Frugal and Simple Living Without Giving Up The Things You Love

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Thrifty Decorating Ideas

Remember - with decorating; as with clothing, it's not so much what you have as what you do with it. The biggest secret of a fabulous (and thrifty) decorator is your imagination. You have to see the possibilities in what you find. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You'll be surprised at what you can do yourself at no cost at all.

Look at objects to see what they could become: old milk-can could be transformed into a lamp, the base for a small table, an umbrella stand, or a planter. Be creative as you see each object's potential.

Look for inspiration. There is no shame is scouring books and magazines for the look you desire, then adapting their scheme to a budget decorator’s plan! Go to your local bookstore to get ideas for rooms, painting and refinishing furniture, etc. Their stock is much more up-to-date. Your library's current magazines are great, too.

Tackle the larger areas of the room first, such as walls, windows, and floors. That will make the fastest impact on the room.

Here are some more specific tips:

Move things around

Rearrange until you find a new pleasing setup! Swap furniture from one room to another. Put items on a pretty shelf over a piece of furniture or some pretty summer or fall branches stuffed into a vase. Mix and match furniture styles, fabrics, eras, etc.

Do some painting!

Paint is one of the most thrifty and fastest ways to get a new look. Use COLOR. Let your walls make as much of a statement as your furnishings (for a fraction of the price).

To create a sense of flow from room to room, select a dominant color for your main room, then pick up different shades of the same color and use them in subtle ways throughout the house.

It's no great surprise that desert colors -- oranges, reds, browns, and yellows -- are often used in decorating in the Southwest or that deep greens, earthy browns, and dark reds show up in mountain homes. Those are predominant colors in nature in those regions. The dominant natural colors of any part of the country can be used to subtly tie the interior of your home to the world outside.

You can fool the eye with the way you use paint, making a room appear either larger or smaller just by the choice of color. Cool colors and lighter tints tend to make walls look farther apart; rich, dark colors bring walls dramatically closer, creating an intimate look even in a large room.

Different colors tend to elicit different emotions:

Cool colors. Shades of blue, green, purple, and similar cool colors tend to have a calming influence -- excellent for bedrooms if you want to create a soothing haven.

Warm colors. Shades of red, orange, and yellow tend to have a strong, dramatic, inviting effect -- a look you might want for a living or dining room.

Light, bright colors. Lighter shades of yellow and the spectrum of whites can be cheerful and sunny -- great in a kitchen or family room.

Add personality!

Use personal family items such as photos, vacation souvenirs or theme park / movie tickets and brochures in a special frame.

El Paso Saddleblanket

Use what you have!

Sounds kinda simple, but sometimes just looking around your house for items that would offer a new look in another part of your home. Look through your attic, closet, basement and inventory all of your pictures, knickknacks, furniture, etc. Then paint, refinish, or buy some cheap fabric and throw it over the piece.


If you can't afford to replace, disguise! Cover a sofa, lay a rag rug over that stained carpet, or use fabric to screen an unpleasant view.

Be creative

Use fabric from sheets and quilts, use yard sales to locate furniture to be painted to match your décor, and visit your dollar shop on a regular basis for picture frames and candles. Express yourself. Do you love music? Look for old sheet music with great covers whenever you're at an antique or junk store, garage sale or thrift store, or at a going-out-of-business sale at a music store. Hang the music on the wall above your piano, framed or unframed. Do you sew? Keep an eye open for antique (or just old) sewing equipment and display it on the walls and shelves of your sewing room.

Thrifty artwork

For thrifty artwork, don’t buy at a high-end art gallery - instead window shop the galleries and magazines for ideas on what you would like.

Then take some time to check online.

There are dozens of discount artwork websites, many of which offer prints of popular paintings. Try an e-coupon site to get some additional discounts on artwork. You can find coupon codes for some of the top discount artwork sites, saving you a great deal. Many throw in free shipping for going through one of these discount coupon sites.

Buying prints is an easy way to save some money. Print manufacturers will take a copy of a famous piece of artwork and print it out on a sheet of paper. They come in a variety of different sizes, and work well for almost any décor. Prints are fairly cheap and you can do the framing and matting yourself. Go to your local craft store to purchase an inexpensive frame and mat. It takes only seconds to put together, and you will be very pleased with the overall look. No one will ever know how much money you saved by doing it yourself!

You can frame just about anything. Try framing posters, postcards, or even play programs for an interesting look.

Mirror Tricks

Mirrors, mirrors everywhere are a tremendous help in decorating for dimes. You can use them framed or unframed, as tiles, or as pieces of furniture.

Add height to a small, low-ceilinged room (such as a powder room) by covering the ceiling with inexpensive, easy-to-install mirror tiles. Use the recommended adhesive.

Place a large framed mirror in a small entryway to reflect light, increase the sense of space, and allow you to give yourself the once-over before going out.

A series of small, framed mirrors in varied shapes can be arranged down a hallway or on the wall next to a staircase to catch light and add a bit of sparkle.

For a recessed window, line the sides of the window recess with mirror tiles to reflect more light into the room.

Look for attractive antique frames at flea markets, garage sales, and thrift stores. You may have to look beyond the so-called art in the frame. When you find a winner, remove the art and replace it with a mirror. Hang it above a dresser, a mantelpiece, or a powder room sink.

Window Treatments

Be creative with window treatments. Use sheets, tablecloths, or no cover at all. Colorful fan-type window shades with no other covering can look very good, especially when using a contrasting paint color on the windowsill.

Less Is More

Don't worry if you don't have loads of furniture. In decorating, less is often more anyway. If you're using vibrant color on the walls and have an attractive rug picking up some of that color, you'll need only a few pieces of simple furniture, enlivened with a throw or some pillows, for a charming room. Bulky furniture can become obstacles for traffic flow through a room, it can create a cluttered feeling really fast, and it can detract from your one or two really good pieces.

Keep a Sense of Scale

If you have really big rooms, don't use small sized furniture. Conversely, if you have small rooms, don't furnish them with huge pieces or too many pieces. Look carefully at each room and decide the scale; then select pieces that match the scale of that particular space.


Few things add more beauty to a room than plants. Put them in eye-catching pots to double your visual pleasure. Select plants that are right for the light available in the area where you want to display them.

Paint your furniture!

Craft stores sell acrylic paint cheaply and after a couple of projects you'll be able to mix up the colors you already have and invent some new ones.


Small decorative rugs, either antiques or reproductions, can add color and life to a cold or boring wall. And they help muffle sound. Quilts or beautiful afghans can be hung on a dowel on a wall.

Kitchen Face-Lifts for Less

You may want a new kitchen, but do you really need new appliances or a new floor plan? If not, a kitchen face-lift might save you hundreds of dollars.

Cabinet refacing

Even if you have this done professionally, you will pay much less than it would cost to have new cabinets installed. You can save even more, by doing the refacing yourself. This usually involves gluing new veneern over the old finish on all the vertical surfaces. You can get the veneer and instructions at home centers. You can also get new cabinet doors and drawer fronts to replace your old ones, refinishing the cabinet frame before installing the new doors and drawer fronts.


Take off all the cabinet doors and drawers and paint yourself a brand-new look. You can match the doors and the frames or, if you want some drama, paint them different colors. Or stencil a design on the doors and drawer fronts and paint the framework a matching color.


Knobs, handles, and drawer pulls come in an infinite variety these days; there's something for everyone's taste. If you've saved big money redoing your own cabinets, you can splurge a bit on hardware.

Tile Backsplash

Putting in your own tile backsplash can really change the look of the room. Like hardware, the variety of tiles available is staggering.

Just do it!

Make a plan, buy some paint, do some rearranging, and shop your discount stores.

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