Discount Decor on the Down Low

Local designers share cheap-but-chic decorating secrets.

By Brian J. Barr April 15, 2010 Published in the May 2010 issue of Seattle Met

THE PROS CALL IT “Ikea hacking,” and more often than not, it is how they pull off high-end projects without blowing the budget. Mixing inexpensive accents in with quality design is easier and easier, says interior designer Melissa Klebanoff (, now that discount stores stock some well-made and tastefully conceived pieces. You just need to know how to find them. But can those of us without a degree in design pull off light fixtures from Home Depot or textiles from Tar jay ? Yes, the experts agree—provided we follow a few basic rules.

Keep It Simple The first rule to shopping at any home store, says Robin Chell (, is sticking to clean and simple lines. Chell loves Home Depot’s Hampton Bay brushed-nickel one-light fixture, for instance. The oddly rectangular ceiling mount lends avant-garde character yet wouldn’t clash with other styles. It would blend in well, says Chell, with any European-modern or Japanese-influenced design scheme.

Think Unconventionally When hunting at the big boxes, Chell ignores intended purposes. Target carries red cedar benches meant for the outdoors, but they can be pulled up to a dining room table to add casual, trendy appeal. And window treatments can be created from shower curtains like those from the store’s DwellStudio line, which feature everything from retro kangaroo-and-rhino prints to repeating geometric homages to the Finnish textile powerhouse Marimekko.

Change the Color Say you’re smitten with a rustic Hermes bureau from Ikea, but are afraid it won’t match your bedroom walls. “Paint it a different color,” says Diana-Bennett Wirtz of Amethyst Designs ( One bonus of buying a less expensive item is that you don’t have to treat it like a museum piece. Strip it down, dip your brush, and give it a whole new look. And be on the lookout for unfinished furniture—it’s like buying a blank canvas to paint whatever color 
you like.

Accessorize Chell says little touches like cabinet hardware can bring a tired kitchen back to life without the expense and hassle of a remodel. Home Depot’s Liberty line of drawer pulls, for instance, are a minor addition to a room that will add a splash of Euro contemporary for little more than a couple bucks each.

Pull It Together You love your steel-framed Limn sofa, but something is missing. For $100, round things out with an unobtrusive espresso-colored Manhattan coffee table from Target for a contemporary centerpiece, or a Mission-style accent table from Home Depot that strikes a balance between modern simplicity and rustic traditionalism. If that’s still not cutting it, Wirtz says, “Add artwork.” Ikea’s Bild line of black-and-white photographs are a stealthily inexpensive option, and you won’t find a cheaper source for frames. Hack away.

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