Call us optimists, but we think everyone under the sun can have a beautiful home if they want one. Even if you’re pinching pennies, there’s still plenty you can do to create a stylish, inviting home for yourself and whoever you have over. The first step (and this is true no matter where or how you live) is to clean your home and get organized. Doing those two things alone will drastically improve the quality of your space.
Then for the fun part—on to decorating. With years of budget decorating behind (and in front of!) us, we’ve amassed a few helpful tips for making house with a slim wallet. Follow our cheap home decorating tips and get inspired by the ideas that prove that style doesn't need to come at a price below.
Paint an Accent Wall
Painting your walls on your own is one of the most cost-effective decorative updates you can make to your home and painting just one wall is an affordable (and seriously cool) upgrade.
Disguise a Dated Sofa with a Slipcover
Rather than buying an entirely new sofa, purchase a simple slipcover to give your space a new look.
Get Rid of Unsightly Items
Before you start worrying about what you can and cannot afford to buy, consider what you should get rid of. Dated, worn, or damaged items could be doing the look of your home a disservice, and if they’re non-essential, removing them can give your home a clean slate.
Add Trim to Your Curtains
Instead of buying new curtains, invest in what you already own by adding an iron-on trim to basic curtain panels.
Framed prints don't have to be expensive, but they can transform a room. If you're really ready for a project, try your hand at your own art piece and frame your creation to hang on its own or as part of a gallery wall.
Pot a Plant
Faux plants can make for chic décor at a low price. Find an affordable option and then style it on a beautiful stand or in a handcrafted pot.
Set Up Sales Alerts
If you’re dead-set on something that’s out of your price range, try to buy it on sale. You can use ShopStyle to set a sale alert for products from literally hundreds of major brands; just enter your search filters or terms and press the pink “Add Sale Alert” button and you’ll be emailed when the item goes on sale. Retailers like Overstock, Amazon, and Macy’s will also alert you when something goes on sale or returns after being out of stock.
Hide the Cords
You can find cord concealers on Amazon for just $15. Hiding unsightly cords and wires by the TV or lighting fixtures will go a long way in making your home look effortlessly clean and organized.
Give an Old Ladder New Life
That old wooden ladder sitting in your garage could be your next favorite décor piece. Clean one up with a bit of sandpaper and maybe even a coat of paint, then use it to store spare towels or throw blankets.
Go Thrift Shopping
Buying used (pre-loved) pieces of furniture and décor is a great way to save on things that may otherwise cost you a pretty penny. You never know what hidden gems you'll stumble upon at a thrift store or flea market.
Customize an End Table
With a bit of paint and a little imagination, you can make a tired end table feel brand new. Consider painting the edge of a simple black piece in gold, for instance.
Turn Plates Into Wall Art
If you never use the china plates from your wedding or you love the look of a cheap set you scored from H&M, plates can make for some seriously chic wall décor. Hang a few in a cluster on a blank wall for an instant update.
Create DIY Jute Décor
With a bit of jute rope and a glue gun, you can turn a vase or dish into a rustic creation fit for a coastal beach house.
Paint the Kitchen Cabinets
Similar to painting an accent wall, painting the kitchen cabinets will quickly give one of the most used rooms in your home a fresh feel. Pick a color and grab a brush.
Rearrange the Furniture
This zero-cost decorating idea only requires a bit of time, creativity, and some strong muscles. Pick a room and make it feel brand new by organizing the furniture in a new layout.
Infuse Your Bookcase with Personality
Wallpaper isn't for the walls. Use a small amount of wallpaper (you can find chic, removable wallpaper from brands like Chasing Paper) to decorate the interior of a bookcase.
Refresh Your Thow Pillows
Swap Your Bathroom Mirror
Nothing spruces up a dated bathroom faster than a new mirror to hang above the vanity or sink. You can find plenty of affordable new options or go searching for a cool vintage piece with a low price tag.
Give an IKEA Hack a Try
The internet is home to seemingly limitless ways to upgrade affordable IKEA furniture and décor into pieces that look far more expensive than they really are. Get inspired by a few IKEA hacks from serious DIYers.
Turn a Wine Bottle into a Vase
Hold onto a few bottles of wine after your next dinner party and repurpose them into eclectic vases. You can easily wash off the labels with a bit of hot water and soap and then you'll be left with a slender vessel fit for holding a few delicate stems.
Buy a Woven Basket
You can find cheap woven baskets at almost any retailer. They give a room a bohemian flair and offer a place to store spare items to keep any space free of clutter.
Use Sheepskin Rug
IKEA sells ridiculously affordable sheepskin rugs that you can use to transform ordinary barstools, chairs, and sofas into luxe, Scandinavian-inspired pieces. We love the look of the wool in contrast with industrial, iron furnishings.
On the spectrum of home décor styles, eclectic designs are often the easiest to replicate. Why? The look is all about mixing—and not matching. Since there’s no need to find a specific side table, or that exact shade of blue, shopping for furniture and décor will be much more affordable.
Shop on Craigslist
You can find great deals for pieces on Craigslist for a number of reasons: Sellers don’t know the value, sellers are eager to sell, stores are liquidating, or something is brand new and strategically listed for less than retail.
Update Your Kitchen Hardware
Purchasing and installing stylish hardware is an affordable way to make your kitchen feel brand new overnight. Head to CB2, West Elm, Target, or Home Depot for handles and knobs that will transform your space on a budget.
Replacing a few lamps with plug-in sconces is a task that's so much simpler than it sounds. Plus, you'll be left with a more modern look that you can personalize to your liking.
Stock Up on Candles
Candles are an affordable feature that can seriously shift the mood and atmosphere of a space for the better. For a really elevated look, search for candles that come in stylish holders rather than those with loud labels.
Hang a New Shower Curtain
An often underrated piece of décor, the shower curtain is likely the most decorative item in your bathroom. If the space is feeling dated, start by searching for a new curtain to hang.
Add a Table Runner to Your Dining Room Table
When a bare dining table feels too minimal but a tablecloth seems too formal, opt for a simple table runner. It's a small (and usually pretty cheap) accessory that instantly dresses up the dining room for any event.
Paint the Floors
Hear us out. A good floor paint won't cost you much more than any regular interior paint and you can use it to create the look of linoleum or vinyl floors at a fraction of the cost.
Make a Garage Sale Map
Garage and estate sales are great places to score cheap home décor and furniture, but stumbling upon one is a rarity. If you have the time (and energy), you can track down nearby garage sales and map out their locations on a Friday night so you're prepared for the Saturday morning rush. Don't forget to bring cash!
Pick Out a New Lamp Shade
This small detail can make a big difference. Treat yourself to a fresh lamp shade to give new life to an older piece.
Invest In Chic Kitchen Storage
Keeping your pasta, rice, cereal, and other pantry items in stylish glass or plastic containers is sure to make you feel like you have your life together. Whether tucked away or on display, they look pretty good, too.
Upgrade Your Bedding
You don't have to replace everything, but even something as simple as a new duvet cover can give your bedroom a contemporary look.
Reorganize Your Bookshelf
If your bookshelf has deteriorated into a place to hold anything and everything you don't have a designated place for, it's time to purge. Get rid of the clutter and then have fun with the way you organize what's left. Perhaps you stack your books according to color or spruce things up with some new bookends.
Add a Rug
Use a Chair as an End Table
If you have an old chair that no longer fits in with the rest of your décor, repurpose it as a nightstand or end table. You can even give it a fresh coat of paint to make it work in the new setting.
Buy Fresh Flowers
Fresh flowers instantly bring a home to life with their vibrant colors, fragrant scent, and sophisticated look. Invest in a nice vase and replenish your bunch with a few extra bucks at the market each week.
Frame Family Photos
Turn your personal memories into art by printing out a few photos on high-quality materials and styling them with nice frames. Make a gallery wall or simply display a few shots on a console table or bookshelf.
This post was originally published on February 25, 2015, and has since been updated.