Our Favorite Budgeting Tips From House Tours in 2021

published Dec 27, 2021
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Making a space feel like home should spark joy, but the process can be overwhelming. On top of the mental gymnastics required to picture how you want your space to look, there’s also the financial component. To live in a space, you usually need to spend money on it. But the good news is, you definitely don’t have to break the bank to elevate your home. 

This year, we learned lots of new ways to make a space beautiful and function without spending a ton of money. Here are nine stellar budget tips we learned from AT house tours in 2021. 

Choose furniture that does double-duty.

No mudroom to store shoes and other loose ends? Leslie, who flips furniture for a living, shared a super-smart tip in her house tour: She uses a display cabinet in her entryway to hold her family’s shoes. The gorgeous cane cabinet functions as a statement piece, decor surface, and a mudroom, all in one! This tip works great for small spaces, too.

Credit: Nicole Wyman

Add clever lighting.

In her modern New Jersey loft, Nicole didn’t have any lighting in her closet. Rather than fussing with electrical or buying a lamp, she installed adhesive track lighting from the Container Store. Depending on where you need light, you could also add adhesive puck lights as a cost-effective, functional alternative to a lamp or overhead lighting!

Credit: Erin Derby

Hang your photos as art.

Adding some flair to your gallery wall doesn’t have to be pricey. Erin wanted her Brooklyn apartment to be high on style, but she didn’t want to fork over tons of money for expensive decor. Her solution? Blowing up one of her favorite iPhone shots, printing it at a local printer, and framing it herself. It’s a super simple, high-impact way to make your space feel like you — all the while putting your favorite moments on display.

Splurge on key pieces and save on decor.

Liz didn’t want to spend a ton of money decorating the apartment she shares with her daughter, Olivia, but she also didn’t want to compromise on style. Rather than outfitting the space with all high-end pieces, she focused her funds on well-made furniture and picked up decor from thrift stores and Facebook Marketplace (and DIYed artwork with her young daughter). Spending more on furniture usually means it’ll last longer, while dishing out less for decor allows you to swap out pieces when you want a change. Best of both worlds!

Rehab existing furniture.

It’s tempting to buy new furniture, but so often, you can update existing pieces yourself without breaking the bank. For example, Van Anh upgraded an IKEA TV stand with lucite pulls she purchased from Etsy. 

Frame wallpaper samples. 

Another genius hack from Van Anh: If you’re drawn to a wallpaper print, use it as an accent instead of spending money to fill a whole wall or room with it. She used a gorgeous wallpaper sample she bought online as a print and hung it on her wall! You could do the same thing with high-quality wrapping paper.

Credit: Leanne Ward

Use paint instead of wallpaper. 

You’d never guess Leanne’s whimsical U.K. apartment was styled on a budget. One of the space’s most striking features is a mural, which she painted on her bedroom wall rather than spending a bunch of money on pricey wallpaper. Even if you’re not artistic like Leanne, you can paint a statement wall in a room that needs rehabbing, or use painter’s tape and follow online tutorials to create an eye-catching geometric design. Stickers work in a pinch, too!

Credit: Minette Hand

Learn some new DIY skills.

Kristen and Erica, who live together in a tiny Airstream, offered up a tip for those willing to DIY: Rather than buying a new piece of decor, learn a new skill and make your own! If you’re feeling crafty, try your hand at a macrame piece like the ones that deck out their gorgeous trailer. Or, rehab your own piece of furniture by adding a coat of fresh paint. Afterwards, you’ll have saved money and practiced something new!

Don’t rush. 

If outfitting your space would cost you more than you want, pace yourself. As Jennifer, who designed her dreamy Texas lake house reminded us, a home is curated over time.  Katrina and David, who rehabbed a Brooklyn brownstone, focused on simple, high-impact upgrades over time. Yes, you need certain pieces to function, but take all the time you need to collect decor and other pieces that make your space feel like home.