At studioGUILBEAU, we recently had the opportunity to furnish a model home (for which we’d also designed the interiors) in Nashville’s Gulch South for Cates Builders and Realtor David Binkley. This home is going for just under a million dollars (let David know if you are interested). Look at that million dollar view from the rooftop deck! The kicker is, we were given a total $20,000 budget to furnish it.

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How do you furnish a million dollar home in an elegant and tasteful way on a conservative design budget?

The vision I had was to create a version of what I call a soulful home – a home filled with things that make you feel alive, and enables you to do the things you love to do. Since this was a model home, I didn’t have a “client in front of me” to tell me all about what makes them feel alive or what they love to do. I had to imagine the people who might buy this home: A single person or childless couple, an Urbanist who loves being walking distance of the shops, restaurants and entertainment of 12 South and The Gulch, who might entertain in their open loft space and on that incredible rooftop terrace. I chose a vibe that was hip and modern, but warm and classic with streamlined furnishings that allow open flow – room for movement, not too cluttered or overstuffed.

So, how did we do it?

Build your timeless and classic base

There are two things that established the “base” for this home: the color palette and the main furniture pieces.


Determine your color palette

The easiest way to exude classic elegance and high taste is via a neutral color palette. In this home design, we chose soft and serene grays and whites with pops of charcoal. We then layered onto that with furnishings more soft creams, greys, turquoises and camels.

Million Dollar Home Moodboard
interior design budget
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Focus on your main furniture pieces:

In this home, that would be the sofa and two chairs in the living room.  And here is where the “million bucks on a budget” part comes in:  You want to invest most of your budget in this part of the design because this will be the showstopper. We secured a pre-loved elegant sofa and two chairs in classic neutral colors from our own studioGUILBEAU:  A Lee sofa and chairs – top quality right out of Hickory, NC.  Buying HIGH QUALITY used, pre-loved, antiques, vintage furniture is not only a way to stretch your budget but also a lovely way to live more sustainably.

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Add Layers of Interest

Everything else was truly “budget budget” but with an eye for some subtle “wow factor”.  We finished out the furnishings with rustic woods and iron pieces.  We  layered rugs in turquoises and creams, and picked up the camels within them with drapes and bedding.  We carried the turquoises, creams and golds through in the artwork throughout.  Sources:  Surya (the synthetic rugs are lower priced, yet still wear like iron),, At Home, Target, World Market, Wayfair, CB2, Uttermost.

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Work the sales! For this project we stretched our dollars by using the following stylish vendors that offer great deals on a regular basis.

We did a small splurge on custom made drapes BUT we went with a fabric that was on super sale from The Fabric Shop for just $5.00 a yard. The great thing about custom window treatments is that the fabric doesn’t have to be $50 a yard as long as the drapes are properly lined and hemmed.  They will still communicate a high-end look while adding a layer of luxury to the room as well as pattern and texture. We purchased inexpensive adjustable rods for our builder/developer clients, so that they can reuse them again in their next model home.

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Simplified Styling

Last, but not least, is the accessories.  The key to that is to pick very neutral colors to work with.  My favorites are white, clear glass and natural wood, and my signature pop of color (use sparingly) is turquoise.  Keep it simple.  When doing shelves, put the largest/heaviest things in first, the very heaviest at the bottom and working your way up, zigzagging your way up the shelves so they alternate from one to the other.  Alternate stacks of books first, if you have them.  Then fill in the gaps with the smaller pieces.  Then stop!  Leave space for the imagination.

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As you can see, you don’t need a million dollars to create a soulful home that looks like a million bucks! Simple and classic communicates elegance no matter what the budget; the key is to dial the quality in where you need it. To find out more about how to create you own soulful home, get the Design Style Compass and discover your own Design Style – it is the very first step you should take before buying a single thing! You’ll be glad you did.

This home and a handful of others like it are currently for sale. If you are interested in purchasing please contact David Binkley at Urban House Fitters.

What is your Style

Find your Style Direction by getting a copy of my Design Style Compass. Just click the button the button below.

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