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  • Writer's pictureCheryl McIntosh

Designing with Purpose: Expert Interior Design Strategies

In interior design, there are several principal considerations that designers consider when creating harmonious spaces. These include functionality, aesthetics, comfort, safety and durability, sustainability, flexibility and adaptability, psychological impact, and of course the all-important budget. Here are some steps and tips to guide a budget-friendly process whether you are working with an interior designer or designing your own space.


RA+L Canoe Trail Residence, Photography by Cheryl McIntosh

Define Your Style: The first step is determining your personal style preferences by exploring design inspiration sources such as magazines, websites like, and social media platforms such as Pinterest. Identify elements that resonate with you, whether it's contemporary, traditional, minimalist, eclectic, or a combination of styles. Consider creating a mood board which will help you tie everything together and stay focused on the process.


“Many projects never get off the ground because of the overwhelming number of options and so if style quizzes feel daunting, you may feel more comfortable hiring an interior designer. One of the key roles of an interior designer is helping you both define and elevate your personal style. Often, combining favorite elements in a space will not achieve the desired effect of a cohesive home. There are key factors when deciding on style, including the balance of trendy and timeless elements, the architecture of the home, and personal preferences. Additionally, your designer can also create a clear path forward to execute your personal style with these factors incorporated.”

–Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design


A Nuance Interior Design Project, Photo by Anton Benedikt

Set a Budget: Start by establishing a realistic budget for your interior design project. Determine how much you're willing to spend on different aspects such as furniture, decorations, and renovations. A well-defined budget empowers you to make informed choices and prioritize your investment.


Budget considerations are contingent upon crucial factors such as room dimensions, desired furniture quality and brands, and the specific quantity and type of furniture required. Our clients frequently opt for a blend of items from different price ranges to tailor their budget to their preferences. For instance, a client might opt for a high-end dining table while opting for more budget-friendly chairs. The art of selecting pieces to align with your budget is among the many services provided by a professional interior designer.


“An interior designer will help you establish a realistic budget based on the market value of your home, your long-term goals and priorities for the space, historical project data, and your preferred investment amount. To receive accurate labor pricing, they will provide detailed design drawings to the contractor. The right budget for you will vary based on region, quality of materials and labor, size and complexity of the space, and age of the home (older homes often need updates to wiring and plumbing to bring them up to code). Whether this is a forever home or will be sold soon also factors into budget considerations. Once a realistic budget is set, an experienced interior designer will stay within it.” –Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design


Assess Your Space: Evaluate the size, layout, and architectural features of your space. Consider factors such as natural light, traffic flow, and existing structural elements when planning your design. Take accurate measurements of the room to ensure that furniture and decor fit appropriately.


RA+L Lowman Beach Residence, Photography by Andrew Buchanan

Consider how you use each area of your space and identify any specific functional requirements. For example, the living room may need to accommodate seating for entertaining guests, while the bedroom should prioritize comfort and relaxation. Determine which areas of your space are used most frequently and prioritize them accordingly. Areas that receive daily use, such as the kitchen or main living areas, may require more attention and investment than less frequently used spaces like guest bedrooms or home offices. The more you understand your home and how you use it, the more likely you will make choices that you will be happy with for the long term. 


“As you reimagine your home, figure out what you love about each space and what is not in alignment with the new direction. A designer will help you balance efficiency and functionality with the style of each space. One way to approach this in an open-concept plan is to create zones where certain activities happen and then design around those activities. Making a multi-purpose space feel well-designed may include features such as hidden storage and flexible furniture.” –Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design


Repurpose and Reorganize: Streamline your space by decluttering and organizing it to create an open and welcoming atmosphere. Employ storage solutions such as baskets, bins, and shelves to maintain orderliness and optimize space. Knowing where everything is in your home also saves money by limiting duplicate purchases.


RA+L Wingspan Residence, Photo by Cheryl McIntosh

Reassess your possessions and explore opportunities to repurpose or rearrange them to invigorate your space. Experiment with moving furniture to different rooms, altering layouts, or revitalizing outdated pieces with paint or new stain. Minor adjustments can significantly alter your space's ambiance without incurring significant costs.


“Often, well-made upholstered furniture can be reupholstered to create a completely unique look. For neutral-colored pieces, adding accent pillows and throws for pops of color can reenergize the space. Reframing art or creating art groupings can elevate the room and infuse more personality.” –Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design


Focus and Prioritize: Identify the areas or elements of your space that are most important to you and prioritize your spending accordingly. Focus on investing in key pieces or areas that will have the biggest impact on the overall look and feel of the space.


A Nuance Interior Design Project

There is no need to splurge on every item in your space. Sometimes less is more when it comes to interior design. Mix high-end pieces with more budget-friendly options to achieve a balanced and stylish look. Focus your spending on items that are worth the investment, such as a comfortable sofa or quality bedding.


A clean, clutter-free space with a few well-chosen pieces makes a statement. Avoid over-accessorizing or cluttering up the space with unnecessary items. A few pivotal pieces can significantly influence the room's overall aesthetic. This could be a striking sofa, an elegant dining table, or a statement bed frame. Invest in items characterized by durability and timeless design to withstand evolving trends and endure longer.


“Accessories are a great way to make a statement that doesn’t overwhelm the room. We often combine them in thoughtful groupings showcasing travels or tying together a color palette. We recommend selecting a mixture of shapes and textures for a collected look. For an elevated feel, selecting a few larger pieces is better than many small filler pieces.” –Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design

A Nuance Interior Design Project, Photo by Anton Benedikt

Shop Sales and Secondhand: Consider shopping for furniture and decor items at thrift stores, consignment shops, flea markets, and online marketplaces like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. You can often find unique and high-quality pieces at a fraction of the cost of buying new. Keep an eye out for sales, discounts, and clearance events at furniture stores and home decor retailers.


“Vintage furnishings are a great way to find pieces with a unique story and craftsmanship. For many homes, finding vintage pieces creates a collected look that expresses the homeowner's personality more than buying all new furniture. It has the added benefit of being a beautiful way to reduce your carbon footprint.” –Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design


Choose Affordable Materials:


“If this is your long-term home, it is less expensive to remodel once rather than twice because the materials fail. Affordable materials over the lifespan of the product include high-quality, durable products that will clean well and look good for decades. Often, low-cost materials upfront are not designed to hold up for long periods of time, so knowing what your goal is for the materials is vital. High-quality doesn’t always mean high cost, but having a designer to help you navigate options so you get the best value is ideal.” –Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design


Use Paint Wisely: Paint is one of the most cost-effective ways to update and refresh a space. Consider painting walls, cabinets, or furniture to give them a fresh new look without breaking the bank.


RA+L Norway Hills Residence

Choose paint colors that complement the style and mood you want to achieve in the space. Consider factors such as natural light, room size, and existing furnishings when selecting colors. Warm tones like beige, tan, or soft gray can create a cozy atmosphere, while cool tones like blue or green can evoke a sense of calm and relaxation. For a bold statement, consider integrating wallpaper as an accent wall to introduce visual interest sans expensive artwork or decor.


“Often in small rooms such as powder baths, going with bold statement colors is a great way to add drama without the commitment of a larger room. For open concept spaces, we usually recommend a timeless, neutral color to allow elements with more visual interest, such as the view or art pieces, to be the focal point.” –Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design


Light Strategically: When considering lighting design for a home, several factors should be considered to ensure functionality, aesthetics, energy efficiency and wellness. We’ve written about several lighting considerations here.  


RA+L Canoe Trail, Photo by Cheryl McIntosh

Elevate your room's atmosphere by investing in budget-friendly yet stylish lighting fixtures. Explore options such as floor lamps, table lamps, or string lights to augment lighting and impart a cozy ambiance. Experiment with diverse light sources and placements to craft an inviting and intimate environment. Remember to use energy efficient LED lighting whenever possible to save money on your electricity bill.


“The most comfortable and inviting rooms have layers of lighting such as overhead lighting, ambient decorative lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. We recommend dimmers on everything for a smooth transition from day to night and various types of tasks. Light temperature, how warm or cool the light color is, is also vital for comfort.”

–Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design

 Nature-inspired touches: Infuse your design with greenery and natural elements to imbue vitality and warmth. Plants offer an affordable means of introducing freshness, texture, and color into your space. Select low-maintenance varieties suited for indoor environments, such as succulents or architecturally interesting snake plants.  

RA+L Canoe Trail Residence, Photo by Cheryl McIntosh

“Studies show that on average, people spend 90% of their time indoors. [1]That means 9 out of 10 breaths are taken inside. Meanwhile, countless medical studies show the cognitive and physiological health benefits of the outdoors. One of the best ways to find this balance is by incorporating natural elements into your home. These "biophilic," or nature-loving elements, could include indoor-outdoor living spaces, natural textures such as wood and stone, earth tones, natural light, and greenery.” –Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design


Interior design should reflect your personality and complement the way you live, work and play in your home. Armed with creativity, research, and strategic planning, you can style a warm and inviting home without exceeding your budget.

[1] Lance A. Wallace. Total Exposure Assessment Methodology Study: Summary of Activities and Major Findings. EPA.  (1987)

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