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How To Save Money At Home Without Sacrificing Style

Ever sensitive to finance, we thought we'd touch, today, upon ways in which to conserve dollars around the home. Call us "frugalistas," tight wads or simply canny Scottish gents, but be assured: wherever possible, we won't overspend.
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Home written on calculator
Home written on calculator

Who better than two frugal Scottish designers to share money saving tips whilst marrying style advice into the bargain?

In B.C. last week at The Vancouver Home And Design Show, we offered style guidance to an army of hungry homemakers with an appetite for chic, affordable home counsel. Preaching from our lecterns at the bustling event, we heard the same question over and over again: "How do I save money decorating without sacrificing style?"

Spooling visuals (where client budgets maxed), we noticed that, as much as our glossy armory tempted oohs and ahs, it was the rooms conspired on tighter budgets that attracted the bigger response.

Ever sensitive to finance, we thought we'd touch, today, upon ways in which to conserve dollars around the home. Call us "frugalistas," tight wads or simply canny Scottish gents, but be assured: wherever possible, we won't overspend.

This done, we'll swoop back into familiar territory with some furniture mini miracles which we hope will inspire you to raid your local junk shop for treasures to transform...

Get ready to save

- Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent alternatives. Okay, they're pricier, but they use around 80-per-cent less electricity than standard bulbs.

- Turn off lights. We know how easy it is to roam room-to-room leaving lamps blazing. If we're doing it, you're doing it, too. And it's costing.

- Turn off that TV before bed (instead of leaving it on standby) and do the same with your computer. Every little helps, right?

- It's also good to turn down your thermostat; even one degree will affect savings of up to 10 per cent. And your water heater? Regulate to between 49 and 51C and watch savings mount.

- Be mindful of your kettle. We only boil what we need: that way we don't waste cash or send unnecessary carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Fancy a solitary cuppa? Put a third of a litre in your boiler and prepare for a faster, cheaper brew.

- In our Glasgow home, built in 1835, we have an original overhead airer, which dries clothes quickly (working on the principal heat rises) so we rarely turn on our tumble drier. Coining it in? Aye, all the way to our tartan painted piggy bank.

- As cottagers, we've just instructed a course of draft proofing (sponge and brush seals around doors and windows) and anticipate considerable savings as Mother Nature's icy breath blows relentlessly against our cabin. We're not playing Scrooge: just being sensible. And mindful of the environment, to boot.

- If you respect water, bills will reduce. Invest in a programmable timer to take advantage of off-peak tariffs, and run dishwashers and washers (full, of course) during these periods.

- Shower, where possible, instead of bathing (to conserve around 60 per cent of the water) but remember that a power shower can dispatch the same as a bath if you stay under for more than five minutes.

- Turn off faucets as you clean your teeth. A running tap as you brush costs much more than a little on-and-off action.

- Clean surfaces with vinegar or baking soda instead of hot water and expensive products. We'd caution, though, that you dilute vinegar 50/50, as the smell can be overpowering.

- Launder clothes in cold water to save up to 40 per cent of energy versus washing in hot. If you use good quality, low-temperature detergent, results will be more than satisfactory.

- The foregoing is merely a snapshot of what you can do to cut domestic bills. For more inpsiration, go to or and prepare to start saving...

Upcycling - how to have style for less

In the meantime, enjoy a few C&J transformations: a discarded baby change station reversion, an 'edited' and recoloured display cabinet and a faux mahogany credenza .

Grown up, baby

First, we sanded the diaper changing station's gloopy varnish to smooth out imperfections. Good preparation, as always is key to a successful job.

Build up colour

Several light coats endure better than one heavy coat, so take time and build colour slowly using a foam roller to create a perfect finish and a small brush to catch intricate areas.

Heavy metal

Upholstery tacks, carefully applied, add light-catching detail and frame out sections of self-adhesive vinyl which we used to cover each door.

Glass act

Glass adds a modern feel, which protects the top surface while reflecting bottles in the same way a gantry would in a bar. A 5-mm brass rod from Home Depot, secured in place by drilling small side holes, stabilises bottles. For custom mirrors try Access Glass.


A great talking point at parties, our client's new bar now resides next to the fireplace. With the addition of botanical prints above and a harp back chair to the side, the vignette comes alive.

Shelving unit edit

Gloomy, over crowded and stuffy, the piece needed simple -- but serious -- attention.


Decades of gloopy brown varnish had overwhelmed the unit. So, reworking in the same way as before, we brandished our sandpaper and smoothed away years of abuse.


Benjamin Moore paint is of such quality it's often possible to rework without the need for specific undercoat products. As such, and using the same techniques as we did for the first project, we carefully layered on this soft mid tone grey.

Off the rails

We measured and cut nickel plated decorative rails to size and attached them on simple brackets. Easy, huh?


Look again at that crockery. Our bowl-loving client saw sense when suggested her wares could be better enjoyed in moderation. Hello -- less is more? So we grouped (less items) in simple colour stories and stashed the overflow in the basement. Now she can 'rotate' her collection on a seasonal basis to better enjoy each piece.

Clunky brown credenza

This was one of our simplest reversions ever. Cue more sandpaper, more carefully applied paint and a set of handles from Lee Valley Hardware. Jump online and prepare to be inspired: their inventory is like hardware "jewelry" and will enliven even the dustiest piece.

However you plan saving, whether cost-cutting as described at the top of our column, or upscaling as witnessed by our projects, one thing's certain: with the holidays approaching, you'll have more money to spend on festive decorations. And we'll be coming to those soon...

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