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How to Make Cheap or Inexpensive Wall Art Finds Look Expensive

Updated on May 9, 2013
Design on a Budget Bedroom
Design on a Budget Bedroom

Dream Design on a Dime

For years I have been cutting out photos from interior design magazines on what I want my future "dream home" to look like. Recently, this obsession has grown with the creation of Pinterest, where I can collect unlimited style ideas from an infinite number of web resources.

It has dawned on me that if I keep waiting on the idea of "someday" and "dream home", I will never have a space that I am happy to live in. That being said, I don't have a large budget to spend. I recently tackled my bedroom design and had wonderful success in making my wall art look cohesive and expensive while spending a total of around $20. This article will take you through the process.

Room Inspiration
Room Inspiration

Step 1: Decide on a Theme or Inspiration

In trying to figure out what style I wanted for my bedroom, I had no clue where to start. With countless magazine clippings and saved online images to draw ideas from, how do you ever choose where to begin? Fortunately, there was one item that I knew that I wanted in my bedroom. My father-in-law had painted a picture of sailboats when he was in high school and I've always loved the painting. My husband and I were only recently able to get the painting from his parents, but I knew that I wanted to hang the painting right away. That gave me a great inspiration and a wonderful place to start. While I didn't want to go overboard on a "nautical" theme, I was able to decide on a palette which draws from ocean colors and have a loose ocean-like theme.


Step 2: Gather Your Wall Art

For me, this is the most exciting part of the process. As an obsessive bargain hunter, having a purpose to go shopping is awesome. For gathering budget art, I recommend the following sources:

  • Take Inventory in your House- Look through the décor that you already have. Do you have any paintings, clocks, mirrors, or other wall art that could be re-purposed?
  • Shop Auctions and Garage Sales- This will always be one of the best places to find amazing deals. Don't be afraid to dig through boxes and in unexpected places. Also, try to look past the dust, finish, and paint color of an item. Those things can easily be changed and it is often the items in the worst condition that are the best deals!
  • Shop Local Swap Meets and Flea Markets- It is a little trickier to haggle at these places than at auctions and garage sales, but it can absolutely be done. Always ask for a lower price; the worst they can do is say "no". Also, as with the auctions and garage sales, try and look past the current condition of the item and see if it is something you can work with. Find your diamond in the rough!
  • Online Shopping- If you fail to find what you need through the 3 options listed above, or if you just prefer your items to be in new condition, you can always do some online shopping for your wall art. If you do, though, please read the articles How to Save the Most Online and How to find the lowest prices on home décor and furniture online to make sure that you are finding the best deals.

For my bedroom project, I was able to utilize 2 paintings that I already had around the house, 2 paintings that I got for $5 each at a thrift shop, and 2 mirrors that I got for $6 each at an indoor flea market.

Step 3: Make your Art Cohesive

After gathering wall art from various sources (hopefully rather inexpensively), it is great to tie them together in some way to make them look cohesive in your room. The two mirrors that I purchased for $6 each to hang on either side of the bed were an awful color when I purchased them. One mirror was jet black and the other mirror was bright red. Honestly, they looked oriental in theme. I saw beyond the colors though and thought that the pattern looked somewhat like ropes, which would tie in nicely with the somewhat "nautical" theme that I was building on. I tried to choose a rope-like color which would also be modern, so I landed on a brownish- bronze color. For a $5 can of spray paint, I made over the looks of both mirrors and still came in at under $20. Similar mirrors that I had looked at online had ranged from $60-$300. Quite a bargain!

Next, I tackled the 3 mismatched paintings that I picked up from my personal supply and the thrift shop. The art all fit within my theme since they were variations of boats and water. However, the frames were all different materials and colors. Since I am too "thrifty" to purchase new frames, I decided to DIY update them as well. After removing the paintings and taping the glass, I used the remainder of my brownish-bronze spray paint from my mirrors to update the frames for my paintings. When I was finished, all of the wall art in my room matched and looked professional.

Spray paint is just one idea of many to make your wall art cohesive. For my living room, I did a DIY project where I turned vacation images into pencil drawings to get a joint look. Read the article How to Change a Photo into a Pencil Drawing for instructions. I have also seen wall art covered in similar materials to achieve cohesion. For example, I could have wrapped the frames of my images and my mirrors in twine or rope to get a matching look. Or, you could cover frames and other wall art in mosaic tiles, shells, beads, fabric or another texture. The important thing is to keep in mind that you can make any items look like they belong together with some easy and inexpensive updates.

Do you have your "Dream Room"?

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Step 4: Hang and Enjoy!

Now that all of the wall art matches a theme or inspiration, is gathered, and looks cohesive, the last step is to hang it up and enjoy. My bedroom still has some finishing touches needed, like some paint and other objects, but I am getting very close to having my "Dream Room". My bedroom is a source of pride for the work that I put in and relaxing due to drawing from my inspiration. I wish you all the best of luck in tackling your dream rooms as well!


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great ideas, ThriftyLady. Anything can be re-purposed. Voted up!

    • Joel Diffendarfer profile image

      Joel Diffendarfer 3 years ago from Ft Collins, Colorado

      I love to re-purpose with an artful flaire. You have presented some great ideas on simply "looking" around you with a different perspective. Well written and well worth reading. Thanks.

    • Thrifty Lady profile image

      Thrifty Lady 5 years ago

      Thanks for reading yougotme! I love shopping for hidden treasures that can be made to look more expensive. In addition to saving money, it helps me feel like I'm recycling too!

    • yougotme profile image

      Renz Kristofer Cheng 5 years ago from Manila

      A very well-organized hub. Who says great things must be pricey, when you can innovate your own and incur much less costs? It's nice of you to provide other alternatives in achieving our "dream room".