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Decorating on a Dime

Updated on May 7, 2009

Decorating is one of those things that can make our homes go from regular places to spectacular ones that we actually enjoy being in. While you can sit back and relax no matter what's on the walls, when something is decorated well it gives it a warm homey feeling and helps you relax all that much more. Of course, if you hire a decorator or even if you watch a lot of the decorating shows, you may be concerned you will never be able to afford to live in the style and comfort that you want. It doesn't have to be that way, you can decorate on a dime.

Rearrange Your Furniture

So, changing things up can be as simple as rearranging the furniture. To begin pull everything off to one side and work each piece back in. You can even try some odd angles to make your room feel completely different. To do this place larger pieces of furniture at an angle that has it a bit off the wall. It will give your room a whole new feel without costing you anything.

Furniture Touch Up Tips

Whether you picked up a "new to you" old piece of furniture for a great deal or you want to touch up your own furniture there are lots of options that can make old furniture fresh and new again.

  • Paint- A coat of paint can be a great way to refresh something old that has seen better days. Sand it first and choose a color that matches your room. White and black are great neutrals, but you can choose a color as well. Another option is to highlight certain features with a color and choose a solid for the rest of the piece.
  • Refinish- Sometimes you want the look of wood, especially in some pieces. To refinish them start with a good cleaning. Then sand and use varnish remover if need be. Sand again and finish it with stain, varnish, or polyurethane for a great fresh new piece.
  • Clean- Sometimes older pieces just need a good cleaning for the perfect look. To do this use a tooth brush to get into the tight spaces and clean it out well.
  • Reupholster- A lot of different types of furniture can be recovered or reupholstered easily. All you need to do is pick out the fabric of your choice and recover anything that you can. If you can't do it yourself, find out how much someone else will charge you. It will still be cheaper then a new piece of furniture and can make a huge difference.
  • Slip covers- For couches, love seats, and chairs it is often easiest to go with a slip cover. These will cost you from about $50-200 depending on your design and your choices. However, they will look lots better, are easy to get a hold of, and they fit couches much better then they used to giving you a tailored fresh look.
  • Throws and throw pillows- Maybe your tired furniture just needs a few good throw pillows or a throw across the back of it. This simple step can be inexpensive and easy. Plus you can choose a wide range of colors and styles.
  • Fabric- Fabric can also be a great way to fix up a piece of furniture. You can choose to drape fabric over a side table or end table, the couch, a chair, or even the ottoman. To finish the edges simple use fabric glue or tape and have a no sew finish within moments (without even knowing how to sew!).

Finding Deals On Your Decor

We have all seen beautiful furniture about. It is available in stores at a pretty penny, as are a lot of the other decorative types of things that we enjoy. But you don't have to break the bank or have stuff that cost you a fortune to have a great home. Instead check out some of the following places for great deals and great options for sprucing up your home.

  1. Garage sales- Whether it is called a garage sale or a yard sale (or some other sort of sale), people selling off the stuff they no longer need or want can be a great place for you to pick up items you do need (or want). You can get some great deals this way and have a beautiful home from other people's discards.
  2. Thrift stores- Most cities have a few different thrift stores or second hand stores. Many of these get odd donations of furniture, nick knacks, and other decorative items. This might be the perfect place for you to find that diamond (or diamond in the rough) item and it won't cost you an arm and a leg either!
  3. Flea Markets- While not available everywhere, a good flea market can be the perfect place to find someone else's once loved treasures. You can take them, clean them, decorate them, use them, and change your world all in one breath.
  4. Cheap Stores- Every town has at least one. Whether it is the Dollar Tree, The Dollar General, Family Dollar, or a 99 Cent Store you can find a lot of small treasures in these places. While not all of them are for a dollar or less, you can save a ton of money buying beautiful items right here for a lower price.

Renting Tips: Adding Color

Paint is the easiest option for creating a fresh new space, but many renters don't have the option of opening a can of paint and changing their room that way. There are a few options (which can also be used by non-renters) for adding color. It doesn't take a lot of work and can be done anywhere that you can put small holes in the walls.

  • Boarder paper- Boarder papers come in a huge variety of options these days. You can get a boarder that matches the style and taste of anyone and any room. Normally these are semi-permanent and not options for renters. However, you can choose a boarder that you like and rather then wetting it and gluing it to the wall (or removing the backing and sticking it to the wall) you can use thumb tacks to attach it. They make great options for around the top of the wall and for the middle of the room to meet your needs.
  • Fabric- You can take yards of fabric and tac it to the wall with thumb tacs as well. You can choose a beautiful solid color, a wonderful print, or mix and match the two to meet your tastes (which can also be tons of fun for kids). Sometimes you can even get fabric for as little as $1 a yard which makes it a fairly inexpensive way to decorate, whether you are doing your home or your rental. It is also easy for kids because change doesn't have to be a lot of work or a lot of money.
  • Peel and Stick Decals- A fairly new option out on the market is a peel and stick decal. They come in a wide range of colors, styles, designs, and sizes and can make a huge difference to your room. Simply peel them, stick them, and remove when you want!

Just because you are renting doesn't mean you can't have a lovely home as well!


Paint is one of the cheapest options for making a huge change in a room. There are a ton of different options that can make for a wonderful new look. You can paint a single wall an accent color, you can paint the whole room a new color, or you can even pick more then one color to paint with. There are lots of options for painting with multiple colors and it can really make a statement. For more information on this project check out the article How To Paint One Wall Two Colors.

Tips for great coverage. Painting isn't hard to do, but there are a lot of people out there that aren't used to it and can make somewhat costly mistakes. For the best coverage of any wall you should use a good primer to prepare the wall. This gives the paint the best possible surface to stick to. Next, buy a paint that costs a little more. You don't have to spend $50 a gallon to get a good paint, but it is a good idea to avoid store brands (usually available for $10-15 a gallon) and get a good name brand (which will cost you in the $20-30 range). That way you are more likely to get good coverage with less paint. When and where possible use a roller, it will save you time, effort, and money because it uses less paint for better coverage.

Tips for keeping it neat. Whether this is your first time painting or your millionth time, it is a good idea to cover all of the furniture and floor space in a room. Accidents happen and it is best if they happen on a plastic sheet you are planning on throwing away. It is also a good idea to use painters tape. This will let you keep your lines straight and even and help you keep paint of the ceiling, windows, trim, and other areas. You can also use it to get creative with your paint job.

Tips for small rooms. It is a good idea to go with lighter and brighter colors in small rooms. Keeping a simple color pallet of no more then three colors, aiming for two is often best.

Tips for large spaces. Having a large space can be equally difficult to decorate in a pleasing manner. You can choose darker colors and have a few more in your color pallet. Having an accent wall of a darker color or a darker or brighter hue of the main color is also a really good option for a focus point.

Tips for open floor plans. Open floor plans offer a lot of advantages, but can be harder to decorate. It is a good idea to choose a color pallet for the entire space (including the kitchen and all rooms open to one another). You can mix up your paint options by painting different walls different colors in your pallet, but having the unified pallet will give your space a better flow.

Window Coverings

Windows are a huge part of your decor. You can choose a wide range of window covering options. Often one of the best is curtains. You can buy curtain panels for a few dollars each or you can make your own with fabric. Choose a fabric and a rod you like and use the fabric tape or glue for no sew curtains. Even if you live in a place with blinds provided curtains can make it feel homey. Here are a few specific options you might enjoy.

  • Shears-For a few dollars a panel you can get lacy light weight shears. These don't block out the light, are great for small spaces, but provide a little privacy and a beautiful look. Get them in white or another color. Another option is to get them at garage sales (even with a few spots). You can then antique them with coffee (for a richer color) or tea (for a light cream color). For more information on how to do this see How To Give Fabric An Antique Look
  • Drapes- Drapes aren't in as much as they used to be because they have a heavy feel, however you can make a great statement with a good set of drapes. Make sure you are going with something that fits your window and the rest of the room. After all, it will be making a huge statement in your room.
  • Solid panels- Whether you buy something from the store or you make your own a solid color can add a lot to a room (painted or neutral color). You can also add a trim to your solid colors in a pattern that looks good with your decor (it is best to have this print repeated throughout the room).
  • Short- You have a lot of different shorter options. You can go with a box curtain, choose a half curtain, or a valance. All of these options can be used for a little extra color and do especially well in smaller rooms and smaller windows.


Nature can be an inexpensive option for some beautiful looks. Whether you work on collecting it yourself or you pick it up at your local store the possibilities are endless. Here are just a few to get you started. Get creative and have fun with it!

  • Plants- Plants are a great way to add color, nature, and a peaceful setting. You have tons of options. If you have a green thumb have fun with it. If not you still have a few options. There are a few plants that "anyone" can grow. (I know cause I kill a lot of plants). These include the philodendron, which grows with long stems and beautiful heart shaped leaves. With a little care they can grow into large pieces that can be spread throughout a room. The spider plant is also an easy one to grow and comes in a few varieties for different color options. They are great for hanging plants and can also grow large. Finally for a more modern look you can choose a piece of bamboo. This plant is actually a type of grass and only needs you to keep an eye on its water levels. If live plants still aren't for you...choose something pretty and fake! It will still add color, life, and then you don't have to worry about watering or vacationing.
  • Rocks- Rocks used to be something you found in collector's houses or in the homes of those who went places and couldn't afford real souvenirs. Well, rocks can still make a great thing to take home with you when you vacation somewhere, they can also be used to decorate with. Smaller rocks offer a lot of beauty in a jar or spread out along the top of a book case. Larger rocks can be placed around a fire place for a warm outdoor feeling.
  • Shells- With the right theme shells can also be a great way to decorate. You can pick up a batch for $1 at several different stores or you can go out and find your own (depending on where you live or where you vacation). These can be used to decorate a candle, a picture frame, a shelf, a jar, or be used in more creative ways. The options are only limited by your imagination.
  • Wood and sticks- Sounds a little odd, but you can use driftwood in beautiful ways. Get creative and use it as a way to bring in the outdoors. If that doesn't work for you collect large odd shaped sticks and place them in a vase. You can spray paint them a solid color to match your decor or use a hot glue gun to decorate them with silk flowers and or leaves.

Bookshelves, Cases, and Organizers

With a few tools you can build your own bookshelves, cases, and organizers that can be used to help solve storage issues, hold books, and a variety of other things. Check out more at Guide to Building Wooden Organizers.


Accessories can make or break a design. Often times it is a good idea to think simple, have a plan, and be careful not to get carried away. That said there are a lot of options for inexpensive accessories. Remember that shopping in thrifty locations can be one of them. Here are a few more great suggestions.

  • Area Rug- Choosing a good area rug can be a great way to cover a bad carpet, add color, texture, or design, and make a statement. They are also relatively inexpensive, come in a wide range of sizes and can be used in a few different ways.
  • Candles- Whether lit or not candles can add a lot of color and design. They are also available in tons of different locations, styles, sizes, and candle holders as well!
  • Mirrors- Mirrors can be used for practical reasons, but they can also be used to make a room feel bigger, add elegance, and a touch of grace. Mirrors don't have to be expensive and you can even decorate your own frames for style on an inexpensive mirror.
  • Pictures- Family pictures are a great way to decorate. Guests love looking at your prized family memories and the people who matter most to you. Pick up frames from inexpensive locations and have fun decorating them yourself for an inexpensive and possibly beautiful look.
  • Art- Artwork can be a wonderful way to have a good look. There are lots of options that can make a great way to go. Choose your own pictures and have them turned into posters at online locations like Snapfish. This isn't all that expensive compared to many poster costs and can be a way for your own photography and the pictures that really matter to you to be turned into art. You can also paint your own canvases for modern looks that don't cost a fortune. We have all probably seen a display of color in a modern piece that we liked, but thought "my two year old could do that!" Well, with a little paint, some brushes, and a canvas you can do it and enjoy it in your own space!

Your home can be decorated beautifully without breaking the bank, giving up a child, or some other drastic means of gaining more money. You don't have to be an expert, but you can get ideas from expert places. Take a look at your favorite designs, check out books and magazines, and come up with ways to accomplish similar looks for less. You have a ton of resources at your finger tips for saving money. Have fun doing it!


Submit a Comment

  • DIYmyOmy profile image


    6 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

    Wow, a LOT of really great tips here! Thanks so much!

  • profile image

    Kathy Shepherd 

    8 years ago

    Interesting hub! I find that buying online can help a lot too. Sites like ebay have some great deals but if your looking for very high quality you can find a lot of sites selling premium furniture and accessories at a discount.

  • Christa Dovel profile image

    Christa Dovel 

    9 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

    I love your tips! With spring setting in, I'm wanting some change and will start with a new lay-out in the living room. I'll be coming back for more inspiration.

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 

    9 years ago from East Coast, United States

    Aiden thanks for the tips. We can all have beautiful rooms for low cost. You can also find very cheap ($5.00 a gallon) whoops paint at some stores. If one gallon isn't enough, find two close colores and mix!


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