“I’ve just bought a new house, I’m on a budget and I don’t have stuff to put in it.”

As an interior designer this is the most frequent concern I hear from clients. Stop fretting, take a deep breath and I will walk you through three smart steps to making your new house a home.

1. Paint the interior. Paint every room, inside every closet and all your trim. Unless you have just purchased a new build and you love the paint scheme, a fresh coat of paint will make your home feel personal and brand new.

I recommend hiring a professional for this as I admit I am a lousy painter, but if you really think you are up to the challenge, paint away. I always recommend this step to my clients before anything else. Your paint job will look fresh for about five years.

After six to eight years, I would recommend re-rolling the main rooms at the very least. As a modernist designer I’m almost always going to say paint it white.

You might want a feature wall or a room done in black or even some wallpaper, but I say live with the white for a while until you are sure of what other colors you would like to include.

2. Focus on seating. You will need somewhere to sit. I generally start with clients’ living rooms and dining areas.

Most of us now have open concept style kitchen/dining areas and you will want to purchase quality pieces for eating and entertaining. If you already own a serviceable set (even if it doesn’t suit the space size wise or style wise), consider living with it until you can afford to purchase that really well made dining table and chairs. An old-fashioned savings plan can help you buy dining area furniture you will want to keep for a lifetime.

Your new living room should also be on the top of the list. This is where you will do all the new entertaining in your fabulous new home. Sofas, sectionals, occasional tables and comfortable chairs should be a priority. I prefer quality handmade furniture that is made by companies that care about their employees and the earth.

Again, I want you to resist buying a room full of cheap knock offs and instead, make a timeline plan to purchase well made pieces that won’t end up in a landfill in a couple of years. I am all for buying thrift and second hand as long as the items meet this quality requirement.

3. Window coverings are obviously important and expensive. Consider covering only those windows where privacy is a must at the beginning and then adding more decorative coverings as you can afford it.

Roller shades and cellular blinds are great for bedrooms and bathrooms. Beautiful custom draperies are the splurge in your already furnished living rooms and dining rooms.

Making a house your own is truly more than simply filling it with stuff. If you exercise patience and save for what you really want, you will have the home of your dreams before you know it.

Lori Andrews is an insanely happy interior designer and photographer living in Calgary, Alberta Canada. LoriAndrewsInteriors.com.