Cheap decorating tricks

Furnishings, rugs, curtains and accessories all cost a lot when you’re redoing a room or designing a new space. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’m passing on to you. These cheap decorating tricks still make a big impact. I promise.

Layering rugs

1. Layer rugs. This e-design client in San Diego already owned this extra large jute rug. We wanted pattern in the new home she and her husband bought, but buying large area rugs gets very expensive very fast. We saved by rolling out the jute rug to nearly cover the whole room and placing this Ikea rug (for only $200!) in the center for fun graphic neutral. (We’re still waiting on the window treatments for the windows that flank the fireplace.)

Just rugs are typically inexpensive. You can find them on places like Overstock. Go big. Get the size that at least part of your main seating area fits on. If using this trick in the dining room, the rug should be four feet wider and four feet longer than your table to allow room for guests to slide their chairs in and out and still be on the rug. Then pick a smaller, rug to layer on top. I wouldn’t go smaller than 4×6 in the living room and 5×7 in the dining room.

Upholstered ottoman

2. Turn a table into an upholstered ottoman. I have another San Diego client who wanted to update her living room but didn’t want to spend a lot of money at all. An upholstered ottoman is safer for kids (she has three)—no sharp corners—and functions like a table or a seat depending on your entertaining needs. We found this wood coffee table on Craigslist for $50. We’re removing the top and upholstering and tufting, like I did here, in this charcoal linen fabric, then painting the legs and base a glossy black.

3. Customize inexpensive curtains. This might just be my favorite way to save money. If you can operate a sewing machine, you can buy fabric and make your own curtains like I did here. Or buy cheap curtains (Ikea, Target and World Market are some of my favorite sources) and add fun, colorful trim with an iron and Stitch Witchery, like I did here. Take it a step further, and finish the window with a pelmut box.

4. Make your own artwork. Eating up wall space can be costly. Family photos are great, but you probably don’t want to deck every hall with pictures of the kids. There are so many options. I always suggest buying frames at thrift and consignment stores. You can get large frames for a fraction of the cost. If you seek a more modern aesthetic, I love Ikea’s Ribba collection. And if the frame is a bit too big (thanks to the Eurpoean measurements), you can always get creative with a border like I did here.

Other ideas I’ve tried include making your own chalkboard art, using oops paint to create modern paintings and creating crackle art. But the possibilities are endless. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a creative type.

5. Redo furnishings. I always encourage clients to reuse what we can in a space or buy someone else’s cheap castoff and give it a little TLC. One of my clients repainted this console table. I turned this dresser into my media cabinet and painted this buffet for a client’s salon display.

6. Head out for some Goodwill hunting. Hit the thrift stores, consignment shops and flea markets in your area. Look at items for shape, not necessarily color. Anything can be painted. Use these finds to fill shelves, style tables and add a bit of personality to your space.

Tell me: How do you save money when decorating?

Create a faux wood pallet wall

Blue Cow Kitchen wall
While up in LA for a Design Bloggers’ Conference, I had dinner at Blue Cow Kitchen and was completely drawn to the rustic, modern décor—exposed light bulbs, paper mache taxidermy and a wood pallet wall, the piece de resistance.

Scott and I talked about recreating it on one of the walls in our bedroom. After doing extensive research on using pallets in interiors, I decided pallets weren’t the best option. Dismanteling them was going to be extremely time consuming, and I worried about what the pallets might have been used to transport, like chemicals.
While hunting down Plan B, I discovered this EverTrue Edge V-Groove unfinished pine paneling. It’s not available in store at Lowe’s, but you can order it online and pick it up in the store. I took measurements and ordered nine packages of six (design for less than $100!).

I wanted to mimic the different wood tones that I saw in Blue Cow Kitchen. We bought three quarts of stain—Jacobean, Classic Gray and Natural.
Scott cutting
Scott cut the planks at different lengths to give the wall more variations—from six-inch pieces to 48-inch lengths. He just did it at random, but it’s wise to keep several long (we left one package of stained planks uncut), so you can cut what you need as you go.
Stain colors
We concocted five different colors with our three cans of stain. We used each of them in a pure state and layered the Gray with the Jacobean and the Natural. Don’t wait until the stain dries to layer. Using a sponge brush, we swiped on one color, let it sit a few minutes and used a rag to take off the excess before brushing on the second color with a different brush and a new rag.
Stained boards
After letting the boards dry completely for 24 hours, Scott and I began hanging.
The hanging begins
Starting at the bottom left corner of the wall, we used a nail gun to fasten the first board to the wall. We worked left to right and bottom to top, completing each row with pieces of our uncut boards.
Nailing boards
Using the Japanese saw
When we got to the window, we used a small Japanese flush cut saw to cut the boards flush with the widow frame and stained the edge to match the board.
Our room

Styling an entryway–for less than $100

A neutral and bright living space

Entryways may occupy the smallest square footage in your home, but the small space should not be overlooked when it comes to decorating. I partnered with the incredibly talented Jennie Sullins of BeautyHive Studios to illustrate a few ideas for making an entrance, whether you prefer a relaxed reception or a fashionable foyer.

There was one long wall in this entry, so I found an inexpensive long and slim console table on Craigslist and painted it Cathedral Gray. I decided on a gray, white, silver and gold palette for this project and painted the new hardware gold.

How to style an entryway

Think symmetry when it comes to creating order–even if you’re faking it–in the entryway. These matching starburst mirrors hang at the same level just outside the edges of the table, creating the illusion of a grander foyer and reflecting extra bits of light from the front door.

Styling the entryway

To add some personality to this passageway, I used what Michelle, the homeowner, already had–a collection of black-binded books, a blue vase and a pair of bookends (they used to be bright yellow!), which I painted with the same gold-leaf spray paint I used on the hardware.

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