How to Upgrade Your Home Space Without Breaking the Bank

tiffany brooks

We asked HGTV interior designer Tiffany Brooks about making spaces both comfortable and stylish

It’s no secret that we have spent a lot of time at home this year. We’ve stared at the same walls, the same sofa, the same painting hanging over the mantel day in and day out. We’ve gotten creative with our outdoor spaces and organized our kitchen to perfection.

But what about subtle changes to your home decor? Team KCM turned to interior designer and HGTV star Tiffany Brooks. Brooks shared easy tips on how to upgrade your space to make it feel fresh, stylish, and comfortable. When it comes to tackling any project, Brooks keeps one thing in mind: “All of my interiors have to be livable,” she told us. “If it’s not livable and it’s not comfortable, there’s no point.” Brooks, who is starring in the upcoming HGTV show $50K Three Ways, shares her favorite furniture pieces to splurge on and the secret to finding the right paint color. 

Katie Couric Media: How did you get into interior design? 

Tiffany Brooks: It’s a funny story. I used to be in high-end residential property management, and I took some time off to redesign the company’s model home. Fast forward, the model home ended up winning ‘Best Two Bedroom Model Home’ in Chicago. And so that kind of sparked a possible door opening in my life. 

I could not afford to go to design school, so I bought a bunch of textbooks from the design school that I really wanted to go to, and I read the textbooks. I started working for people for free to build my portfolio, and then my design career kind of exploded to where I opened a business some years down the line.

You’re starring in a new HGTV series called ‘$50K Three Ways.’ What is the premise of the show?

Homeowners come to me, and they have $50,000 and a bunch of projects in their homes that they need help with. It could be a kitchen, a family room area they need help with, or maybe they’re thinking about finishing their basement. I draw up and design three different ways that they could use that $50,000, whether it be in the kitchen, the basement, an outside space. They look at all my drawings and they pick which one to use the $50,000 on, and we get to work.

How was filming the show?

We’re nearing the end of season one, and we’ve had so much fun. It’s a lot of, ‘Oh my goodness. How are we ever going to get this even remotely done?’ But we are working it out. It’s set to air at the end of April, beginning of May. 

I get tested every other day. Everybody has to get a clear Covid test in order to be on camera or anywhere on set. It’s like a whole new character in producing television. We have a Covid-19 specialist now. Keeping everybody safe is our number one priority, so there have been times where we had suspected cases and they shut down the set immediately.

How would you describe your style when it comes to interior decorating?

My style is usually somewhere between transitional or contemporary, but I always like to twist it up by bringing in other unexpected styles — something that’s vintage, something that’s shabby chic, or a huge array of antiques. The one thing that my interiors have to be is livable. I design them out to death, but if it’s not livable and it’s not comfortable, there’s no point

What does a ‘livable space’ mean to you?

It’s not the space that you come into and you can’t touch anything. Livable spaces might have a sofa that says, ‘Come on in and dive into me.’ However, that can be sitting next to an amazing coffee table that looks like a piece of art. So you have that comfort and then you have that luxury in the same room, occupying the same space, making people feel like they’re stylish, yet comfortable.

So many people have been stuck at home and want to upgrade their spaces without really breaking the bank. What are some tips you recommend?

1. Grab a can of paint if you actually have time to do it. Wallpaper is also back in a huge way, and it’s no longer hard to do. 

2. Replace the drapes. There are so many different ways you can get a deal on drapes. I even suggest going to places like Ikea and getting huge drapes and having a tailor or seamstress take a little bit off the bottom to fit your space. 

3. Paint your ceilings. That’s another one people don’t address.

4. Address the light fixtures. Switch all the light fixtures in your house 

Let’s talk paint. Where do you recommend people start when it comes to picking paint colors?

I suggest that they actually pick their paint color last. There are zillions of paint colors out there. I tell all my clients to take hues from some of the other things that are in their spaces. If you have a fireplace with an amazing stone on there, possibly pull a color from that stone or pull a color that contrasts it beautifully.

Do you have a go-to paint color?

I am all about making prismatic colors neutral and seeing what I can get away with. I like being able to experiment with making pink a neutral and making green a neutral. I’m finding that you can have fun with color.

What about furniture? What are some pieces of furniture you recommend clients splurge on?

1. Definitely splurge on the sofa. 
2. Case pieces, including bookcases and pieces that hold your media
3. A good mattress. The bedroom is nothing if it’s not comfortable. 
4. Amazing bedding and pillows

Who are some other interior designers that inspire you?