How To Design A House on A Tight Budget – Part 1

When you start designing a space do you get overwhelmed with how many different ideas you have and how to make them all work?

The main thing I love about being a designer are the endless possibilities. I even remember one of my lecturers at uni telling me that I should save up all of my ideas for my other projects. I remember thinking “what?!?! – but I’ll always have a hundred more ideas for that project too!” It was hard at first but one of the biggest lessons I had to learn was to chose one main idea, either for each space or for each project.

Once I started working in architecture, I realised there were lots of other limitations, such as build-ability, engineering, planning, regulations and budget! This was music to my ears, as I had so many ideas, I had no way of really filtering them out! So where do you begin?

Whether designing a room or a whole house, you will probably have a budget figure in mind that you can spend. Typically, I would say double that figure and that will be close to how much you will probably end up spending.

Your home is one of those money suckers where you can spend an absolute fortune on ANYTHING, so a tight budget can make you more creative, save you money and ultimately give you a real sense of satisfaction when completed.

So where do I start?

Step 1

So the first step for each space or project is to decide what the main idea is going to be. To be honest these days, just go have a look at your Pinterest board that says “Dream Home” (I know you have one) and have a look at the general theme. Everyone has a style they prefer, is it cosy and modern, or glamorous and inviting?  Write what you like under each image and then write down any words that you see recurring.  This will start to give you clues about what styles you are more drawn too.


Step 2

The next step is to look around at what you already have to work with. For any successful project, all the surrounding surfaces need to be speaking the same language, including the furniture.  Next, write a list of what has to stay and what must go and also the things in between which can stay or go.  Usually, on a tighter budget the flooring, bathroom suite fittings and kitchen will have to stay.  So start to work around what you have.  Photograph them so that you can see them from a new angle and take them shopping with you because you will constantly be referring back to them.

Also don’t forget all of the things you might not be able to do, which will act as a filter for all of your ideas.  If you wish for a bay window and even though it is within budget, it might not be allowed by the council.  So how could you still achieve a bay window feeling without actually having a bay window?  I always say, “Your limitations can be your inspirations!”

Step 3

Set your Budget, then set another absolute maximum budget and promise not to go over the second one (you can email me, I’ll hold you to it!)

Step 4

Create a design. You will need to create a mood board, an inspiration board and start collecting material samples of the furnishings you are going to use. I would let my imagination run wild at this stage. Truly imagine what you want and how your space could really look!  Getting to this point might take days, weeks, months or years.  Most people drag this stage out for the simple reason that it is so much fun!  So go and have fun and dream big when it comes to your home because all of these juicy ideas are what will help you stay creative when you reign in the budget next week.