Here’s my recent article published in the June issue of The Bath Magazine about how to get The Look without breaking the bank. I hope you enjoy…
So did you watch Millionaire Mansions recently with your jaw in your lap and ever increasing incredulity? It is true that the luxury market does get a bit bonkers with no limit to the madness and amount of money being spent. However as you will have seen, money can’t buy taste or style and I have seen many properties refurbished or built with astronomical budgets that I would swap in a heartbeat for something stylish, tasteful and a fraction of the cost. That’s not to say it isn’t a joy to have a decent budget to play with. On a recent project in Sydney I fitted solid walnut skirting boards and architraves with beautifully veneered doors, hand-made bronze handles and every piece of furniture bespoke. The kitchen was burr walnut and ebony with book matched Carrera marble worktops. It was truly delicious. In the same neighbourhood however I fitted an Ikea kitchen but used a composite material called Silestone for the worktop.
It’s made from quartz and suddenly gave the inexpensive kitchen an expensive, chic, contemporary feel.
In another high end rental property we splashed the cash on some quality sofas, but popped in a budget coffee table so it didn’t matter if it got trashed, the room still had an overall luxury feel.
There are tricks to follow in your own property to get a feeling of quality without needing help from the Lottery.
I think the biggest tell tell sign of money being spent is the finish. Obviously not everyone can employ a professional decorator so if you’re doing it yourself, be very picky about the final result. Use masking tape to create straight edges and if you’re painting cupboards and doors in the kitchen or elsewhere, use a small sponge roller. You will be amazed at the flat, professional finish. Then there are additions to a room that you can’t do without such as radiators. If you don’t want to go to the expense and hassle of changing radiators, use covers. I know they’re seen as passé by some but they make a massive difference to a room. www.jali.co.uk has an excellent selection and a really neat online tool for ordering. Simply fill in your radiator dimensions and it’ll work everything out for you. Fabulous! There’s also a range of patterns to choose from. They can be ordered ready primed and raring to go. A top tip for radiators with covers is to paint the radiator itself matt black. That way it’ll disappear into the shadows and you won’t see it at all. You may need to think about extending the thermostat to sit outside the cabinet so it measures the room temperature accurately, it’ll depend on how efficient your heating system is.
Getting that luxury look also relies on what you can’t hide and what you touch. I think electric switches and sockets make a massive difference. Changing from plastic to chrome or brass light switches will transform a room into somewhere that’s been given that extra sparkle. They don’t have to be expensive- B&Q for example do a good range of switches for £20 for a pack of five.There are areas where I think one always regrets not paying more and I think that’s particularly true when it comes to floorings and especially carpet. Cheap carpet always seems like a good idea at the time, but years, even months later you’ll realise that you should have spent more. It doesn’t have to be the extraordinary bamboo and silk I’ve just fitted for a client, but a good mix of natural fibres such as wool or cotton with man-made will look smarter for longer and always plump up after a good clean, something that man-made fibres can never manage.
One area where you can spend a little less is lighting. When I was designing for and appearing on BBC1’s DIY SOS my brief was to create aspirational interiors using high street goods and on a budget. It was no hardship because the lighting in particular was fabulous. Check out B&Q, Homebase and others, there are some really creative pieces out there. If you want to achieve the designer look with colour, have a look at the Valspar range in B&Q. At half the price of “designer” paints, they have a terrific range of colours and textures and are a joy to use. Thinking about DIY stores there are astonishing ranges of door handles available, particularly for kitchens, so I would save budget there too. In kitchens I always feel that stainless steel sinks look cheap and never keep their shine. I would go for white ceramic. Though more expensive than stainless, it’s a classic that looks great with contemporary or traditional interiors. Ceramic also looks smart for longer, without that dull scratched look.
Glass splash backs instead of tiles also look uber smart and give an inexpensive kitchen a real lift. It’s toughened so very safe and really easy to keep clean. None of that messing about with grout and gives a smart, sharp look. You can choose the colour painted on the back with a RAL colour. Ask Roman Glass for details. There are two whites which look very cool and pink looks very cheeky!
White glass tops are also a fabulous way to give an old table a really contemporary lift. I also like to use back painted glass on a console table to make a designer basin stand. Tie this in with marble tiles from Fired Earth and you will have that 5 star look to your own bathroom.
For all spaces I think the one thing that really lets a room down is clutter. Get yourself some good storage to give your home a smarter look. Visual clutter also relates to the colour palette of a room. Choose a base palette of a couple of tones of the same colour and then an accent colour. Keep it simple. Group objects and pictures. Create the illusion of the luxury of space. Think about textures. A faux fur throw on a sofa is not only bliss on a chilly evening, but it imbues a dash of flash. Mix matt black lamp shades with glossy tables. Be bold and have some fun. Money can’t buy you everything but if what you’ve done makes you feel a million dollars, then you won’t need to actually spend it!