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Budget decorating


Learn more about budget decorating... we recommend:

Decorating Ideas Under $100
And a great book for makeover inspiration and tips:
Decorating Makeovers

Decorative painting is a budget decorator's dream solution:
Decorative Painting Made Easy

Story Sticks
Look beyond the usual for what is distinctively you. You'll add more style for less money when you break some rules.

Throwing around gobs of money is not the secret to good design. You are decorating to please yourself, not a design magazine or the neighbors. Your décor should come from your own personality, not a photograph in a design magazine. And since you are the best judge of who you are, you are already an expert at decorating for yourself.

To be interesting, you will need to break some rules. But that doesn't mean you need to be extreme or kooky. Crazy-looking homes are often the product of an insecure person who needs to create an identity by being strange. That's not you. It's not even interesting. It's self-absorbed. It's probably also more expensive than a therapist.

To express your true individuality requires honesty. Do you love your recliner? Keep it. Be comfortable. Even the most practical of furnishings can be transformed by throwing on a slipcover, changing the knobs or fixtures, or dashing on a bit of paint. Listen to yourself and pay attention to everything, from the small to the large.

Where to start if you're on a budget?

Decide what you want to highlight in each room. All the other items that end up playing a supporting role can be less expensive. If you don't want people to look at your roman blinds anyway, you can buy something simple and save.

Lighting can add all the drama you want to your living spaces and doesn't need to cost a lot. Picture lights or single spot lights can draw attention to your starfish collection. Inexpensive table lamps add a cozy ambience. Lampshades can be a great style statement. Stencil on leaf prints. Glue on tassels or a row of pompons. Suddenly your inexpensive lamp looks one-of-a-kind and stylish.

Extremely stylish (but cheap) accessories:

Photographs: Pick something you love, that resonates with who you are. Framed photographs can be a great and inexpensive design investment.

Plants: Go beyond your grandmother's fern and buy fragrant herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary. These inexpensive plants are cheery, smell good and taste great. If you place them on a sunny windowsill, they'll thrive. Also, the contrast between the view from the window and the small herbs will dramatize and draw attention to the vista. Even an unexceptional view will look better with something small in front of it.

Pillows: Throw pillows are like makeup for your furniture. Start a collection with different colors and fabrics that you love and rotate them as the mood strikes you. For some pretty small change, you'll be able to create many different looks.

Towels: There is nothing more luxurious and inviting than a stack of fluffy towels in the bathroom. Even high-quality towels can be found for less than $20, so pile them up.

Fruit: Designers have caught onto the strong color statement a bowl of fruit makes. A bright green bowl of granny smith apples or sunny yellow lemons can greet you with a smile. It's an inexpensive and tasty way to play with color.

Paint: By far the most effect for the least amount of money, paint is a budget decorating friend. You can find many helpful how-to books on decorative painting techniques: from faux marble countertops to floral stenciled swags. Use two closely related shades of paint, one semi-gloss and one flat, and paint your walls a pattern—stripes, fleur de lis, squares. The flat paint will look like velvet next to the sheen of the semi-gloss. It's a rich look for a budget price.

A traditional French floral transferware plate set makes a stylish wall decoration.
More tricks:
  • Consider hanging your curtains wider or higher than the actual size of the windows. You'll allow the same light into the room and the generous proportions of the curtains will fool the eye into thinking you have more space.
  • Rather than trying to fill small rooms with many small pieces of furniture, spend your money on larger-scaled pieces. You'll find your room looks larger because it's less cluttered and you'll save money. One generous sofa costs less than a loveseat and two armchairs.
  • Don't limit your wall decorations to framed art. Anything grouped together on the wall can be an interesting display for very little money. A row of interesting watches from the thrift store, a collection of vintage embroidered handtowels, a quilt. Look at your belongings as if they were art. See what you have that would make an interesting display and go for it.
  • Texture can be an important style asset. Don't overlook painting your decorating colors on baskets, or even on coir flooring. Suddenly, the colors have new dimension and pizzazz.


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