Making a Multi-Million Dollar Home Attainable

{Click on Photos to Enlarge}

been doing a lot of thinking lately regarding the content in design magazines and on design blogs. Nine times out of ten, the gorgeous homes we gawk at in print or on the internet are slightly out of our price range. I was thinking about the fact that I feel like I relate more to the interiors in multi-million dollar homes than those of my neighbors. My taste is more in line with the homes that are completely out of my reach. How messed up is that? How can one really relate to something one cannot afford? Am I one of those “the grass is always greener on the other side” people? Why did I turn up my nose at so many of the suburban homes I toured during my brief stint in real estate? Remember, I live in the suburbs, too!

So what gives? I do believe that there are blogs out there that constantly tell you how fabulous the authors are all the time and won’t let you forget it. They continuously feature all of the things in life that the average person does not have access to. It’s like MTV for design-loving adults. I also know that I am 110% guilty of posting these types of homes, products, and travel destinations on my own blog from time to time, but for me, I think it is more about daydreaming about something or aspiring to it. Having said all that, I think it is important to remember that these homes, people, places, and things are meant to inspire us. Sometimes, I forget this and I find myself longing for things I cannot have right now rather than appreciating the things I have been blessed with.

As I thought about this, I decided to challenge myself to make one of these gorgeous multi-million dollar homes that are so often featured on the blogs more relatable to everyone. While I love looking at beautiful, expensive interiors, my favorite are usually those that are done on a budget but are equally as beautiful; they just required some resourcefulness and ingenuity. Take some of the homes featured in my Personal Style, Defined. Series, for example. The goal of this post is to take an expansive (9,500 square feet) and expensive ($3.5 million) home and make it relatable and attainable for the average person by offering design ideas to apply in one’s own home.

It has been a little while since I have seen the real estate listing for this drop-dead gorgeous home in Houston’s Piney Point Village, one of the five villages that makes up the exclusive Memorial area which is known for its large wooded lots and quaint streets. Yesterday, while browsing, I happened upon the listing again and found it would be perfect for this post. Back in the fall, I wrote a profile on Bella Casa, the interior design firm based in the Houston area who happened to design this gorgeous home. You may recognize the family room pictured above, as it graced the cover of the April 2008 issue of Traditional Home. It is also my absolute favorite room in the house.

While the 9,500 square foot, $3.49 million dollar manse is probably out of the realm of reality for most of us, it is always fun to get an “inside look” at the most beautiful homes in one’s city and there are certainly looks that can be replicated for less in one’s own home.

The breathtaking family room as seen looking towards the kitchen. There are so many incredible features in this room… the paneled and beamed ceiling, the expansive space and abundance of windows, the seagrass carpets, and the gorgeous lighting to name a few. An idea to consider: a muted palette with a pop of color (like the orange chairs) is stylish and works on any budget.

An Alternate View of the Family Room
While the furnishings in this room are the crème de la crème, one could recreate the look using vintage, reupholstered furniture, a clock with a similar look ( I just saw a great one at Homegoods for $60), and similar colors and fabrics. Decent quality seagrass rugs can be found online for a fraction of the cost of custom-made ones. While the quality may not be quite as nice and you may not be able to do a wall-to wall treatment, you would have a similar look overall. Most of the lighting in this home is available at Circa Lighting and while similar items can be found for less money, the quality doesn’t really compare in my opinion. Lighting truly is the jewelry of the home and isn’t something we usually skimp on. Decide which items are truly important to you. Which ones will you live with for the longest amount of time? Invest the most in them, and spend a little less on trendy items like throw pillows and curtains.

The home’s kitchen features grey cabinetry, traditional marble checkerboard flooring, and professional grade appliances. I love that they incorporated a bench into the seating. An easy and inexpensive way to makeover your kitchen? Paint your cabinets (pretty grey shades such as this one are very in right now)and add new hardware. The difference is huge and you’ll get so much bang for your buck.

Beautiful mouldings and a serene wall color create a lovely backdrop for the juxtaposition of traditional furniture and an avant-garde chandelier.
This is another idea to apply at home. Mix traditional furnishings with modern accessories and lighting (or vice versa) for a chic, eclectic look.

This room is so chic! Notice how the very traditional fireplace is offset with modern elements such as the chairs and lighting fixture. Another element to apply at home might be the series of framed prints. I always love seeing a series of prints or photographs and feel that you really create an interesting focal point when you group things together. This can be done rather inexpensively, it just requires a little creativity!

I suspect that this sitting area is located off of the kitchen given the flooring. I love the East Coast feel give off by the paneled walls. I’m not a big fan of wicker furniture, but it really works in a room like this. I suspect that one can find wicker chairs at garage sales or on Craigslist fairly easily.

This room is more function over form. There aren’t any spectacular design elements present, but it is nice nonetheless. One thing to keep in mind in this room is the importance of arranging a bookshelf properly. I think this one is slightly overloaded with tchotchkes. It’s important to find the right balance between books, framed pictures, and items such as antiques or souvenirs from one’s travels, otherwise known as tcotchkes for lack of a better word. I don’t think there is a precise formula for this. You just have to be creative with the placement of the items and rearrange things a few times until you have achieved the best possible look.

How cool is this gameroom? Does it get any cooler than paneled walls with nailhead trim?
Ideas to consider here: If your gameroom is large, be sure to break the room up into smaller spaces with specific purposes, like the designers have done here. Casual fabrics, such as those used on the slipcovered couches are durable, attractive, and hold up nicely. Another fantastic idea if you do not have hardwoods in your gameroom and it happens to get a lot of traffic: modern carpeting in a pattern. You can bet that this carpeting will hold up nicely and will be more forgiving of stains than a lighter carpet would be. If your walls are painted a dark color, you could incorporate these panels by making a few yourself and hanging them in a series.

This bar/sitting room (Remember the house is almost 9,500 square feet so there are a lot of rooms!) looks very traditional at first glance, but features a big surprise when one looks up at the ceiling. An idea to consider here would be the element of surprise. Try something unexpected in order to make a statement in your home.

The master bedroom is casual, elegant, and quite serene. The use of muted colors in a bedroom is always a plus in my book. Bold bedrooms are gorgeous, but I prefer for my own bedroom to be a little more toned down since I am kind of high strung. I also love that they used an antique table at the foot of the bed as opposed to a traditional ottoman. That is definitely an idea to consider. Another option would be to use a setee. An antiques market or even Craigslist could be a great source for these types of items. With a little TLC or possibly some new paint or upholstery for relatively little money comparatively speaking, you could have a chic new addition to your bedroom.

The master bath would not be inexpensive or easy to replicate, but if you live in an older home and are thinking about tearing out your original plumbing fixtures, think twice! Everything old is new again and they could definitely look great with a little elbow grease. If you are currently in the process of building a new home, consider vintage-looking options such as subway or hexagonal tile, which are surprisingly affordable. They will look beautiful forever and in my opinion, will never go out of style.
This secondary bedroom features an interesting chandelier, a Morovian star combined with cozy, traditional furnishings. An inexpensive idea to apply to your own home would be the fabulous upholstered headboard. There are plenty of tutorials available online and you can make one of these for under $100!

If you have inherited an old/antique bed, think twice before throwing it out. If the lines and overall design are appealing, you can completely breathe new life into it with a couple of cans of spray paint. This room has a cozy, country vibe, but if you desire a more modern look, you can offset the traditional vibe of your antique bed with modern elements such as the ottomans pictured here.

Most people don’t have an outdoor space as fabulous as this loggia, but the lesson to think about here is not to neglect whatever outdoor space you have. Make it attractive and conducive to your lifestyle.

The Lovely Backyard

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  1. You know when both Domino and Cottage Living folded, the thing I found myself saying about both was that they felt like approachable and attainable design– things I might be able to have now or in five years, as opposed to 10 or 20 years down the road (if ever!!)

    You made wonderful points about how an expensive home can still serve as inspiration for someone working on a smaller budget, and really, most of my favorites end up being those done with less funds– those seem to bring out the most creative solutions!

  2. Brooklyn Limestone, I totally see what you are saying. It can definitely be done on a budget. I guess what I meant specifically were large and/or expensive homes whose owners probably spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the furnishings and interior design.

    Thanks, Courtney! I felt exactly the same way about those two publications as you did. I love Elle Decor, House Beautiful, and Traditional Home, but do most of the interiors in those magazines feel attainable to me at this stage in my life? Not really, though they are beautiful to admire.

  3. Thank you for the pointers. The home is lovely. I like the elegant spareness of it, there are some beautiful elements there which indeed can be incorporated on a budget with some ingenuity. My dream home is more like something you would find on Dwell. I think magazines are great inspirations.

  4. What amazing tips. I think we’re all inspired by beauty that is out of our price range at times but our inspiration serves as a wonderful jumping off point!

  5. I completely agree with Mrs. Limestone. I see it everyday at work, the price of sqft it’s usually pricier. I have also seen homes that are decorated on an unlimited budget, after all it’s not like most of us can afford a couple of Barcelona chairs for our living room.

  6. * Thank you for a most ENJOYABLE READ & FAB PICS just now!!!

    AFTERwards, I went to your April 29th blog about “Personal Style”, which has turned out to be, I think, my fav blog of yours “so far” (altho I plan to keep back-reading, as sooo many of them are wonderful AND well-writen!!!)…

    Re the 4/29 blog above, David’s LR, & the BRs of Mary McGee & Jennifer Alpeter, truly SPOKE MY LANGUAGE!!! As the saying goes “NOW YER TALKIN'”!!!

    Thanks SOOO MUCH!
    Linda in AZ *

  7. I love this post! It’s so true what you said about everything we post. Because I see so much beauty in what I do every day, I sometimes think that’s the reason I don’t necessarily have to have it exactly that way myself!

  8. The unattainable homes, design and furnishings that are the staple for blogs and magazines can make me feel really small. And it’s easy to impress with size and money. But I’m with you. I look at the high end homes as design museums, no more attainable than great art, but very inspiring none the less.

    But we should be able to have great design, great livability, and great inspiration in the smaller places where most of us live.

  9. Oh Paloma.. my fellow suburbanite. I am so guilty.. guilty of the adoration of items reserved for the affluent elite. And not just interiors, clothing, travel.. etc. It’s who I am. When I am shopping, i am instantly attracted to the most expensive thing on the floor. It drives me crazy.

    The truth is in your post !! You can have what you want, you just need to be a little creative to get it.

    As always, a wonderful post.

  10. you are so right – I love this post! It is nice to step back and remember that you’re looking at a different scale of budget (or at least I am) and identify what you like and recreate that feeling. loved this post!

  11. Paloma, you are so right. We design buffs spend so much time looking at homes and interiors that are the height of style (and expense) that it’s easy to lose touch with “real life.” I guess it’s all about pulling your favorite things from the most fabulous interiors and making them work in you, no matter what your price range is. Thanks for the great post.

  12. Love this post- I totally agree with you that great style is all about resourcefulness and ingenuity for those of us that cant afford the 3.5million dollar home. All of these ideas you gave are great!!

  13. The reason why I tend to gravitate toward high end design is because it’s one of the rare times that I get to see a design principle (or many) applied from start to finish. With other homes where corners had to be cut, etc.., it’s harder to see how the design process works and it’s even harder to see the design principles at work. It’s easier to learn from the most complete design.

    Additionally, homes like this can get away with spare design. For example, they can cover a chair with white silk because they can afford the expense. Whereas if you live in a somewhat messy home, you may have to choose a more hardy fabric and maybe add more ‘ornamentation’ to make up for what you lack in good materials. Sort of like a couture gown with simple stitching details that make the dress over a gown with a bunch of frilly appliques added to cover up the poor quality of the fabric.

    I simply learn more from high quality design – especially what I can budget more on vs. less on – than I do from other designs. Basically I learn HOW to be creative and WHERE to be creative from high end design.

  14. I love this post! I’m guilty of posting the ultra expensive, unrealistic designs, but I like to look at them for inspiration too. I will try to make that more clear in my posts, and I love how you pointed out in this post easier ways for people to get the look for less. In “real” life, I’m all about the bargains!

  15. really feeling good of seeing such home i must say. besides, i would like also to say most of the designers are focusing at living room, dinning room, kitchen and bathroom design, in fact, it needs also to take care the home office, since more and more works and jobs are flowing into doing in home. i am also from the similar industry, bamboo home decor , where people demand more and more on the desk lighting due to the work needed.

  16. This place is so amazing in and out that the price seems not much even in this economy (not that I can afford it). The nutral design of it is very relaxing and the place has a lot of lights coming through.

  17. It’s my opinion that much of design is a game rigged to keep the average person out. The best and most original resources are too often “to the trade only” and far above the budget of most. Yes, you can search flea markets for finds and there are knockoffs of many items, but it is a lot more work to do this than one might imagine. Most of us just don’t have the time.

    Go look at the junk offered in most mainstream furniture stores, and tell me how you can create a chic space with that.