Decorating on a Dime:
If you don’t have your heart set on a specific wall color, check out a home supply store’s “oops” paint bin for big discounts. This paint was either tinted incorrectly or never picked up by the customer. I’ve found top brands for as much as 75 percent off their original price. Check near the paint-mixing counter.
Cost: As little as $3 to $5 a gallon
Use what you have
Family history sparked a kitchen idea for Deanna Borndahl of Livonia, Michigan. “I made a ‘memory wall,’ hanging items such as old biscuit cutters, cast-iron pans, a cherry stoner, whisks and a wooden potato masher,” she says. “These utensils, used by my grandparents and great-grandparents, have sparked many conversations among my guests.”
Cost: A few dollars for wall anchors and screws
Look to linens
“When I need large amounts of fabric for sewing things like curtains, I use sheets,” says Cara Switzer of Niverville, New York. “Sheets have no seams, and their heavier weight washes well and holds up longer.”
Cost: About $10 or less for a full flat sheet
Make a move
Moving a chair to the other side of the room or setting the sofa on an angle can freshen up any room. To create a warm feel in my house, I’ve positioned furniture throughout the room, rather than only around the perimeter.
Make it work
If you love an accessory but it’s not exactly perfect, buy it anyway and paint it. At about a dollar a bottle, decorative acrylic craft paint is great for everything. I’ve touched up wall plaques, drapery sconces, and curtain rods and finials to match the decor of a specific room. I keep a whole selection of hues on hand, stocking up when my local crafts store has a sale.
Cost: A few dollars in craft paint
“Pre-framed art was too expensive, so I made my own,” says Linda Turner of Clarksville, Tennessee. She purchased a book of black and white portraits featuring old-time Hollywood stars such as Jimmy Stewart and Sophia Loren, cut out pages and put them in inexpensive poster frames made of glass with metal clips.
Cost: $25 for the book, $6 a frame
Bring nature indoors
There have been plenty of times when my creativity was a lot greater than my decorating budget, so I’ve turned to nature to add textural interest. Line up a few pine cones on your mantel, place a small piece of driftwood or twigs in a vase on an end table or arrange shells in a cut-glass bowl.
Update a mirror
“I hated my bathroom mirror, which was a boring expanse of glass along the entire length of the sink,” says Linda Turner. “I purchased some 3-inch-wide molding and had the home improvement store trim pieces to fit around the mirror. I also purchased four decorative rosettes for the corners, then butted the trim up against them. I glued the entire ‘frame’ to the edges of the mirror and painted it black.”
Cost: About $23 for molding, adhesive and paint
When Shari Staten of Inkster, Michigan, wanted a brighter look for a nightstand, she sponged glossy gray paint over a black base, then trickled lilac over the drawers and top. She did the same with an inexpensive bookshelf, but started with a lilac base, sponged smoke gray and trickled black. “The color unifies the pieces and adds excitement to the room,” says Shari.
Cost: About $20 for two quarts of paint, $3 to $5 for lacquer sealer
Let kids get crafty
One day Yvonne Kline of St. Peters, Missouri, was entertaining her four children by letting them draw on scraps of textured wallpaper she picked up at a garage sale. Inspired by the abstract look, she gave them sponges, stamps and craft paint in colors that coordinated with certain rooms in her house, then framed the pictures in poster frames.
Cost: 75¢ for wallpaper, $9 for poster-size frames and $1 for a bottle of craft paint
Bored with the vase on the mantel or the dried flower swag over your bedroom door? Every so often I invite a few friends over. They bring two or three decorative items they’ve tired of or can no longer use, then we trade.
Home improvement stores like Home Depot offer free classes on techniques such as refinishing furniture, sponge painting and laying ceramic tile.
Cost: A little sweat equity, but otherwise free
Don’t be too proud to ask relatives and friends if they have unused furniture in their attics, garages or basements. Their discards may find a second life in your home.
Can’t find paint to match your decor? Take a swatch of fabric (it should be at least a few inches square) to the paint counter at a store like Lowe’s, where they’ll scan the color for free, then re-create a perfect match in paint.
Cost: Free scanning service