4 Ways I’ve Decorated My Home with Original Paintings on a Budget

published Oct 3, 2022
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Gallery wall of paintings above bed with pillows and cat
Credit: Jennifer Prince
Gallery wall thrifted by the author for under $100 (mirror and non-paintings included).

Nowadays, vintage and handmade practically go hand in hand. As outdoor festivals and holiday markets begin to pop up, these events often feature one-of-a-kind vendors. Some sellers handcraft their goods, and others hunt for things that have stood the test of time, resulting in a plethora of unique items to purchase. I, like perhaps many of you, appreciate both for their history, and I love thinking about the item’s story. I credit my parents for this appreciation for the uncommon: My mom started an antique shop when I was five, so my parents often toted me to thrift stores, flea markets, and estate sales. 

Now that I’m older and have my own home, I’ve started to blend my love for handmade and vintage by filling my house with original art. It brings me joy — Marie Kondo would be proud — to look at each work and recall where I purchased it and what I paid. My thrifty side always remembers a great deal, and I’ve scored most of my artwork for a song. Here are some tips for decorating your walls with paintings on a budget. 

I scour my local thrift store.

Art is subjective, so what someone else thinks is hideous, you may feel is the perfect fit for your home. Often, folks will donate unwanted pieces of art to thrift stores, which tend to price things very reasonably. Another perk — if you’re willing to hunt — is that due to the influx of goods, many times paintings and pictures are placed in bins, meaning you have to flip through them Rolodex-style to see what they have in stock.

Once at my local Goodwill, I was perusing the paintings and a particular frame caught my eye. It was antique, and when I picked it up, I was pleasantly surprised that the image it contained was original. I paid $12.50 for it, but when I researched the artist at home, I found out it was worth around $400. Although I don’t intend to sell it, I revel in knowing it has value. You never know what you’ll find if you’re willing to look.

Credit: Jennifer Prince
This cat painting was $35 at a flea market.

I keep my eye out for moving sales.

From spring to fall, I’m out almost every Saturday heading to yard sales. (Sidebar: I’m happy to say that my daughter and granddaughter usually accompany me, so the love of thrifting is being passed down through the generations.) Often, folks are offloading prints that aren’t worth much, but I find a true gem every once in a while. Once, I noticed a painting against the fence when I arrived at a sale. Although the art was simple — it’s of a fencepost in a field — the way the artist painted the light struck me. It was only $5 and is one of my favorite pieces.

I search antique shops.

Although finding paintings at antique shops doesn’t always equal a great deal, it can — especially if you head to a multi-dealer shop. Many vendors will hang pictures, or you may have to sift through piles leaning against a wall. Either way, you can find original art that is reasonably inexpensive. One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to head to antique shops, and as a souvenir, pick up vintage pieces of art to remember our travels. 

On one of our coastal trips, I picked up a lovely antique painting of boats for $35. Although that price is at the high end of the spectrum for me, I think about the fact that many big box stores sell mass-produced art at that price and higher. I’d much rather have something with a history. Bonus: It blends well with my valuable Goodwill find, so they’re hanging on a wall together.

Credit: Jennifer Prince
This entire wall cost around $125 — the orange kerosene lamp painting was only $1 tucked away at an antiques shop, and it’s dated 1960.

I sometimes pick up pieces when I travel.

A tiny part of my collection consists of new pieces I’ve purchased while on my many travels. I’ve bought everything from a watercolor of a mountain in Nepal to a colorful street scene in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, that I splurged on for $65. Although these pieces are small, they usually are pretty affordable, especially if you purchase them directly from the artist. No matter where or when I’ve secured my pieces, I truly enjoy being surrounded by one-of-a-kind finds and remembering how they became a part of my growing collection.