall can make the space feel larger and more comfortable.

On bookshelves, pull books forward so the spines are at the front edge of the shelves; that way your books will reflect light instead of creating shadows.

Try grouping artwork together by color or theme, and get creative with what you hang. It doesn’t have to be art in the traditional sense; you can frame children’s artwork, wedding invitations, or large-print wallpaper.

In her upstairs hallway, DC designer Liz Levin mixed art and family photos with travel souvenirs, including a shopping bag she got in London. It worked because everything was black and white.

Scavenge in your attic or other parts of the house for forgotten items. As soon as the room looks fresh and balanced, stop. “Editing it down is just as important as adding things,” says Sarah Wessel, a designer in DC. “Less sometimes looks more expensive.”


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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 08/01/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Articles