We all have fantasies of owning a downtown loft or a charming townhouse with beautiful parquet. Our Pinterest boards are full of them and as soon as we get our hands on one, we know just how we’d renovate it. But then reality sets in and our first home, whether purchased or rented, is a little bit… challenging. It’s not like it’s without charm – you managed to find a place with gorgeous bay windows or a cool backyard patio. But perhaps the space isn’t what you expected, or your furniture budget has to be stretched to cover a lot of pieces. We’ve been there many, many times, so we’re here to help create a Pinterest worthy home out of a starter budget.

Before you head to Ikea and get every single piece, pick a third of the furniture that will be either high-end or vintage. This may mean that you won’t get it all right away- it could take some saving to get there But, after a year or so, you’ll have some fabulously unique pieces that you’ll want to keep for many years! Ikea is an amazing resource (we have a lot of it in our homes, and some pieces are just as stylish as their much more expensive counterparts), but you need to mix in a few items that are higher end.

Organic materials and shapes will break up the clean lines of your new furniture. If you have a lot of lacquered white furniture, angular shelves, and hard surfaces (very likely if you shop at the more affordable interior design stores), you will need organic pieces to soften it all up. That means mixing in natural materials – linen, jute, unvarnished wood, stone – as well as organic shapes – an olive wood cutting board, a cowhide rug, abstract artwork.

Finally, you may not have the chef’s kitchen of your dreams, and let’s just say the cabinet space could keep enough plates for a dinner party for two. But you have to make do with what you have, and the one thing you can control is how you display everything. We suggest investing in high design containers to keep all of your kitchen essentials looking stylishly organized. Keep flower, sugar and pasta in hand thrown ceramic canisters, buy a colander that won’t rust in a month, invest in serving bowls that will make any salad look blog-worthy.

You never know when that dream home will come your way, but you can enjoy what you have now and make it something you love. Take your time and put as much thought into it as if it was the space of your dreams. You might be surprised with how much you love the result!