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Create Your Dream House: Budget-Friendly Home Design Tips from The Den Design Group

Buying a house is exciting. But making it your own is what really completes the experience.

Deciding your aesthetic. Finding furnishings. Adding accents and personal touches. There are endless ways to personalize your space.

For some people, these decisions are easy. But for others, design and decor can be a daunting process. And either way, it can become a costly undertaking. 

The key is to approach the process strategically, understanding where to start, where to splurge, and where to consider saving your money.

So, to help answer these questions, we spoke with Nicole Cave and Desiree Fox from The Den Design Group. Based in Sonoma County, Nicole and Desiree create elevated interior design, styled for your life. 

SOMO Village: How does someone start to identify the style they want for their home? 

We’d say Pinterest is a great place to start because it can help spark inspiration and provide you with other similar ideas.

For example, you can start by searching for “home design.” Then, as you pin things that catch your eye, it will provide you with other similar recommendations and you can begin to create a bit of a mood board. 

You can also search for specific terms, like minimalist, modern, or traditional design, and find ideas that way. 

As designers, what’s your typical starting point when it comes to helping people identify the right design style and aesthetic for their home? 

Minimalist white Kitchen styled by The Design Den Group

Styled by The Den Design Group

We tend to start with color palettes as step one. It’s also helpful to discuss your preferences with shape, form, and lines and to dive into how the space will be used.

This can really help uncover the style and aesthetic you want to pursue.

People who are drawn to clean and minimalist decor typically like a more modern, contemporary style whereas people who have an appreciation for old-world architecture, paneling, details, and textures often lean more toward the traditional side of design. 

Today, we’re also seeing a new design style emerging that’s being referred to as “transitional design.” 

For a while, everyone wanted gray palettes and clean lines—the contemporary elements. 

But these days, this style is being seen more and more as a bit colder and less homey. 

So, transitional design addresses that by fusing modern elements with livelier details like paneling or wallpaper. 

You can think of it as dressing up the house—you could pick more contemporary elements for the construction of your home, like flat slab cabinets, but then bring in more textural furniture and rugs with pattern and color. 

What’s the best first step for anyone wanting to elevate the design of their home? 

The starting point is to pick a color palette, whether it’s for your whole house or a single room.

For example, you might not be planning to paint your kitchen right now. But, if you have a future vision for the palette of your kitchen, you can start picking other items like faucets or cabinet hardware.

The same applies to the rest of your house.

If you have a vision for the overall color palette, you can start leaning into your aesthetic and future goals now, and then make bigger changes when you’re able.

If you have a modest budget but you want to elevate the look and feel of your space, where would you start?  

Living Room designed by The Design Den Group

Styled by The Den Design Group

Even small changes can make a big difference in the way your home looks and feels.

We can look at the kitchen example again: you might not have the budget to rip out your cabinets or countertops right now, but you can really upgrade the way your kitchen feels by adding new lighting or cabinet hardware. 

Spending a little bit of money on high-quality items is a great place to start. Visually, it makes such a difference, and the quality of the finish can help make your space look incredibly elevated.

Looking at the rest of the house, doing small things like adding a beautiful rug can go a long way as well. 

Rugs used to be really expensive. But today, designers are making their own collections available on sites like Rugs Direct and they’re much more affordable for people to buy. 

Are there any items you would make a lower priority for people working with a modest budget?

We’d advise you not to splurge on movable furniture. If your budget is limited, you’re better off thinking about spending that money on the hard finishes of the house—things that are actually a part of your home and might even add resale value.

For example, instead of spending $3,000 on a media unit, you could surround your fireplace with gorgeous stone because that’s going to add value to the home. Or, spend your money on building cabinets for storage, which is a value-add to prospective buyers.   

Furniture will be moved out when you sell, but hard finishes will be left behind and can be really enticing. 

Any other design tips for homeowners? 

One big tip is to consider the size of your furniture. A lot of people will go to the store and see a huge couch they love, but once it’s in their space, they can’t walk around it easily or it doesn’t fit the space well. 

So, we recommend that people lay it out and tape off the furniture areas to give you a real idea of how much space it’s going to take up in the room. 

How can homebuyers and homeowners work with you? 

We have a bunch of different packages based on how you want to do things or your budget. We do a lot of houses from the ground up, but also do smaller projects or consultations, so we can put together a package that’s right for you. 

If you’re excited to level up your home design, reach out to Nicole and Desiree for an initial consultation. Check out their website, The Den Design Group, to see their work or reach out and start a conversation. 


Learn more about Sonoma County’s best presale homebuying opportunity. 

If you’d like to learn about presale homes in Sonoma County, download our project brief to find out why SOMO Village might be the perfect community for you. 

Nicole Cave and Desiree FoxAbout Nicole Cave and Desiree Fox

Nicole and Desiree are Sonoma County-based sisters who share a passion for interior design. You can explore their work at their website, The Den Design Group, or on Instagram and Pinterest

Nicole has over 14 years of experience in the construction and design industry. After graduating from Sacramento State in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design, she began her career under a Sonoma County architect specializing in school design. Shortly thereafter she expanded her skillset by transitioning into a Construction Management role, where she learned the ins-and-outs of ground-up construction. Ultimately, Nicole followed her passion for design/build and has spent the last 10 years working closely with a high-end residential developer in Silicon Valley, designing and managing the construction of 70+ custom homes. 

Desiree received a Bachelor’s Degree in Art from Chico State, and began her design career in the Jewelry Industry where she gained experience in production and project management. In 2017, Desiree enrolled in the Interior Design program at Santa Rosa Junior College, and upon completing her coursework, began working as a Project Coordinator alongside Nicole. Desiree quickly assumed the position of Designer and has managed the design and build of over two dozen homes since 2019.

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