Time and Research.
They are your two biggest resource tools. You have to be patient and you have to work to find the best deal. The bathroom and kitchen cabinets were purchased for a ridiculously low price from Costco Home which is going out of business. Don't think for one minute that this was sub par material. They were top of the line cabinets. You can often find great cabinets very inexpensively at Habitat for Humanity thrift shops, Goodwill, Craiglist, Ebay and if they are discontinuing a style, the big box stores will discount deeply.
The biggest portion of the budget was spent on prepping and beautifying the space. One of my design "rules" is to never put a pretty band aid on a gaping wound. You need to begin with a clean fresh space to ensure that the end results will shine. The cost for the flooring, scraping the popcorn ceiling, cabinets, appliances, painting and lighting came out of the budget first. My best advice is to ask for a discount if you are buying a large amount of anything. You most often will get it.
The next biggest piece of the budget was furniture. Again, I selected furnishings that were well made and would hold up over a long period of time with extreme use. Because this is a commercial space all of the furniture and its upholstery had to meet U.S. flammability standards. It is costly to treat fabric to meet the standards and that is why the fabric is often more expensive. Since I was buying numerous pieces I asked for and received discounts on my purchases. In addition, I waited until Memorial Day weekend to order the furniture. Stores typically run sales and specials during holidays. By waiting, I received additional bonuses such as deeper discounts and free delivery. Timing is everything!
Resusing existing pieces. How I differ from some other designers is that I will reuse existing pieces if they are in good condition (or can be salvaged) and will work well in the space. This of course often results in the piece getting a makeover via paint, upholstery or just thinking outside the box and coming up with a new way to use it.
Case in point: The artwork that I found originally in the clubhouse was all modern in feel. Many of the pieces were signed works.
Because the styling was timeless, the color palette worked and the paintings themselves were in good condition it made sense to use the art in the new space thereby saving us a substantial bit of money.
We also saved money by repainting the glass table bases.
With all the key elements in place we were left with a $200 budget for accessories~ for a 4,000 square foot space. Yeah, I know! Even Homegoods isn't even that good. This was going to take some really creative thinking. My associate Arlynn found this vase at a garage sale for 25 cents. It came with a few flowering branches. But there was one problem with the bottom of the vase.
I took a piece of 35 cent felt and glued it to the bottom.
I then added a small piece of foam to the inside and added a few twigs to the yellow branches which resulted in a pretty arrangement that cost less than $1.00.
As with all redesigns, when I am getting inexpensively creative I always ask the homeowner or in this case, the board of directors, if they are ok if the space is decorated with flea market finds and such. Some people are not sure until they see the end result. I understand as they want to make sure it looks good. But seeing is always believing.
Here is an example of two metal plant holders that were found in a box at a garage sale. Price? Free. I peeled off the bottom labels then sanded and cleaned the surfaces. It didn't really matter what my base coat was since I was just trying to bring them into the same color family. I took a can of burgundy spray paint that I had on hand and thought I would never use. But, it was perfect for this job. I finished the last coat with a lovely metallic bronze and no one was the wiser.
These topiaries were also in a free box. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Yep, we just need a hot glue gun and some moss.