Give your home a designer makeover without the designer price tag with these budget-friendly home decorating tips:
1. Get inspired. The first step is to get loads of inspiration and ideas. Go to your local library and check out a few magazines on interior design and home decor. Depending on your personal taste, you might consider the following titles: ELLE Decor, House Beautiful, Dwell, LUXE, Traditional Home, Architectural Digest, and Cottage Style. Also check out any design magazines that are specific to your region.
Now flip through those magazines just to get ideas. Take note of the design elements that you like most. Which colors, textures, and patterns are particularly appealing to you? Jot down any and all of those designer tricks that you find aesthetically pleasing and that you could incorporate inexpensively into your own space: stacked books that double as end tables, collections of antique jars on a mantle or mismatched pewter frames in an attractive grouping, for example.
When something speaks to you, sketch it in your "design notebook" or just jot down the idea. You might not be able to use the idea in your space right away, but when you need fresh inspiration, you'll have it.
2. Dress the walls. A quick coat or two of paint can do wonders for any space, and it's an easy project to do by yourself in an afternoon (or two). Just a few hours of work can yield dramatic effects - elevating a boring, blah room into a cozy, warm space. And even if painting isn't your favorite part of the home decorating process, it needs to be done first so you can make sure all of your other design elements will match or coordinate with the room itself.
Wall tiles, wall flats, fabric panels, and vinyl embellishments are other attractive and affordable options to quickly and dramatically change the look and feel of a space, particularly if you are renting and need a more temporary and removable option. A quick Google search will give you a variety of choices in a wide range of price points.
3. Dress the windows. Behind paint, the right window treatments can give you the second biggest bang for your buck. Your choice of fabric can make all the difference in your room. For drama, choose strong colors and patterns with heavier textures. For a light and airy room, opt for sheer draperies in pastels.
While the right window coverings are important, they don't have to be super expensive. Browse your local Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, Target, Kmart or Macys. You can often find especially deep discounts online at Amazon and Smart Bargains.
Another affordable option is to make the window coverings yourself. Roman shades are do-able for even the non-seamstress. Search for your chosen project on YouTube, HGTV or the DIY Network for step-by-step video tutorials.
4. Dress the big stuff. Since we're on a budget here, we won't be buying new furniture, so consider livening up your space with quality slipcovers. These can have a dramatic effect and are particularly ideal if you have quality furniture with some cosmetic blemishes.
You can generally find slipcovers at your local department stores or at discount bed and bath superstores. The nice thing about slipcovers is that they make it a cinch to change the theme or color scheme of a room to correspond with the changing seasons - or your changing moods. The downside: furniture covers are really only a practical option if you don't have young kids or pets that lie around on the furniture. Otherwise, you'll spend all your time straightening and tucking.
As an alternative to slipcovers, you could have your furniture reupholstered, which may be less expensive than you think, depending on the piece -or, if you'd rather opt for a new piece of furniture, you can do it without spending a whole lot by keeping an eye on your local Craigslist, your city's Freecycle site, or even furniture store clearance sales.
5. Go nuts with accessories. This is the fun part. Use your personal sense of style and taste (coupled with the new ideas and know-how from your designer's notebook) to add inexpensive pillows, sconces, candles and candle holders, art, photo frames, floral arrangements, throw blankets, decorative fruit bowls, fresh towels and other home dÃ©cor elements. Dress up your dining room chairs with skirts and chair covers, add a dramatic table runner and an elaborate handmade centerpiece.
Where to find those budget-friendly items? Turn to your local department stores as well as secondhand stores. Watch the online clearance bins and stroll the flea market. Walk into your local Hobby Lobby or Michael's for ideas, which are generally on display throughout the store. You might even be able to take a class in the store on how to create some of the floral displays or other home accessories you see on display.
When you're online, be on the lookout for eye-catching ideas you can do yourself. (Stumbleupon and Pinterest are fantastic tools for uncovering hidden DIY gems.)
If you don't have the money to do every room in your house, start small - either with paint or a new slipcover; a new pillow or a new DIY project. The trick to home decorating on a budget is to do what you can, when you can.