7 Cheap Home Decorating Projects That Look Amazing


As the housing market gradually makes a comeback, many folks are buying and beginning to decorate their first homes. Still gun-shy from the recession, some first-time home buyers are looking for ways to furnish and decorate their new digs without breaking the bank or going into debt. Never fear. With a bit of ingenuity, a creative eye, and some weekend devotion, it's easy to create high style on a low budget. Here are some of my favorite tips to channel your inner Martha and turn that new house into a home. (See also: 15 Home Decorating Ideas for Under $5)

1. Get Shady Art

I've always loved this idea — scout around thrift stores and yard sales for large old paintings. Don't worry about the subject matter; your focus is only on the canvas as an inexpensive and recycled medium for a new piece of art. Cover the canvas with two coats of quality primer, and then paint the whole thing one shade lighter or one shade darker than your interior room color. It's a simple, bold statement piece that takes absolutely zero artistic talent. Hang similar pieces in groups to give large walls depth and interest.

2. Dish It Up

Hanging plates on the wall might sound like a decorating idea from your grandmother's era, but it's all in your approach. Group mismatched plates of similar colors together, but mix up the sizes and patterns. Choose vintage items for a curated look and randomly alternate simple, elegant patterns with bold and graphic designs. Make color your unifying theme. Play off the hues in your room or choose a palette that complements your wall color.

3. Bring the Outdoors In

Art is all around us; we just have to look with a designer's eye. Adding natural elements to your decor creates a peaceful, rustic look. Try pressing, drying, and framing leaves to create a simple and elegant art piece. Collect and group pinecones, sea shells, smooth stones, or driftwood together to make a naturescape on a side table or nightstand. Add an elegant and long-lasting willow or birch branch to a floral arrangement.

4. Make a Headboard (Without the Board)

A headboard gives a bed more prominence in a room, but you don't have to build one. If your bed is likely to remain in the same spot and won't be moved if you rearrange furniture, consider painting your headboard right on the wall. With painters tape, frame out an area on the wall about as wide as your bed and about three feet higher than the top of the mattress. Select a neutral color or one that complements your bedding, and paint away! Get even more creative by adding vertical or horizontal stripes or color blocks. For other stylish and inexpensive headboard projects, check out this article by Better Homes and Gardens.

5. Build a Family Gallery

We all have hundreds of photos from old film cameras or saved digitally on our hard drives. Usually they end up tucked away in an album or preserved on a disk, but why not try making a stunning gallery of your photo collection? Print the photos in black and white and hang in inexpensive identical frames down a long hallway or in the dining room, or display them along the sloping wall of a staircase. For visual interest, arrange your composition chronologically, play with perspective, and favor casual slice-of-life snapshots over more formal pics.

6. Cluster Your Collection

Are you a collector? Collections can be wonderful ready-made design elements in any home. Cluster small collections in groupings of no less than five or six around a room or create stunning displays from larger collections of 20 or more pieces. If possible, vary the height of the objects in your clusters to create more visual interest. Keep your collections fresh by rotating what you display throughout the year. For more ideas on how to display the collections you love, check out this article from Real Simple.

7. Turn Old Into Gold

All too often folks get hung up on the color or finish of an item or are put off by a few scrapes and scratches. Channel your inner handyman by using a bit of sandpaper, stain, or spray paint to give new life to cast-off and secondhand items. Focus on an item's design elements, construction quality, details, and appropriateness for your home. Any cosmetic challenges can usually be solved with a little elbow grease and patience. Here's a great set of articles on how to handle nearly every wood refinishing project. And if you've never tried your hand at spray painting before, here's a handy tutorial, so you can do it like a pro.

Decorating well, while keeping your budget in check, comes down to a few simple principles. First, don't be afraid to try new things; get inspired by the high-end looks you see in magazines and explore how you can recreate them inexpensively. Second, get acquainted with your local thrift stores. So many times they're filled with undiscovered treasures just waiting for someone's vision and time. Third, take a new look at you already own. How can the things you love be rearranged, reinterpreted, revamped, or revitalized? Our homes should reflect not only what we've managed to collect or been able to buy — they should reflect our passions and the very best of our ingenuity. Happy decorating!

What are your favorite inexpensive DIY home decorating tricks?

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Guest's picture

Hmm... I'm not sure I could pull off the plate hanging tip. I really like the shady art idea though... will have to give that a shot.

Guest's picture

Thanks for the great ideas! Another option is to make decorations with seasells and sand from the beach. They look great and make classy gifts too.

Guest's picture

I really like the headboard idea. It's very creative. I can imagine what that may look like in my head but I'm not sure exactly how it would look like in real life. At any rate its a great affordable idea.

Guest's picture

Another simple fix, just change out the art you have. Some pieces goes in the closet and other pieces come out to hang in the perfect spot. A new look with no expense.