Contemporary Home Interiors, on a Budget

It’s a familiar scene. There are mountains of boxes; the walls are bare, and you’re eating Chinese take-out on the floor of your lovely, new home. Looking around, there is very little furniture to call your own. But you’re determined this new space will be comfortable, stylish and tell the world what you’re all about. It’s a blank slate in the best sense – it’s your first home. But, where to start?

We asked three of Habitat’s department heads for their advice on what to think about when planning a new interior; how to use pattern, colour, accessories and furniture to create soulful, modern spaces that you can be proud of. Budgets are usually stretched after a move so it’s a matter of making priorities, knowing when to invest, when to be frugal, and experimenting with bold statements until you know you’ve got it right.

Polly Dickens: Creative Director for Habitat

“Keeping your interior colour scheme simple when you first decorate will give you greater freedom in the future to be more experimental with furnishings and means that you can easily create a different feel for a room just by updating the colour of your accessories and furniture as opposed to the walls. I have always believed that a simple black and white framework creates a very contemporary, luxe feel in a room and also gives you the creative freedom to layer bright colours or patterns on top. In my own home I have white walls and painted black floorboards, which mean I can introduce bright, statement colours like oranges, greens and reds through sofas, artwork and accessories.


When it comes to accessorising, for a more chic look, keep accessories confined to a few strong groups of pieces – it’s more interesting and visually dramatic than covering surfaces with lots of small things that tend to look cluttered.

The same applies to artwork – invest in a single piece that is the largest your room can take, or, alternatively, create a tightly hung group of artworks that read visually as a single statement. Again, it’s stronger and more exciting than lots of separate pieces.”

Picture Frames

Ros Humphries: Buyer for Lighting at Habitat

Lighting is key for creating ambiance and is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to achieve a relaxed, luxurious feel in your home. For example, to create a cool, members club vibe in your lounge opt for a mixture of low level lighting, such as table lamps and side lights, which give off a more flattering glow and create a welcoming atmosphere. Similarly, installing a simple dimmer switch to your main light source will allow you to change the mood of a room for different occasions without spending too much. Incorporating metallic elements  – especially metals of the moment copper and brass – will also add a luxurious element to your room without breaking your bank balance, as these metals reflect a warm glow without being too bling.


When it comes to light bulbs, opt for filament bulbs, or halogen for extra sparkle, especially with glass lighting. For an inexpensive quick fix, add a luxe shade to your ceiling fitting in real silk or soft metallic fabric finish.


My final tip is to use table lamps on reflective surfaces such as a glass, polished wood or lacquer. You can find some really stylish, affordable styles out there and they always give a luxe look when perched on reflective surfaces due to the added sparkle and warmth.

Eleanor Davies: Buyer for Furniture at Habitat

When furnishing your first home, investing in multi-function products that you can use as circumstances change is a really important consideration. If you’ve moved into a one bed flat, for example, probably one of the most useful investment buys is a sofa bed.


A sofa bed is two essential pieces of furniture rolled into one: a sofa with a foldout bed tidily tucked beneath its seat cushions, saving you a lot of space and essentially turning your sitting room into a second bedroom. It’s a dependable piece of furniture that allows you to put up relatives, unexpected overnighters, and party stragglers.

If space is at a premium, there are a huge range of space saving options now available from folding dining tables and folding chairs from £10 that will always be useful whenever you have extra guests round, and can then be stored away.


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