Budget Home Decorating – Get a Designer Home Makeover Without the Designer Price Tag

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 décor 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.

Home Decorating Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose a good-quality sofa?

I want a sofa that I’ll be able to keep for years. What should I look for?

Hardwood frames that are glued and screwed in place are the most hardwearing. Quality sofas have individual coil springs; mid-price versions use zigzag springs; and budget ones have webbing. Washable, loose covers are good for families, and close-woven covers are durable. But to check if it’s well-made, simply sit on it!

How do I make old floorboards look good?

Sand them with a specialist machine, starting with medium-grade abrasive paper, then going over it again with a fine-grade one. Give the floor three coats of varnish, sanding lightly by hand between coats.

Which blinds are best in lofts?

I’ve just had my loft converted and need to get some blinds for the windows. Is there an alternative to plain roller blinds?

You’ll need blinds in your loft as the light will be very strong and will wake you up early in the morning in the summer. If you’re after something a bit different, pleated blinds have a soft, pretty effect and diffuse light, while traditional roller blinds will help prevent light reflecting on computer and TV screens. Blackout versions are worth considering – they fit into channels at the sides of the window to stop light getting in around the edges – they’re perfect for light sleepers. Venetian blinds are another option, allowing you to tilt the blinds as well as open and close them for maximum flexibility.

How do I try out paint colours without ruining my walls?

I can never decide which paint looks best in my room before I buy, and I don’t really want to put patches of colour all over my walls for weeks. Is there a simpler way that will help me choose the right colour for my room?

Instead of painting tester pots directly onto the walls, use them to paint a large sheet cut from lining paper. The lining paper can then be easily moved around so you can try it on different walls, without spoiling the look of your room.

Can I use bold wallpaper in a small room?

My bedroom is tiny but I want to use a bold-patterned wallpaper. Nice or nasty?

Nice! A big pattern will have an impact in a small room, but use it on just one wall. Choose the colour of the wallpaper carefully – brights will make a small room feel smaller, and soft colour contrasts in the paper create a sense of space. Balance the overall effect by picking plain colours, subtle textures or small motifs for other furnishings.

How do I create a relaxing lighting scheme?

I’m fed up with only having an overhead light, as it doesn’t make the room look very welcoming. How can I make it more relaxing?

Recessed ceiling-mounted spotlights or a pendant light will give you good overall light, but if that’s your only source, the lighting can feel harsh. Soften the overall effect by adding a table lamp next to your sofa and a floor lamp or reading light near your armchair. You should be aiming for around two to three separate light sources for an average-sized room to create pools of light where you need them.

What’s the best layout for a formal living room?

The kids have left home so I want to create a more formal living room. What’s the best way to lay out it out?

If you want a formal room, whatever your style, the one rule is symmetry! Arrange furniture symmetrically and you’ll give your room the grown-up look you’re after. If you have plenty of space, move your sofa so it’s facing two identical armchairs or an identical sofa. You can also use tricks like adding a pair of side tables with matching lamps, or arranging a set of four prints in matching frames on the wall. If you don’t have the space for all of these different elements, choose smaller pieces such as carver chairs instead of upholstered versions. Then just arrange them around a focal point – whether it’s a fireplace, window or a coffee table.

What good-value curtains work with sash windows?

I’ve got high ceilings and beautiful sash windows – but a tight budget. How should I dress them?