April 30, 2012

Design On a Dime

Homeowner incorporates extravagant style, on a budget


Chris Cutler is a first-time Calgary homebuyer with a lifelong passion for interior design. Cutler, a 25-year-old marketing manager with Re/Max Real Estate, has a sense of style that’s uniquely his own — and he created the look in his home without breaking the bank.

Q: How would you describe your design style?

A: I am inspired by Italian, French and Parisian designs, mixed with a diverse assortment of other worldly items. Growing up, my mother and grandmother’s homes were filled with French Provincial furniture, enormous fancy mirrors and big wing chairs. There’s something about their homes that have always stuck with me, and I wanted to bring that out in my home.

I’m really old fashioned, but the townhouse that I built has really modern aspects to it, like stainless steel, granite and modern lighting fixtures. I tried to be really creative and find those pieces to add that old-world look that I love. In a way, it’s like a mini castle — I have giant lion statues when you first walk in, and sconces of candles all up the walls. This is definitely my own personal tastes. Some people are going to look at it and go, “This is not for me.”

Q: What are the design elements you used to achieve this eclectic style?

A: I have a mild obsession with pretty and sparkly things; I purposely replaced nearly every light fixture in my home with a crystal chandelier, like the beautiful vintage-style chandelier I have hanging above a contemporary black dining room table. I’ve also refinished a 19th-century sideboard with classic crystal knobs, topped with two custom designed (and very modern) stainless steel lamps. Some worldly items I’ve added to the mix are a leather and wooden foot stool from Egypt, elephant statues from Indonesia and Buddha statues from China. And, all artwork in my home is either a landscape or photograph of different parts of the world that have inspired me, particularly from places like Italy, Greece, Paris and New York.

Q: How did you manage to create such an extravagant style without spending a fortune?

A: I’ve always believed you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a beautiful looking home. I had an idea of what I’ve always wanted, but I knew there was no way I could ever afford it. My mom and I would go shopping and find all these beautiful things for really cheap. I searched for discounts and discovered hidden secrets for accessories, so I really didn’t spend that much. And, I didn’t buy the first thing I saw — I waited to find the right piece. You can bring anyone’s sense of style into a home; you just need to do a little research to find pieces and know where to go.

Q: What is your favourite piece or element in your home?

Every light fixture has been replaced with a crystal chandelier.

A: The centrepiece of the living room is this beautiful classic fireplace mantel I found in an antique store close to downtown. I fell in love with it when I saw it, and it was the first piece that I bought for my house, and everything else I bought was kind of focused around that. It’s the most awesome part of the family room. It was in very rough condition, but with some sandpaper and a few coats of white paint, it was brought back to life. Don’t be afraid to attempt refinishing something yourself — it can get very expensive hiring someone to do it for you.

Q: What advice can you give others wanting to develop their own style?

A: I’m all for big, shiny, sparkly things, so when I was looking for stuff for my home, that’s what I went for. Just go with what you love. If you love a certain colour, try to incorporate that into your home. I love mint green — I don’t know why — so I’ll be painting my living room all mint green and I think that’ll look amazing. If you’re unsure of your own style, pick one thing you absolutely love and focus your whole project around that one thing.

Thrifty tips for decorating

  • Home accessories: Find a multitude of home accessories, such as bowls, plates, ornaments and statues, for less at stores like Winners, Home Sense and Home Outfitters.
  • Furniture: Look for closing-out sales, during which you can often get items at incredibly reduced prices.
  • Lighting: Keep an eye out for discounts, flyers and coupons for sales.

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