By now, I’m sure you’ve seen enough blog posts and social media shots to know that I love happy patterns, vibrant colors, and stuff that makes me seem fancy (even though I’m really not all that fancy – and neither is my budget). So, naturally, when the time came for Dan and I to move, the thing I was MOST excited about was further cultivating my personal design style by buying tons of new stuff. .

I’ve actually enlisted my fashion stylist (and one of my favorite people), Tiffany Pinero, who also happens to be an atmosphere stylist (win-win, right?!) – to help me transform our blank slate apartment into my dream home design. Here’s how we got it done:

Tip 1: Get Rid of Stuff (Better Yet, Sell It!) – Start backwards (trust me, its easier) and identify the great pieces you already have and know you will want to keepNext, be honest with yourself about items you know you won’t want! We chose to sell some of our stuff that we’d either grown tired of (wasn’t feeling the impractical modern furniture anymore) or grown out of (futon be-gone!) and listed a lot of it on OfferUp/LetGo/Craigslist. We found OfferUp to be the most successful – but you may find a Facebook Online Garage Sale works better in your area. Keep in mind you will need to lower your expectations of what your items should sell for. Something that’s worth $100 to you will most likely be worth $40 to someone else (I learned that lesson many times over).

Tip 2: Prioritize Rooms And Objects By Need – Just because you have a design plan doesn’t mean you have to execute it all at once. For instance, our old couch was toast and we needed to purchase a new one, so this is where we decided to spend the bulk of our design and décor dollars. The second bedroom will eventually be for a baby – but that’s not on the immediate horizon, so that room is not a priority right now. The kitchen was mostly ok, except for the cabinets, which required – in my opinion – an immediate design intervention. However, being that we don’t own the place, we changed them from dark to light finish with some amazing peel and stick vinyl covers we found on Amazon for $10 a roll. I don’t want to even imagine what the cost of replacing them would have been. Whew!

Tip 3: Find Images/Pieces/Places That Inspire You – This is when you shop with your eyes and not your wallet. My favorite design inspiration sites have been,,, and I collected a whole bunch of images of objects, rooms and even fabric swatches and sent them off to Tiffany with little notes like, “wouldn’t this be great in the bedroom?” or “these are my dream bathroom colors!” Take a look at how she translated these into full-fledged designs. Now since I’m hogging Tiffany all for myself, keep this in mind – Design with your dream budget. Shop with your real budget! Once you have put together your inspiration, start shopping estate sales, garage sales or swap meets if you have access to them – in fact, you might find amazing bargains on breathtaking treasures. The same is true of consignment shops and Goodwill. And, never for a minute discount the awesomeness that is T.J. Maxx or HomeGoods (Almost all of my new accessories were purchased at one of the 3 HomeGoods in my area). Once you have a design direction – those objects and color swatches and room inspiration photos you saved will merely guide your selections. Plus, if you make thrifty decisions 80% of the time, that potentially leaves a lot of money on the table for those investment pieces with cringe-worthy price tags.

So… now that I’ve been talking about it for weeks, are you ready for the big reveal? Keep your eyes on my Instagram (@JustineSantaniello) to see each room transform and take shape.


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