There was quite a fuss in the comments of my recent blog post on the subject that I will now refer to as The Blanket I Dare Not Speak The Name Of, as a couple of anonymous commenters misinterpreted the post and thought I was saying you couldn't mix high and low priced items in Interior Design/ Decoration. Especially given that they strongly felt you were able to do so in Fashion. Now, I thought my blog title summed things up quite nicely, but to reiterate - if you rely on a single, expensive item with dubious design merit to give all the impact/ quality in your interior, and skimp on all else in a room, then that one item is not able to magically transform the room into a picture fit for a magazine cover. The same holds true in fashion. One bag does not an outfit make. It's all about the mix. Failure to mix it successfully in fashion will instead have most people assuming the expensive bag is a fake due to the combined effect of the entire outfit. So, I thought I would do a post on how I mix high and low priced items in Interior Decoration, something I have referenced numerous times in other blog posts but that has never had a stand alone post of its own.
JK Place Hotel, Capri
Seating - I've written a previous post soley on Sofas, and my advice remains the same. It is worth investing money into something you use everyday, that you require high levels of comfort and functionality from, and that makes up a major part of the interior decoration in your living area. A cheaply made sofa is a waste of money. The blog post I wrote about it linked above also talks about how to buy a quality sofa for reasonable prices if you cannot afford to go out and buy a custom one, or one from a good retailer off the shelf. A good sofa does not end up on the footpath for the council Hard Rubbish collection day after 5 years. It should last you more like 20 plus. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money, as I detailed in that post, but it should be viewed as a true investment. The same holds true for Dining chairs, armchairs and any other form of seating. Comfort is key, and quality is evident in these large items in a room.
large baluster lamps via
Lamps - I prioritise money for lighting, and have probable written too many blog posts on this topic already. It has, I believe, one of the biggest impacts of any single decorative item. But I have purchased both inexpensive and expensive lamps in my time. The cheap ones can be fine stylistically, but you can't expect them to work after 3 years, they'll just self destruct. However, if you want to mix high and low with lamps, look for large sized bases in Bunnings/ Beacon Lighting/ Freedom etc and get a custom lamp shade made, or buy one in the appropriate size from a higher quality store. The lamp shade will make the difference in the appearance of quality -the cheap chain store lamps always have awful shades to go with them. For some reason too, we tend to have undersized lamps in Australia in mainstream retailers. Large lamps on side tables in a sofa area will give a lot of impact (around 70-80cm high). At first your eye might read them as too big, as you're used to the visual size of a small lamp, but if you want a "Designed" look without employing an actual designer, then this trick will add a bit of oomph to your scheme - Scale up. Scale up in size for anything - pendants, lamps etc… But if you can stretch to a decent amount for your lamps it's completely worth it. You'll get something that looks unique but has a functional component to it as well. I put a lot of work into lighting schemes, and feel this is what sets a room apart from another when looking to generic vs designed interiors. Pools of light are always a better way to light a room, and one common mistake I see is where rooms are solely lit by overhead lighting. Lamps, lamps and more lamps. They just pull a room together.
Large area rug with seating on top via
Rugs - I think rugs also make a huge different to a space, but this doesn't have to be expensive. I will usually do a custom design if possible to ensure that the colours, pattern and size all work in harmony in a space -it can be hard to find something perfect in all three areas off the shelf. But if your budget doesn't extend to a large size wool/ silk rug, then go simple. Sisal is perfect. It's casual, but works with traditional or modern interiors. If you have smaller good quality rugs already you can layer them on top of the sisal… but the trick is again to go big with the base rug size. Your rug should ideally run at least under the legs of your seating areas to unify and delineate the space, and go bigger than that if you can so that the furniture is all sitting on top of the rug with no legs off it. It gives a sense of luxury to have a very large area run in a sitting area, or under a dining table. The one thing not to do with rugs is to buy cheap synthetic patterned rugs, or rugs that have been poorly knotted. They will detract from your interior. If you can't afford good quality, then don't try to buy a cheap imitation - you'll always hate it. Instead use sisal, go big, and save money that way.
large Sisal area rugs via
Occasional furniture - Side tables and coffee tables. This is one area I fairly consistently go cheap on. All the mass market retailers have good offerings, and as this is furniture that is not moved around/ sat on etc it doesn't much matter if it's so sturdy as other things in the long term. I've found tables I like at Pottery Barn and West Elm and have examples from both in my house - they're surprisingly good quality. Coffee tables can be a problem if you need a large sized one for a large seating area (as I have in my casual living area) as they aren't stocked commonly in large retailers. I ended up buying a custom sized one from a good Australian furniture designer, however alternatives are to have a group of coffee tables of varying heights/ sizes (but the same style) and they can fill the space in well if you need something big.
The much instagrammed Halcyon House interiors by Anna Spiro
Cushions - these are the accessory that make your interior scheme really come to life, and I can't emphasise that enough. First thing in the quality stakes is the filling in the cushion - banish the poly fill as they always look like pancakes after a year or two. I always have feather or feather/ down filling in mine (the trick if you are buying the inserts yourself is to size up from the cushion size so that it is plump and full always), the visual fullness speaks luxury, not to mention they're more comfortable than poly fill when you actually sit on them. As for the cushions themselves, I prefer custom cushions rather than the off the shelf ones from mass market stores which are often pretty cheap looking up close and made of inferior fabrics. If you don't think you have the budget for custom cushions, look to etsy.com for pre made cushions in fabrics from the good fabric houses. Some of my favourite sellers are Aurelia , Arianna Bell and Elegant Touch. Alternatively you can buy designer fabrics as remnants from eBay - curtain makers in the UK will often sell off 2 or 3 metres of leftover fabric, or pre made up cushions minus the filling. If you search by the designer brand name (Colefax and Fowler, or Designers Guild etc) you'll find plenty on offer in short lengths perfect for cushions to sew up yourself, or to have someone run up for you. But do allocate a decent amount for the cushions. When I'm doing a sofa or armchairs for a client I'll price up the cushions as well… the cushions are often quite scary looking in the quote, but they really make the whole thing come to life and are definitely worth the investment.
Art - I love the quote above, which sums up my thoughts exactly. If you have white walls (which applies to pretty much every Australian open plan living areas now) then you need a lot of Art to visually fill in the space. This is one reason why the gallery wall has become so popular. The individual pieces are not particularly special or expensive, it's the sum of the whole that has an impact. My personal approach to art is just to buy something I love. I don't worry a lot about resale on a piece of art- it's only relevant if you go to sell. Only the very clever insiders in Art can reliably make money off it, so I know my limitations and just get what I love. Art doesn't mean just the painted version however - I've done framed Intaglios in my bedroom, there are prints (Artist's limited edition works on paper are particularly affordable), I buy things through local estate auctions, you can buy a vintage poster, frame a scarf - there are a myriad of ways to fill in the visual blank of walls.
Framed Vintage Bathing suits via
anchoring a group of art above a chest via
Decor items - go cheap. Shells, stacks of books, wood objects… search the local estate auctions/ flea markets and you'll find all sorts of interesting bits and pieces. If you want to make it work in harmony then using trays on coffee tables to group objects together works well, or blocking items by colour on a table (stack of books in a particular shade, which matches something else like a piece of china), or by grouping by material type (items in stone or wood). Add in flowers or greenery with impact - scale up.
Interior by John Coote at Bellamont Forest in Ireland
I will sometimes prune branches of trees in the garden and I'll bring the cuttings inside to fill a vase. I will go against the fashion for fresh though as I don't mind using faux as well. Adelaide can be very hot in mid Summer, and buying or cutting flowers from your garden is a waste - they are dead in 3 days. The modern silk flowers and greenery can look really convincing, so I don't mind using them when necessary. Particularly the faux orchids as the real have a death wish in my house.
Same view as above, minus the branches used for the English House & Garden shoot
Lee Radziwill's Paris apartment - hot pink sofas, striped chairs and framed Botanical prints
Previous blog posts on mixing high/ low in architectural design Where to Save and Where to Spend in the renovation of your house can be found by clicking the link. A post on Architectural tricks to improve the box like extension of the typical Australian home can be found by clicking that link.
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