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  7. My Skimp meets Splurge Design Ethos Explained
modern luxe living room with marble coffee table fake plant and blue glass vase from west elm

My Skimp meets Splurge Design Ethos Explained

Affordable interior designers: turns out they’re not an urban legend! You can actually have a design professional work on your home without blowing your life savings! But, it kinda comes with a caveat: you gotta be realistic. Allow me to explain.

I actually pride myself on being an affordable interior designer. Or stylist. Or decorator. Whatever you want to call me, you can call me. As it turns out, there are some distinct differences between designers and decorators, but that’s a whole other article. The moral of the story is that I work with clients on mid-level budgets. And I love playing in this niche because there’s a huge gap in the market for it.

I’ve worked on a number of homes the past few years where I got to work my skimp-meets-splurge design approach. Allow me to tell you about that first, and then I’ll explain the bit about you needing to be realistic.

melbourne interior designer tlc interiors scandi living room design with grey sofa and black art

My Skimp-meets-Splurge Design Approach Works

What I mean by skimp-meets-splurge is that I like to include a blend of price points when decorating homes. I drizzle affordable decor from the brands you know and love over the top of investment pieces from my trade suppliers (most of whom don’t sell to the public).

For example, in my latest home makeover in Chirnside Park, a number of base investment pieces like sofas, rugs and tables were from upper tier brands. I’m talking brands like Globewest and Armadillo & Co. To some, these brands might not be considered upper tier. But to the clients I work with, they are.

These larger items slot into my ‘splurge’ category. We put more cash toward those because they’re the pieces the clients are going to keep for years. And on top of that, they’re also the pieces they’ll use the most, so they’ve gotta be comfortable. And often, long-lasting comfort means an investment of cash.

Over the top of the splurge furniture, I brought in cheaper decor for the client. Brands hate it when I call things cheap because it has such negative connotations attached to it. But let’s be realistic; when you’re at a store like West Elm or Adairs, you don’t say “Oh wow, this is so affordable”. You say “These cushions are so cheap!”, and you buy six of them. So I don’t consider cheap to be a dirty word. In fact, as I detailed in this post, I want us all to start using it again.

Anyway, those cheaper items fall into my ‘skimp’ category. Think things like candles, photo frames, vases and vessels, ornaments, fake plants, and more. Yes, I also love to put fake plants in client homes (here’s where to get the best ones). There are some seriously impressive varieties on the market at the moment.

lorraine lea nook quilted bedding in bedroom with coastal bedside table lamp

Mixing the Cheap and the Chic Saves you Buckets

This skimp-meets-splurge approach is how I save my clients money. It’s all about being creative with the smaller elements, and knowing which larger items to put the most money toward. And, of course, knowing how to blend the two.

Trust me, as an interior stylist/decorator/designer, it is so easy to design a home when the budget is high. If you have buckets of cash, it’s pretty simple to realise your dream interior. The real skill of a design professional shows itself when a client has a limited budget and you gotta make the magic happen. And boy can you create some magic on a budget. This becomes especially true when the client trusts you and let’s you run with your ideas.

I could write an entire article on the problems that arise when a client doesn’t trust you, but let’s save that one for another day! Hopefully you’re beginning to understand that affordable interior designers do exist. I am one! And although using an interior designer is a luxury, it’s a luxury you can afford.

big w winter homewares range tlc interiors

Here’s where the Warning Comes into it

At the start of this article I told you that there was a caveat to this whole you can afford an interior designer concept. And the caveat is this: you can’t afford an interior designer on no budget.

Being an affordable interior designer is often a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that I get to deliver clients their dream home without costing them an arm and a leg. The curse is that I get tonnes of enquiries from people asking to me to redesign their home with a super unrealistic budget. And I mean super unrealistic.

The reality is, you need to have money to work with an interior designer. I’ll say it again: It is a luxury, but a luxury you can afford. You have to be realistic though. We aren’t operating a charity.

Clients are often cagey when I ask them “how much budget do you have to spend on this project?”. But the reality is, I need to know what you have to play with in order to determine if you can afford the concept I’m specifying. And if you can afford my design fee. Otherwise we’re just wasting each other’s time, right?

I’m not sitting on the other end of the phone rubbing my hands together at the thought of getting your money. I’m simply trying to figure out what level of furniture you can get on your budget, and if it’s a realistic amount of money for the number of rooms you want to furnish.

We need to get the finances sorted first, and then we can get onto the fun stuff.

melbourne interior designer tlc interiors scandinavian living room design with blue velvet tub chair

What’s a Realistic Budget for your Home?

This is where I welcome a conversation with you. This is the part I enjoy. Honestly, feel free to email me. Write me on social media. Give me a call. I do free phone consults where I can give you a rough idea of costs to redesign or decorate your home. There’s absolutely no reason not to ask the question, or to take that first step.

If you’re tinkering with the idea of using a professional, why not make it an affordable interior designer like yours truly? And if it turns out you can’t afford my full end-to-end service, then I can point you toward my mood board service. Or you can come join my private Facebook group, where you can chat to other decorating junkies and ask advice about the rooms in your home.

I have always hated the idea that interior design is some sort of exclusive luxury for the wealthy. It’s not! I’m living proof that it’s not. So if you got nothing else out of this post, know that. You probably can afford an interior designer, stylist or decorator. You just have to be realistic.

Drop me a comment below if you have any questions!


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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11 Responses

  1. Hi do you do country nsw. I live in a small town and of course there is no one here that do this. I am after help look at my floorplan and decorating


  2. This is a great article and I totally agree with the skimp meets splurge theory. Do you mind if I post this on our Facebook page? Allspace design in Wollongong. Also the other challenge I find is when I’m not doing commercial design projects I’m doing design consultations and the majority of times it’s for a lady (I’m male) the majority of times they don’t see the value in letting a male design for them and I lose business even with great reviews and past project references. What’s the work around?? Can you also suggest some ways to generate more job leads as I’m running out of google money. Would really like some critical feed back as we are a fairly new start up even though I have been in the commercial fit out game for the last 20 years.

    1. Hi Endre, thank you! Yes you can post it, just please link to the article and not just copy and paste the text. Feel free to tag us in on Facebook too.

      To be honest I haven’t noticed the issue you mentioned about women not wanting a man to design for them. Most of my clients are women or couples and I’ve had a few male only clients. So I can’t suggest anything there sorry.

      Have you tried networking with some of the builders in your area to see if they could recommend you to their reno/new build clients? Could even do some hours for the builder directly, I know many designers who do that. I also knoew designers who found clients just by networking at their school pickup/drop off, hairdresser and other places. Just have to get out there and keep hunting down jobs by word of mouth if Adwords isn’t bringing the work in. Good luck.

  3. Hi
    What if I want on rental but newly built property interior but with same furniture and resources not more budget on buying on new furniture just your fees (if it untill $200)I can pay but not more than $300
    Is it possible to help me to decure my house ?

  4. Ahhh you’re funny. To me, West Elm & Adairs are on the expensive end of medium priced!! Cheap & cheerful to me is Kmart, Target & Ikea, I have quite a few things from those stores in my house & not ashamed! I won’t buy their furniture but knick knacks, cushions, throws, plant pots, pet stuff & some linen are all excellent & often very on trend. I’ve supplemented with Spotlight & Harris Scarfe for kitchen stuff & have got some very good bargains from marketplace/ebay/gumtree, things like storage containers & wall art. Our big pieces are from places like Nick Scali & Harvey Norman, both of which we got on sale. I’m slowly supplementing with some quality pieces like custom wood shelving, leather accessory chairs & big art. The other thing I think is important is to live in a space for a while, I get people want a space done, mostly we could never have afforded to do it all in one go, but our wants/tastes have adapted as I’ve seen things & trends go, I’m also very indecisive! But I will be happy with my art filled, leafy, rustic/industrial/safari, eclectic spaces when we are finally done! I love design & looking at what you’ve done too.

    1. Hey Naomi, I meant more the terminology people use. They’re more likely to be excited and talk about something being cheap (particularly if a brand that is usually a little more mid or high end has a sale).

  5. Hi Chris!!
    I loved this article and your whole philosophy. I 100% agree with you. My husband has his own building company and I take care of the design side of things. I have loved and lived design my whole life, then went back and did some study so I had a formal qualification and could bring some extra skills into our business. I was a young Mum, so my decorating specialty has been working with what I have, finding affordable things that look nice and getting my hands dirty and doing some DIY by repainting furniture etc. I once bought a big modular sofa on ebay that would have been $10,000 new – for $242. I had it cleaned and kept it a few years, then had it professionally re-covered for $1500 and it’s still going strong. There are ways – but I suppose that’s a skill not everybody has, or that they just don’t want to invest the time and effort all on their own when working with a designer will give them better results more quickly with less stress. What’s not to like?!. My experience in our business echoes exactly what you said about the fact that you can do it affordably – but not for literally nothing lol!! I love everything you write and love love that there are others working in the industry who enjoy working in this area.

  6. Hi Chris

    I loved that article because it lets people know (and from all socio-economic backgrounds) that anyone, if they want to, CAN afford an Interior Designer. I mean god knows I’d love Martyn Lawrence Bullard to breeze into my place on a whim & a whiff of just a few hundred dollars, but somehow I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. But my next best thing to him IS YOU. My question to you is ~ what is the smallest consult you have done? There I put it out there! I would love to be able to engage with you regarding my new living room. I have the basics but I’m a bit stuck on a few things. It may be as simple as just a few pics & emails back & forth & I’m on my way. Is that something you could/would do? Can you email me about it and let me know if the procedure & $$$$ etc

  7. Which locations do you operate from? I’m in Queensland and will be buying a house in the next 6 months… and am interested in your services! I sold my last house 2 months ago and all my furniture with it so I’m definitely wanting some guidance when I’m in the new house and ready to buy back items again. This article was great!!

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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