Ever hear the phrase “champagne taste on a beer budget”? Most of us hunting for home design ideas fall in love with… well, let’s call them decidedly out-of-range ideas. This goes doubly if you’re flipping a home or preparing it for rental. Pouring money into champagne-taste designs for those projects is, ultimately, wasted. But why not take ideas from expensive designs and incorporate them into your median-price projects?
Here’s where to find inspiration—and how to implement those ideas.
Where to Find Home Decor Inspiration
Not sure where to start looking? You know you want your property to look awesome and on-trend, but not all of us are blessed with a designer’s eye. Here’s where to gather inspiration ideas to decorate your picture-perfect home.
It’s important to clarify the difference when styling a home you live in versus styling a home you’re renting out or staging post-flip. If you plan on living in the home—whether you’re house-hacking or just settling into your forever home—it’s important to keep your personal tastes in mind. Not a fan of barn doors? No big deal. Ditch them.
But if you’re staging a home to sell or creating an advertisement for renters, your tastes matter less. Sorry. You might think hot-red walls look stunning, but most buyers don’t. If you’re not the end client, pay careful attention to the home design ideas trending in your real estate market.
We’ve found six places to find (free!) home decor inspiration—regardless of whether you’re prepping to flip or just outfitting your own pad.
I’m not shy. I’m a 37-year-old red blooded American man, and I have a Pinterest account. It’s pretty amazing for home design ideas—because it’s like eavesdropping on what everyone really wants to see in a house. It’s a fantastic way to put your finger on today’s interior design pulse. Is wallpaper back in style? (Fun surprise: Yes!) What type of sofas are on trend? Whether you’re searching console tables or picture frames, you can quickly get a sense of the national trends.
Since Pinterest is image-based, just start browsing design and home décor ideas. I start pinning designs I like to my “Step Up Your Design Game” board that I share with my wife. We’ve collected enough ideas for the next 100 projects—at least.
It’s also great for brainstorming home design problems. Let’s say you’ve got a massive brick wall in your kitchen. That’s great—but how do you instill a sense of balance with the existing busy backsplash the previous owners installed? Pinterest can help you come up with the right solutions.
Like Pinterest, Houzz is image-based. But instead of an endless feed of user-generated content, Houzz lets contractors and home builders showcasing their awesome designs. Many times, you can even buy the individual pieces, paint colors, and fixtures. Like a rug? No need to spend hours hunting down the manufacturer.
Houzz is a great way to see the current trends, understand which colors are popular today, and get a read on popular finishes. The best part? You can search by room and then style. Want a bohemian style bathroom? A mid-century modern foyer? It’s easy enough to find examples. From there, you can filter by budget, size, layout, cabinet type, and everything in between. You can also search today’s most popular images—letting you see exactly what the people like the most.
My go-to joke with other investors is, “I just make my houses look like what HGTV programmed buyers to like.” Throw a rock anywhere in the United States and you’ll a Fixer Upper fan who could tell you the intimate details of Chip and Joanna’s life. I even have distressed sellers who say, “Ooh, you do what Chip and Joanna or Nicole from that one show do!” Sigh, yep. Sure.
The good part of HGTV’s huge selection of house design and remodel shows—and their skyrocketing popularity—is that the network has created an abundant well of design pre-programmed into today’s buyers. I didn’t even know what shiplap was a year ago. I wouldn’t have contemplated going with a farm sink. But if you’re flipping homes or renovating for tenants, you must go with today’s trends. That’s the value of HGTV.
But even if you’re decorating for yourself, don’t dismiss HGTV just because you’re not a farmhouse fan. Sometimes, amidst all the sameness, you’ll find a surprising spark of inspiration—like a half-bath covered in dark wallpaper, or unique colorful accessories in your otherwise all-white kitchen.
Tract builders used to get a really bad reputation when it came to design, but I feel like they have seriously stepped up their game. And they’re essential sources of design inspo for flippers and buy-and-hold investors. My wife and I check out new model homes whenever we can, because many buyers in the area are also checking these out. While visiting, we take detailed notes and shoot pictures of their design choices.
Once a big-time builder adopts a trendy color scheme—like the pervasive gray walls and floors—or a design element, like glass accent tile, brass hardware, or wood paneling, you know it’s safe to use in your flips. Buyers won’t be turned off. You can also find smart ideas for storage and staging. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to build a flip-top window bench, or pair a turquoise couch with complementary yellow pillows.
Don’t just visit the national builders. Check out local and boutique builders, too. Go on a tour of some homes above your flip project price range and see if there are any details you can incorporate or adopt.
The paint store
Here’s a simple question to ask the rep at your favorite paint store: “What are the most popular colors that people are ordering these days?” After all, who has a better pulse on popular color schemes than the paint store?
You’ll likely get back a giant list of colors that sound like indie band album names. “Campfire Ash,” “Icing,” and “Agreeable Grey.” Throw in some “Broadway,” “Elephant Skin,” “Oceana,” and “Alabaster,” and you have yourself a party.
Another great resource are the various paint company’s colors of the year. For 2020, Benjamin Moore chose “First Light,” a smoky, rosy pink. Pantone selected “Classic Blue,” a—well, you guessed it. A classic blue. These expert-chosen colors can inspire your palette selection for a moody half-bath or a dramatic living room accent wall, or help you bring warmth to an otherwise dull room.
If you’re looking for truly on-the-come-up ideas, don’t skip Instagram. I love it since I can search with it and also follow my favorite designers and builders. From other fix and flip investors to those HGTV celebrities to before-and-after shots of kitchens, it’s all right there to browse at your leisure.
Follow the right designers and hashtags and you might be able to spot trends before they hit the mainstream. River coffee tables made with acrylic are hyper-popular now—but clever woodworkers were showing their offerings on Instagram long before they’re stocked by your favorite store. Same goes for the gallery wall trend and open shelves in the kitchen. (To be fair, open shelving is a controversial subject.)
Whether you’re decorating your forever home or prepping your fix and flip to sell, it’s important to make the right choices for you, your budget, and, if relevant, the buyers or renters. Staying on top of design trends is an essential part of real estate investing—but knowing the fads du jour doesn’t have to suck up your time.
Flippers: Do you update the look of your flips periodically? Where do you gather inspiration?
Let me know with a comment!