My husband makes a decent living, but the bottom line is that you will never see one of our homes grace the pages of design magazines; that is almost solely the purview of the very wealthy. However, I do the best with what we have and instead of whining still more about wanting design options for the 99%, I thought I’d share some of my secrets for making my house a haven.
1.) Art is a must, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can buy inexpensive art at places like Art.com and AllPosters. com. You can frame them inexpensively yourself by buying ready-made mat-frames at places like Wal-Mart or Michael’s or you can have them professionally framed. Framing can be ridiculously expensive, but if you stick to a plain off-white mat and a thin, simple black, gold or silver metal frame, you’ll save buttloads of money. And simple frame jobs look good with anything and look good grouped together. Postcards can be framed–cheaply. So can a child’s artwork. Rip a page out of an old book. Art on the walls adds so much warmth and personality to a space. You really can’t skip it.
2.) Private sales sites. Private sales sites. Private sales sites. Join them and shop them. They’re an invaluable resource for–at times–drastically-reduced brand-name furniture and accessories. I pretty much don’t shop for decor anywhere else. Art for the walls, pillows, vases, objects d’art, baskets, decorative books, gee-gaws large and small, it’s all there. What’s more, many of their offerings are sold in groups, making decorating simple. (Because groupings of objects almost always look better than lone knick-knacks.) This is a good to time to bring up staggering–stagger your belongings. Mix little objects with large-scale things. (Lots of little knick-knacks is a bad thing, period. Don’t do it.) Mix textures and heights. And, seriously, these places are great. Wayfair is not a private sales site (but its subsidiary, Joss and Main is). I picked up a room-size wool rug for less than half its retail price. Always be shopping, always be eagle-eyed and looking for deals–you’ll find them.
3.) Buy what you love–it’ll all work together. Things don’t have to be matchy-matchy. Things can be weird and eclectic. If you dig it, you’ll find a way to make it work.
4.) Learn to love paint. Painting a room a bold color can add oodles of drama for almost no money. Similarly, thrift shop finds can be revitalized with a little sanding (or primer) and paint. Back in the day I refinished so many Goodwill finds…and got so many compliments on them.
5.) Look at design magazines and websites to see how the professionals pull rooms together. Look at their tablescapes, mantelscapes, how they style a bookshelf. Use YOUR stuff in place of their expensive crap.
6.) Mix cheapie finds (from, say, Big Lots or Pier One) with more expensive things; it’s interesting and people won’t know which is which.
7.) Your tips here __________.
UPDATE: 8.) Living things are great to have in your house. A.) Many plants and planters are inexpensive. (You can find really cute planters for nothing at places like Big Lots). If you have a green thumb, geez, fill your house with plants. B) Most supermarkets offer sweet little bouquets of flowers for less than 10 bucks. Take out all the filler foliage and cut the flowers to a uniform length and stick them in a vase (you can get plain glass ones for, like, 2 dollars…free, if you’ve ever received the gift of flowers) and voila–instant life and warmth. I’m even a fan of faux arrangements if they’re decent-looking. You can find some pretty nice ones for decent prices at private sales sites.