RENOVATING ON A BUDGET // how to spend less but make it look expensive

make your home look high end on a budget - main shot of exterior

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We spent a slightly terrifying amount on our home renovation, but – to be fair – we did practically build a new house around the carcass of our old one.

We extended out the back to create our new open plan kitchen-diner, and out and up two storeys down the side to add the office, extend one bedroom and build two new bathrooms.

The exterior was completely transformed and the front garden converted into off-street parking, and the back garden was given a solid facelift too.

After waiting 10 years to extend, we were determined to add on every square inch of space we possibly could, which mean almost all of the budget got sucked up by the building work.

The decorating and the homely finishing touches have been an ongoing project in the two years since, and most of it carried out on a shoestring budget.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what can be achieved with some lateral thinking and a little imagination. So here are some of the tricks I’ve learned to make your home look high end on a budget:

Mirrors. Nothing opens up a room and give the illusion of space better than a well-placed mirror. These can be horrifically expensive, but do your research and you can find cheaper versions too.

I picked up a large white-framed one from B&Q for £25 that I use as a leaner in our study. The space is quite narrow in there, so it really opens the room up, and the girls love it for doing their hair and filming Tik Tok videos.

Hardwood floorboards are classic, timeless and expensive. Luckily, there is an option that gives you that elegant finish, without the frightening price tag. Engineered wood is a clever compromise, where a thin layer of real wood is laid over high quality plywood. Not only is engineered wood cheaper than hardwood, it’s actually more durable too, so it’s a win-win.

Plants are a really cheap and easy way to transform a space. I created my living plant wall from sites such as (many offer discount vouchers when you sign up to their mailing list), but have always found my best bargains (rather randomly) in supermarkets.

In fact, if you’re doing the weekly grocery shop, the homewares aisles are a great place to pick up perfectly priced decor items. Sainsbury’s is brilliant for photo frames and nik-naks like candle holders, mirrors and throws, while I’ve always found George at Asda great for cushions and kitchenware.

I love candles, both for general decoration and also to add that cosy ambience at night – especially when the evenings draw in. But, with kids and now a new puppy, real wax candles didn’t seem safe enough, so I bought a three different sized flameless candles earlier this summer, for £12.

I wasn’t expecting much, but they were absolutely brilliant! They have an outer layer of real wax, so look really authentic, but are actually battery operated (you switch them on and off with a little remote).

They emanate that same golden glow you get from genuine candles, and the ‘flames’ even appear to flicker. I use them as our lounge lights in the evening, or put them around the bathtub for a relaxing soak.

Lighting can be heart-stoppingly expensive, but my first port of call is always Iconic Lights, which has a huge range of options at really reasonable prices. That’s where we got our kitchen-diner Steampunk pendant lights, at at £36 each, they were a fraction of the cost of other we were looking at.

We’d invested a lot into the kitchen-diner space, so I was a little bit worried they might look cheap, but I was thrilled with how well they fit in and how luxurious they looked. Further proof you can seamlessly mix high and low price items to make your home look high end on a budget.

I also found Ebay was a great place to look for fixtures and fittings. What I would do is find a fancy product I loved – like a kitchen tap – then search for it on Ebay. Often, building companies will resell items they haven’t ended up using (for example, if the client changes their mind about a fitting ). They’re recouping some of their costs, and you’re getting the fancy product you want with a nice discount on top.

Similarly, if you love the look of glass sliders or folding-sliding doors, glazing companies will quietly sell mis-measures on Ebay at heavily discounted prices. This is a great option, provided you’re flexible enough to measure your build around the exact product dimensions of the unit they’re selling (rather than the other way around).

Artwork is another cost effective way to add some upmarket decorating touches.

There are some great sites where you’re spoiled for choice with thousands of different prints and designs, and a huge selection of frames. One of my favourites is Juniqe, where I bought at least a dozen prints to dot around the house.

I couldn’t have finished the house without that glorious Swedish budget saver, Ikea; pick carefully, and you can achieve an elegant look that far surpasses the price tag.

Most recently I picked up two of theses Vittsjö steel and glass shelving units to fit into the alcoves either side of the chimney breast.

Filled with plants and some of our favourite family photos, they looked much more expensive than the £65 each I paid for them.

With a bit of time and effort you can absolutely make your home look high end on a budget, and achieve the house of your dreams.

• you might like to read: Creating Space in a Cramped Bedroom

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