Published: Thursday, November 02, 2017    

Staff Report


T he properties we live in – whether a compact studio, an apartment, or a villa – are our safe havens; individual hideaways from the stresses of the outside world. And as we approach a new year, many of us start getting the itch to redecorate or embrace a whole new look for our abodes. There are endless home redesign shows on cable television of course, offering a million makeover ideas. But if you’re on a tight budget the excitement behind plans to refresh the look of your house may be snuffed out by the thought of the costs involved. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Oasis Living scoured online for interior designer tricks, and asked local experts for their hacks, so that you can work some magic on that little part of the UAE you call your own.


While proper planning is essential for any home improvement project, its necessity increases tenfold when you’re working on a tight budget. After all, no one wants to fnd themselves in a situation where they’ve found the perfect couch only to discover that they don’t have enough money in their account or that the non-refundable corner cabinet they’ve ordered online won’t ft into the space. Doing a little legwork beforehand will drastically cut down on the likelihood of encountering an unpleasant surprise along the way.

First, fnd your design inspiration. Look at magazines and the internet to fgure out what style you’d like to emulate in your design. Then, break the project down into its components – furniture, paint, accessories, and decor. Browse stores to get a solid idea on how much things will cost.

Be sure to consider any associated costs like hiring handymen. Once you have a price point in mind, look at your fnances. Be honest about how much you have available for spending. If that amount falls short of your project price point, set aside a manageable amount of money each week until you reach your goal. It may take longer than charging purchases on a credit card, but you’ll thank yourself later.


There’s no denying that repurposing your old design elements won’t be as exciting as waiting for new pieces to arrive from the store. But, with a little bit of elbow grease and an investment in free time, it’s possible to totally transform the look of almost any component of your interior design. Plus, it will allow you to save money for must-have purchases later on Look around your existing space and think of creative ways to repurpose items that you’re currently using. Do you really need all new kitchen cabinets, or can you just get them refaced? Can you freshen up your old bedroom suit by giving it a new coat of paint?

As you begin to get a feel for what you can repurpose, do your research. Chances are that you’ll be able to fnd DIY guides for most of the projects. Be sure to study the guides thoroughly before starting a project and continue to consult it as you go. Ask a handy friend or family member to provide guidance, if possible.


Working under a budget is often about prioritising spending. When you’re working with limited resources, you must spend money where you will get the most bang for your dirham. In interior design, that means allocating a large portion of your budget towards purchasing quality furniture. Furniture is a wise place to spend your money because it will likely last for years. Unlike paint colours that will fall out of style or accessories that will lose their lustre after a few years of wear and tear, good furniture could last for decades.

It also serves the dual purpose of defning a room with just a glance. Once you have a solid bedroom suit for your sleeping space or a sofa and chair set for your living room, half the work is done. You’ll only have to add small touches to pull the room together, rather than trying to create a cohesive space with a bunch of decor items and no centre to tie them together.


Finishing your own wood is nice in theory, but sometimes it’s just not feasible. You could be trying to decorate a tiny apartment where there isn’t enough space for such work or you could have a hectic schedule flled with work, family obligations, and social engagements. Whatever the case, if you need to stay on budget while buying ready-made furniture, don’t be afraid to shop second hand.

Ask around to see if your family and friends have anything that they’re not using. Keep an eye out for home store sales, plus sites like Dubizzle are great for picking up furniture steals.

When shopping for second hand items, quality is more important than style, which can always be altered. Inspect every inch of the piece for structural quality. You can always cover a sofa with a slip cover, give a rusted mirror a new coat of paint, or buy a different lampshade to help your fnd ft better with your interior design.


It’s time to let you in on one of interior design’s biggest secrets: Colour is cheap. In contrast to other interior design elements, paint costs next to nothing. Accessories like throw pillows cost even less. Infuse a high-end look into your space by flling it with colour.

Before you take the plunge with paint, be sure you’ve picked a colour you love. Pick up a few free palettes from your nearest home improvement store. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few choices, you can pick up samples of each. Paint small squares of each sample colour on each wall of the room and see which one you like best. Check on the samples over the course of a few days to see how the colours react to varying amounts of daylight.

A note on choosing colours: The experts recommend using the 60-30-10 rule when selecting shades for your interior. It states that roughly 60 per cent – think walls – of the space should be flled by a dominant, more neutral colour. Then, the next 30% of the space should go to a secondary colour. The fnal 10% should be decorated in a bolder accent colour.


In interior design, the term “decor” typically refers to the items in a room that have no specifc function other than to decorate the space. These can be things such as artwork or other wall hangings, decorative rugs, and coffee table assortments. While they are indeed essential to a cohesive design, these items are also the place where you can save the most money.

Decor is incredibly open to personal interpretation, so use skills to create your own items rather than buying them. If you are always behind a camera, frame a few of your favourite pictures and proudly put them on display. Completing a painting or two to use as wall art is an excellent excuse to rediscover a beloved past time.

If you feel at home by the sea, collect some shells to give your room a relaxing feel. Don’t be afraid to search out items that can serve a dual purpose. Show off your vast book collection by artfully arranging them on an open bookcase. Use old bottles in lieu of vases for fresh flowers. Anything will work as long as you let your personality shine through.


Choosing a minimalist style to decorate your interior will cost you minimally, at least when compared to other, more ornate, schools of thought. Plus, minimalist design is in right now, so not only will you be saving money, you’ll also be staying on trend.

In interior design, minimalism is defned by neutral colors, especially monochromatic ones, the use of natural materials, clean lines on furniture and cabinetry. Lighting should be unobtrusive, yet plentiful. Be sure to use very few accessories and, when choosing items to decorate the space, opt for one or two large statement pieces rather than a bunch of knick-nacks.

Keep in mind that the ability to keep the space clean is an important component of pulling off a minimalist style. Be sure to invest in plenty of concealed storage and to straighten up regularly. While this may not be a style that appeals to everyone, if you can pull it off, it’s an easy way to keep costs down without looking like you did it intentionally.

Read Yara Boraie’s personal take on embracing minimalism on page 18.


One of the biggest interior design mistakes you can make, especially when trying to save money, is to take on too many redesigning projects at once. New homeowners tend to fall into the trap of wanting to redo the decor of every room from top to bottom. While it may be tempting to be able to feel like you’ve fnished decorating, your wallet will appreciate if you go at a slower pace.


The above tips are useful if you have a strong sense of personal style and have a cohesive idea of what you want to achieve with your interior design. But, what if you don’t have an idea of where to start? Even if you know what you want, who says you have the time? For these occasions, hiring an interior designer is key and a student designer is a great way to get the help you need while staying within your price point.

Student designers are a fnd because they are often looking to sharply discount their rates in exchange for experience. Some may even forgo labour costs entirely if you’d be willing to provide them with a glowing testimonial and let them take a few photos of the fnished project for their portfolio. Call around to the universities and colleges in your area or post an advert online. Odds are, there will be tons of students clamouring for the opportunity.

As with anyone you would hire, make sure to interview potential designers frst before agreeing to a contract. Look for designers that share your sense of style. Make your budget and compensation expectations very clear. Don’t hesitate to put your agreement in writing. However, once you fnd the right match, you’ll be good to go.

Trying to complete a decorating project on a shoestring budget isn’t easy. But, with a commitment of time and effort, it can be done. Use these tips to get you started. Don’t be afraid to run with them and really make your interior design your own.
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