Fiona Campbell DesignerThis week, we are delighted to feature some top tips from Fiona Campbell, who has been decorating some of our most beautiful homes for the past 50 years, and agreed to share her early inspiration for decorating on a budget.

“My lucky break came with a 4 room flat that I shared with a friend of mine and did up on a shoe-string, using other people’s throw outs including, a large wing chair that I picked up, bussed home and re-upholstered.  We painted the flat ourselves and continued to look around for anything we needed at no cost.   My parents provided the curtain and upholstery material.  We ended up with a truly lovely place to live in, that a journalist friend of ours asked if she could feature in House Beautiful Magazine.

Things moved on with a request for me to decorate a number of flats in Lowndes Square, London, for which I made all the soft furnishings. Years later it occurred to me that the expression ‘fools step in where angels fear to tread’ certainly applied to me, but again luck was on my side, word went round and the work kept piling in.

The rest is history, and we have moved out of the ‘something for nothing’ beginning, into the realms of people who really can afford exactly what they would like at realistic prices, who give us opportunities to be creative and maximise the use of our highly skilled artisans, especially for lavish curtains in grand spaces.

Decorating Cleverly on a Budget – My Top 5 Tips:

  1. Inexpensive wood furniture is easily available online or at auction and can be upcycled and transformed by painting.  You can customise furniture further by changing the handles, easily updating the look.
  2. Obtain furniture that serves two if not three purposes, e.g. an ottoman for storage, extra seating and a coffee table, with a tray on top.
  3. Roman shades and roller blinds with added detail can be quite a feature and are less expensive as window treatments requiring less fabric. Plain woven curtains with a narrow pinch pleat can also be made using minimal fabric, these look especially lovely with a trim down the leading edge.
  4. Find interesting and inexpensive wall hangings, pictures, accessories or rugs as a focus that can be echoed in cushion choices, bringing a splash of colour to the room.
  5. Instead of wallpapering the whole room, use wallpaper on a feature wall to create interest.  This saves money and you can then match a paint colour for the rest of the room.  If you have adjoining rooms, use the same or a coordinating wallpaper in both spaces, to create a natural flow.

From palatial homes to small spaces with often no room for curtains, I would say in every case, it is flare and style, never money that wins through.”

Irish Country House - Fiona Campbell