Decorate on a Budget: 25+ Tips [2018]

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Hey there!  Hope you’re all having a great week so far. Recently, I was at the Celebrate Spring event in support of Michael House. Michael House provides shelter and support to women who need it during pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting.  Anyway, at the event, I did a workshop describing how to decorate on a budget. Since spring has finally arrived (well sort of where I live) I know that many of you will be starting to clear out old items to make way for a fresh start to the spring season I thought I'd share those tips with you so that you can save money on your decorating projects as well. So....with that being said….here are 25+ tips to decorate your home on a budget. 

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Before you do anything else you need to plan. Take inventory of the space you want to design or re-fresh. Do you have existing furniture that you would like to keep and use? If so, take note of these items so that you know what you do and don’t need to shop for.  Consider furniture, textiles, décor and window coverings as well. Once you’ve figured out what you will be keeping, make a list of the things you need to purchase. Think about what would be a realistic budget for you to spend to design your space so that you can keep it in mind when it’s time to shop.

Plan when decorating on a budget
Photo Credit: Natalie B. via Pexels

Decorate on a Budget Calculator

Now that you have the list of the items that you want to use in the design of your new space, go ahead and do some research to figure out which colours, styles, finishes, etc. that you like and don't like. Pinterest is awesome for the research phase. When you're pinning, I find it's helpful to take note of what you like in each photo so you don't have to rely on your memory later on when you're trying to convey your vision to any of the retailers helping you to curate the furnishings for your new space. Once you’ve figured out your style preferences, research the retailers that sell these styles online. Take note of the items you like and can afford. Make sure to read product reviews so that you get a good feel for how others felt about the furnishings once they had them in their home. If you're comfortable purchasing online, go ahead and order what you like (be sure to read return policies first). If you're not comfortable purchasing online, now is the time to visit each retailer to see the items in person. Take your list with you and make sure you have your Pinterest boards handy via smartphone or printout so that you can help communicate your desires with each retailer.

Pinterest BoardPhoto Credit: Pinterest

Another great way to save some money when trying to decorate on a budget is to become a minimalist. Opt for a style that isn't overly decorative, but instead focuses on functionality. Don't get me wrong.... you don't need to sacrifice style for function, but you do need to be strategic with the items that you purchase. For example, use accessories that have an intended purpose rather than just being beautiful. Or use just a few decor items to make a statement.

Minimalist living roomPhoto Credit: Adobe Stock

I know this one sounds a little bit contradictory. However, what I'm trying to say is; invest in large pieces that you will be keeping for a long time. For example, invest in a good quality sofa, bed or dining table. Then purchase your decor and soft furnishings from lower-end retailers or designer discount stores such as HomeSense

Shop HomeSense when decorating on a budgetPhoto Credit: HomeSense

What's that saying? One man's trash is another man's treasure. It's so true! You can find so many great items at garage sales, Value Village, The Thrift Store, Kijiji, Facebook Buy & Sell Groups, Freecycle or Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. By purchasing used items you can save up to 80% of what you would normally pay for any particular item - now that's what I call decorating on a budget! 

Buy Used to Decorate on a BudgetPhoto Credit: Pixabay

Make art using inexpensive photo frames combined with images from old calendars, scrapbook paper, fabric or inspirational quotes. Dollarama, Walmart and garage sales are great places to buy frames inexpensively.  

 budget art
Photo Credit: Orangetree Interiors

You know that old end table that your parents handed down to you to use in college and you're still using it? Paint it white or a bright bold colour to give it a fresh new look.
re-painted old furniturePhoto Credit: Thirty Eighth Street

Can't afford that perfect light fixture, accent table or accessory? Buy an inexpensive version and spray paint it gold for a high-end look.

gold painted nesting tablesPhoto Credit: Hunted Interior

Wainscoting adds so much luxury to a space, and it can be done so inexpensively. Get some cheap craft frames from the dollar store or your local craft store and paint them white. Buy inexpensive moulding and/or trim from Home Depot, Lowe's, Rona or whatever local home improvement store suits your fancy to create faux chair rail. Fasten the frames and the chair rail to your wall and paint everything white to complete your wainscoting design. 

Decorating on a budget - faux wainscotingPhoto Credit: Sand and Sisal

If you're really strapped for cash, make your own headboard using decals or some good old-fashioned paint and painters tape. I suggest this tip for kid/teenage rooms only as it's hard to pull off this look in an adult space. That said, you could make a headboard from an old door and turn it horizontally or some barn board or fabric-wrap a piece of plywood, etc....the ideas are limitless.

faux headboardsPhoto Credit Left: Blik Products | Photo Credit Right: Homestyle

To decorate on a budget sometimes means you need to think outside of the box. If custom built-in cabinetry is outside of your budget, then consider buying a less expensive cabinet, chest, or dresser and place open shelving above it to create the illusion of a built-in cabinet. Or try using inexpensive cube storage to create a modular side table that offers extra storage while providing an opportunity to showcase decor.

decorate on a budget by creating the illusion of a built-in cabinetPhoto Credit: Courtney M. Browning

Whoever thought of the idea to create a dollar store is a genius. If you dig around a bit you can find some decor items that are comparable knockoffs to their more expensive counterparts. In addition, they offer much more affordable options in terms of kitchen dishes, accessories and storage - to name just a few. Use decals, stickers or chalkboard paint to label dollar store canisters. Use dollar store photo frames to create a gallery wall. Buy your candle holders from your preferred retailer, but then get the candles from a dollar store to save a bit of money. Buy light bulbs from the dollar store, etc. The point here is that you need to be resourceful if you want to decorate on a budget. 

Label canisters to add character for your budget decorating project Photo Credit: The Social Home

Unfinished wood furniture sells for substantially less than finished wood furniture. It will require some time and effort on your part to paint or stain it, but you will save money as a result.

Alter IKEA furniture to decorate on a budgetPhoto Credit: All Things G & D

Replace boring cabinet hardware with statement hardware. You can get some really unique cabinet hardware inexpensively from liquidation stores, Wayfair, Amazon, or your local hardware store. Buying basic furniture from IKEA or other affordable retailers and then jazzing them up with custom hardware can really add style to the piece.

change standard hardware when decorating on a budget to add stylePhoto Credit: Orangetree Interiors

Let’s face it, designer pillows and drapery are beautiful, but they can cost an arm and a leg. When trying to decorate on a budget, shop for remnant fabrics to make homemade pillow covers and drapery. Remnant fabrics often sell for about 1/3 of regular price so there is a great opportunity for savings with these items. 

 DIY pillows and drapery when decorating on a budgetPhoto Credit: Pixabay

Have something you're not using anymore, but don't want to throw away? Think of a creative way to utilize it in your space. Use an old mirror as a decorative tray. Use a chair as a bedside table. Take the old chandelier from your dining room and use it in your daughter’s bedroom….the options are endless. Be creative. 

repurpose a mirror or chair when decorating on a budgetPhoto Credit Left: Refined Rooms | Photo Credit Right: Real Simple

Have an old rocking chair that is in perfect working order, but want a fresh look? Take it from your living room and install it in child’s bedroom as a reading chair. You can do this with any item. Moving items from one room to another can provide a completely new look without any added cost.... perfect for decorating on a budget.

Don't worry I'm not going to make you do a whole bunch more reading; I'm long winded enough! What I am going to do is suggest that you purchase some books that have covers in the colour scheme that you are designing your room in. You can buy these books at thrift stores or consignment shops or check your own collection; you might be surprised at what you’ll find. Books are an awesome option because; they allow you to distribute colour throughout your space very inexpensively, they provide reading material, and they're great for creating the right scale when your accessories aren't quite the right height.

decorate on a budget with colour

Photo Credit: Classy Clutter

When decorating on a budget it's not always possible to buy a ton of decor. A great option then is to display things that you normally wouldn't. Display wine bottles, cooking oils or frame a favourite recipe. Be strategic in your selections so that you are displaying items with different textures, finishes and scales so that your display enhances, rather than deters from the style of your space. 

decorate on a budget by displaying unconventional itemsPhoto Credit: Harbour Mill Design

Builder-grade mirrors are so lifeless and boring. Replace them with statement mirrors from designer discount stores such as HomeSense or, if you’re a DIYer, build or buy frames for your mirrors to add some style. 

frame mirrors when decorating on a budgetPhoto Credit: MirrorMate Frames

Use your own photos as art. If you don't like your photos you can buy small art or prints quite inexpensively from ETSY or IKEA. Small prints obviously sell for less than large prints so to get the most out of your small print, buy large frames and mattes to frame the photo and/or print to create large-scale art for your space.

decorate on a budget using prints for artPhoto Credit: EyePoetryPhotography

When decorating on a budget the trade-off is typically your time. Instead of replacing old floors, cabinets or furniture, think about refinishing them instead. It will make a world of difference at a fraction of the cost. 

decorate on a budget by refacing cabinetsPhoto Credit: two twenty one

I don't know about you, but I’ve been guilty of getting rid of something that is in decent condition just because it needs a small fix. Call it laziness, call it it a desire for something new, but the reality is that throwing out something that is still useful is wasteful. Fix the item that needs repairing and use it in your design rather than purchasing something new in order to stick to your budget. If you absolutely must have something new, then be sure to give away your item that just needs a gentle fix to someone who could use it. If you don't know someone who could use it, donate it to your local ReStore or Thrift Store.

One of the best ways to decorate on a budget is to buy floor model furniture pieces. Since furniture is the most expensive part of an interior design, buying floor models can decrease your furniture investment substantially. If floor models are not available for sale then consider splitting a furniture set with a friend or family member to save on the individual pieces. Furniture sets typically sell for less than individual pieces so this is a great way for everyone to save - although this tip requires that your peeps all have the same taste of course.

Buy floor models when decorating on a budgetPhoto Credit: Wayfair

Let's face it - in the grand scheme of things, paint is so inexpensive when you think about the enormous impact it has on designing a space.  Paint walls, furniture, baseboards, trim, doors, etc. Paint makes a world of difference for minimal cost. If you're really strapped for cash, check out the mis-tint section at your local paint store to save on the cost and do the work yourself.  

decorate on a budget by repaintingPhoto Credit: Amanda Rydell via Twenty20

If you're on a really tight budget, wait for a sale to purchase your big-ticket items.  Alternatively, buy things slowly as you save money for each item instead of purchasing all at once to avoid stress and hefty interest charges on your credit card.

wait for sales when decorating on a budgetPhoto Credit: Nicole de Khors

Did you know that a traditional interior decorating or design service charges between $150 to $250/hour (The Globe and Mail). This is a Toronto stat so expect it to be a couple thousand dollars if you live in a smaller city or town. In addition to that, the typically interior designer spends 33 to 50 hours on a room design (The Huffington Post). If you do the math, that means that an average room design costs between $4,950 and $12,500. The takeaway here is that it's costly to hire an interior design professional for their talent and expertise. E-Design services alleviate some of this cost by putting the onus of some of the tasks on the client. For example, with e-design, clients perform their own site measure, order their own furnishings and put their own interior designs together based on the instructions and imagery provided by the e-designer. Because the client takes on a portion of the interior decorator/designer’s responsibilities, the e-designer is able to provide their service at a reduced cost – saving the client money. As an example, Orangetree Interiors charges less than 1/2 of what a traditional interior decorating/design service would charge, therefore helping you to stay within your decorating budget.  And, the best part is, you get to try before you buy.  With e-design, you see how your room will look before you purchase any of the items, ensuring that you love the design before you spend any money. 

decorate on a budget using an e-designerPhoto Credit: Orangetree Interiors

So there you have it - 25 + 2 bonus tips about how to decorate on a budget. I hope you found these tips helpful. If you liked this article, please share it. And if you have any questions or would like further information on how we can help you save money on your interior design project, check out our services or feel free to contact me; I'd love to help.

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Thanks for reading and good luck with your project. 

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Interior Decorator Val Malnar
Val Malnar
Principal Designer | Orangetree Interiors

Unless stated, I do not own any of the images posted on this blog. If you see your work on my site and I have not given you proper credit or you would like it to be removed, please contact me.  This post may include affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more information. 



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