Style Upgrades

Step up your interior's attitude with these simple changes--no matter your budget. We survey the experts on what they recommend their clients spend their hard-earned cash on.

Laurel Brown

Owner of Brownhouse Design and Brownhouse Home

If you have $100: “Even if you have one hundred dollars, you don’t want to waste one hundred dollars! I recommend buying new throw pillows for a sofa. You can even go to Pier 1 and buy fun, bright pillows and completely change the look of a room. Target has cute throw pillows. That’s the most effective change for the money.”

If you have $1,000: “A beautiful bedding ensemble can completely change the look of a bedroom and your mood. In the winter, having a beautiful, inviting bed to climb into is such a nice gift to give to yourself. So many people spend money on areas of the home that guests will see. But we’re in our room every day and we spend a lot of time in it, so I recommend people spend money on the bed.”

If you have over $1,000: “When you’re going to spend a lot of money on something like a sofa or a buffet, go more conservative. I don’t tend to go too trendy on an investment item. When you spend two to three thousand dollars or more, you want to know that you’re going to like the piece in ten years. So go for simple fabrics, clean lines and classic looks. That’s the philosophy I follow; go conservative and timeless with the investment items and trendier on the accent items. You don’t want to get sick of it!”

Laura Groenier

Owner of Silver Leaf Gallery

If you have $100: “If you want to freshen up a room but not spend a lot of money, change the hardware on your kitchen cabinetry or dressers, or update your lampshades. For hardware, oil-rubbed bronze is popular. Or buy one statement piece for the room in an accessory; you could get some pillows. Paint, if you’re doing it yourself. Hollywood glam is in style right now. That might be a white lampshade that has silver embellishment, or a crisp satin ribbon on the bottom in black, or a hanging light fixture might have crystals in it.”

If you have $1,000: “Pick up a new area rug (an ‘off the shelf’ one). I’d also recommend a nice piece of artwork for a focal point in the room, or purchasing nice lamps. You could reupholster a piece in the room (a chair, not a sofa). Change countertops in the kitchen to a laminate product that looks like granite. Or you could do all new bedding and change the look of the master suite with paint and new bedding.”

If you have over $1,000: “You could buy new furniture. I’m also seeing people reinvesting in their home. The kitchen and bath immediately date a home—if it looks twenty years old and [a homeowner] is looking to invest in the resale of their home, that’s where they should look. The kitchen really is the hub of the house, so it sets the tone of the space. ‘Green’ design is huge. We’re doing a lot with formaldehyde-free construction and people are using natural stone materials for their countertops. There are some recycled countertops material that are out there and there are also some great salvage places for decorative tile backsplashes.”

Shana LaFore

Interior designer at Rubin’s

If you have $100: “The easiest way to change a room is with paint and accessories. Bring in a different color through pillows, vases—even plants and greenery. You don’t even have to do an overall paint job; just use an accent color on one wall that plays off the other walls. That can enhance the space. Vary the texture in the space: faux fur is really popular at the moment. Or accent with metallics. These are easy change-outs, and you’re not spending a ton of money.”

If you have $1,000: “You have a little bit more flexibility money-wise, but not a whole lot where furniture is concerned. You don’t want to change your big pieces out but you can change a side table, ottoman or coffee table. New light fixtures and lamps can help, and rugs are a nice way to change the room. You can add inexpensive artwork—Rubin’s has a customizable art program. You can pick the patterns and the colors you want. The pieces are really inexpensive, and anyone can stop in at any time to look. It helps to talk to a designer. People think they’re going to spend a lot more, but they’ll actually spend more money trying to piecemeal things together themselves. Having an overall vision helps. We offer free design consulting, and that’s a nice way to start.”

If you have over $1,000: “Small objects are an easy change-out, like the side chairs in a living room space, or the chairs around the dining room table if you don’t want to change out the table. You can think inexpensively and refinish the table or get a nice tablecloth, too. If you’ve got a larger budget to work with, change the style of the sofa, bed, or get a new dining room table. Try out new color palettes: find something in the same color family in a more saturated shade. I’m seeing a lot of purple. Purple isn’t such a wild color—it’s become a new neutral. And using complementary color is one of the tricks of the trade: pairing red with green, orange with blue, or yellow with blue. In the appropriate shade, it’ll add enough ‘oomph’ to the space without becoming monochromatic. Using chocolate brown is a nice way to update a room. Black isn’t the contemporary color it used to be, and chocolate is the ‘new’ black. We veer away from black; it’s a little too harsh. Chocolate is an easy color to work with: it can be used with warm or cool tones and it looks really nice. Purchasing a nice chocolate brown sofa will withstand the test of time because it’s the new neutral.”

Shayna Miller is associate and style editor of Madison Magazine.

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