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Designer’s Challenge 101: Tips for Decorating Like A Pro On A Budget

A few weeks ago I was asked by my good friend, Amanda Burdge of AB Home Interiors to join several fabulous bloggers in participating in a “Designer’s Challenge”.  I didn’t hesitate to say “yes”–not only because Amanda is my friend, but also because she’s always cooking up some great ideas (like this bootcamp). I thought this would be a great way to get to know new bloggers and see what I could really accomplish with $6k, so I signed myself right up!  The rules for this challenge were simple and brief–the space had to be a living room, and the design budget was set at $6000 (which isn’t pennies, but isn’t cheddar either).  She included this floor plan:

These dimensions:

And set us free to design to our heart’s content, with the goal of going live today!  Here’s what I came up with:

$599 –

Empire Mirror | Z Gallerie
$449 –

Wood Leg White Accent Chairs (Set of 2) |
$197 –  (client’s own)

Nate Berkus™ Handcrafted Hourglass Table at
$150 – (2 @ $150)

$60 –

$50 – (client’s own)

Zigzag Rug, 2.5’x7′, Ivory/Espresso/Flax | west elm
$39 –  (**the rug is actually supposed to be an 8×10, so the price is $459, and not $39.)

$20 – (5 @ $20–used to highlight the family’s personal & travel portraits)

Discount Designer Fabric – LS Fabrics   (2  18″ x18″ pillows)

Paint = La Paloma Gray, Benjamin Moore

As listed, the total comes to $4989, minus the cost of the shown items from 1st Dibs.  You’ll also note that a few of the items were already owned by the client, which was totally within the rules and helped stay within budget.  As someone who sources and refinishes vintage items, I would include custom finished pieces, and have added these details (etageres & dresser) as visual guides for the client.  Estimated total cost for refinishing the client’s current chest of drawers with paint and new hardware ($300) and sourcing & refinishing etageres ($550) is $850 (yes total–my prices are very reasonable!!!). After factoring in $150 in labor costs for having the drapery lined and pleated by a skilled seamstress (I would add the black trim myself), the grand total is $5989 leaving $11 to spare (but I’m sure I could find some way to spend it!).

The concept for this room design was based on a young family who was looking to upgrade their style quotient to a more sophisticated, glamourous, and yet unassuming space, while creating a design that would be welcoming to both sexes.  The beautiful thing about this room is that the whole vibe could easily be changed by swapping out the pillows (think combinations of lime green, royal blue, and/or chocolate brown) and changing the images in the Ribba frames from Ikea.  The Karstad Sofa (also Ikea) is one of my favorites because it’s inexpensive, super comfortable, and the fabric is so forgiving (great for kids!).  The updated button tufting on the sofa I’ve selected also gives it a more detailed look, but if your short on funds, the one without tufting is just as fab (trust me–I have one in my office now). Add a few Watermelon Trellis Print pillows from Pieces  (one of my go-to Atlanta boutiques!), and some sleek new metal feet for the sofa, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful spot to party on a Friday night or relax on a Saturday afternoon. The white, modern Accent Chairs from Overstock can easily go from desk to kitchen table (you get 2 for $197–what a steal!), and the Empire Mirror from Z Gallerie is a great statement piece that will also allow the natural light from the single window to reflect across the room.  The Tangerine velvet Aubrey chairs from Room & Board brought a much needed “pop” to the room, but their classic, timeless style means that these chairs can be recovered for a dramatically different look time and time again, thus justifying the budget splurge.  Of course I added vintage/custom refinished pieces to the design plan, because that’s what I live by! I believe that every space should feature a one of a kind piece, or something that’s finished in a way that speaks to the homeowner’s personality, and the thrill of finding that perfect score (see here and here) is something that I love to do for clients.

Want to see more? Here’s a list of the bloggers participating in this challenge:

Traci Zeller of Traci Zeller Designs
Kelly Berg of Arte Styling
Kelly James of DesignTies 
Kathy Passarette of Creative home expressions
Amanda Burdge of
Susan Snow of  Movingdesignz

Please stop by and check them out–hope you enjoyed!


23 Comments on Designer’s Challenge 101: Tips for Decorating Like A Pro On A Budget

  1. Susan
    October 1, 2010 at 7:06 am (8 years ago)


    Great room and fabulous finds. I am definitely checking out some of your sources. Nice job!

  2. Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle
    October 1, 2010 at 8:11 am (8 years ago)

    Gorgeous room design. I’m sure the client has a vase that you could borrow to fill with $11 worth of flowers!

  3. niki.mac
    October 1, 2010 at 8:47 am (8 years ago)

    What a great challenge! I love the items you chose too… working on a budget is one of the most difficult parts of being a designer, no?

  4. DesignTies
    October 1, 2010 at 9:42 am (8 years ago)

    Very nice 🙂 Love the graphic black & white area rug and the hourglass table and the mirror.

    It’s so interesting to see everyone’s interpretation of the room. So far, every room has at least one element that’s the same as in my room. My living room is grey too, and I also used a chandelier from Ikea and a sunburst mirror 🙂


  5. Kelly Berg, IIDA, IACC-NA
    October 1, 2010 at 11:05 am (8 years ago)

    Looks great, Dayka. Seems a lot of us used the some of the same shopping resources. 🙂 (Overstock is one of my favorites!)
    I really like that ZigZag rug from West Elm. Nicely done!

  6. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions
    October 1, 2010 at 11:19 am (8 years ago)

    Nice selections, Dayka! I absolutely love that orange chair! I’ve noticed that a lot of us went with gray somewhere in the design. Alike yet different!

  7. Mr. Goodwill Hunting
    October 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm (8 years ago)

    What an amazing room…and then underbudet!

    Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  8. Averill
    October 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm (8 years ago)

    LOVE. But I’m a sucker for zig zags and pops of range. Great job, Dakya!

    October 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm (8 years ago)

    Great job, Dayka! I love the mix of styles here. (I’m just wondering when you found time to do this!) 😉 It was great to finally meet you in person last night. I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other. Have a great weekend!

  10. Tammy@InStitches
    October 1, 2010 at 5:14 pm (8 years ago)

    Very pretty and I love that you are having the panels lined and pleated by a seamstress !

  11. Erika at BluLabel Bungalow
    October 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm (8 years ago)

    You did an amazing job of mixing the client’s existing pieces with great new finds as well as mixing high and low. I really wish you could actually install this design! It would be a real treat.

    You ladies really know how to have fun. Of course you know we can’t pic just one favorite.

  12. The Zhush
    October 4, 2010 at 8:01 am (8 years ago)

    Oh wow! Great job, love so many pieces in this room its crazy, the empire mirror is so much fun and so glamorous!

  13. Stephanie Sabbe
    October 5, 2010 at 10:26 am (8 years ago)

    very nice, goodness. You should charge for this post:)

  14. Angela
    October 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm (8 years ago)

    Oh Wow! This is similar to what I envisioned for my son’s first apartment. Well, it’s confirmed. I have good taste. lol!

  15. Angela
    October 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm (8 years ago)

    Oh wow! I just realized this is similar to what I envisioned for my son’s apartment! Maybe you subconciously inspired me by your beautiful board!

  16. Karena
    October 7, 2010 at 12:54 am (8 years ago)

    Dayla, love the rug, the chair the wonderful pillow and so much more/ great palette!

    Art by Karena

  17. alison (semi-fab lane)
    October 7, 2010 at 7:35 pm (8 years ago)

    great room and the pieces you’ve choosen still look expensive even though some are from ikea. way to go.

  18. Ann
    October 8, 2010 at 7:30 am (8 years ago)

    Your living looks classy and chic with the black and white color inspiration and the Audrey chair would be a scene stealer.

    Nice and lovely…

  19. charm home
    October 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm (8 years ago)

    Totally digging that dresser with the oversized gold rings. That room rocks! -c

  20. Melita
    October 25, 2010 at 12:53 am (8 years ago)

    I was looking at your specifications trying to figure out what I liked the most. I can’t choose! You did a really great job on this design!

  21. studioten25
    December 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm (8 years ago)

    LOVE!! You rocked it out, the room is beautiful. I think it’s wonderful that you mixed good quality with affordable accents.


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