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House Doctor: How to get high-end looks on a budget

PICTURE: ELAYNE BARRE

We’re on a tight budget it in our first home — should we stay safe with neutral walls?

Always test colours, as they can appear differently when applied to a large surface. If your room stays dark for most of the day, it’s better to choose a lighter colour. If your space feels gloomy, you can make a bold decision and go with a pastel yellow or green to permanently brighten it up. The B&Q Colours Premium matt emulsion paint gives good results — try Summer or Sea Green, (£16 for 2.5L, diy.com). For a sophisticated atmosphere, navy blue or emerald green can be a good choice. You can also have the paint mixed at your local Leyland — it is easy to match colours, even from a picture. Do your homework and aim high.

What’s the cheapest and most stylish way to dress windows?

The high street gives you ample options in terms of ready-made curtains, and brands such as Ikea, Dunelm or even B&Q offer great choice without putting a massive dent in your wallet. Curtains can be cheaply adjusted, so it’s better to buy longer and have them taken up at the local dry cleaners. Steer away from the obviously Nordic patterns in Ikea — they don’t seem to look right in the UK. I prefer plain curtains with a slight texture on the fabric, such as Sanela (pictured below, £39 a pair) or Hilja (£12 a pair).

Another good trick is to buy curtain accessories such as tie backs, ropes, hooks and curtain rings at higher-end shops such as Laura Ashley or John Lewis and mix them with a cheaper curtain. Consider pelmets, too, you can buy an extra curtain and use the fabric to upholster a DIY-made pelmet — easy, yet creates a fantastic feature and high-end look.

Always invest in a good curtain pole as cheap ones break easily and avoid polished chrome or gold finishes as they show dirt and fingerprints; go for satin chrome or nickel instead.

Have you seen any good shower curtains on the high street?

I always recommend a fabric shower curtain as the plastic curtains are impossible to clean once they get covered with soap and shampoo. Buy two, so you always have one spare when you need to wash the other one. Don’t be afraid to go for colour, though – a bold yellow will brighten up your morning, or if there is already a lot of pattern or colour in the bathroom, white or light grey will work well.

What colour and material should I pick for a stair carpet?

Go for a wool-rich product. Wool gives carpet longevity and natural colour, while the added synthetic fibre will help it to be stain-proof. And buy a loop carpet as it will look pristine for longer. Move away from beige and brown and choose taupe greys for a more contemporary look. John Lewis does surprisingly cost-effective, mid-range carpets such as the Yarmouth (50 per cent wool, 50 per cent polypropylene, £12 per sq m) and the 100 per cent wool Brockway Lakeland Herdwick loop carpet (£33 per sq m). For a high-end look, add iron-on borders to the carpet and fit away from the edges of the stairs so it becomes a runner.

I would love a pink velvet sofa and have £500 to spend — is this possible?

Limited budgets can often open up a world of opportunities. If you scan through online selling apps such as Gumtree, Shpock or eBay, sooner or later, you will find exactly what you are looking for, even a pale pink velvet sofa! Go on AnyVan to get an affordable delivery and installation cost and enjoy your near-new furniture for a fraction of the price. Your local British Heart Foundation furniture shop is also a good starting point if you are in search of a larger piece. For a new sofa, larger TK Maxx stores have good-quality furniture, often in bold colours and shapes. Or else try a scattering of pink cushions: I like H&M Home but the colours can be limited, so it’s worth visiting every time they change a collection.

Marek Schubert is founder of interior design practice Studio Schubert, studioschubert.com