We all want a home where, the second you or anyone else walks through the door, there is a feeling of welcome. One where all the troubles of the world seem to melt away as soon as you pull up the drive. You can create that home with what you already have on hand. Just follow these 10 fun and easy ideas to decorate on a budget!
Decorate on a Budget – Start with Compatibility
If someone walks through your back door into a fun 1950s kitchen, the next room in the house they enter really shouldn’t be like a trip to the Orient. Starkly different room décor can have an unsettling effect, and takes a person a moment to ‘refocus’. Choose a look and carry it throughout the home. That does not mean you can’t have a Ming vase in a farmhouse living room. Just don’t overdo it.
When you decorate on a budget, the first trick is to have a ‘theme’, be it color, style, or ‘feel’ (festive, calming, etc.). Choose an overall color or color scheme, and carry it throughout the house. No. You do not have to paint every wall yellow. But if you do want to paint the walls, keep them in the same tone or shade family. Pull the rooms together with the same style and feel.
As for paint, dark colors will make a room look smaller. Light colors make it look larger. Bright, or ‘loud’ colors, as my Dad always called them, should be toned down with white or off-white trim. The last thing you want is a ‘jarring’ effect when walking into the room.
Remember, color will affect your mood. Red can easily be considered ‘aggressive’; pink – feminine and romantic. Yellow. Yellow, depending on intensity, can evoke emotions ranging from frustration and anger (bright yellow), to soothing (pale yellow), and green can have a calming effect.
My guest room is painted Robin’s Egg blue. The trim is white, the flooring is a neutral light oak. To contrast with the walls, I have an iron bed painted dark gray, and ‘dressed it’ with a white crocheted spread and vintage pillow cases.
To add color, I tossed a quilt in pastel colors of pink, yellow, blue and green. The side table has a vintage table cloth, and I use vintage items such as colored glass vases, plates and a lamp for decoration.
White, or off-white walls, however, are the equivalent of a blank canvas, and one of the least expensive ways you can decorate on a budget. You collections will stand out more against the neutral color.
If you love the shape of a sofa or chair, but cannot afford to have it recovered, decorate on a budget and learn how to make slip covers. These can be as simple as fabric thrown over the furniture, tucked in, and adding ties, or as elaborate as ‘sewn to exact fit’.
Either way, slip covers not only will save you money, but they can also be removed and washed. I suggest choosing a basic solid color, and adding pattern and color through pillows and throws. This way, you can ‘freshen’ up the look for a seasonal feel to your room.
Although a bedspread isn’t considered a slipcover, the same principle applies. In my back guest room, I change the look of my bed out seasonally, using some of my quilts. Since I don’t have a quilt that reflects the fall season, I knew I could easily decorate on a budget by making a fall set myself, with some fabric and a vintage crochet tablecloth.
I created matching pillow shams and a dust ruffle out of coordinating fabric. On the top of the bed, I used a dark green top sheet and covered the mattress, tucking it in on all sides. Then, I added an ecru vintage tablecloth that was handed down to me by a great-aunt.
This gave me the look I wanted, and allowed me to add depth with different sized pillows, contrasting but coordinating fabric and texture with the tablecloth. And I could decorate on a budget by doing it myself, rather than having it custom made!
Choose rugs that fit the room. If your room is 15’ x 20’, you don’t want five 2’x4’ rugs scattered throughout the room. Choose one that is, at a minimum, 8’ x 10’, and center it.
Allow room between the rug and the wall. If you have a dark rug, choose lighter colored walls, to keep the room from closing in. However, a cheerfully colored rag or braided rug adds character to a room which is painted white or off-white.
Old, new. Vintage, Modern. Even if you decorate on a budget, the theme and colors of your home should reflect your personality. I love my sister’s log home, but when considering my own personal style, I just don’t ‘fit’ in her house. However, I always walk through her doorway and feel welcomed and comfortable.
A lot of that comes from her. She more than ‘fits’ in her home – she is an extension of it. Choose what you love, and you will want to spend time in your home. If you love it and want to be there, others will subconsciously pick up on it, and love and want to be there, too.
Have you ever walked into a room and immediately froze, because it was wall-to-wall knickknacks, and you were in fear of breaking something? Instead of filling up every empty space, leave room to breathe.
When you decorate on a budget, use the ‘Principle of Three’. In my living room, I have a vintage marble-top washstand handed down to me by a great friend. There is a vintage slop bucket that I filled with silk geraniums on one side of it.
On the other side are two wooden cow banks. The banks are two different sizes, but similar enough to take on the appearance of one item. Between the two is a vintage, dark green, glass bowl filled with potpourri. On the wall behind them is a painting of a cow with a wreath of flowers on her head. It all blends, without being overpowering.
To every rule there is an exception. For instance, if you have a collection of angels, it is okay to line them up on a mantel or shelf. Just make sure other surfaces, such as tables and sideboards, hold only an item or two, or a small grouping, to ‘balance’ the weight of the angels.
Think Outside the Decorating Box
A perfect way to decorate on a budget is to find a place with great deals. I love going to flea markets, garage sales and ‘junk’ shops. There are some very unusual pieces just waiting for a new home. The trick is to see them with a ‘new’ purpose in mind.
I have three pieces that are a bit unusual, and have repurposed them. The first is a vintage laundromat basket. The folding frame was painted pink, and the basket was in good shape. I snatched it up, because the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew it would be perfect to hold my quilts.
The second is a vintage metal garden cart. This one was cute, but it took a little more thought. As I stood in the shop looking at it, I tried my best to figure out how I could use it. There was a rectangular cut out on the top that must have held a basket or something at one time.
My mind wandered through all the baskets I already had, but couldn’t come up with a single one that was that size. I walked away, a little sad that I couldn’t use it. But while checking out a selection of vintage enamelware, my mind saw a rectangle baking dish, but it was in bad shape.
But then, I remembered I had a larger one at home that was originally a photography developing tray that had belonged to my Dad. I still wasn’t’ sure if it was the right size, but the price on the garden cart was the right price, so I ‘paid my nickel and took my chances’, as my Dad used to say.
Lo and behold, it was a perfect fit! That garden cart is now a dressing table in a guest room. Using a set of vintage linen pieces and an old medicine cabinet mirror, it now fits perfectly in my guest room. Painted white, it is set off by those Robin’s Egg blue walls.
The third piece I saw at the Canton (Texas) flea market. It was one of those items that made me feel a bit like Julius Caesar – I came, I saw, I bought. It was a vintage wooden shoe rack, and still had some of the leather on the spindles that were used to keep the shoes in the drying process from slipping.
When I brought it home, the Country Boy measured and had three sheets of glass cut to fit each shelf. I now use it in my kitchen as a display for my enamelware, as well as my fiesta ware.
When you decorate on a budget, don’t limit yourself by thinking something you love won’t work for a different than intended purpose. Use your creative eye to imagine it used in other ways. Even a buffet or table can be re-purposed into a bathroom sink!
I am not talking about spotless here. In spite of how you view your home, no one is going to go home and tell the world about the dust bunnies behind your refrigerator. However, a week’s worth of dirty dishes piled up in the sink is another matter. To the best of your ability, pick up, put away, and wipe down countertops.
Give the bathrooms a once over at least once a day, and a good scrubbing once or twice a week. Learn to ‘dance’ with a broom each day, and the vacuum and mop at least two or three times a week.
Aroma is one of the most important considerations when you want to decorate on a budget. When we keep our windows closed all the time, the air inside becomes stale. Truthfully, commercial air fresheners don’t really help matters. The best way to keep your home smelling fresh is to keep it clean, and open the windows at least three times a week, if not once a day.
Spring and fall weather makes it easy to do this. In the heat of the summer, open them early in the morning while the air is still cool. In winter, do it in the middle of the day or mid-afternoon, once the sun has had a chance to warm things up.
It doesn’t have to be for a long period of time. A few minutes each time helps move stale air out and fresh air in. Make sure to open windows on different ends and/or levels of the house to create cross ventilation.
Also, learn to create your own potpourri using either a dried mixture that has been placed around the house in bowls, or add a simmering pot on the back burner of the stove.
There is nothing worse than visiting a home, and being offered a chair that you are either afraid will break when you sit down, or is hard and uncomfortable. When you decorate on a budget, don’t go overboard and get too cheap. Instead, choose furniture that you are willing to sit in for any length of time. Try it out before you buy it.
Many people use this tip to decorate on a budget – but only during the holidays. But it actually works all year ‘round!
If you have too much stuff, and love it all, you can still enjoy it. Decorate on a budget by periodically, ‘freshen’ up the look of your home by swapping out items. Display a selection of favorite items for 6 months or so. Then safely pack those items in boxes. In their place, display other items that have been packed away, just waiting for their time to shine.
Change your curtains. To help keep your home warm, hang heavier curtains or drapes during the winter months. When doing your spring cleaning, remove those to launder, and replace them with a lighter choice, such as lace or gingham.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to decorate on a budget is to make minor changes. Switch out throw pillows occasionally. Exchange that heavy knit blanket for a lightweight throw.
Use vintage doilies to accent a favorite piece. Use silk flowers to add a touch of color – daisies, geraniums and lavender for the spring and summer, mums in fall, and poinsettias in the winter.
In addition to changing out curtains, throw pillows and favorite items, you can simply decorate on a budget by rearranging the furniture. Use a closer grouping for fall and winter, and a looser one for spring and summer. This can change the whole look of a room.
Decorate on a Budget with ‘Feeling’
The way a home feels when you enter is the most important element of good design. We want everything to be ‘perfect’, but in truth, that perfection doesn’t exist. It is all in the ‘eye of the beholder’.
You don’t have to spend a fortune – you really can decorate on a budget. Even if you love the look of a room in a decorating magazine, doesn’t mean you can’t have something similar. Instead of spending every dime you have, trust your instincts, personality and creativity.
The house you decorate on a budget is still your home. Allow it to become an extension of you with items you love. Keep it simple, think outside the box, and keep the clutter at bay.
But remember – no one can decorate on a budget without a genuine love of their home. The real decoration in your home is the warm and welcoming hospitality that comes from your heart. It is your smile, your enjoyment of having guests, and having a home that is a true reflection of you!
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