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Heaven knows we have all heard about champagne taste on a beer budget when watching home shows and DIY programs. Unfortunately, they never really show you the A-List Life on a C-List budget. Usually they show some “nice” room that costs around $20,000 and recreate it for $1500. Give me a break. The reality is I want real A-List inspiration, high-end inspiring decoration ideas. I want to see the room that is worth upwards of $100,000 and more. I want to see A-List designers and what they create. Then, I want to see, not a copy, but how I can incorporate elegant touches that speak to the aesthetic that will cost much less. Did I just sound like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka? Anyway, I suppose I want it and I want it now.
My desire is to show you examples of A-List designers to try and emulate. It’s much more fun to think you have one-upped the designers who don’t take on clients unless you have a minimum of six-figures per room. Let’s start with Kelly Wearstler. She is mod, glamorous and puts together some of the most hip and current rooms around. The room you see is totally eclectic and includes everything from a French mirror to mid-century furniture in bold colors from blue and raspberry to gold and brass. The point is to study the arrangements and see how you could recreate this. So much of what you see could be found at flea markets and charity shops. Keep in mind unifying elements such as the yellow. Notice how she uses pops of bold yellow on the chairs, pillows and yellow lamps?
Look at this Robert Abbey table lamp gem for roughly $172. It’s a great jumping off point to saving thousands.
Michael S. Smith is another hot and pricey designer. His rooms are for the manor born and cost princely sums to match. His look is very traditional but mixed with exotic touches. Let’s say you have traditional taste-try to find a balance with imported Asian touches. But, that doesn’t mean going to find cheap imports. You need to be selective. Smith does it masterfully here with a rough hewn basket for firewood which would not cost you much and the almost Spanish-Style chandelier in a rather English designed room. While that is probably an antique, you can score a similar Spanish Inspired Chandelier for under $400.
Don’t get me started with the Prince of Chintz! Mario Buatta is so A-List. OK, yes, he is a touch granny in his approach to rooms, but if you read my posts I am a fan of the preppy room. Don’t force me to post pictures of me wearing Lilly Pulitzer “back in the day.” In order to recreate a Buatta room you must think about sunny floral fabrics, a few french style chairs and a few other tricks. Wink Wink. There are a few elements that make the room pop and draws your attention. The elegant Venetian mirror and bold topiary.
For under $200 you can add a dose of Mario Buatta style in your own home.
Both Mary McDonald and Charlotte Moss are high-end designers with fancy clients. Don’t even think about calling them up unless your idea of a bargain is a priceless Ming vase for around $250,000. While that may be a touch steep and entirely not true, they are not inexpensive and for good reason. Their rooms are timeless, filled with quality and grace, and are always homey. McDonald tends to go a touch more bold, whereas Moss is toujour the lady. Both, as you can see, have used classic blue and white ginger jars as decorative elements.
Moss in repose.
Tell yourself that you are worth as many ginger jars that you can fit in your car. Especially because this beauty is less than $100.
Looking at a Victoria Hagan room is like taking a vacation to a spa. I already feel more relaxed, and you? Hagan is a genius when it comes to a soothing palette. Her rooms are simple but elegant. When thinking about your design goals, study the masters, see what you like, and see what they use as focal points or points of interest along the journey that is “the room.” In this case, you can easily find neutral sofas for less, but think about the sconces on either side of the fireplace. Heaven knows they are probably custom with a lead time of 12 weeks and astronomical in price. A little investigation can lead to something like this sconce below.
This simple, modern sconce echo the pair in Hagan’s room but is only $117. For me, and I hope for you, a design journey to find an A-List look for less is more about studying the elements that make up an A-List room and slowly trying to recreate it in a way you love and at a price you can afford.
Photos courtesy of elledecor.com, myendlessinspiration.blogspot.com, theregencyfurniture.com, thefiftybest.com, inspirationline.blogspot.com.
Rob is a Los Angeles-based designer who has a background in art history and was an expert at Sotheby's auction house. Formerly the host of "Inside The Auction" for the Fine Living Network, speaker for The Learning Annex and contributing editor for Valley Magazine and LA Bride Magazine, he has spent years bridging the gap between the world of design and the general public.
His design sensibilities are varied and can work in both traditional and contemporary styles. His interiors have most recently been published in Renovation Style Magazine.