Something inconceivable yet extraordinary happened this weekend. I read a book (well I am half way through, it's Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and I can already feel it's going to change my life), and THREE ENTIRE interiors magazines, COVER TO COVER... And I don't mean, flicking through the pretty images in a rush, I mean reading every article, making notes, checking every shopping list, caption, source, even the classifieds furniture ads at the end for crying out loud. Why is this such an accomplishment I hear you ask? The answer is very simple: I am the lucky owner of a very cute yet slightly relentless 22-month old little person called Stella and for the second time in her life, she stayed with her grandmother for a whole 48 hours while yours truly and Mr Stella + the Stars spent two days of uninterrupted chillaxing time in the Cotswolds (full report on this will be on Le Blog in a few weeks by the way).
It was so glorious, I struggle to find the words to describe the feeling. It made me realise how quickly one can forget what it feels like to spend a whole weekend worrying about yourself and yourself only rather than being the official (unpaid) slave (I mean, nurturing parent of course) to another human being who can't even say Merci yet. The scenario usually goes like this: interiors magazine gets bought with great excitement (or pointless optimism, you decide), two pages get read (usually the adverts, table of contents and editor's letter), said toddler has tantrum, magazine copy gets dumped on coffee table and remains there for the following five weeks until replaced with the next issue of said magazine.
This weekend, I read the whole of the September issue of Elle Decoration. Yes, every single one of the 211 pages. And it felt wonderful, not just for the reasons stated above but also because it's the most refreshing read I have had for absolute ages. I usually read Elle Decoration for inspiration purposes only rather than shopping ideas as most of the beautiful things featured in its pages are more often than not totally out of my (or anyone's) budget. However, this month they've gone all affordable on me with a special High Street issue [insert massive Hallelujah/Praise Hands Emoji here].
This made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside as I have been banging on about the issue of 'style versus affordability' and accessible design for all for a while (you know the Stella + the Stella motto: helping you make your home look unique, no matter how deep your pockets are) so it's nice to find an established high end publication like Elle Deco recognises (and promotes!) that you can find stunning design for your home on the high street (and even in supermarkets, for that matter. Yes Sainsbugs' home collection even gets a bloody mention!). It's all about being open minded about where you shop while remaining original and true to your style... Great design is now available to the masses and no longer confined to places only a small elite has access to. You just have to be smart about how you shop basically.
So what does smart shopping mean then? I have put together 5 easy tips to decorate your home on a budget without compromising on style...
1. Mix and match
Smart shopping for your home decor is exactly the same as smart shopping for your wardrobe. No one outside a Milan Fashion Week catwalk show parades around town wearing Prada head-to-toes. Although part of me loves the idea if it was a remote possibility... What most people with an average budget do is invest in a handful of designer pieces (or at least slightly more expensive) - for me this usually means: handbag, sunglasses and coat) and mix them with budget pieces (I buy most of my tops and skirts from Zara and H&M). I apply the exact same principles in interior styling. I own a few key higher end pieces (artwork, statement lamps, and an armchair for example) but I cleverly accessorise them with high street buys (coffee table from Made.com, cushions from H&M Home, throws from IKEA, vases from Habitat, etc. You get the gist). This creates an eclectic look that doesn't seem forced or overdone and when you get bored all you have to do is buy new (affordable!) accessories!
2. Don't be a snob
Let's be clear, if I had unlimited budget, I would definitely own a vintage Beni Ourain rug, one or two original Serge Mouille lamps, probably the entire sofa range from Ligne Roset, a couple of Jean Prouvé 'Cité' armchairs, I would most certainly ask Tom Dixon to redesign my lounge and kitchen, and would probably also have a few Kensington Church Street antique shops on speed dial to help me source a bunch of rare 18th Century golden carved mirrors, just because... You know, the holy grail of finding that perfect piece that has an incredible story behind it. Or that is so vintage the patina on it is impossible to recreate naturally.... Well, back to reality, peeps. A minority of human beings have the funds to kit out their home floor to ceiling in design pieces, and very few of us have not just the budget, but also the time and inclination to spend months on ebay and in antique fairs to source the perfect midcentury modern piece to complete the look of our dining room. So why not check out our snobbery at the door, and head to the nearest Tesco Home and get that pretty copper desk lamp for £15 instead of crying over the fact you can't afford to get the Phillippe Starck Bourgie one...
3. Get on the high street collab bandwagon
If you've always dreamed of owning a designer piece but your budget will not stretch to allow you to fulfil that crazy dream, then keep an eye on the upcoming designer/high street collaborations. The most recent and interesting one is the new collection designed by Ilse Crawford (one of the most clever designers in the UK and incidentally the founding editor of Elle Decoration) for Ikea... Made entirely of natural and sustainable materials, it was one of the most anticipated collections on the high street this year. And thanks to the collab with Ikea, you could basically own an Ilse Crawford-designed cork table for a modest £250 (if you are quick! they're selling like hot cakes) while an original one from Studio Ilse would probably set you back around 10 times that. Abigail Ahern went down that clever route years ago with her exclusive range for Debenhams. And if you're a sucker for midcentury modern furniture but don't have the wallet to quench your addiction or the time to spend your nights on eBay, you might be interested to know Ercol and Marks and Spencer have teamed up for a a couple of exclusive furniture ranges. We're talking about Ercol 6-seater dining tables under £500 here...
4. Shop around
This one goes hand in hand with my point about leaving your snobbery at the door. Never thought you'd buy a table let alone a stylish one from M&S? Get with the programme! Shopping in shops you used to see as slightly old school or even totally incongruous is now the best way to find gems that will make your home look like a million dollars without actually spend a million dollars. Brands are fighting hard to get the attention of savvy customers and you'll be surprised at the fantastic offering from shops you may once have regarded as mortification-inducing places. Thinking about treating yourself to that brass side table from West Elm? Have a quick look at Zara Home before hitting the checkout button. Eyeing a plush velvet sofa from John Lewis? Have a quick snoop around DFS for an unexpected bargain. Missed the boat on that gorgeous leather armchair from Swoon Editions? Have a look at the new collection from French Connection Home. You'll be surprised!
5. Consider quality replicas
I am aware that this is a controversial subject but I am going to risk upsetting the intellectual property gods and go for it. As I said, if money was not remotely a criteria in the decision making process of decorating my home, there are so many classic designs that I would be desperate to call mine and dot around my pad. A little Florence Knoll armchair here, an Arne Jacobsen floor lamp there, an Eames lounging chair for good measure... Oh and a Hans Wegner chair never hurt anyone... That is probably unlikely to happen if I wanted to get original versions of these designs. Don't get me wrong I am certainly not promoting buying cheap knockouts of these beautiful creations either. However, there is a handful of shops that are bridging the gap between those two worlds. One of them is Voga. Their ethos are spot on, and they have a fantastic selection of furniture inspired by classic timeless designs, at affordable prices. By removing resellers, not having expensive showrooms and working with trusted manufacturers and materials, Voga's mission is to make these classic designs available and affordable once again. I love their style. And it means I have been the proud owner of a high quality replica of one of my favourite designs of all times, the Charles Eames Lounge 670 chair in white, for a fraction of the price (which is normally over £4k...). Sue me...
Happy smart shopping (on the High Street obvs!).
PS: In totally unrelated news, Stella + the Stars has been nominated in the Amara Interior Blog Awards in the Best Newcomer category (massive YAY). If you're a fan of Le Blog, and have 16 seconds to spare, please pretty please, vote for us so we can make it to the shortlist and attend the fancy pants awards ceremony (which happens to take place at one of my fave places in London Town: the Ham Yard Hotel, designed by interiors genius Kit Kemp...) CLICK HERE TO VOTE and thank you!