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Adding Personality and Impact on a Budget

A few months ago I started working with a couple that had been living in a new construction townhouse for approximately two years. Although they had started furnishing their home, they had an appreciation for several conflicting styles and needed help identifying their unique aesthetic as a couple. Despite best efforts, progress had come to a stand still, so they asked for my help ensuring their home reflected their personalities but also flowed from one room to the next. Due to a few other priorities like landscaping, travel plans etc., funds were limited despite a fairly long wish list and a ton of potential in the all white, builders grade home.

Although we knew we wouldn’t be able to tackle everything at once, I helped them prioritize to ensure the biggest initial impact and the proper building blocks that could be added to over time. In the end, there were three main areas we focused on to add personality and impact on a budget:


Everyone is familiar with the chalky white paint builders love to use in new homes. It marks easily, shows every little imperfection and never looks glossy or finished like a fresh coat. Depending on the size and complexity of your home, paint is a relatively inexpensive way to add colour and texture to your space. You can play with bold accent walls, a high gloss or matte finish and if you don’t like it, it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to change -- especially if you’re doing the work yourself. Although I love to paint, I usually leverage one of my preferred partners to ensure an efficient but also high quality finish. You do pay more for the labour than the paint itself but it’s typically worth your time and effort with the added bonus of a professional doing the work.



The original backsplash was meant to go with a completely different granite countertop. It was busy, the wrong colour, poorly installed and the homeowners had tolerated it for long enough! No matter what else we tackled in the kitchen, we knew we had to change the unsightly backsplash. By leveraging my connections in contracting and discount tile worlds, we managed to install a natural marble subway tile for less than half what we would have paid full price. We then accented the tile with a darker, charcoal grout that helped tie together grey tones in the granite countertop we knew we didn’t have enough funds to replace. The grout also helped give more of an industrial feel to the kitchen and was a wonderful way to add personality, style and contrast given its low price regardless of colour, especially if you’re willing to take a bit of a risk.

The builder’s grade kitchen island from the original design was a lot like others in new construction homes and condos – way too small in size and scale given the space. The existing kitchen doors surrounding the island were in good shape so we decided to keep those and contrast them with darker IKEA cabinets as the base of the new, much larger island centerpiece. By saving money on the cabinets we were able to splurge on a beautiful, live edge countertop from Urban Tree Salvage in Toronto. The end result is both practical and unique. It adds a natural element to the otherwise industrial space while the warmth and character from the wood cannot be beat!



Another huge improvement involved replacing builder’s grade lighting in the entrance and kitchen to affordable, yet stylish fixtures. Having saved money painting the home, we were able to splurge on a beautiful high impact light fixture for the living room and dining room. Although still awaiting its arrival, we took advantage of our electrician’s time by having him move the poorly placed fixture to the perfect spot so it’s ready for installation as soon as it arrives.

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As with all my clients, I’m a firm believer in doing things over time to ensure they’re done right! There’s nothing wrong with keeping to a budget and taking your time so you love every element. After all, nothing beats the awe-inspiring feeling of “I’m home” upon entering your space.

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