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How to Decorate on a Budget

Don’t spend a fortune decorating your home. Try these budget-friendly tips on everything from furniture to flowers.

Robert Messner's budget decorating tips

I’ve worked as a photographer’s stylist for home decorating publications for over 30 years.  Over time, I’ve noticed that the most beckoning interiors often didn’t break the bank.  Here are some tips I’ve learned from the best teachers of all. . .the homeowners themselves:

1) Think vintage. Newly-made pieces can lack life and are generally more costly. But using vintage objects in a new context makes a space unforgettable.  In this pantry, for example, old advertising tins are displayed to winsome effect.  



2) Study décor publications and compile a clip file. That way, when you go shopping, you’ll know what pleases you and you can spot a true find like the mint condition Dresden Plate quilt I spotted among the discards at Goodwill for $2.95. (It’s clearly worth five to six hundred dollars!)

3) Develop a good rapport with dealers. When they acquire something you’re looking for, they’ll be more likely to give you a call and hopefully a better deal as well.

4) Make your rooms multitask. Let your dining room do double duty as a library and you’ll save money by having less square footage in your home. 

5) Repurpose. Redecorate. Reinvent. Nothing has to stay the same. Always be open to changing what you already own.

6) Be a consignment convert. These venues don’t just offer dusty hand-me-downs. You’ll find designer-worthy furniture, lamps, and linens there, and all for a song. Also, don’t be deterred by a store that specializes in, say, linens. You may well find a crock or advertising sign there for a fraction of its worth, all because they are outside of the shopkeeper’s special area of interest.

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7) Purchase holiday décor off-season. Prices are often slashed to 75-90% off when they are not in demand.

8) Get your flowers locally. There’s nothing like fresh flowers to breathe life into a space. But forget high florists’ prices.  Instead, investigate your local grocery store or share clippings with your neighbors.

9) Use unconventional objects for decorative accents. An old wooden ironing board can make a delightful wall hanging, a cast iron stove an adorable side table. If you love a fabric but it’s cost-prohibitive, sew a pillow out of a small piece of it.

10) Reupholster old furniture. Instead of buying cheaply-made, newer objects that may not endure the test of time, reupholster structurally-sound older furniture that will last a lifetime.

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