First-time buyers are often too strapped for cash to decorate

torstar news service


Sisal rugs can be a cost-effective floor covering.

Most people’s first home is small — largely an investment to get their foot in the door of the real estate market. In most cases, after forking out for a down payment, neophyte homeowners find themselves all but penniless.

making a plan

But there are ways to create a comfortable interior with some wow factor, even on a limited budget.

Before getting started, you need to assess your lifestyle and priorities:

  • Do you have frequent dinner parties or does your life revolve around the television?

  • Are colour and art important to you?

  • Do you have heaps of sports equipment? Are you a fashionista who needs lots of closets?

  • Do you have pets?

  • Do you need a home office or guest accommodation?

  • Is gardening or alfresco entertaining important?

  • Are you handy and project-oriented?

  • How long do you intend to stay in your starter home?

john m. hall

Aphoto from the book Designing Women by Margaret Russell shows how to incorporate flea-market finds into a contemporary room.

cost-cutting solutions

  • Can’t afford handsome Oriental carpets? Consider sisal matting or stencilling floors yourself.

  • Become an antique and flea market habitué. Look for funky lighting, unusual accent pieces and second-hand furniture.

  • A crummy cabinet can become an attractive piece with a bit of painting or stencilling.

  • Search for furniture that does double duty — a campaign-style bed with drawers underneath and a storage ottoman doubling as a coffee table. Sofa beds can also be a good investment.

  • Think outside the box when space is tight. Hang two-way shelves from the ceiling as space dividers. Hang kitchen utensils from the ceiling. Hang (pretty) extra chairs from wall hooks and call them 3-D art.

  • Folding and nesting furniture saves space.

  • House and garden magazines and DIY books can be helpful. A book called How To Live In Small Spaces, by Terrence Conran (published by Firefly Books), is inspirational in its sophisticated approach to decorating and stretching space.

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