It’s fun to peek into the homes featured in EL for design inspiration and ideas. But if you’ve ever found yourself thinking “I looove this, but I don’t have the budget or the space,” then this article is for you.
We’ve received a few requests from readers for interiors advice that is both space and budget friendly. Like we’ve always said, ask and you shall receive.
Here, Nikki Hunt, the owner of Design Intervention, walks us through a home that she recently designed and explains how she created a glam interior while maximising both money and metres.
Condo: The Trillium (by Great World City)
The task: To create a luxurious, opulent, “5-star hotel” look with strong bolts of colour.
Budget – very tight
Property type – rental, so no architectural changes or large expenses on non-removable items
Time – four weeks from start to finish!
The Living and Dining Rooms
Describe the living room when you first saw it.
The living room had stark white walls and was very bland. It had uninspiring light fittings and cheap polyester curtains provided by the landlord. However, it was clean and bright, with windows on three sides.
Speaking of the white walls, did you consider painting them?
Rather than repainting the entire room, I decided to add wallpaper to the smallest wall. This is a striking geometric print from Designers Guild. At first, the client was reluctant to use wallpaper in a rental property. But it was a relatively small expense and created a huge impact that soft furnishings alone could not achieve. I added standing chandeliers along this wall, too. They add opulence to the room, while drawing the eye away from the plain pendant lights.
Did you keep anything that came with the condo?
I decided to keep the sheer curtains, but the night curtains had to go! There are so many windows, so curtains are a major feature. This also meant that replacing them would have taken a significant part of the budget. But I chose an inexpensive polyester satin in a dark shade that looks quite chic. A good seamstress can transform inexpensive fabric into elegant curtains. When trying to economise, it is more important to have quality workmanship than expensive fabric. Poor workmanship can ruin even the most beautiful fabric.
How were you able to save costs and space in the main seating area?
The sofa is a major piece of furniture in the room, so it needed to set an elegant tone. This design is simple and classic, yet compact. It has no back cushions or buttoning, so it needs less fabric, which keeps the costs down. I opted for armless chairs, which are also less expensive, but upholstered them in glamorous crushed velvet to lift the look. The stainless steel and tinted glass coffee table is extremely practical – stains are just wiped away – and the reflective materials contribute to the feeling of glamour. The Chinese trellis design adds the designer touch that the client asked for and works well with the modern Oriental touch in the wallpaper.
What was the inspiration for the plush floor cushions?
The budget didn’t allow for a plethora of ornaments and accessories, so I had to use colour instead. A shot of stormy blue was not enough. So, I combined it with soft aubergine, which can still be considered a neutral, but adds a smoky element and another layer of interest. The budget didn’t allow for extra seating, so I used leftover fabric pieces to create Japanese-inspired floor cushions that can be slid under the coffee table when not in use.
Tell us about the seating in the dining room – it’s very unusual.
As space was at a premium, I opted for a combination of banquette seating and chairs and used an inexpensive, durable and easy-to-clean ultrasuede for the bench and chair-fronts. To prevent the room from looking too commercial and to infuse a feeling of luxury into the space, I buttoned the dining chairs in an inexpensive fabric and used a decorative fabric to cover the backs.
What was your approach in the master bedroom?
The master bedroom was rather featureless. Again, the goal was to create an opulent room, and what is more opulent than gold? I wrapped the whole room in a champagne gold wall covering for a really luxurious effect. I kept the curtains that came with the room; they are less noticeable against the gold walls.
I kept the bedside tables simple and added black glass lamps to make a striking statement against the gold backdrop. I stuck with the black and gold theme for the bed, striving for a jewellery box feel. In order to prevent the scheme from looking too contrived or dated, I added jolts of vibrant orange. The elongated lines of the chair gave a designer stamp that completed the room.
The Guest Bedrooms
Additional bedrooms are notorious for being tiny, especially in new buildings like this one. How did you tackle the small guest rooms?
The space in these rooms was tight, but the client wanted a queen-size bed in the first room. So, I pushed the bed right up against the bay window and topped a pair of matching trays with lamps – one on a bedside table and the other on the window ledge – to achieve the appearance of a pair of bedside tables. This created balance and symmetry.
To match the curtains, I extended the beige theme through the room and paired it with lilac, which is regal without being overpowering. I coordinated these colours into the bed throw, cushions and lampshades for a finished and tailored feel.
In the third bedroom, there was very little budget for anything other than the beds. So, I had to smarten them with colour – in this case, brown and turquoise. The crystal lamp in the middle adds a touch of glam.
The study alcove is a nice touch. What was your approach?
It is important that rooms like this don’t appear to be an afterthought. The chair matches the dining chairs, so that it can be borrowed when extra guests come over for dinner. It looks more welcoming than a typical office chair, too. I made a seat cushion for the bay window, both to add colour and to serve as additional seating. I economised by using an IKEA bookshelf, but added an oil painting, a desk lamp and a hide rug.
Tell us about the black-and-white motif on the balcony.
Since I had just four weeks to finish the project, I could only work with what I could get quickly. This was a hurdle, especially regarding the outdoor furniture. Design Intervention is very proud to have been voted as the number one supplier of outdoor furniture by Expat Living readers, and I think this is because we are creative and work with a variety of materials.
Here, I simply had no time to develop the balcony the way we normally do. Space was limited, and many of our shelf items simply wouldn’t fit. In the end, compromises had to be made. I used synthetic rattan furniture on the smaller balcony, and jazzed them up with some fun cushions.
For the larger balcony, I got lucky. I found this table in a local designer shop at a significantly reduced price in the Great Singapore Sale. It was still expensive, but by compromising on the smaller balcony, it fitted into the budget. I combined it with Philip Starck-inspired ghost chairs to complete the polished, glamorous look.