Low-Cost Design Ideas For Any Home


Are your living rooms dull? Are your concrete patios an eyesore? You’re not alone if you think your concrete patio is an eyesore. Even interior designers face style challenges such as these, and budgets that aren’t endless.

We asked some of our favourite pros how they overcome their problems without spending a fortune. These projects are not only beautiful, but they can also be done by the average DIYer.

Max Humphrey, a designer who gave an otherwise bland ranch interior his distinctive cabin-chic style, says, “I’m not handy so I had to start over figuring out materials and watching YouTubes.

For more details, and for creative ways that four other style experts turned ordinary home features into show-stoppers, read on.

“Tile” is a concrete patio slab that has been painted with paint.

Using a Moroccan-tile-inspired stencil pattern (right), Dabito gave the concrete slab a bold makeover. The new patio enclosure, which is 11 feet tall, provides relief from the New Orleans summer heat. While the roof’s slanted roof prevents rainwater pooling, it also keeps rainwater out of the patio. He says that flat-black staining gives the structure a modern, dramatic look. It makes leafy green plants and the colorful “tiled floor” really pop.

Low Cost Interior Design Ideas For Rental Homes Home
Low Cost Interior Design Ideas For Rental Homes Home

The challenge: Dabito, the founder of Old Brand New creative studio, was just back from a trip in Marrakech and wanted to make his ranch’s outdoor space feel more Moroccan. He received quotes for cement tile that cost around $5,000, but he settled on a cheaper alternative: stencil-like tile patterns that he created himself in two days.

How-to: He painted the slab with white porch paint and then added two blue hues from Sherwin Williams (Adriatic Sea, and In the Navy). He used stencils he had found online (Inverted tile allover stencil, $39; Cutting Edge Stencils, $48) and a 4-inch rolling pin. After sanding the slab, he applied a clear matte paver sealer. He says that although it does show wear, the pattern is still beautiful and very forgiving.

Cost: Around $200 for paint, stencils, and sealer

Wood paneling creates a cozy cabin atmosphere

Shown left: Humphrey selected pine to be the wall material “because it is grayish and doesn’t get too rosy.” You would use a water-based sealer to prevent it from turning color to the sun. I chose not to, because I was lazy.

Wooden Interior Decoration Home Design Ideas
Wooden Interior Decoration Home Design Ideas

Right: A vintage desk that was used as a breakfast table, and some 1920s-era chairs give life to the pine-paneled walls. Three bird pieces–needlepoint Humphrey discovered in a junk store and had framed among the folk-art farm signs, schoolhouse-style maps and folk-art farm signs.

The challenge: A 1970s suburban ranch was “perfectly tasteful inside, just too vanilla for me,” said Max Humphrey (author of Modern Americana, due out April). He hired a contractor to lay engineered oak floors. He also covered the walls with pine V groove boards from the local home center and the ceiling with similar cedar board. It’s like a cozy cabin in the Pacific Northwest woods.

Humphrey explains that since I was not ripping off drywall, the wall paneling I needed to be thin enough for the doorframes to remain proud of the wall’s actual wall was necessary. He found a 5/16-inch thick panel at The Home Depot and a length of 8 feet (Hakwood Knotty Pine Edge, V-Plank Kit, $66 for 3-pack).

He attached the ceiling-height lengths using Liquid Nails with a nail gun. No finishing was required. To minimize seams, he used thicker planks (6-inch wide, Pattern Stock Cedar Tongue & Groove Siding, $146 per 6-pack), and made sure they were securely attached to the ceiling joists.

Cost: $4,000 for the interior, with two small rooms.

Left: A coatrack made by Humphrey from leftover ceiling material and brass hooks is found in the entrance. He made the mirrors using vintage frames. Benjamin Moore’s Chartreuse is the welcome door color.

Right: Humphrey built the banquette for the dining area out of finish plywood and then covered it with custom cushions in Pendleton Sunbrella fabric. The 1930s cowboy painting was found on Etsy. “My toddler thinks it is me. I don’t correct him.”

Wallpaper to update Art Deco tilework

Left: A floral wallpaper made from modern flowers that matches the tiles makes the walls look cohesive. An IKEA vanity with wood-plank flooring tile and a wood-plank tile floor tile complete the space. Lewis says, “I love that the vintage tile was kept because it tells the story about the house.”

Right: The copper sconce lights by Barn Light Electric reflect the wallpaper’s coppery tone. Rustic floating shelves, like the floor tile add a masculine touch.

The problem: Sean Lewis was initially skeptical about the peachy-pink tile in one of his 1920s rowhouse baths when his family moved there three years ago. He says, “Over time though, it became our favorite.” They had to renovate due to faulty plumbing. However, they retained the original tub and modernized the space with a new toilet, sink with storage, and wood-look tile floor. Lewis used a Rifle Paper Co. floral wallpaper to make the Art Deco tile appear more intentional.

How-to: Lewis and his mother hung the wallpaper (now retired), then Benjamin Moore’s Peaches ‘n Cream painted the ceiling. He says that if he had bought tile and hired someone to remove the old tiles and put in the new, it would have been much more expensive.

The wallpaper and paint cost approximately $400

Panel molding adds detail to walls

The duo was inspired by 19th-century Parisian apartments and added MDF panel molding to the walls. They then painted it for the appearance of fine plasterwork.

The problem: Tall walls can look boring when you have 10-foot ceilings. Bryan Williamson and Catherine Williamson of Mix Design Collective felt the same way when they renovated their Victorian-era home. Catherine states that the character of the house had been “completely stripped away”; the living room’s walls were plain and lacked any crown.

How-to: They used a nail gun to give the space an elegant architectural detail (Metrie’s 11/8 French Curves Primed MDF Board Mould, $14 per 12 feet; Zeskinds). The wall frames were built by spacing them from corners, above the base moldings and below the slightly out of-level ceiling edges. They used windows, doors and the fireplace to guide how high and wide each one should be. They caulked the walls and ceiling with Behr’s Exclusive Ivory in flat to give them a velvety look.