I like to encourage clients to buy well-made sofas and chairs that should last them a long time. David Seyfried is a favourite supplier of mine and great for bespoke pieces and sizes. You can be clever with the fabric and, as long as you choose a hard-wearing one, it doesn't have to cost a fortune (have a look at Romo and Ian Mankin). My aim is to supply clients with sofas and chairs that may have to be reupholstered in years to come, but not replaced.
A good mattress is invaluable, as is a decent frame or sprung-base divan. You spend a lot of time in bed so it’s important to make it as comfortable as possible – I’ve never heard of anyone regretting buying a decent mattress.
Paint is an easy and relatively cheap way to refresh things, I love using bold colours in my schemes and finding ways to get creative to make a space more interesting, like a contrast arch, picking out an architectural feature like a fireplace to paint in a contrast colour or interesting pattern.
Repurpose what you have
At the start of a project, I love going through what clients already have and working out what we can re-use at the start of a project and how we can breathe new life into it. In one project, a breakfast banquette was built around the size of the client’s existing dining table and chairs, which they wanted to keep. The colour didn’t fit with our scheme, so we painted the table and chairs, and added some new seat cushions to bring them back to life.
Naomi Astley Clarke
Splurging on finishes is often worth it because things like flooring and tiles are there to stay. Make sure you love them and, if you can spend those extra pennies, it should pay off.
A sofa is an important item that needs to be fully enjoyed. It will take lots of wear and tear, so it needs to be properly made and well considered.
I always think that side tables and items that are just ‘there’ – as in things that don’t need to be sat on or moved about day to day – can be inexpensive. So long as they look nice, it doesn’t matter how much they cost.
Accessories can be inexpensive – you can find things in markets and vintage shops that can look like they're from a smart store. You can also frame up postcards and children's artworks to fill walls where the budget doesn’t allow for expensive art.
You can create a more bespoke and expensive look with a lovely trim or braid – these can really elevate a sofa, a chair or a pair of curtains or a blind. Samuel & Sons, Turnell & Gigon and Claremont Furnishing are my go-tos for fabulous trims.
More expensive hardware can really elevate cheaper cabinetry in a kitchen. In a bathroom, I would recommend compromising on cheaper sanitaryware (e.g. the bath itself) then splurging on better-quality taps. A tap is something you touch, handle and use every single day, so it really shows if you scrimp here.
My biggest tip for saving would be to source antiques and vintage items throughout your house. This does require more time scouring websites, auctions and markets for the right thing, but it is so worth it. Particularly for larger items like a dining table, you can pick up furniture (and lighting) for less than something on the high street but so much better made. It’ll add character to your home, there won’t be another one like it – and it’s kind on the planet as well as your purse.
If you’ve fallen in love with a really expensive fabric, use it in areas where you only need a small quantity. You only need a small amount of fabric for cushions, on an ottoman or to make a headboard – it can make just as much impact but at much less cost.
Splurge on artwork. As well as being an investment, it really elevates the overall design. It’s such a personal choice, but I currently really like the work of Nancy Cadogan. Large-format canvases work well with nearly any design style, from traditional to modern.
I recommend saving some of the budget for key pieces such as the dining table. This is an item you’ll spend a lot of your time sitting around. While it’s expensive, the intention is for it to last a long time. If you go for a more timeless design, it can feature in future design updates and be brought along on any house moves. I often suggest to clients that we use bespoke carpentry companies to make the dining table. It’s usually the same as – if not cheaper than – buying high-end branded pieces and can be designed and built to create the perfect feel in a specific space.
I recommend saving on mirrors. The giveaway for inexpensive items is usually the feel. As you don’t touch mirrors so often, you can get away with spending less. In a recent project we used Loaf’s amazing Big Brass mirror, which is very similar to Gubi’s mid-century design, but a fraction of the price. It was the perfect addition to the space. Graham & Green also has some lovely options, especially its large antique gold pendant mirrors. The gold and brassy tones work especially well against dark-coloured walls.
When it comes to decor, there are no rules. An investment Hermès throw can sit perfectly on a Made.com ottoman, topped with a West Elm tray. In the same way, a glass coffee table from Ikea can be accessorised with beautiful books, trays and vases. The key with any design is to create a mix, which ultimately gives a feel of comfortable luxury.
Good joinery is a permanent feature that can make or break a space, so it’s always worth doing well, especially because it needs to be both beautiful and practical. Working with a great joiner is key and they will always point out ways to enhance your design.
A beautiful rug can really change a room, providing a focal point and interest at floor level. We love designing bespoke rugs for our projects and always think it’s worth spending a little more if you can – we’ve just designed a rug collection with our favourite supplier Holmes Bespoke.
Less is more when it comes to bathrooms. We love using bright and interesting tiles just in a shower area, or half-height around the room. Saving on quantity means you can indulge a bit more on a smaller area. Our favourite tiles are the Series S handpainted tiles from Balineum.
Another great bathroom tip is to use panelling – we love tongue-and-groove for its utilitarian beauty – which saves on tiling costs altogether.
There are some great off-the-shelf soft furnishings that are much more cost effective than bespoke ones. Suppliers like Birdie Fortescue and Oka sell great cushions and throws, and are a good way of sprucing up a space or finishing off a project.
We adore and repeatedly use Apparatus and Allied Maker out of the US, but for more local and locally available work, we like Michael Anasstasiades whose work can be found at TwentyTwentyOne, and Workstead whose work can be found via Another Country .
One of our go-to wood furniture and upholstery vendors is Another Country who always consider design and environment equally, and we also love local designer-maker's Pinch. Vintage dealer Morentz in the Netherlands curate such an amazing collection and offer some of the best and highest quality vintage pieces we’ve come across.
Small furniture pieces
Save on side tables, poufs and baskets. Use plants and books in place of expensive handmade ceramics; and support emerging designers and local second-hand shops for small furniture pieces and accessories. Use platforms such as Etsy and Vinterior for vintage pieces at a fraction of the cost of other dealer sites.
Rug designers such as Sera Helsinki, Nordic Knots and Armadillo & Co have classic, versatile collections made with natural planet-conscious materials. Their price points are also all very reasonable.