Decorating on a Budget: 20 Tips from the Pros

published Jun 3, 2014
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(Image credit: HGTV)

A couple of months back, I gathered some tips from the pros for ways to round off an unfinished room. It seemed to hit a chord with our readers, leading to many commenters weighing in on their favorite piece of advice or offering up their own tips that have worked for them. Since we’re focusing on reining in our budgets this month, lets see what insightful pointers the masters can offer up when it comes to bargain decorating!

  • Love something? Buy just one. “Spotting my coffee table was like meeting the love of my life. I recently saw a brass end table that resembled it, but I decided to leave it behind. Something this great wouldn’t look as special if it had a match.”
  • “Look at the shape of furniture before you look at the fabric. I fell hard for this $700 couch from a vintage store in Portland, Oregon. I happened to love the navy velvet, but remember: You can refinish or reupholster anything.”
  • Outside or inside? Who cares? “The Dalmatian is a lawn ornament, and it’s really heavy, like 100 pounds. Just because something’s meant for outside doesn’t mean it can’t live indoors.”
  • For a money-saving shopping trick, split sets. “This leather safari chair from the ’70s was part of a set, but it was expensive, so my friend and I both chipped in — she took the sofa, I got the chair.”
(Image credit: Rita Konig)

From Rita Konig:

  • “When you have a budget, it’s easy to buy things for the price, rather than buy good things. But if you buy good things, they will always be with you. If you buy the bad couch, for instance, you will always want to replace it as soon as you can.”
  • Upholstery. I purchased a couch in Atlanta for $1,900 and reupholstered it two years later.
  • Visit auction houses, because they have interior sales.
  • Pictures also make such a difference in your home. I have never had a big budget for art, so in my old apartment I stuck old polaroids on the wall. It was fun.

From Todd Oldham:

  • Enlarge a 1970’s photo mural for an instant window in a dark room. You could try snowy Alps and/or a lake, but Oldham also finds a blown-up image of the stars at night nifty.
  • Recycle a duvet for a “Pet Lounge,” a cushion for your favorite canine or feline.
  • Change the look of a room dramatically by placing carpeting on the diagonal. This way, “corporate carpet tile gets a downright homey angle,” he says.
(Image credit: Meg Braff)

From Meg Braff:

  • Upgrade with trim. Whether it’s used on an off-the-floor sofa or a plain lampshade or curtains, adding trim elevates and personalizes the ordinary.
  • Pull it all together with affordable accessories. “Inexpensive Chinese porcelain, trays, place mats, table settings… can really stretch a budget and still get the last layer of personality.”
  • Choose affordable art from reasonably priced online sites like Easy Art or 20×200. And for maximum impact, hang artwork in a group rather than scattering it around a room.
  • Customize Standard Tiles – If you purchase typical 12-inch-square stone tiles, you can cut them to create a unique pattern. In a foyer, for example, you might start by outlining the space with a border of six- by 12-inch tiles, then add three rows of two-inch-square ones and fill in the centre with 12-inch-square ones. That creates the look of a pre-finished mosaic pattern at a fraction of the cost. If you’re a confident DIYer, buy standard subway tiles for the kitchen backsplash, but form a 
running-brick (staggered) or more complex herringbone pattern.
  • Jazz up a shower curtain. Store-bought shower curtains often ride high above the floor, awkwardly revealing part of the tub. Simply sew a deep fabric hem at the bottom of the curtain to create a couture look.
  • Go for Gallery Glam. Give a humble piece of art the appearance of a masterwork with oversize matting and framing. When surrounded by an eight-inch matt, a small print instantly gains the presence of something valuable. Consider investing in original artwork by local up-and-comers and find out when art colleges are having student showings of original works at affordable prices.
(Image credit: Jan Showers)

From Jan Showers:

  • Mix quality pieces with less expensive finds. When it comes to collecting, not every piece has to be precious. It’s much more important to find things you truly love. That is the point of collecting! On my desk at home, I have a collection of Eiffel Towers, some expensive and some from souvenir shops. I love them all because they remind me of Paris.

From Jamie Drake:

  • Start by looking at what you already have, and re-envisioning it. Move it to another room, or flip the floor plan. Reupholster, spray the wood pieces. Shopping at home can be your most inexpensive resource.

From Carol Thomas:

  • “Take the time to see what’s out there. I’ve been very lucky to find really old pieces at secondhand stores — people don’t know the value of them. Refinish them. Get a piece of marble, glass or granite cut down to size and put it on top of a dresser, for example. The piece you buy will become an original all over again.”

I’m interested in hearing what our readers think about these tips, this time around. And of course, what money-saving decorating tips have worked for you? Let’s hear them!

Re-edited from a post originally published 6.3.2014