Interior designer Betsy Helmuth doesn’t design for celebrities. Her firm, Affordable Interior Design is all about creating fabulous spaces for people with realistic budgets. “Our clients have their eye on the bottom line,” says Helmuth. “And most of them are renters so they’re wondering, ‘How much do we invest in a space that we’re not going to be in forever?’”
In her new book, “Big Design, Small Budget” the bargain-hunting New York-based designer answers these questions and more. Here are her five essential rules for designing on a dime.
Pick a patterened rug
Forget that cream Beni Ourain you have your eye one. “Pick a rug with a lively patter,” says Helmuth. And by that she means a floor covering with three colors or more. “Patterns conceal pet and party stains better than solid or more simple ones,” explains the designer. “If you have people over, you don’t have to worry about them spilling red wine or the juice box on the rug.” Another bonus: “A lot of us can’t afford really great art so a big area rug can serve as that visual interest.”
Think beyond a gallery wall
Art can be expensive to buy and even more expensive to frame so Helmuth says have fun with what you have, especially if it doubles as more storage. “For instant, I had this client in Brooklyn who loved to ski and needed a place to store his skis. So we hung them on the wall above the sofa, and they looked like beautiful sculptures,” says Helmuth. She also loves hanging guitars and other musical instruments. “It gets them off the floor and out of your closet.”
Fake a chandelier
Love chandeliers but stuck with concrete ceilings? Or don’t want to go through the hassle/cost of hiring an electrician to mount it? “I recommend getting one of those arching lamps and putting the shade over the center of your table so you get that feeling of that overhead effect,” says Helmuth.
For those of us with dark apartments and little to no natural light Helmuth says go crazy with lamps.“My rule for every room is, in addition to overhead, you needs three lamps,” she says. “They create these cozy pools of light whether it’s a desk lamp or floor lamp that feel more comfortable than overhead.”
Splurge on a luxe duvet
“The bed is the biggest piece of furniture in your bedroom,” explains Helmuth.” So if you make the thing that’s on top of the bed really decadent and luxe you can save on the things around it like the sheets, nightstands, and rug. No one will be the wiser.” Helmuth recommends going for a duvet with texture which masks wrinkles. “I’m always looking for one with tucks or pleating or frayed edges so it camouflages wrinkles. I am not ironing my duvet!,” she says.