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Decorating a Home on a Budget

Decorating a Home on a Budget
Written by Oana Schneider

My mother-in-law bought this beautiful (but anciently-looking!) house that she’s always dreamed of making her own ever since she was a little girl. After going back and forth on what to do with the plumbing, the wiring and so on, we started thinking about decorating the house. If you haven’t done this before and think this is a piece of cake, think again.

We had to go back and forth to Ikea several times because we couldn’t find anything we liked. At the same time, custom furniture was way over our budget, so we really had to sit down and talk about it. Here’s what happened:

  • Limited budget. I’m not going to tell you what the budget was, but let’s just say that we could’ve barely covered the floor tile expenses with it. We felt discouraged at first, but then I remembered that I did work for a money-saving blog so we decided to turn everything into a project.
  • Limited time. For this one, we had to enroll the entire family to shop for things: we asked our grandpa to go to flea markets and our grandma to keep an eye on what the internet had to offer.
  • Limited ideas. For this one, we didn’t really have an excuse, so we just went online, opened up Pinterest and started searching for keywords like: “rustic kitchen”, “ceiling details”, “white bedroom” and so on. In about a couple of days, we had three folders full of interesting pictures.

So these were the problems. My mother in law, as the flea market expert that she is, managed to find a lot of things on sale or just bargain with a few neighbors when we really wanted something from their backyard, so that was pretty helpful. But if you are going through the same thing when trying to decorate a home on a budget, here’s what you should know:

1. Keep an eye on estatesales.net!

This is a website where you can find all the estate sales in your area. Plus, we get to see pictures of the items that are up for sale just to give you an idea. What you want to do is look for store clearances and locally featured sales (the nationally featured ones draw in a lot of people and tend to sell expensive items because of the exposure).

2. DIY as much as you can.

You can order fabric online and make your own curtains, like we did. You don’t need to own a sewing machine: just buy fabric glue and you are good to go! Do the same for your table cloth, chairs (we upholstered our dining room chairs and they turned out great!), coffee table and so on (we sectioned a barrel in two and added an old sheet of glass on top of it, for example).

Decorating a Home on a Budget

3. Think about natural lighting.

If your windows are small, try to compensate by choosing a light color for your walls and curtains. If they are big, you can get creative and even paint your walls a darker color if you choose to. If you are adding an accent wall, make sure you are picking the wall that’s most exposed to natural light- the one right across from your windows, generally.

4. Reuse a lot!

Anything can be turned into art. You can use old pennies to create a cool backsplash, old bottle caps for your bar top, mason jars to create a great chandelier, old doors to build a dining table and the list goes on. Try to throw away as little as possible. Old tires, bike wheels, milk jugs, broken terracotta pots can be reused in spectacular ways!

5. Add flowers to your life.

You’ve probably heard people saying: “Wow, these flowers really make the room come to life!” and you know why? Because that’s what they do: they turn any dark room into a warm and cozy place. You have two possibilities: create or buy faux flowers and create great arrangements.

They will last forever and will only need to be washed every now and then. The other idea (my favorite, to be honest) is to plant a few flower seeds in old paint cans, for example. They will make your room look great and smell even better. If you like to cook, you can grow your own parsley, coriander and other spices in a planter: both useful and aesthetically appealing!

6. Do solid vs sheer.

You need balance, no matter which room we’re talking about. If you feel like the couch, chairs and table look too masculine, add a pair of sheer drapes and you’re done.

If, on the contrary, everything is too girly, add solid colors and textures to tame everything down: have a pink room and no time or money to repaint? Go for some burlap curtains, a rough wood table and a few other wood accents and everything will be re-balanced.

7. What to splurge on?

After weeks and weeks of DIY-ing, we decided we deserved a cool chandelier and splurged on a shiny chandelier we found online. It cost us almost half a grand (and it was on sale!), but we feel like it was totally worth it!

There are a few items in your home that have the potential to become center-pieces: the chandelier, the kitchen isle, the area rug, the old library cases, an opulent dining table etc.

If your budget doesn’t allow you to spend a lot on…anything, you can still DIY and get a great result. For example, you can stack glass bottles and mason jars to create your own chandelier or repaint a boring area rug into a colorful wonder. All you need is imagination!

Decorating a Home on a Budget

How to Make a Chandelier from Old Wine Bottles by diynetwork.com

8. Decorate your empty space in your home.

We bought the home as it is and, therefore, didn’t have a say in the way the layout came to be. So, after decorating the dining room, we were left with a tiny room (like a small pantry with 3 walls only) that we had no use for.

After checking out Pinterest heavily, we decided to turn it into a breakfast nook and crop out a window for that purpose. If you already have the window, this will most probably not cost you a single dime. Otherwise, you will need some great tools (just rent them, no need to buy!) and somebody who knows what he’s doing. 

9. The area rug.

This is how to choose a good area rug: if your walls are white and the floor is dark, choose something colorful that has red, pink or orange in it. If the walls are already a bold color, go for something neutral. It’s all about balance.

Also, the rug has to be smaller than your room but big enough to place a coffee table and a few chairs on top of it. Small rugs make the room look smaller!

10. No blank walls!

Even if you like nice clean walls, this doesn’t mean you can’t have any kind of art on them, correct? You can pretty much hang any piece of art you want and even create collages.

Here are the rules for your artwork: try not to line up all the paintings like in a gallery, first of all. It looks too rigid and it’s not doing your walls any favors. Go for a scattered-looking style instead: place painting and photos of many shapes and color at different heights on the same wall, for example. Focus on the center of the wall to get everybody’s attention.

I think that when you are trying to decorate your home but don’t really dispose of a lot of money, creativity is your best friend.

And fortunately, inspiration is everywhere and quite inexpensive: just browse Pinterest until you find something you like or try building a whole concept around an item to hold dear to your heart (a painting, a certain nightstand, a dining table that your grandma gave you and so on).

Don’t forget to add life and make changes along the way: it’s only normal to have our home evolve. We change every day, don’t we? And don’t be afraid of color: bold yellow, passionate red, cool mint. Give them a chance and you might actually like the result!

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

9 Comments

  • I always find it a little bit sad when people are living with decor that they don’t like because they don’t think that they are able to afford anything better. This is far from the truth for many people, as your tips show, and it is clear to see that there are many things that can be done to help. I think that DIY skills are important to learn, as they really can help you to save a heck of a lot of money, and mean that you don’t have to pay other people to do the jobs that you could just as easily do yourself.

  • DIY is one of the best skills in my book. Not just for decorating but for other things to. I have come across so many good things on Youtube and Pinterest for DIYs. I think if your going with spending though a budget is very important to make sure you don’t spend to much.

  • The life-saver for me when it came to decorating was Goodwill. A lot of chic vintage stuff, and many items that looked great after a coat of white enamel paint. The furniture is extremely inexpensive and is glassware and crockery–and non-matching sets are all the rage these days. If you can look at something and imagine inventive ways to clean, modify or repurpose it you can do entire rooms for very little money. The stores with small furniture sections often are the cheapest as they want to keep things turning over.

  • I’ve always been jealous of creative people – to come up with original ideas like these takes effort and skill… both of which I lack immensely. Thank god for the Internet or my flat would look like a total dump.

    I’ve never been the one to spend lots of time decorating, but my boyfriend loves it and unfortunately, he takes me along his eternal shopping trips. He’s pretty good at it, and he keeps a tight budget. His personal favorite shopping destination is the Salvation Army. Never, ever, underestimate how cheap and totally awesome it is to buy second-hand!

    We have this incredible (and huge) painting in our living room which cost us 20$! Every time we have guests over they’re quite impressed by it.

  • I find the Dollar Tree to actually be a great place to find home decor items. Their fake flowers are actually pretty good looking considering how affordable they are. They also have some really beautiful picture frames. The cheapness of the frame comes in that you really can’t change the picture very many times before the backing breaks and you have to tape it together. But they are great frames if you are on a tight budget and just need something affordable to hold your family photos of some inexpensive art prints to jazz up your decor.

  • DIY really is the answer for a tight budget and is very wonderfull to look at the displays and interiors that you made and is very hard to take it away from you just like a thing with a significant value..but too much decors at your home makes your place crowded and dark sometimes so better to choose only the things you needed most and the proper place to put your DIY’s.

  • I love saving money and expanding my skills by taking on DIY projects. I’ve had my eye on recycled bottle and mason jar chandeliers and sconces for quite a while, and one of these days, I’m going to make one. I like your tips about balancing out the masculine and feminine aspects of a room, and using fabric glue. I love estatesales.net, I’ve attended many, and have gotten some great deals!

  • I am so inspired by things you and other bloggers do. I’ve completely transposed our living room with paint/new curtains and things I had redone/reused and enjoyed it even more as a challenge to see how I could make do.

  • You never know what treasures you will come across at a thrift store. The key to finding great pieces is to check back often. In my dining room refresh, a few of the accessories like the white pitchers and vase, previously came from a thrift store.

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