6 Ways to Make a Run-of-the Mill Room Look More Expensive

published Apr 17, 2022
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Credit: Anna Spaller

As a home design editor for over a decade now, I’ve seen hundreds — maybe thousands — of professionally decorated homes, and one thing’s for sure: Certain styling ideas are reoccurring. You know what that means? If you study what designers do in their projects and then search for lower-cost solutions for executing those same strategies in your space, you, too, can get the designer look for less.

I don’t want to discount the work of designers; it’s always worth it to hire one if you can and maybe need help with spatial planning. But if you’re on a budget and wish your rooms could look a little more luxe, give these tricks a whirl.

Add period charm back into your place with budget-friendly finds.

Designer decorated spaces usually have fantastic architecture — marble fireplaces, plaster trim, fancy moldings. Whether you live in a newer home or your space has changed hands a few times over the years — and lost some original details in that process — you can add it back in with things like inexpensive ceiling medallions, trim, peel-and-stick picture frame molding, and box panels.

Credit: Erin Derby

Work your window treatments.

Many designers commission custom drapes, valences, and shades for their projects. Today’s store-bought options have come a long way, though, in terms of fabrics and details — velvet or anything with appliqué or trim always looks expensive. A few other tricks to get the high-end look from something big box: Full length curtains will help you avoid the “high-water” effect. If you’re dealing with odd-sized windows, buy a longer size and have them hemmed. A personal favorite trick, which I’ve done in my own apartment, is to level up basic panels with bamboo or other natural fiber shades. You can buy these online or at the home center, and they add so much warmth, texture, and polish to a space. Raising your curtain rod to the roofline can also draw the eye up, making lower ceilings look sky-high.

Credit: Rich Caplan

For a fancier focal point, change ho-hum lighting to a statement chandelier.

Often, nothing makes a statement like a chandelier. Having one just makes a room look and feel expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on a standout piece. Consider going the secondhand route for lighting to find the fixture of your dreams for a song. Looking for something with a simple drum or paper lantern shade — or even a rattan or bamboo pendant — can help you make a major impact in a more wallet-friendly way, too.

Credit: Minette Hand

Repetition is your best friend when it comes to storage and seating.

When buying and styling furniture like credenzas and shelves, think in multiples. Buy two or three bookshelves, for example, and place them side by side without space in between them. Not only will you fill out a whole wall or a larger area than with just one piece, but you’ll also get a custom look for less. Built-ins can be faked by doubling up, too; add simple trim and paneling to store-bought pieces, and you can make a big box item look like a million bucks.

Consider wall treatments.

There’s nothing wrong with a plain-walled room, but adding wooden slats, beadboard, planks, or shiplap to a wall (or ceiling) will give these features so much more visual interest and warmth. If you can’t make permanent upgrades, go with a bold peel-and-stick wallpaper instead, which will give your room a boutique hotel feel.

Credit: Anna Spaller

Make space with mirrors.

Nothing will throw light around a room or open it up — and make it seem more thoughtfully designed — than a well-placed mirror. Hang one opposite a window and go as large as you can. Find one with a carved or shiny frame, which looks more luxe than something frameless.