The best thing you can do when designing on a dime? Be patient

Get creative with light fixtures and found materials. PHOTOS: Christine Roberts

Designing and decorating your space does not need to break the budget. With a little bit of time and patience, you can have the look you want at a reasonable price.

Right now, most of the hot looks are still vintage-inspired. So why not take advantage of that and source out authentic vintage pieces for your home? It may take longer than buying one of the reproduced versions that are in all of the stores now, but you will almost always pay less and get a better product.

When sourcing vintage, use the tools at your disposal. You can browse some of the many great online sites and shops, as well as visit your local flea markets, second hand and vintage shops in person. Get to know the owners, let them know what you are looking for and they will often help you with your hunt. The people who own these shops are usually small business owners who will give you great customer service and attention and know their products really well. (If you contact us at the Leslieville Flea, we will try to help you source what you need from our over 100 vendors on the roster)

Before you start looking, make a list of what you want and need in order to furnish or refresh and update your home. Here are some trends to help you get started.

Combine vintage and new fixtures and materials to create a stand-out centrepiece.

While the vintage look is going strong, it’s been updated with more drama and polished sparkle. Think: shiny metals with warmth, like brass and copper, and lots of texture all around in materials like brick, concrete, and rough wood.

Navy blue and dark jewel tones are still popular for paint colours and work well as an accent on feature walls. Paint the back of built-ins or the wall behind shelving for high impact — objects on shelves will pop. You can also paint just one piece of furniture in this colour for some drama in any room.

Design and decor are still leaning towards mid-century modern, along with industrial vintage. Globally-inspired design is also very popular and a great way to showcase your style by using items you’ve found in your travels, or pieces from places you would love to visit.

Primarily, people want to customize their spaces to make them unique and to stand out. With so many owning similar style homes or condos, it’s nice to be able to put your own stamp on your spaces without having to spend too much.

Some great ways to create an impact without affecting budget is by using existing materials in a new way. Something I’ve seen in both Montreal cafes and the newly renovated Broadview Hotel is the staggering of tile and wood flooring. It doesn’t cost much extra to merge the different flooring in a unique way, but the result has an eye catching appeal.

The staggering of tile and wood flooring doesn’t cost much more, but looks extra special.

Giant light fixtures are really hot right now. Oversized shades with perforations create impact and intricate light patterns when illuminated. Try sourcing something different to use as the shade and pair it with a pre-wired lamp kit you can find readily available at most building supply stores. A vintage shade, large basket, or industrial lamp housing can be easily retrofitted to make a fantastic light that will be a conversation piece.

Some must-have items in any home, especially our smaller homes, are those that do double duty. Bar carts look amazing and are also super practical. Trunks used as side tables or coffee tables provide tidy storage and a practical surface.

Using reclaimed materials in a new way is also a great idea. Old windows pieced together make unique privacy walls or cabinet doors. Hanging a collection of metal or wood crates, baskets or containers on the wall provides instant shelving cubbies with great visual impact. Vintage, metal first aid kits hung on walls allow for additional bathroom storage – and they look smart, too.

Industrial metal pipe shelving is still going strong, but maybe try using copper (or even brass) piping instead for a less industrial and more polished look.

If you are redoing a kitchen, use the prefab shells from Ikea or building supply stores and then customize by adding vintage hardware. Make your kitchen island a true centerpiece by building the base from prefab units and then cladding it with old doors. It will look custom designed without the high price tag.

Instead of tiling a wall, use a stencil to paint a tiled wall. Encaustic look tiles are having a moment right now, adding an artistic touch to feature walls. I would do above a fireplace, on an entry wall or in a powder room.

Above all, get creative and take some time to really look for the right pieces that will help you achieve your own look.

Christine Roberts, BAAID, is an interior designer, stylist, avid vintage collector, and co-founder of the Leslieville Flea. She makes furniture and home accessories of reclaimed materials. Find more at or




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