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Renovating a home is no easy feat. We know. From all the planning and measuring to the buying and installing, there is a never-ending list of things to do. Throw in a budget and it all becomes a whole lot harder. We caught up with interior designer Erica Johnston, who gave us a peek inside her recently-remodeled San Francisco home and shared a few wise words of wisdom along the way. Here’s what we learned!

The brown and black color scheme was not doing this living room any favors. A modern update was in desperate need!

out with the old

Whitewashed walls made for an ideal blank slate for the decorative accents of the room. A

gallery wall

was installed above the sofa, contributing a more defining element to the decor. The frames (purchased on sale) were paired with antique maps from an old book. The outdated sofa was replaced by a more modern alternative, coupled with an eclectic assortment of chairs sourced from vintage markets.

The majority of the antique architectural prints were Etsy finds, while the brass etagere, in the left corner, was an upcycled bathroom shelving unit!

A fresh set of curtains were added, emulating the elegantly airy feel of the space.

The fireplace makeover was done sans a contractor. Johnston removed the old brass insert and painted the brick in a chic shade of charcoal gray.

The bottom section of the fireplace was trimmed with a medium-density fiberboard and store-bought molding, to lend a more defining element to the spot.

To save on the kitchen reno, the existing layout of the space was kept as is, including the framework of the cabinets.

The cabinet frames were given a fresh coat of paint and new drawers and doors were purchased, in lieu of a complete overhaul. The addition of the marble tile backsplash, complemented the bright and airy aesthetic of the room.

Tip: Since marble tiles are much less expensive than a full slab for the counters, opt for a marble backsplash instead!

lessons learned: keep the same footprint

In order to avoid spending extra money as a result of having to move the plumbing around, the footprint of the bathroom was kept exactly as it was.

lessons learned:

find the same look, for less

The decorator was in the market for metal washstand, but had trouble finding something within her price range. A little research resulted in something very similar to what she had in mind. Although it lacked a fancy marble top, the white glass top alternative ended up being a better fit for her space.

The corner layout of the shower, coupled with the worn-out gold detailing were in need of a more sleek remodel.

lessons learned:

don’t be afraid to buy online

A marble mosaic floor tile was at the top of this decorator’s wish list. While in various tile stores it came out to over $30/sq. ft., a quick sweep online resulted in a piece that was less than half the price. Confirmed by a sample ordered online, the decorator was able to go ahead with the floors of her dreams!

take advantage of leftovers

Leftover marble tiles from the shower were repurposed to create a baseboard for the bathroom. Sliced in half, sans a finished edge, it ended up looking great!

keep an eye out for closeout specials

The shower tiles were a bargain find from a store that was liquidating stock. It never hurts to ask if the store is  liquidating any stock. You never know what you will find!

The existing second bathroom inconveniently shared a space with the laundry room. Talk about close quarters!

lessons learned:

mix and match

While the bathroom hardware and fixtures all had the same finish – polished nickel – none of them happened to come from the same brand. By scouring sites such as eBay and craigslist, the decorator was able to score deals on everything from shower heads and faucets to towel bars and more! Keep an eye out for items that fit within the overall style you are in the market for. While it’s important for the hardware to complement one another, an exact match is not always mandatory.

lessons learned:

stick to the basics

Save by opting for low-grade marble subway and floor tiles – the decorator found hers at Home Depot – and take the design all the way up to the ceiling. An inexpensive, yet sturdy, iron tub was installed – something easy for the kids to get in and out of! Whatever savings were leftover from the bathroom budget was allotted for a glass folding screen for the shower, in lieu of a curtain.

bonus tip: The large window in the bathroom was covered with a cordless roman shade, found in the kids’ department of an online retailer, for a significantly more affordable price!

The existing layout and decor of the first bedroom was hardly suitable for a little girl’s space. The oversized bed and faded taupe wall paint had to go!

A more size-appropriate bed was installed, coupled with a cozy sheepskin at the base and a handful of stuffed woodland creatures and toys. A lighter wall paint provided the room with a more open feel, complementing the abundance of natural light.

Butterfly cake decorations transformed into a whimsical vignette. Paired with wired lettering, they made for a seriously pin-worthy wall decor. The gilded chair (a vintage find!) provided a clever spot to show off the little girl’s ultra cute ballet gear.

The little boy’s room had become a closet for items that didn’t work in other parts of the home, mixed in with random odds and ends.

Instead of buying a completely new bedroom set, a slight reconfiguration of the layout – plus a handful of new furnishings, such as the bright blue desk – provided the room with a new look. A fresh coat of paint uplifted the space, while a playful wallpaper instilled an accent point in the bedroom.

Upcycled toys and vintage treasures gave the room a unique look, creating one dreamy bedroom!

Discover more great before-and-after furniture makeover ideas, on a budget!