How to Redesign Your Home
Without Spending a Dime

By Kealia Reynolds
Photo by Catherine Nguyen

Redesigning your home doesn’t need to cost a great deal. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all. Sometimes, the best interior designs are a product of creative reinvention of what you already have. Carole Marcotte, the lead designer and creative force behind Form & Function, a full-service interior design firm and storefront in Raleigh, North Carolina, specializes in just this.

Though Marcotte notes that her personal style is more maximalist than bare, her ideal world is this: “People will stop buying crap, refurbish and highlight their existing treasures, and if they absolutely need more ‘stuff,’ buy only resale items (vintage, antique, flea market or the like). And if it must be new ‘stuff,’ it would provide significant function, environmental sustainability, or support our artists and thereby feed our soul.” Marcotte practices interior redesigning. That is, interior design by way of salvaging, reimagining, and reinventing what you already have. 

Photos by Catherine Nguyen, styling by Carole Marcotte

Photo by Catherine Nguyen

How to approach the redesign process

Take inventory

Marcotte recommends first taking an inventory of what you already have.

When it comes to working with clients, she says, “We always start with an initial consultation in the home because I have to be in the space to assess how or what I can approach,” says Marcotte. It helps to have a fresh set of eyes looking at your stuff and imagining where existing furniture could go and how it can be used.

If you’re not working with an interior designer, take a critical eye to everything you have: Is a piece of furniture not being used? Could it be put to better use elsewhere? Could it be given new life with a new coat of paint or a stain? Are you missing any pieces you need? If so, can you buy vintage rather than new?

Consider your goals

When working with clients, Marcotte provides a in-home consultation in which the homeowners show her around the house and discuss the immediate goals of the redesign. These goals could be anything from turning current pieces into multifunctional items or enlisting Marcotte’s help in a full redesign.

If you’re going at the redesign process alone, your goals might be to make better use of the space in your home, clear out or repurpose items that aren’t being used, or to inject freshness into a room. All of which can be achieved with a little creative thinking—no new purchases necessary.

Before you throw away, look for the potential

Marcotte and her team salvage more than most design firms. “I want to be a designer who can help people save buildings, help people save houses,” says Marcotte. “In that respect, I also want to use as much existing décor as possible, given that a lot of stuff can be reupholstered, painted, stained, or looked at with a fresh set of eyes.”

Take a console table, for instance. “Most people are going to have a narrow mind about a console table. They’re going to think that it just goes in a hallway or behind a couch,” says the redesigner. But Marcotte also sees it as a great piece to have behind your desk to put a printer and file rack on. “I’m going to try to see [the client’s] existing furniture and use it in a different way.”

A recent client of Marcotte’s had no use for a drop-leaf table and was going to give it away. But she saw the potential in the piece and repurposed it as a console table behind a sofa. “With two lamps on it, it becomes a very serviceable piece that keeps the couch floating more toward the center of the room instead of being backed up against the wall,” says Marcotte. “And it was just a drop leaf table that had no use. It would’ve been given away or given to one of their children, but we were able to find a use for it.”

With as strong as Marcotte’s convictions are when it comes to saving and salvaging, it’s no surprise that she practices redesign in her own home all the time. “I’m always tearing my house apart,” says Marcotte. The interior designer recently created a little reading nook with a simple rearrangement. “I had these two Spanish étagères and they were on opposite sides of the room but they still had a sense of symmetry within the space. I brought them closer together and put a daybed between them and it’s created this little alcove. And I love it!”

Marcotte still reminds her clients to be intentional with what they put in their homes. “Let’s make sure we have the best and the brightest, the family heirlooms, the things that mean the most to you. Because the other stuff can be given away. Refining and clearing your homes is, at the end of the day, what our whole redesign process is about.”

Photo by Catherine Nguyen

The three tenets of (good) interior design, according to Carole Marcotte

  1. Edit and curate your existing items, so you’re left with the best of the bestDeclutter and go through your house with a critical eye and get down to the best of the best: the family heirlooms, the pieces that have meaning to you and delight you all the time.
  2. Understand your budget—With good design, you have to work within your budget (and that’s a different answer for everybody). When you understand that budget, understand how you’re going to spend it and how you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.
  3. Be true to yourself—Don’t be true to anybody else’s vision. Everybody’s home should look like their home and it needs to tell their story. You may be inspired by some magazine picture because you love some element of it, but nobody’s home looks like that. Your home should tell your story.

About the Expert

Carole Marcotte is the lead designer and creative force behind Form & Function, a full-service interior design firm and storefront in Raleigh, NC. She uses a fresh, modern spin when approaching the interior design process and makes her clients’ homes come to life through her unique and meaningful method of working primarily with what people own.

Photo by Andrew Marcotte

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