- A TikTok home-improvement expert who gives budget-luxury tips shared hacks she uses in her own home.
- Clare McLaughlin told Insider she sorts books by color and uses wooden dividers in drawers.
- She also said people should think long-term when buying furniture rather than following trends.
Clare McLaughlin is a 28-year-old content creator with a background in interior design, based in New York City. She experimented with making TikTok videos focused on her artwork in April 2020, before tapping into a growing demand for home interiors hacks.
Since then, her TikTok account has grown to a surplus of 998,000 followers, who can typically expect lifestyle and home organization hacks, with a “budget-luxury” focus. McLaughlin told Insider that budget luxury is all about “being resourceful with your current living situation.”
“I wanted my home to feel luxurious but I didn’t want to go broke doing it,” McLaughlin said. Here are the low-effort upgrades she made to her home to make it feel more expensive without breaking the bank.
A common mistake people tend to make with home decoration is that they mistake a large price tag or a well-known brand for quality, said McLaughlin.
“Sometimes the most expensive large furniture stores have everything made with questionable labor at a shocking fraction of the end cost,” McLaughlin said. Instead, she said buyers should break down what they appreciate about a high-end piece, whether that’s brass hardware or door handles, and seek out these features for less.
“Keep those things in mind while shopping for a less expensive unit,” McLaughlin said. “You can always swap out the existing, cheap hardware for nicer pulls and knobs.”
In her own home, McLaughlin said she replaced grey plastic knobs on her drawers with brass ones and it elevated the piece for a fraction of the price. She also bought adjustable wooden dividers for drawers which make them look custom-made.
Mclaughlin said that people should decorate their homes in any way that makes them happy but for those actively seeking a luxury feel, avoid modern decor with words or phrases on.
“I’ll admit that it’s definitely easy to see a ‘French Laundry’ cursive font on a distressed wood sign and think it’ll change the whole vibe of your home, but these products cheapen the look of your space,” she said.
If you’re really committed to the idea of writing on homeware, Mclaughlin recommends antique signs as a good compromise because they help your home look curated and high-end.
Mclaughlin has a navy-blue and white antique “toilet” sign outside her bathroom. “It’s small, subtle, and authentic — and it was only $5,” she said. “Why buy something new that’s designed to look old when you can pay the same price for the antique original?”
Color-blocking bookshelves is a free hack that McLaughlin implemented in her home to make it feel more coordinated. “If you evaluate all of your books, you’ll probably realize that they fall into certain color groups,” she said. “I removed the book jackets to reveal more solid spines, and the end result looked great.”
The content creator added that she’s seen trends where buyers pay hundreds of dollars for matching books to make their home look cohesive. She said she found this quite “sad” and encouraged people to only decorate with things they genuinely love as this will also save money spent on unnecessary purchases.
A final tip, and one that McLaughlin personally lives by, is not to follow design trends and opt for evergreen furnishings. “Before you spend $7,o00 on a lime green bubble boucle couch, ask yourself whether your 60-year-old self will like it,” she told Insider, noting that decor can become a big expense if you buy seasonally.
For items that stand the test of time, McLaughlin recommended shaker door panels on cabinets, furniture crafted with bamboo or wood, and white or beige fabrics.
She added that most of the items she has collected will come with her to future homes and even pass to her children one day: “My furniture isn’t expensive by any means, but I have sourced items that are well made and high quality, through thrifting and selecting affordable items that were designed with respect to history.”