Making a small space look high-end when you're only starting out and have a limited budget can be a hard goal to achieve. When left to their own devices, people often choose to either wait until they can afford to decorate to update their space—or they go the opposite route and sprint to the nearest furniture retailer to update everything at once and run a large credit card bill. While neither option is ideal, it's also hard to make design decisions in a snap when you're not looking to spend a lot.
But if there's one person who knows how to make any space feel grand on virtually any budget, it's Eddie Ross.
As an interior designer, design editor, and style director for The Mine, an online décor marketplace, budget decorating and small-space tricks holds no secrets for Ross. Having most recently designed a room in the prized Hamptons Decorator Showhouse and worked on his own gut-renovation project for his house on Philadelphia's Main Line, he has proven time and again that he knows how to stretch a dollar when it comes to decorating. Don't even think of updating your home without reading through his insightful tips below. Instead, learn from the pro, and get it right the first time.
Invest in a Timeless Sofa
"When you're first starting out, you probably have pieces from IKEA, Target, and flea-market finds or inherited pieces," says Ross. "So focus on constantly adding new pieces. If you have a dark set of upholstered furniture, and you have a dark hardwood coffee table, get rid of the coffee table, head over to The Mine, and find a great brass coffee table that you can add to your space to make it feel updated."
While the designer points out that it's important to slowly update pieces without doing everything at once, there is one piece that he considers worth splurging on above all else. "A comfortable sofa—a beautiful and classic sofa that you can upholster time and again without ever tiring of."
Rearrange Things In a New Way
Instead of only buying new pieces, Ross also recommends shopping your own house. "Rearrange things in a new way. People are shying away from whole suites of midcentury furniture. People want to feel more comfortable—to live with pieces that are family heirlooms. Every antique was new at some point, and everything new will eventually be an antique."
Another option he recommends to update your home on a budget is to swap furniture or décor pieces with friends. "I have friends who have been doing 'house shops' where people will swap pieces of furniture between each other. I do it with my china and glassware."
Reupholster Old Furniture
Ross believes in the power of antiques and hand-me-down pieces, but he maintains that you have to make them work in your space. "Upholster something in a fabric other than gray, taupe, or black," he recommends. "Switch out the chairs in the room. If all else fails, put your furniture on Chairish, sell it, and buy something else. When pieces aren't high-end quality antiques, lacquer them. If you have a chair or a sofa that has a skirt on it—don't put the skirt back on when you reupholster it. Let the legs show—it instantly adds a more modern appeal to a piece."
The designer also insists that refurbishing a piece doesn't have to be expensive. "You don't have to go to high-end fabrics stores in order to find great fabrics." Apparently, upholsterers also don't need to be expensive. "Look in a few states over for upholsterers, and trade people. If you're in a dense city area like New York, you can go over the bridge to New Jersey and have the same work done for half the price."
Introduce Oversize Pieces
When it comes to decorating small spaces, Ross believes the biggest mistake people make is to fill the space with small-scale furniture. Instead, he recommends introducing a few larger pieces: "Have a big piece of furniture in the room—like a big armoire that can house everything and that maybe has a mirrored front, which will then reflect light and make the space feel larger," he says. "When you have a small space filled with dinky furniture, it feels like you're living in a dollhouse."
Paint Everything One Color
Above all else, Ross believes that there are a few tricks to making a space feel larger—and it all starts with a coherent color scheme and appropriately scaled pieces. "Paint it all one color—ceilings, moldings, walls, everything," he recommends. "While it may be a bold move, it also unifies the space to feel whole as opposed to disjointed."
Another trick that makes a space more coherent: large rugs. In fact, it's one of the biggest mistakes the designer notices in people's homes. "Carpets that are too small for the room—if all the furniture is off the carpet, it makes a space feel smaller." Instead, he recommends investing in a beautiful, large rug that will stand the test of time.
Layer Things Over Time
"I think beautiful décor and eclectic style constantly evolves," says Ross. "I'll never be the person to go to a store and buy a full furniture suite. I think well-traveled, well thought-out pieces that are bought over time—even if you have to upholster things over time—is the look that I love."
In other words, buy the necessary pieces you need to live a functional life, but don't be so hard-pressed to add the decorative touches—these will come together as you add meaningful pieces over time.
Use Trends in Moderation
Lastly, the designer shares one pet-peeve he always notices in people's homes and wishes everyone would stop making. "When people try to be trendy and try to put every single trend that they like in their house, like Greek key mixed with trellis, mixed with wall decals, mixed with chalkboard paint, mixed with brass everything, mixed with modern light fixtures, and more Greek key on the carpet, and you're like, 'a little goes a long way.' Introducing trends in your home is fine, as long as the base of your space is timeless and the pieces you choose to update your décor feel authentic to you and your space."
And now, nine small-space tricks designers swear by.