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Personalizing a Home on a Budget

Updated on August 27, 2018
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Michelle Jackson has studied art and interior design since 1983. She attended design school and has worked as an artist/visual artist.

Tract Home

Personalizing a track home with inexpensive touches takes creativity. Out of everything I’ve ever thought about writing, this is my favorite. Most of us will live in a basic tract home at some point. You might paint some walls, or put up a light. Something deep inside you is yearning to personalize the inside of your home. This is your article and your moment. Are you ready because this is going to blow your mind.

The 5th Wall


5th Wall Decor

I’m going to start with the 5th wall in your home. The fifth wall is your ceiling! If you are brave that ceiling can become a statement the minute your guests walk into your home. Wallpaper creates instant personality on your ceiling as in this Mayme Baker Studio pink entry way. Truth be told I'm not a pink kind of gal. However, This bold entry is anything but typical. The great thing about wallpaper in your entry is that the entry way is small, even with upscale wallpaper the cost isn't astronomical.


Popcorn Ceiling Cover Up

The greatest design trick in the book is to take something horrible and make it a feature. Take for instance popcorn ceilings. You can scrape them but then you are left with a mess. While you can texture the ceiling that process can be time consuming and may not turn out the way you want (unless you are handy with knock down). Once you have the ceiling scraped patch uneven spots and put up the wall paper. By using wallpaper on the ceiling you are creating a stunning visual effect without having the problem of seeing the original ceiling. Another great thing about using wallpaper on the roof is that it covers any unsightly areas that your chandelier might be highlighting. I'm sort of in love with this silver vein ceiling.

Stunning Powder Room


Powder Room

In general I don’t like wallpaper in bathrooms. Eventually moisture gets behind wallpaper and causes mold. In a small powder room without a tub or shower, this is a great look. I also want to call attention to two other features of this room. The first is the mirror. In a powder room you don't need a medicine cabinet, so get creative with the mirror. This mirror is the right scale for the room and it's round shape creates a unique feature to the design. The second thing I would like to point out is that the color choice is dramatic and bold. You are going to "wow" visitors with this tiny room. Here again small rooms are cheaper to decorate with wallpaper. You might have notices the crown molding. In a small room this is and easy way to give the room high style.



Medallions of My Heart

There is a huge place in my heart for architectural details. Ceiling medallions are a great way to give a high end look to a space. Here is the shocker, a 15 inch medallion will run you under $20.00. You heard it here, this high end feature is less money than some of you spend in a week on lattes. I'm not crazy about the ceiling fan medallion combo. Lets face it, in some parts of the world that ceiling fan is a necessity. My advice, try not to make the ceiling fan a feature. Paint the ceiling fan the same color as the roof.


Ideas, and More Ideas

This is a $236 metal medallion. When I first saw it I thought is was wood scroll work from the craft store that was painted like metal. I mention this because, I've seen things at the craft store in which you could create a one of a kind medallion. Walk around craft stores and antique stores, turn things on their end and see what you think will look cool as a medallion.

Clock becomes Medallion



This sun burst was a broken clock someone re-purposed. This person gets the golf clap for that idea. OK, so I hate the light, it’s horrible so if you are going to the trouble to hang a medallion, do something with that fixture (we will talk about fixtures in a minute). A word to the wise do not call attention to the ceiling it's an awful ceiling. This clock medallion is going to make everyone look up at this boring light fixture and over plastered ceiling. Think your design through, what are you highlighting?

You can use any frame a ceiling medallion, I prefer round frames but as you can see square works too. In this case a square ceiling tile is re-purposed into a medallion for a french farm feel. They still haven't sold me on the square but, they get an A for creativity.

Artistic Options



This photo came off Pinterest via some french site that sells something (I don't read in french, so we will never know). I think this decoration is a sticker or possible a stencil. I don’t particularly like this faux medallion. The idea of painting a medallion isn’t bad as long as you can be up on a ladder like Michael Angelo. I would say practice it on something first and see if you can pull off the look. The visual interest there yet, I'm not sure it's worth saving the $15 to buy a medallion at the hardware store.



These people get a 10 for creativity. Those are ceiling medallions they stuck in the middle of a wallpaper pattern. What a different look. You would not expect something like that in a cookie cutter home. Be creative. Look at ordinary objects and see what they could become. The point is for you to love your home. If you love it, that really is all that counts.

Medallion Door?


Medallions and Paint

Remember these tired 70's closet doors? Now they say "Look how cool we are". This is also an example of something painted right. Painting interior doors has become a trend. You will notice the magazines showing more painted doors. In a bedroom painting these old closet doors is a great way to update your look. Every hardware store has a section where they put paint that didn't come out the right color for the customer, these paints are discounted. If you can find a color that works for you in the pile, bonus! Cheaper paint.

“Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.”

Charles M. Schulz

Ceiling Decor

Barrel Ceiling
Barrel Ceiling | Source
Brick Ceiling
Brick Ceiling | Source
wallpaper ceiling
wallpaper ceiling | Source


I LOVE barrel ceilings. If you can pull off a hall with a barrel ceiling, you should. It’s not as tough as you might think to barrel a ceiling. This first ceiling that looks like metal is amazing! You could achieve the same look with copper paint and furniture studs. The trick is to get the studs in evenly, which obviously could be achieved with a ruler.

The second ceiling is brick. What if I told you this was wallpaper on the roof? Yep sculpted brick wallpaper (way safer than trying to put actual bricks up there). This about the boring spaces in your home. Brick ceiling??? Maybe?

This tin looking ceiling can be done with wallpaper. Painted it metallic and then dust is with white or the patina blue. I’m going to be doing this in my dining room.

The last ceiling without the old screen door and corrugated metal this is a basic kitchen. I like the metal on the island, it’s durable and adds a rustic element to the design. I’m undecided on the ceiling. The screen door is a good idea, I just think the color is off for this space.

Chandelier Makeover


Before You Throw Out That Chandelier

Speaking of something you hate. While you are putting up that medallion do something fun with your dated chandelier. I’m going to tell you a trick to save money on crystals, buy them at Christmas from the tree decorating section. My mother also gave me a tip if you get the plastic crystals, you can use car wax to shine them (this also works on fake crystal jewelry).

While the whole world was chalk painting furniture, I was using chalk paint for crafts. The second chandelier is chalk painted. No fear my friends, this wasn’t antique lighting. Paint away, paint the brass black or the black chandelier a white. Paint is inexpensive so if you don't like the results, paint it again.

Maybe crystals are not your thing. Add some shells, you could use old sea shell necklaces for this project. Buy some wood beads string them and add those to your chandelier. Something I see all the time are the bead strands from beaded curtains, this would make an easy material for hanging on a chandelier. Something I have been contemplating is glass beads. Large artistic glass beads would be a fantastic chandelier embellishment.

Not into painting? Wrap that chandelier with some rope. Here again you could wrap it with any malleable material. Be aware of the weight when wrapping a chandelier you might need to add support or a swag hook.

The last chandelier make over is the bird cages. I don’t like birds in cages it seems unnatural. Chandeliers in cages is brilliant! Keep in mind that the cage can be any color and the light fixture could be anything from a chandelier to a single bulb. The possibilities are endless.



Molding Makes a Home

One of the things that makes a house look stately is molding. When you break down that first entryway it’s actually 1x4 wood boards with a cheap one inch molding at the top, and a cheap rounded molding on the seam at the top. It looks amazing but these are all straight cuts and not difficult at all.

The second picture looks like it is our of an old home in the french country side. Guess what, it’s not old, that is two wood corbels and more 1x4 lumber. Chalk painting your molding? Maybe?

You know what I’m going to say about the third picture. This is 1x3 lumber. If you measured this ahead of time you could get the hardware store to do your cuts. Basically just bring it home and assemble it, then paint the wall.

Years ago i came up with the idea to get picture frames, affix them to the wall and paint out like it was the detail molding in a chateau. Don’t have time to piece molding together? Buy identical picture frames and affix them to the wall... tag dah! How’s that for easy detail??

Here we go again with the 1x4, it’s truly a girls best friend next to diamonds. Just when you thought there was nothing else we could make fancy... 1x2’s on the stair case! Paint and feel fancy.

"Have nothing in your home that you don't know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

William Morris

Hallway Decor

Hall Book Case
Hall Book Case | Source
Hall of Mirrors
Hall of Mirrors
Another Hall Mural
Another Hall Mural | Source

End of The Hall

The end of your hall is a space that gets neglected. Some people just have a wall, other have a closet. Here are a few ideas for you hall starting with a bookcase. For that reader in your life (or you), throw a build in book case at the end of the Hall.

That second photo is a mirror wall at the end of the hall. It’s not for everyone but, if you have a cool hall go for it. Keep in mind it will reflect everything and you have to clean it.

I came up with a super cool hallway idea, I have to explain it because apparently no one has done it. See how the mural wall looks like it goes on for a while? Now imagine taking the middle section of this mural with the walkway and putting it at the end of your hall. When you turn down your hall it looks like you can walk out the end of the hall to another place.

"Nothing inspires me quite as much as nature or a beautiful room"

Michelle Jackson

Final Thoughts

Years ago a man at church made the comment that he did not understand people who took the time to decorate a home, he said "I believe it to be a waste of time". I thought about that a lot and decided that for him it was a waste of time. Your home should feel like an extension of you. Your home should give cues to your personality, your life, what you believe, and what want to live with everyday. Rather you live in a small trailer, tract home, or even a mansion, your decor should make you feel comfortable so that you can live your life.

© 2018 MD Jackson MSIOP


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