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Home design on a budget: Inexpensive ways to steal the luxe look

Designer Elsa Soyars used custom leather ottomans to

Designer Elsa Soyars used custom leather ottomans to make the dining area of this Water Mill eye-catching. Photo Credit: Photos by Bob Frame

Want your home to look like this inspiration room? The designer dishes on what it takes, why it’s worth it — and ways to fake it for less.

It was important to make this Water Mill dining area eye-catching, because since there is no foyer, “when you walk in, it’s the first thing you see,” says designer Elsa Soyars. “And since there’s not a lot of room, it had to be fantastic.”

The homeowners wanted a luxurious look, but also “a place where the kids can hang out, they can have breakfast, they can have dinner,” Soyars says. “It’s really all about the family, but with style.”

Her solution was to custom design the furnishings, including two tables, ottomans and banquets, in order to maximize the space while providing comfort, versatility and flair. “The purpose of having two tables is that I could join them together and formulate a full dining table that connects, or you can separate them and make it into a beautiful, elegant space,” says Soyars, who owns Elsa Soyars Interiors in Southampton.

“Instead of having typical chairs opposite the banquets, I decided to have custom-made ottomans that could be moved around and brought in for seating, or pulled out into other areas of the house, like the adjoining living room. So it’s a very functional, very flexible room.”

This room was part of a larger design project, but Soyars estimates that to create a custom dining area with similar materials would cost $50,000, including the designer’s fee, labor and materials purchased at trade pricing, which differs from retail.

Walnut tables

$7,600 each

Why they’re worth it

Soyars had custom furniture maker Hellman-Chang craft these two tables in luxurious walnut. “It’s a very rich wood. It’s a higher end because of the walnut,” Soyars says. “If you look closely, the wood is not a complete square post. It has a softened angle to it, so it’s almost like a sculpture.”

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If a premium material such as walnut is out of your price range, shop home retailers for an interesting table base and top it with glass. Use two together to create a similar look, suggests Soyars. Try the Simon X-Table Base in espresso rubber wood from Pier 1 Imports ($149.95).

Leather ottomans

$4,000 each

Why they’re worth it

The ottomans were custom made by Edward Ferrell, and upholstered in sumptuous red leather by Edelman Leather. “That’s woven and has lots of texture,” says Soyars. “My client loves a little pop of red. It’s not a vibrant red, but just red enough to bring that richness.”

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Find a simple bench or ottoman and re-cover it yourself, suggests Soyars. “Faux leather is fantastic, because it looks realistic, but yet it’s not as expensive,” Soyars says.

Roman shades

$10,000 (estimate)

Why it’s worth it

Soyars had these window treatments custom made with Holly Hunt sheer fabric because she was seeking a particular texture and weight. “I think it was the perfect material to give visual interest when you walk in,” says Soyars. “It’s beachy and striped, but woven within the fabric, so it’s all texture.

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“Restoration Hardware has a line of fabrics that you could use and do custom Roman shades,” says Soyars. “Smith and Noble is a company that does Roman shades that are a little less expensive as well.”

Light fixtures

$3,000 (retail)

Why it’s worth it

It’s all about the little things with these symmetrical, geometric fixtures with drum shades by A. Rudin. “It’s not a typical drum shape fixture, it has more to it,” says Soyars. “Even the finial at the bottom has an architectural element, and the way it is suspended complements the tables.”

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If you can’t afford finer fixtures, Soyars says any drum shade fixture can have a similar softening effect. “It’s just really for the balance, a bit of harmony.” Try Regina Andrew fixtures, she suggests. “They do a shade with a metal underneath, for a little more of an elegant look.”

Custom banquet seating

$15,000 (estimate)

Why it’s worth it

“It was designed and built on site with specific dimensions that would accommodate the depth of the space and the comfort of my clients,” says Soyars. “I selected Holly Hunt fabric for there as well. With the chenille fabric, you can really hang out in there. You can read a book, but you can also have a meal, so it’s really for the enjoyment of the home.”

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Though it won’t have the seamless fit of custom seating, Soyars says a modified sofa or bench can do the job. She suggests raising the height of the legs and adding upholstery or pillows to mimic the look. “You can piece it together. It might not be to the exact inch, but it’s close enough.”

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