At Home: High end design with down low prices

Marni Jameson: Talks with Sabrina Soto, who shares tips from her HGTV show “The High Low Project.”
BY MARNI JAMESON Published: August 19, 2012

Most people walk by a discarded wooden wine crate and see a discarded wooden wine crate. Sabrina Soto, host of HGTV's “The High Low Project,” sees an ottoman, or an end table, a bookcase or a planter.

“You say you are the thriftiest person in the world,” Soto said to me when I called her to tap her secrets for getting high-end looks for less cash. “Well, I am the second-thriftiest.”

“Whatever my mom saw in a store,” Soto said, “she always said she could make it or find it somewhere else for less.”

For each episode of “The High Low Project,” Soto gets clients to share their vision for their makeover room — if money were no object. With that inspiration, she creates a high-end room to the tune of usually $30,000 to $40,000.

Soto then recreates the room for about one-10th the price.

“By the end of the episode, I show the couple and America it's a look they can afford.”

Homeowners can get any look — modern, traditional, vintage — for a lot less, she insists. However, she admits, “It's not as easy as we make it look in 22 minutes of programming. We have plenty of oh (darn) moments.” Here are some of Soto's secrets:

• Have patience. Home decorators overspend when they rush to design a room. Take time to hunt items out, and don't buy in a hurry.

• Bargain shop. Soto's favorite haunts are thrift stores. She also frequents online auctions and other websites.

• Look for new uses for common items. Next time you see an old bird cage, imagine, ooh, a cool chandelier. Likewise, when you find an ugly glass table at a thrift store, buy it for the glass. Put the glass on a new fun base. Look twice at ugly lamps. Many can be transformed with a new shade. Buy bad art if it has a cool frame.

• Read the reviews. Because pictures can be deceiving, when buying a product online, read all the customer comments. “When I've made a mistake, or been disappointed in an online purchase, I often find the warning was in a review,” she said.

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