How to Decorate Your Home for Less

If you appreciate good design but not the price tag, then you’ll love this guest post. I’m delighted to introduce you to Jennifer Roberts, an active member of my Central New York Blogger Mamas, who writes thoroughly helpful posts like this one on her blog, JenSpends.

Though I learned long ago that beauty magazines weren’t good for my self-esteem, I can never resist a great interior design read.

I used to flip through the glossy pages of Architectural Digest lamenting the fact that I didn’t have a bank account that would permit the kinds of spaces I wanted to replicate. My own dwelling felt woefully inadequate — if only I could strike it rich!

Over the years I have learned some basic decorating strategies that have helped me turn any space into a home without spending a lot. Now, instead of feeling that my own place doesn’t measure up, I can happily read magazines for ideas and inspiration to implement in my own way.

The Power of Paint

If you live in a place where you can paint the walls, adding a fresh coat of color is one of the easiest ways to create a huge impact and make your room look like new.

Though some can masterfully pull off the white wall gallery look, stark white more often highlights the differences and imperfections among an eclectic array of belongings. By contrast, the right color can create a soothing, cohesive space that leaves you satisfied with the things you have.

Color can highlight interesting architectural features like sloped ceilings and ornate moldings that might be lost amid a more subtle palette. Color can make a room seem larger or cozier; it can blend your furnishings into the background or make them stand out.

Splurge on excellent paint brushes and rollers, but you can save on the paint itself — store brands work great, and color match computers can duplicate any designer paint chip that interests you.

If you’re unsure about the color you’ve chosen, buy a sample can and try it on a wall before you commit.

Look Within for Wall Art

Skip pricey prints and fill your walls with pictures that mean something to you. I let my two-year-old son go to town with paintbrushes, non-toxic kid’s paint, and canvases that I purchased in a lot for a few dollars on eBay.

It was fascinating to see his imagination at work in the abstract masterpieces he created, and they were the perfect accent for a blank wall in his colorful playroom.

Your own photos can instantly personalize a space and add interest. Department store photo printing machines allow you to enlarge, crop and even add artistic effects to your digital images. 8 x 10 prints are just a few dollars each. I enlarged and added a sepia tone to two landscape photographs from my California honeymoon for a sentimental touch that fit with the spa theme in my bathroom.

If you have a large blank wall to fill, consider grouping together odds-and-ends picture frames filled with your own black and white photos, your child’s art, or interesting illustrations from old books. I like to search thrift stores for ornate vintage frames that don’t cost more than $2 per piece.

Collect Something Vintage

Showcasing a collection can set the theme for a room and reveal a bit about your interests or personality. I recently discovered a love for milk glass, something that many of my friends associate with their grandmothers. But grouped together in the right setting, it doesn’t seem dated.

I look for pieces that are $2 or less at thrift stores and flea markets. It’s an inexpensive habit, and I don’t worry if my toddler son accidentally knocks something over. Groupings of odd-and-end milk glass pieces adorn my end tables, which also sport milk glass lamps that I scored for $9 on eBay.

Having an inexpensive collection or two to build is a great way to satisfy the occasional urge to shop without blowing my budget. It’s fun perusing local shops in search of a unique piece to add. It feels good knowing that my thrift shop purchases will benefit local charities, and I’m doing my part to keep items out of landfills.

Love What You Have

The furniture in my house is an eclectic mix of hand-me-downs and thrift store finds. I have often wondered what it would be like to go out and purchase brand new furniture that I picked out myself. Until I reach that point, I have learned to embrace the old furnishings that I have by using them as inspiration for my rooms.

The 1970’s colonial style maple bedroom set that my husband and I purchased as newlyweds wasn’t exactly our cup of tea, but I embraced the antique look and themed our bedroom to remind us of some of the antique-filled bed and breakfast rooms that we lodged in during our honeymoon.

A relative generously gifted us a nice sofa and two armchairs. The large pink and green floral design wasn’t something I would have chosen, but a subtle green paint on the walls and a grouping of matching botanical prints makes our floral furnishings look as though they were planned.

Mismatched or worn soft furnishings can be dressed up with slipcovers, new throw pillows or blankets. If shabby wood furniture isn’t for you, make it new again with a fresh coat of paint. Metal knobs or handles are easy to replace to make a piece match other items in the room or simply give it a different look.

You may not have much of a choice about the furnishings in your home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them your own.

Plan it Out

Everyone is different, but I find that if I give a lot of thought to planning my room décor, I am much more inclined to enjoy the end result for an extended time and avoid the urge to remodel with every trend I read about. Even my furniture arrangement is part of the design, and I rarely want to change it.

Peruse books, magazines and the internet for pictures that inspire you, and save them. Consider your own space and look for ways that you can elicit the same feelings in your own room — you don’t need to create an exact replica of someone else’s idea.

Look at color, texture and style, then search out products that will fit both your budget and your vision. Take your time planning so that you can look for deals on the items you need at a variety of stores.

Measure your room and any existing furniture pieces that you will need to place, then sketch a layout that works. Putting it on paper will help ensure that you have a place for everything that you own, and for the items that you plan to buy. Impulse purchases are less likely if you know that you just don’t have a place for the item.

Creating the atmosphere you want doesn’t need to cost a fortune. With careful planning, some basic changes and your own creativity, you can make a comfortable and beautiful home within your means.

Jennifer Roberts left her career in architecture to pursue a new calling as a stay-at-home mom. Her creative background has helped her discover ways to make the most of a modest household income. She shares her lifestyle tips and favorite products on her website,

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  • Pamala Perrelli February 22, 2012, 2:09 pm

    Very useful appreciate it, I reckon your subscribers might probably want way more information of this nature keep up the good content.

  • Donna June 24, 2011, 1:15 pm

    Great ideas! I love using my son’s artwork in our home. :)

    • Amy June 26, 2011, 9:44 pm

      That’s great, Donna! I need to do that too. It’s so hard to choose which art to use!

      Thanks for writing in,

  • Jen @ Jen Spends June 24, 2011, 11:57 am

    Thank you for your comments everyone! I’m glad I gave you some ideas.

  • Melinda-LooKWhatMomFound..and Dad too! June 23, 2011, 7:21 pm

    my grandmother has tons of vintage milk glass and I would love the opportunity to show it off in my home! great tips

    • Amy June 23, 2011, 7:41 pm

      Hi Melinda,

      I agree that the milk glass looks beautiful — especially in the light.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Karen June 23, 2011, 6:46 pm

    I’ve lived in an RV for 11 years, but we are planning to buy a small house this coming winter. I can hardly wait to decorate it. It will definitely have color, handmade curtains and pillows, and personal to me artwork on the walls.

    • Amy June 23, 2011, 7:43 pm

      Hi Karen,

      I think living in an RV sounds like fun. It reminds me of being on a train trip — or maybe it’s something about the promise of a new adventure. Congratulations on your new house. I know what you mean — decorating a new place is so fun! I like your ideas. Sounds like you like to sew.

      Thanks for writing in!

  • Hey Jen June 23, 2011, 3:04 pm

    Lots of great ideas. I probably wouldn’t have measured everything out, but just tossed whatever together.

    Loved that wall art!

    • Amy June 23, 2011, 3:08 pm

      Hi Jen and Cat,

      I totally agree on mapping out the furniture. I do it every time we move so we know where to put things ahead of time, instead of hauling heavy furniture around the house.

      Glad you liked Jen’s post!


  • Cat Davis June 23, 2011, 2:41 pm

    I love the idea of drafting a plan. So many times I just throw things here and there and it ends up a mess.

  • Andrea June 23, 2011, 8:49 am

    LOVE the post! Had no idea Jen about your past career! Love that too. :)

    • Amy June 23, 2011, 10:39 am

      I know, but it makes sense when you see Jen’s site — and her house. :-)


    • Jen @ Jen Spends June 23, 2011, 11:34 am

      Thank you Andrea! :)

  • Jen @ Jen Spends June 23, 2011, 8:34 am

    My little guy is all excited to see these photos on your blog – “Look, that’s my home!” Thanks again, Amy :)

    • Amy June 23, 2011, 10:39 am

      So cute, Mr. Boy!

      I should be thanking YOU, Jen!