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In interior design, the term “décor” means any object whose sole function is to decorate a space.
These can be things such as art reproductions hanging on a wall. Or, baskets full of objects of natural beauty such as pine cones or shells. These are some of the things that add vibrancy and life to a space.
When choosing décor, you don’t have to spend a lot. Imagination is more important than money. If you’re like most folks, dropping thousands of hard-earned dollars on a home renovation isn’t an option. Nor should it be, if you’re frugal like me.
Are you the kind of person who gets the urge to run out to a fancy store to buy all kinds of expensive home furnishings?
And then, before you give the clerk your credit card, remember your commitment to being frugal?
If you are, this article is for you. Because this article is chock-full of design tips you can pull off with hardly any cash at all.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on home décor to create a stylish and chic look. For less than dinner and a movie, you can give your home’s old tired look a new lease on life.
Your home makeover will be more satisfying, too. That’s because financial limits will force you to be more creative. Your friends will be so impressed that you made everything with your own hands.
Who knows? You might even inspire them to redo their own homes using some of your ideas!
1. Take Your Time
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to be too quick about adding new décor.
New homeowners tend to fall into the trap of wanting to immediately redo every room from top to bottom, all at once. Not only is this insane, but it’s awfully hard on your wallet.
You need to live in a space for a while before you’re in a position to make any changes. Otherwise, you won’t have a good feel for its underlying possibilities. Any changes you make will be premature and ill-advised.
For example, when you first move in, you might think about replacing your Shaker cabinets. You think louvered-styled ones would be what the space needs. But three months later, you have an epiphany that the space needs more positive energy. And the only way you can do this is by having natural wood cabinets.
Your original cabinet switcheroo is now a costly mistake.
Live in your house awhile before deciding which project you want to tackle. And then, only do as much as you can afford.
2. Inspiration from Magazines
Do you wish you could afford the sumptuous décor of luxury homes you see in magazines? Well, you can, if you use a little ingenuity instead of the money you don’t have.
Search for a look you love in these magazines. Then challenge yourself to recreate it with as little money as possible. You’d be amazed at what you can do with a thrift store find if you give it a little love and attention.
Sometimes, these recreations are even indistinguishable from the originals.
3. Dollar Store Finds
There are a lot of options for cheap décor at the dollar store.
Use plastic succulents and flowers in centerpieces and wreaths. You can also get cheap picture frames to use in all kinds of projects.
Buy a dollar store picture frame and placemat to make a serving tray. All you need to do is to trim the placemat to fit inside the frame and you’re good to go.
Transform a dollar store wastebasket into something you’d find at Pier One by wrapping it with rope. Pick up some mirror squares from the dollar store and glue them together to make a mirror box for your jewelry.
To put together a cool kitchen command center, get 8 kids’ chalkboards from the dollar store. Glue them together on a cardboard backing. If you’d like, paint the wood frame that the chalkboards are in.
Let it dry, and then affix it to your wall. You can use it for a family meal plan or a “to do” list.
4. Shop Secondhand
Secondhand stores exist to teach us that we don’t have to buy new stuff all the time.
Find old stuff at these places that have hidden potential. Then use your creativity to transform these objects into things of breathtaking beauty. It’s amazing what paint and a little elbow grease will do on furniture that has seen better days.
To find these diamonds in the rough, shop thrift stores.
Find out which days they accept new inventory so you can get there early and beat the crowds. Also, go to reuse centers like Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. These places sell off furnishings and materials leftover from construction jobs.
When shopping for secondhand items, look for structural integrity. If it’s there, you can use your magic to upcycle it. Dress up an ugly old sofa with an inexpensive and elegant slipcover. Give a rusted mirror a new coat of paint to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Garage sales are another way to furnish your home with unique and inexpensive décor. On Friday night before a weekend spent at garage sales, map the locations of all the sales on your phone. This’ll make your outings more productive by making sure you hit them all.
Garage sales are usually cheaper than flea markets and thrift shops. This is because the people setting the prices have a good idea of the value of each thing they sell. At garage sales, people want to get rid of their old stuff, so it’s priced to sell.
To get the best prices, look for items that need a little TLC. And then, infuse them with your own inimitable style.
5. Repurpose Items
Always be on the lookout for items that you can repurpose.
It’s better to find new purposes for old belongings than to throw them out. For example, take an old dresser and reincarnate it as a fabulous storage bench. Paint the edges of a simple black end table in gold. This adds style and class to something that used to be bland and boring.
Repurposing junk isn’t that hard. Besides, you’ll get immense satisfaction out of doing it.
People place a higher value on things that they built themselves anyway.
Try taking an object apart and reconfigure them in new and exciting ways. If the item could talk, it might even thank you.
Give a beat-up old bar cart you found at a flea market a second chance. Spray paint the cart to suit your tastes and then add your own decorative touches to it. Spruce up an old mirror you found on Craigslist and place it in a room so that it reflects a window. This is an easy way to make a room seem bigger and more open.
Tie the look of your plumbing fixtures together by using the same style.
To upgrade the look of a kitchen or bathroom sink, change out the old fixtures for fancier ones. Copper, brushed chrome and brushed bronze all add a touch of class.
Make a Lamp Out of It
Do you have an intriguing piece of décor lying around that you don’t know how to use?
If so, make a lamp out of it! An axiom of upcyclers is that if you can drill a hole into something, you can make a lamp out of it. You don’t have to be an electrician or even be handy to build unique lamps that make great conversation pieces.
For example, use a glass and tile bit to drill a hole into the bottom of a vase.
Make sure you keep the area wet because drilling generates lots of heat. Find the center of the base of the vase and make an “X” on this spot using masking tape.
The masking tape helps keep the vase from cracking. Cover up the hole with a vase cap and put the guts from a lamp kit inside the vase.
Wine Bottle Projects
It’s amazing what you can create from a wine bottle. Even on its own, a wine bottle has a certain built-in elegance and charm. Enhance these qualities by finding new uses for them. This also gives you an excuse to drink their contents, so you have decorating materials.
An easy way to upcycle wine bottles is to use them as vases for fresh flowers. You can also make a bird feeder out of one by drilling holes near the bottom to dispense food. Then, attach a plate so your avian buddies have a place to perch.
Wrap the neck with copper wire so you can hang it from a tree.
There’re lots of decorative ideas using drop cloths. You can buy them for cheap at home improvements stores like Lowe’s. With a little artistic flair, you can transform them into décor for every room in your home.
Try making a drop cloth rug.
Start by ironing out the cloth as best you can to get rid of any wrinkles. Paint the cloth using two coats of base paint. Then, let the paint dry. Cut sponges into geometric designs. Use a pencil and lightly stencil in the shapes.
Stamp the sponge pieces in paint and apply the design. Apply a sealer after everything dries.
You might have old curtains and blankets dying to reincarnate into something new. If so, grab your sewing machine and make their wish come true by transforming them into throw pillows.
What items in your house aren’t living up to their potential because you’re not using them anymore?
Can you breathe new life into them by coming up with new and creative ways to use them?
There are thousands of repurposing ideas on Pinterest.
If you have colanders that have been lying around since Truman was in office, go online to find ways to repurpose them.
I typed “repurposing old colanders” into the search box on Pinterest and 68 pins came back. I found ideas for hanging flower baskets, wind chimes, lamps, and so many other things.
Take that old futon you’ve got in the attic and repurpose it as a reading nook. You’ll love sitting in it and watching the birds as you enjoy your morning coffee. If you’re into mosaics, take an old chest you’ve found on the side of the road and create an interesting pattern on the top.
I know someone who did exactly that.
Or, take old dresser drawers that definitely have seen better days and paint them. Then, attach them to your walls to create a unique bookshelf that doesn’t cost a penny!
You can also reupholster your old furniture to give it a fresh, new look. Slipcovers offer an easy way to change out furniture for different seasons. Use a fresh coat of paint on headboards and mirror frames.
If you have mismatched furniture, sand them down and stain them the same color to make them match better.
6. Use Paint in Creative Ways
Paint is an inexpensive way to change the look of a room.
Spend some time making sure you’ve chosen the right colors. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few choices, pick up a few samples of each.
Paint small squares of each sample color on each wall of the room to see which one you like best. Check on the samples over the course of several days to see how the colors react to different qualities of light.
When choosing colors, remember the 60-30-10 rule when choosing interior shades. This means that you should fill 60% of the space with a neutral color.
The next 30% of the space should be a secondary color. The final 10% should be in a bolder accent color.
Being vertical, walls are among the first visual elements our eyes come across in a space. So, paint them a way that complements your other design choices. For those on a shoestring budget, painting only an accent wall is a cheaper way to go. You’ll need about a quart for a single wall.
Faux finish painting can add color and interest to a room.
This is a technique that adds nuance by reproducing the look of textured surfaces. Some of the choices are suede, marble, or stucco. Visit a paint store to see the dizzying array of possibilities you have to choose from.
While it takes patience and a little bit of creativity to complete a faux finish project, it’ll be worth it in the end.
A basic faux finish technique is sponging.
Get yourself a natural sea sponge, some glaze, and three colors of paint. Before sponging a wall, apply primer using a roller applicator. Let the primer dry and then apply interior wall paint in the color of your choice.
Dip your damp sponge into a glaze/paint mixture and dab the mixture in a random pattern on your wall. For a more nuanced look, use a glaze color that’s similar to your base color. For a bolder choice, use a glaze color from a different color group.
7. Make Wall Treatments from Everyday Materials
The walls of our homes speak volumes about who we are, indicating our personality and our style.
If you leave your walls unadorned, visitors you’re entertaining will wonder why. They might think you’re making a bold minimalist statement. Or conversely, that you’re devoid off any kind of personality.
To prevent the latter perception, consider adding wall treatments. To make them frugal, craft them from everyday materials. For example, make your own wallpaper using pages from old books. You can use outdated atlases, dictionaries, and coffee table books for this.
Another material you can use as DIY wallpaper is old blueprints.
Create an art-gallery ambiance by plastering magazine photos to your walls. Pick a theme for your collage. You might choose photos of architectural wonders from around the globe.
After choosing a theme, pick up some photography magazines. Cut the pictures out from the magazines and place them on the walls to achieve the desired effect.
Permanent wallpaper is…well…so permanent.
Why not try removable wallpaper to change up your décor?
This is a cheap solution for renters. It’s also good for homeowners who want the flexibility to change their décor style at the drop of a hat.
Tempaper is one brand that makes a dramatic statement. And, no long-term commitment because you can remove it with ease. It comes in a wide range of contemporary motifs. These include floral and geometric patterns, as well as whimsical drawings for children.
There’s also tile stickers to add patterns to existing kitchen and bath tiling. You can also get removable granite film. This is also known as “instant granite.” It looks great on countertops.
Try washi tape too. This masking tape was invented in Japan and comes in several widths and hundreds of designs. Create striking wallpaper-like patterns that are easy to remove.
9. Use Natural Materials
Forage for natural materials you can use in decorative projects.
Put decorative items on tables to bring a little bit of the outdoors indoors. You can use seashells, pine cones, evergreen, and dried moss for this.
If the ocean has a mystical pull on you, put shells, beach pebbles, and driftwood into baskets in your kitchen. When you do, you’ll have a constant reminder of the magic and mystery of the sea.
Or, make a pine cone topiary. To do this, gather pine cones from a nearby forest or your backyard.
Then, take a Styrofoam ball and wrap a piece of black garbage bag around it. Fasten the bag securely to the ball. Cut the extra plastic from the bag. This will keep the Styrofoam from peeking through.
Put hot glue on the end of the bag to keep it from coming undone. Remove the bottoms of the pine cones. Make sure all your tops are the same size, so it looks symmetrical.
Hot glue your cones on to the covered ball. Start at the top and work your way down until you cover the entire ball. Then apply white spray paint to your ball. Put it in a white vase and display it for the whole world to see.
10. Cheap Artwork
Art can add emotion and life to a barren room. It brings in personality and makes a space feel finished.
A single painting from a distinguished gallery can cost thousands of dollars. But you can buy cheap prints of famous paintings. I have a print of The Sacrament of the Last Supper by Salvador Dali that I put into a $20 frame. It’s on my wall, where I enjoy it every day.
Posters aren’t the only thing you can put on your walls. For example, you can brighten up a “blah” wall with the pages of a colorful calendar. Or, pictures printed out from the Internet.
I printed out a copy of a Dorothea Tanning painting entitled Birthday from my printer. I placed it in a faux gold frame I got from a dollar store and put it on a bookcase in my bedroom.
Put a stretched-out canvas above your bed that you can repaint whenever you want to. Go from a Kandinsky-inspired abstract masterpiece to a Monetesque seascape in the space of an afternoon.
Or, whatever strikes your fancy!
If you see a work of art you like in a magazine article or online, think up a way to reproduce it at home for cheap. If photography’s your thing, frame a few of your favorite photos and put them on display for the whole world to see.
Tying Everything Together
Decorating on a shoestring budget ain’t easy.
But if you’re committed to it, it gets easier. It’s also creatively satisfying coming up with ways to replicate the high-end looks you see in glossy magazines for almost no money.
One of the best reasons for decorating on a shoestring is that many of the suggestions involve using material that would end up in a landfill. It’s better for the planet if you decorate sustainably.
Use these tips to get you started. Then, infuse your own personality into your design projects and come up with your own strategies. If you feel like it, share them with others.
In the end, what matters is that you and your wallet are happy.