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Article: Decorating on a budget: do's and don'ts


Congratulations on your new home! Whether you’ve just bought your first home or signed the lease on your first apartment, it’s exciting to create a special place of your own. Just remember to take it slow. Interesting interiors are created in layers, evolving as things are added and removed over time.

To help you get started, we’ve collected the following ideas for affordable ambiance.


DO: Make a budget, either for the whole living space or by individual room. Then create a list of what you have, what you need, and what you’d like to upgrade.


DON’T: Feel as if you have to fill each room with furniture right away. Versatile pieces, such as Parsons chairs, can float between rooms—from dining, to home office, to the living room when you’re entertaining guests.


DO: Take a look at a list of books on decorating and style. Be sure to check out the periodicals and magazines, too. Keep in mind anything that grabs you.


DON’T: Accept any hand-me-down furnishings you don’t like. These unwanted dinosaurs won’t inspire your imagination the way empty rooms can. Live with the open space for a while and consider what type of atmosphere you’d like to create.


DO: Make a list of what a room will be used for and shop for furnishings that combine several of them. For example, a sofa table is the perfect height to use as a small bar or buffet when you entertain.


DO: Focus on finding a terrific looking bed to make the bedroom feel complete. Everything else—dressers, nightstands and chests—can be added over time. An eclectic mix will make your home cozy and unique.


DO: Bring unique style to your home by decorating with garden ornaments, architectural elements and old building parts. They’re often cheap, and always distinctive. Check your phone book for salvage yards and antique stores.


DO: Place a bookcase in the dining area to hold china and serving pieces. Later, when you upgrade to a china cabinet or sideboard, the bookcase can easily transition to another area of your home.


DO: Create your own artwork. Add a frame to anything—a leaf from the yard or a photo from last year’s wall calendar—and voila, it’s art. For inexpensive frames, look in discount stores for framed prints. Remove the back (needle-nose pliers are terrific for pulling out large staples) and replace what they’ve framed with something of your own.


DO: Sell furnishings you don’t like at a consignment store or website. Use the money you make for the furniture you really want.

DO: Choose a dining table that will give you choices later. When it’s time to redecorate or move to a larger home, you may find your smaller scale table, or table with a removable expansion leaf, is just right for the kitchen or another room.


DON’T: Limit your decorating scheme to the existing layout of electrical outlets or phone jacks. Paying to move these features to where you want them is an investment in convenience you’ll appreciate over and over again.


One final note, don’t try to make a room work too hard. Write down all of your brainstorms for a specific space, and then edit the list to one or two solid ideas. Sometimes the key to decorating is in what you remove, not what you add. And if you’re like most people, you’ll continue to fiddle with your rooms until the next time you move. Until then, enjoy your new home.



Further Reading:


Budget Living Home Cheap Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to Great Decorating
As any reader of Architectural Digest or Interior Design knows, it's easy to make your home look like a million bucks—if you have a million bucks. But for readers whose budgets tend more toward the Ikea level of home decorating, here are "192 pages of proof that you can live the good life on the cheap." Reminding readers that style is a matter of "attitude, not price," Budget Living's editors give tips for decorating every room of the home, from living rooms to kitchens to bathrooms to home offices, integrating anecdotes from real people who decorated their own homes without going broke. The editors lay out six tenets of low-cost decorating: think creatively, shop at the big chain stores and make their mass-produced items your own, use common items in uncommon places, make things yourself, splurge if you must and, above all, have fun. The book has a magazine-like feel to it, with sidebars, different sized fonts and chatty prose. This format works well, allowing readers to pick up the book at any point and start learning how to shop for a vintage quilt, grow plants in a tiny bathroom, use two rugs to make a room feel like it has distinct sections, or redo kitchen cabinets for less than $250. Although the editors do have a penchant for vintage items (which they tell readers to hunt for on eBay and at flea markets), they're also fans of such typical outlets as Crate and Barrel, Target, Pier One and Home Depot.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



Budget Makeovers: Give Your Home a New Look
Judging from the wealth of TV programs dedicated to room redos, Americans are mad for home makeovers. The idea of a home makeover is seductive, but not everyone has scads of cash to spend revamping a room. With 200 full-color photos and 50 color illustrations, Budget Makeovers reveals how do-it-yourselfers can attain a professional polish at an affordable price. The book features 12 real-life makeovers, showing how to transform boring or outdated rooms - be they kitchens, baths, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, or bedrooms - into fresh, beautiful, and livable spaces. Each room featured includes color before and after photographs (200 in all), a description of how the room was updated, a list of what the owners loved and hated about the space, the tab on how much was spent, and a breakdown of how long each phase of the makeover took. How-to projects specific to each room, valuable trade secrets, decorating shortcuts, full color illustrations, and design ideas are included with each redesign.



Country Living 750 Great Ideas for Decorating on a Budget: Transform Your Home Inside & Out
Extreme Home Makeover, Trading Spaces, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: these days, people can't seem to get enough of makeovers. But most of us think we have neither the time, nor the resources or know-how to accomplish the look we want. That's why Country Living-- the authority on transforming a home into a tasteful, comfortable refuge--offers simple but lovely decorating ideas that are well within the reach of every budget. More than 400 breathtaking photographs present a wealth of inexpensive ways to bring style and charm to every room in the house--and outdoor spaces, as well. You'll learn chic and clever ways to decorate for festive occasions, as well as how to refurbish favorite old treasures and maintain an energy-efficient home. There are even some do-it-yourself projects, including tea-dyed linens and wreaths. A Main Selection of the Homestyle Book Club.




Kathy Peterson's Great Outdoor Decorating Makeovers: Easy, Elegant Transformations on a Limited Budget
This decorating resource shows how to transform outdoor spaces on an extremely limited budget-only $ 250 or less per project-using paint, castaways and thrift store finds, easy crafts and sewing projects, and lots of creativity and elbow grease. Readers are taken through the entire transformation: preparing a space for a decorating overhaul, finding inspiration, achieving decorating goals within a tight budget, planning and organizing a project, and quick fixes and crafts projects that can refresh and beautify any outdoor space. Eighteen makeovers are profiled, showcasing a variety of spaces, including patios, porches, poolsides, balconies, sunrooms, decks, and courtyards. Each of the projects describes the homeowner's decorating dilemmas, his/her goals for the space, Peterson's proposed solutions, a shopping list, and how the makeover was achieved-all supported by full-color before-and-after photos.



Christopher Lowell's If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It!: Dream Decor on a Budget
Lowell, the host of an eponymous home decorating show on the Discovery Channel and the author of the very successful Christopher Lowell's Seven Layers of Design, has a vivacious, flamboyant persona that's garnered him a considerable squadron of fans. His forte: inspiration on the psychological side, and re-design on the physical. Taking a room in a modest house or apartment, for example, he applies a theme ("Theater Living," say, or "Zen-sational Office") to liven it up; "every dream, like every good room," he writes, "needs a theme." Unfortunately, most theme projects provide an opportunity for cliché: "Martini Lounge" means zebra print pillows and bar stools; "Moroccan Mystique" translates into hanging tapestries and paisley prints. The unifying style that Lowell achieves is something cramped, gaudy, and busy to the point of exhaustion, flooded with the brilliant color spectrum of the mall teen-furnishings store. On the other hand, he does empower his fans to pursue their home decorating fantasies in whatever wild and potentially wonderful direction they may lead.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.



First Digs: The Quasi-Adult's Guide to Decorating with Style---Without Blowing Your Budget
Sun, founder of, a "home & living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation," compiles her design and decorating knowledge in this nifty book that deserves to be on the short list of college graduation presents. Sun rushes through pre-move-in decisions (go solo or find a roommate? Live in sin? What's more important-location or size?) before plunging into a bevy of budget-minded decorating tips. Some of the information, like shopping at thrift stores and estate sales, is common sense, but little tips like bringing a blanket, bungee cord and rope to ensure large items make it home in one piece set the book apart. It's chapter four that will end up the most dog-eared, as it's home to a multitude of tips on thoughtfully decorating apartments: finding focal points, paring down to the essentials and planning it out on paper first will all be of tremendous help for novices. By artfully walking the line between open-mindedness and a knowledge of one's own decorating style, those following Sun's advice will be rewarded with an affordably decorated, unique and comfortable home.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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