With penny-pinching ideas at every turn, Texas designer proves you can have big style on a shoestring budget.
While many people hear the word "designer" and think, "You want me to spend that?!", here's a dirty little secret: Designers know their way around a big-box store too. "Sources like Ikea, World Market, and Target work for people on any budget," says Brenham, Texas-based . That wisdom paid off when Holly, a single mother, was looking to make a fresh start with her two sons and stumbled across a bungalow for rent near her youngest boy's school. While the 1890s home was at the top of her price range, it had soaring 11-foot ceilings, sun-drenched rooms, and original flooring. So Holly went all in, with the knowledge she'd have to cut some corners when it came to furnishing the space (while simultaneously facing the challenges associated with living in a rental). Now, Holly says it's "one of the loveliest homes I've ever lived in—a special place for us to land." Here's how a rental filled with economical hacks and chain-store finds looks like something straight out of her designer portfolio.
On the kitchen shelves, it's the design version of Where's Waldo: Can you spot the fancy ironstone among the white-ware from Target and Ikea? (Psst: That pitcher on the top left is from Target; the one to its right is the real deal.) Just like a piece of nice jewelry can elevate an inexpensive dress, one or two antiques can "carry" a whole collection—even if 75 percent of the stuff is mass-made.
Rugs in every room can quickly bust a budget. Holly's zero-dollar solution: Eliminate one in the dining room. "I'm not really a rug-in-the-dining-room person in general, and there's already a lot going on in a tight space. To me, it's just visually cleaner without it," she says. The recently refinished pine floors are complemented by an antique heart-of-pine table and reproduction French chairs.
With 11-foot ceilings and tall windows, doing custom draperies in every room wasn't an option. Instead, (starting at $45) offer privacy (and texture!) at a more palatable price (starting at $45). This polished space is outfitted with covered in "Country Fit" slipcovers from .
The richer the colors and patina, the heftier the price of an Oushak rug, so place a smaller one atop for a big impact at a quarter of the price.
Botanicals and an antique mirror hang above Holly's entry console.
A bamboo table adds warmth and texture to this cozy corner.
Holly, who lives 20 miles from antiques destination Round Top, is always bringing home antique furniture. Because reupholstery is expensive (and more permanent!), Holly opts for linen covers with crisp pleated skirting, which offers the more tailored vibe that upholstery typically provides.
She crafted a bed skirt out of remnants from the dining room's . "It's resourceful," she says. "But it also creates cohesion from room to room." An oversize propped against the wall maximizes natural light.
Oh, the agony of having to replace a pricey large rug because of one mishap! To avoid that scenario, Holly outfitted her mess-prone son's room with and a cowhide layered on top. That way, a single accident won't wipe out the whole piece.
She made the most of her son's interests—including race cars, history, and geography—and lets the "toys" multitask as handsome vignettes. "I love that he's 12 and still plays with antique soldiers," she says.