Decorate in High Style On a Low Budget


Do you love a high end look but hate paying high prices for your home decor? Me too! My definition of high style home decor does not include 14k gold toilets or heirloom quality furnishings that are more at home in a museum than an actual home. I like my luxury livable and affordable. The key to living in style is learning how to enjoy the finer things in life on a real life budget. High style is when design elements come together in a way that is attractive, practical and built on foundation of quality and appreciation for fine design.

Enough with the design tips, it’s time to go shopping! Start window shopping at high end retailers like Ethan Allen. Study the most expensive version of furnishings and materials you become familiar with what the real deal looks like. Pay attention to subtleties like the patina of antique wood, the subtle curves of a Ming vase, the texture of the brushstrokes on a valuable painting. Once you can identify what makes a fine object look expensive, it’s easy to identify those same qualities in cheaper versions inspired by the pricey items. Faking it can lead to fantastic results, as long as the fakes bear a striking resemblance to the real deal.

The best shopping strategy is to shop often and shop around. Don’t be afraid to sign up for email newsletter from high end stores because you think they are out of your budget. Even luxury stores depend on discounts and sales to move their merchandise. The price of a sale item from an high end retailer will not compare to a Walmart special. Of course the questionable quality of a Walmart special will not compare to the well made home goods found at retailers catering to a more affluent crowd of design enthusiasts.

If you want your home to look like it was decorated by a professional interior designer, stock up on home furnishings sold by professional interior designers. The Nell Hill’s home decor store established by professional interior designer Mary Carol Garrity is an excellent source for high quality furnishings and design inspiration. Madden McFarland interiors, a business built on the talents of professional interior designers, has an annual sale of their designer goods. Sign up for their newsletter for advance notice of their sales or stalk them on their web site for sale news.

You could limit yourself to shopping big box furniture stores (yawn). Or you could mix things up by shopping unexpected places. Visit the local hardware stores for lamps and dimmer switches. Harsh industrial bright lighting does not say “welcome home”. It says “I buy my lighting at the office supply store’’. Light dimmers create a more intimate and inviting experience. Just think of the lighting at your local fast food restaurant verses the lighting at an upscale restaurant. The fast food restaurant is as bright as a surgeon’s operating room.

The upscale restaurant has subdued lighting. The only time dimmed light doesn’t enhance the fine dining experience when it’s so dark in the high priced restaurant you need a flashlight and GPS tracking device to find your table. Remember, subdued lighting is sophisticated and flattering but extreme darkness gives the feeling you forgot to pay your light bill. Lower wattage light bulbs also provide more forgiving light for your guest and your space.

Want a better deal on your home furnishings than what the price tag shows? Just ask for it! On When negotiating for a better deal on an item, approach the seller with a confident attitude. Signs of a confident attitude include good posture (no slouching), making appropriate eye contact (this is not a stare down) and asking questions in a clear and friendly tone of voice (no mumbling). This type of business transaction calls for playing it cool to get the best results. In other words, don’t reveal how badly you want the item by showing so much enthusiasm you come across like a treasure hunter who just discovered a fabulous prize.

When requesting a better deal, don’t ask yes or no questions like “Do you do discounts?” because they could simply say no. An open ended question like “What kind of deal can you give me on this painting of dogs playing poker?” allows the seller to work with you to come to a price that is agreeable to both of you.

Always treat the person you are talking to with respect. Do not try to pressure him or her into giving you a better deal by making nasty remarks about the merchandise and adopting the attitude that you are somehow doing the seller a favor by taking it off their hands. Avoid making ridiculous demands like asking them to drop the listed price by 75 percent. Even if the price of the item is horribly inflated and the item has been sitting around so long it’s almost a relic, the seller believes in the value of what they are selling. Asking for a discount along the lines of 10 to 20 percent off the current price is generally considered a reasonable request.

When negotiating for a lower price, it helps to give the seller a good reason for lowering the price. Many sellers are willing to match prices with another store as long as the item is the same brand and same style of the item being sold.

Another good reason to justify asking for a discount is if the piece is flawed or missing al part. Furniture that needs a little work can be a great deal provided the flaws are cheap and easy to fix. For example, if that antique chest of drawers is missing drawer pulls, make a point of mentioning to the seller that you are going to have to buy a whole new set of drawer pulls, and then ask them how much they are will to reduce the price.

Sellers often prefer cash payments to avoid paying credit card processing fees. Consider asking the seller “If I pay cash now, what kind of discount can you give me?” This strategy works better with higher priced items from independent sellers, like at an estate sale or art fair. It probably won’t work at your local Walmart.

If a seller isn’t able to come down on price, maybe they can sweeten the deal by throwing in something for free. One enlightened shopper I know got a free lamp to go with the living room couch and chair set she just bought simply by asking for it. Because a living room set is an expensive purchase and the lamp was comparatively cheap, the salesman saw this as a perfectly reasonable request that would make these valuable customers very happy and want to shop there again.

When the seller refuses to give you a discount for whatever reason you have a choice. Either accept their decision graciously and walk away, or pay the full asking price if it’s something you truly want and can afford. Don’t badger the seller into giving you a better deal after they have said no. It doesn’t pay to be rude, but it does pay to shop smart!


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