Published on April 1, 2019

In the process of putting together her kaleidoscopic south London home, Robyn Donaldson did a lot of scrolling. The maximalist space is the result of countless eBay purchases, all of which work together to create an especially vibrant environment. To get to this point, though, plenty of careful planning was required.

While living with her in-laws, Donaldson was able to collect larger pieces “proactively rather than reactively,” giving her the time to discover, say, the perfect circular kitchen table with a matching set of velvet-backed chairs or a room-grounding piece of art, at a price that fell in line with her budget. For her, the best kind of space is one that’s curated with plenty of love, care, and memories.

“I wanted my home to feel like an adventure, for every little thing to have a story behind it, and for it to be eclectic but tactile and homely,” she says. “It’s filled with heirlooms, things we’ve picked up on our travels, amazing bits and bobs we’ve been gifted by our friends, and other things we just straight-up think are beautiful.”

Of course, for some, the prospect of designing a house bid by bid might be a little intimidating, but the results here are compelling enough to give it a try. Here are seven design lessons we’re taking away from this rainbow-hued home.

Make a plan

imagePin It
photography by kevin lake

This maximalist space is a prime example of organized chaos—organized being the operative word. “I physically sketch out the space to see which big pieces will fit well where, and then I work backward, adding in the smaller details,” says Donaldson. “I have a list of things to buy. Once I know what I want, I break down the budget in an excel spreadsheet, and then allocate the maximum price for everything.”

Budgeting and planning help save you space and money in the long run, so if you do happen to unexpectedly stumble upon an incredible (pricier) gem, you have the means to accommodate it.

But leave some room for change

imagePin It
photography by kevin lake

Not everything will go according to plan, especially if you’re ordering from eBay. “The sofa you ordered might be a slightly different shade than you thought or the cushions might be a different color than expected,” Donaldson says. “I didn’t originally want a yellow velvet sofa, but when I saw it (and it was £200), I knew I had to have it—even though that meant reimagining a lot of my decor.” The things you love most in your home might be the ones that you never expected.

Go vague on your search terms for the best deals

imagePin It
photography by kevin lake

Here’s a secret to scouring eBay: Sometimes as little detail as possible yields the best results. “I try to use really vague terms and search through the thousands of results because there’s so much more chance of grabbing a bargain that way,” Donaldson explains. “For example, if you search ‘vintage blue mid-century chair,’ you’ll find something beautiful, but chances are that the person selling will have a business dealing in that kind of furniture and will charge accordingly. Someone might have the exact same chair that was their mom’s and all they’ll know to put is ‘blue chair.’ Put in the time to get the rewards.”

Look beyond the price tag

imagePin It
photography by kevin lake

When budget is a priority, be careful not to forget about additional costs, like framing images or getting that massive sofa into your walk-up apartment. “I also always remember to factor in shipping costs, as they can be substantial, and I’m never shy about messaging a seller to make a cheeky offer.”

Map out gallery walls

imagePin It
photography by kevin lake

Just as you’d map out where to situate your furniture, do the same for your wall art, especially if you’re going for a gallery wall. “I get to the point where I have, say, three things in one style. I hang them by eye, making sure they have a nice top line,” Donaldson says. “Then they usually spread out pretty easily if as I pick up new things. If I have a lot to hang, I’ll lay everything out on the floor, work out what looks good where, starting with the biggest thing and working my way out. I’ll draw around the pieces to make brown paper cutouts, and transfer the pattern to the wall to check that it works.”

Diffuse over-the-top colors with extra decorations

imagePin It
photography by kevin lake

If you think you might have overdone things with an extra-bold wall color, that might not necessarily be the case. “The light in your home will dictate everything, so make sure you’ve seen everything in-situ before committing,” Donaldson notes. “Know that when you add art to a big, colorful wall, it’ll diffuse the color. My dining room was so green, but when we put the vintage travel posters on the wall, it made sense immediately.”

Consider your allover style

imagePin It
photography by kevin lake

Reconsidering the style of your home? Look to your wardrobe for inspiration. “Look at what you wear. If you like florals on your person, chances are you’ll like them in the home. Geometrics got you hot when you’re hitting the shops? Try it as a wallpaper,” Donaldson advises. “Just go crazy with it. It’s your home, and at the end of the day, the only person who has to dig it is you.”

See more inspiring homes:
This Interior Designer Throws Parties for 80 People in His 480-Square-Foot Studio

This Philly Home Takes Gallery Walls to an Unparalleled Level
A Palm Springs Home Restored to Its Vintage Glory Days

Discussion