Call us optimists, but we think everyone under the sun can and should have a beautiful home.
If you’re pinching pennies, there still is plenty you can do to create a stylish and inviting home. The first step (and this is true no matter where or how you live) is to clean your home and get it organized. Doing those two things alone will drastically improve the quality of your space.
Paint an accent wall
Painting your walls is one of the most cost-effective decorative updates you can make to your home. But if you’re on a shoestring budget, the two cans of $30 paint it may require to paint your bedroom might be beyond your budget. Instead, consider painting an accent wall. A quart (which covers up to 100 square feet) or a 2.5-liter can (which covers up to 260 square feet) is likely all you’ll need to cover a single wall, which can make just as much of an impact.
Lose unsightly items
Before you start worrying about what you can and cannot afford to buy, consider what you should get rid of. Dated, worn or damaged items could be doing the look of your home a disservice.
One of the worst offenders common in rental apartments is vertical blinds. Or how about those not-so-stylish college posters you’ve been holding on to? Let go, or at least put them in storage.
Do it yourself
Making your own furniture and decor can mean great savings. But the DIY revolution of the early 2000s unleashed a whole lot of not-so-chic craftiness on this world. There actually are a remarkable number of sophisticated projects out there to take on; you just have to hunt for them.
Set up sales alerts
If you’re dead-set on something that’s out of your price range, first look for it on Craigslist, and if that fails, try to buy it on sale. You can use ShopStyle to set a sale alert for products from hundreds of major brands. Enter your search filters or terms and press the pink “Add Sale Alert” button, and you’ll be emailed when the item goes on sale.
A number of retailers like Overstock, Amazon and Macy’s will also alert you when something goes on sale or returns after being out of stock.
Subscribe to Craigslist
I am the poster child for shopping for and selling furniture and decor on Craigslist. If you are not doing it already, that’s your biggest mistake. You can find great deals for pieces for a number of reasons: Sellers don’t know the value, sellers are eager to sell, stores are liquidating or something is brand-new and strategically listed for less than retail.
Browsing is time-consuming, so subscribe to your Craigslist search terms. For example, if you’re on the hunt for a midcentury modern sideboard, search for those keywords in Craigslist as you normally would.
Then, on the results screen, scroll to the bottom right corner of the page and click on the RSS button. A new window will open, copy the URL of the new window and add it to your RSS reader (I use Feedly).
As lovely as custom curtains or a reupholstered sofa may be, they are not for the decorator on a shoestring budget. Instead, consider customizing what you already own. Add some iron-on trim to basic white curtain panels.
Paint the edge of a simple black end table in gold. Wallpaper the interior of a bookcase. Or try an Ikea hack like adding a leather handle to a basic cutting board.
On the spectrum of home decor styles, eclectic designs are often the easiest to replicate. Why? The look is all about mixing and not matching. There’s no need to find that side table, or an exact shade of blue, let alone a lofty antique, as there often is with traditional interior design. Succumb to your bohemian self and shopping for furniture and decor will be much more affordable.
Make a garage sale map
Garage and estate sales are great places to score cheap home decor and furniture, but stumbling upon one is a rarity. You have to know where they are and get there early to have any chance at scoring the good stuff.
When I was young and broke and needed to furnish an entire studio apartment, on Friday nights I would make a map of all the Saturday garage sales happening in my area. I would wake up early Saturday and add newly listed sales to the map, then tackle them all in order of proximity, with sneakers on and cash in hand. Now you can drop a pin and your iPhone will direct you. Ahh, technology.
Shop the house
The cheapest way to decorate is to “shop” what you already own. Take a walk around your house and think about how you might be able to repurpose objects and accessories in different rooms.