I have always believed that by wisdom you can make things better, no matter how dire your financial circumstances. It takes wisdom to design and decorate a home beautifully on a budget.
When the budget is slim, and I mean seriously slim, we have to make careful purposeful decisions for our homes. We can’t afford to make a bad purchase on a secondhand item because we cannot return it! While your recourse is to resell, there’s no telling if or when you will earn your money back! I have always been willing to work to find the free or good deal items. Whether it was to get up early to garage sale, drive to the thrift shops and craigslist pick-ups and load/unload furniture without a delivery service (with exceptions).
You can have a good eye for design and end up with a lot of pretty items and still not have the best look or function for your rooms. You need a design plan. Just like the professionals do. While professional designers do this for people with a lot of money, this is how you need to decorate with very little money.
So, let’s start by talking about getting the big-ticket items before you start throwing money away on little items. Which leads me to my first piece of advice from this layman wife decorator:
1) Start with the Big Items
Always buy the big items first. But also, make things big. I notice that a lot of people tend to decorate with too small of items in rooms. Small furniture, small wall art, small pillows. This always looks a bit haphazard. Professional decorators are not afraid to use big items and their room designs look more lavish or well-appointed because of this particular aspect.
Big items look like purposeful decisions that you designed for the room. Now there’s always the danger of buying too big of furniture, especially in a small house. Acknowledge the room size that you are working with and be aware of the proportion of furniture you need for it. Small and low ceilings? Get smaller furniture. Large and high ceiling? Get big furniture. Personally, I still buy rather large furniture for a small space because when done well, it can actually make the room look bigger, not cramped. I notice that especially when bargain shopping for furniture, women will buy small pieces of furniture because they’re easy to load into their cars, they tend to be very inexpensive, and they are everywhere at places like Target and thrift shops. Small furniture and decor is a problem. When people buy small furniture, they tend to keep buying other small pieces of furniture or decor to fill out the room because something doesn’t look right. The problem is that nothing is big enough in the room. You can always mix in small things, which gives a good balance, but a room looks best when it has a few large focal points of furniture and decor.
I would rather have slightly too large of furniture in a small room than all dinky furniture. If you have never thought about what size your furniture should be, take note of how empty or cluttered a room can look with all small pieces, or how cramped a room can look with all large pieces. Ideally, you want somewhere in the middle or a good mix.
Large furniture has gone out of vogue and people have labeled things like armoires “out of style”. Beautiful carpentry is never out of style for me. I appreciate the regal presence of an armoire, dresser, etc. I appreciate curved legs and detail carvings in wood, which denote a much higher level of skill and time to produce, which = more expensive features.
This has been sidelined for “clean lines”, which has a place in one respect while being plain or even cheap looking, in another respect, but no one calls it that. It is not bad to have simple furniture but plain, blocky, and small items have been branded as “up to date” but the simpler the furniture, the quicker and cheaper to make. No matter how the industry brands it to be trendy, their aim is to sell things. Plain furniture is cheaper and quicker to make to sell. But a lot of the cheaper quality and plain items are not even affordable anymore at retail price!
Solid wood and carved details are more expensive to make, so they lend a more expensive look regardless of what is pushed by designers or the market. When you have a small amount of money, a good way to make it count is to buy these kinds of quality pieces of furniture second hand.
Think about if your furniture is beautiful in and of itself not just when it’s together with other items styling it. Furniture that is beautiful by itself tend to be classic timeless furniture that gives traditional elegance no matter the trends.
While people donate their old-world style furniture to get “clean lines”, I have bought them for incredible deals! The point is, sturdy, beautiful traditional pieces of furniture exist at low price points because they have gone unappreciated for a few decades. Although they have been picking up more appreciation. Assess your room and figure out what big items need to be in the room. Having a few large well-appointed pieces will make a room look professionally styled and it won’t look like it was done on a budget rather than if you have all small, quick and cheap to produce items only.
2) Furniture Placement
This step will become your guide to what to buy and where to place it in the room. To save money and do things right hopefully the first time, this planning is absolutely a requirement. No professional designer goes into a room design by haphazardly buying furniture and trying it out. They plan the room first and then shop by that plan.
Using a measuring tape, measure where the largest item/items can be placed in the room. Using painters’ tape, mark off that area. Going by a queen bed measurement, I tried out different placements for the bed in this room. This allowed me to know how big the walking path would be around the bed, what size of item I could place next to the bed, or what I would not have room to do if I put the bed in various spots.
To spend your money well, avoid purchasing something without knowing why you need that size of item or where to place it. If you study the room first, you will have an outline for exactly the size of furniture to buy and where to place it. You will filter out a lot of stuff that just won’t work in your rooms even if it is beautiful stuff. If you stick to buying what you measured will work, when the room comes together with the right size pieces in the right places it will look absolutely tailored to that space. Shop by your room plan.
3) Build off each item
I start with the bed (even if it’s just the bed frame without a headboard) and I fully style the bedding as I would normally. The bed is the focal point of the bedroom. Then I go to the next biggest item which is a dresser, or the nightstands, and the lamps for them.
By starting big, then taking the next step down in size, and you will know how big or small that next item should be in relation to it. This is a simple and easy approach to room design because it helps you to buy items that actually go together in proportion and style without feeling overwhelmed for how to put it all together. Buying the big items first allows you to get the bones of the room in place, then you step down from there one item at a time by size until you finally get to smaller items like books and nick knacks to style flat surfaces like shelves or dresser tops.
4) Buy Large Wall Art
In general, when thrifting and shopping second hand for my house, I aim to buy as large of items as possible as the basis to any room design. This means, large wall art, not small piddly pieces that will take a ton of them to fill in an area. Larger wall art in particular is one of the best ways to infuse a high end or filled in look to a room. Large wall art can also make a small room look bigger. Here is another reason to buy large wall art: to me, a bed does not look properly set up without a headboard or a headboard/footboard. However, in our rental house I first bought bed frames to get mattresses off the floor, since it would take me time to find the decorative beds I wanted at good deals. So, in the meantime, I thrifted very large, framed art and hung them where a headboard would be. Large wall art fills in a space for something like a headboard. It’s just good to be on the lookout for any large pieces that you would love to display.
5) Hang Curtains & Hang them High
One of the best things anyone can do to make a room look well done is to hang curtains. Moreover, the best curtain purchase is a long length and to hang them high. Placing the rod 4-6 inches above the trim will give a height and elegance to a room like no other. Buy them long, hang them high. Gorgeous. Beware of going into a store like Walmart because none of those curtains will be long enough. 84″ is too short! Even for a small room. I buy 96″ length for 8 ft ceilings. I always have to order curtains in this length as I never find them in stores, especially stores like Walmart. They are not much more expensive in a longer length and there are many good deals online. You will save money buying curtains with free shipping and returns especially if you decide to get a different pair instead. It is worth buying curtains online, getting the right length the first time, and being able to ship back for free if you need to try a different pair. I have found many beautiful curtains on Amazon for very good deals. Very rarely do the right curtains in the right lengths end up at thrift shops. I always buy new online in the right length right off the bat. I get those up and immediately the room looks warmer, elegant, and put together.
These are just five ways that any homemaker can decorate better when broke and on a small budget but there are many more tips for home design to share! Like this bed skirt that I sewed out of a king size sheet that I thrifted for $2! And it was not just because I could not afford a bed skirt, but I could not find one to buy that was as ruffled or as long as I wanted it!
Have a blessed day making your home a beautiful blessing and check back for more articles to encourage you in your daily home life.
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