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Ask a designer: living more sustainably on a budget

“I want to furnish my home sustainably, but I don’t have much money. How do I do it?” There is this idea that living more sustainably is expensive, but it absolutely does not have to be. You can furnish your home to be a beautiful, warm and colorful place in a way that is good for the planet but good for your wallet too. We chatted to interior designer Chiara Effroi Lutteri about how she created a home that’s just that: poppy, practical and filled with lower-impact choices – all on a shoestring budget.

A workspace with a white LAGKAPTEN/TILLSLAG table, light brown-pink LÅNGFJÄLL office chair, plus white pegboards and pendant.
A workspace with a white LAGKAPTEN/TILLSLAG table, light brown-pink LÅNGFJÄLL office chair, plus white pegboards and pendant.

Hej Chiara! Can you tell us a little bit about the vision for this home?

Chiara: With pleasure! I designed this home for a pair of adult siblings, where the apartment originally belonged to the sister and then the brother moved in later. As it's a one-bedroom, we had to come up with creative solutions to make the space livable and we did it all on a tight budget. Just as importantly, we wanted to express that the choices we make at home can reduce our impact on the planet. So this home, while being budget-conscious, was furnished with more sustainable choices in mind.

A woman sitting at a white LAGKAPTEN/TILLSLAG table with a white NÄVLINGE clamp spotlight and anthracite ENHET shelving unit.
A colorful hallway with garments on white MULIG clothes bars on the wall above a red NIKKEBY chest of drawers.

How did you manage to do all of that in one home?

Chiara: With this home, we thought about functions and furniture differently, seeing how we could find simple ways to add onto what was already there, rather than replacing it all with new things. So, for example, rather than buying a brand-new bed, they found another BLÅKULLEN upholstered bed in the As Is section at IKEA, which could also be used as a sofa if the sibling moves out. Instead of buying a bigger dining room table, they combined their two tables to make a longer, adjustable table. We also made an affordable room divider using 100% more sustainable cotton fabric, which can be opened as closed as needed.

See the full living room
A woman pulling two white ceiling-mounted, room-dividing cotton curtains shut, with a big plant in the corner.
A blue BLÅKULLEN bed with various colorful cushions and throws, a grey TINGBY side table, green plants and white curtains.
See the full living room

You mentioned As Is. Can you tell us more about that?

Chiara: The most sustainable furniture to buy is the furniture that already exists, so buying secondhand is a great way to start making more sustainable choices. In my opinion, every trip to an IKEA should include a stop at the As Is section! Here you can find all kinds of products – end of range, returned items, or floor samples – for a fraction of the original price.

Find circularity initiatives at IKEA
A man and a woman moving a white MELLTORP table, with two pine KNAGGLIG boxes behind and a white MELODI pendant above.
A dining area in white shades with two white MELLTORP tables, white MELODI pendants and different-color LEIFARNE chairs.
Find circularity initiatives at IKEA

What advice do you have for first-time home furnishers?

Chiara: Choose furniture that can follow you throughout your different life stages. People often speak about “investment pieces”, which brings up images of expensive items. In my mind, a great investment piece is something you will use for years to come, even with a lower price tag. The modular ENHET series is just that. If you need some extra shelves in the kitchen for example, they click right in. It’s also easy to disassemble when life takes you on a new adventure. We used the ENHET kitchen and bathroom series and placed an ENHET open high frame with shelves in the workspace for just that reason.

A woman assembling a white/oak effect ENHET kitchen drawer with a FIXA tool set on a flatwoven rug.
A light kitchen with ENHET cabinets, a white MELLTORP table, different-color LEIFARNE chairs, and a white NISSAFORS trolley.

We couldn’t help but notice the embroidered furniture. What inspired that?

Chiara: I believe every piece of furniture deserves a second chance at life. You can donate your older pieces, or sell them online, or through the IKEA Buy Back program, or you can jazz them up yourself to make them feel new and exciting. Color plays a big role in this home so we’ve livened up some more subdued pieces like the IVAR and BAGGEBO cabinets with bright geometric embroidery. You can also give untreated wood furniture a lick of paint in a new hue. Really, there are all kinds of ways to breathe life into old things.

A closet featuring BUMERANG hangers and MULIG clothes rack.
A woman hanging colorful earrings on the mesh side of a white BAGGEBO cabinet with glass door.
A white BAGGEBO glass door cabinet with items on display, beside a white NESTTUN bed with white/blue TRÄDKRASSULA bedlinen.
A pair of hands holding colorful spools of thread and balls of yarn.
A corner of a room with three high, grey IVAR cabinets with mesh doors filled with clothes, and various boxes on top.