How Do I Decorate a Room on a Tight Budget?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

There are several ways to do this which run from no cost at all to moderate expense. To update a room at no expense at all, little is needed but elbow grease, imagination and a free weekend. Perhaps you want to update your living room. To do this at no expense, strip the room down to the bare walls, floors (carpeted or wood) and basic furniture. Then give it a good old fashioned housecleaning; wash and polish and shampoo every inch of it, until the windows sparkle and the woodwork gleams. Then slowly reconstruct it.

Take a good look at your window treatments. Are they a bit outdated? Frequently they can be updated by simplifying them. If you have several layers, strip them down to one-sheers or a scarf or a valence. Make sure these are laundered or cleaned. When you hang them back up, drape them differently-either pull them back if they covered the window before or the opposite. Even valences can be updated by pleating or gathering them a bit differently. No sewing ability is needed. You can do this with long seamstress pins.

Take a good look at your room and your major pieces of furniture. Can they be rearranged to give a fresh impression? If not, brush, clean and fluff everything.

Next, look at your pictures, lamps and accessories. Group your pictures. Prop one or two on the mantel instead of hanging them on the walls. Eliminate 1/3 of the things you have sitting around and arrange the rest in groups. Put higher watt bulbs in your lamps. You will be surprised how ‘new’ your room looks. Be sure to do go ‘shopping’ in your house. It is amazing to find how many things you have tucked into corners or cupboards which can be used in a different way.

At very little expense, you can do the following. Buy any or all of the following: new lampshades (colored ones are very dramatic and effective), new window valences, tiebacks, throws and throw pillows, small area rugs to bring in new colors and patterns (try mounting a small rug on a wall), a mirror to replace a picture, candles in inexpensive glass or metal candlesticks, dried flowers to tuck onto the tops of picture frames, round mirrors on the tabletops with accessories arranged on them and any natural thing. Add plants. The new halogen lights, which can be placed on the floor to highlight a plant or piece of furniture, are great and have safety features in case they are knocked over.

If you want to go to a little more expense, paint the walls in a new updated color. If your walls are light, go darker. If they are a darker shade go lighter. Be sure the color is not too bright to work with your furniture. Furniture which is slightly faded looks ‘shabby chic’ with soft colors. With bright or primary colors, it just looks old and worn out. Slipcovers are available at a reasonable cost-and the new ones actually stay on the furniture. Architectural details can be purchased new at a home store and painted or stained to suit your decor, or they can be bought used at various warehouses that sell recyclables.

As always, use your eyes before you make any decisions. It is amazing the ideas you can come up with just by putting a chair in a corner where you don’t usually sit and taking a fresh look at your room. Have fun! Decorating should never be a dismal chore.

Contributions for this article by Suzanne Copenhaver, ON THE GO 4 U's design consultant.

Indra A Books, author of this and many other lifestyle articles, is the owner and founder of ON THE GO 4 U, LLC, Personal Shoppers & Concierge Service in the Washington DC metropolitan area, providing life management services. In addition to its shopping and concierge services, ON THE GO 4 U also publishes a monthly e-zine and conducts workshops. Ms. Books is the Vice President for the International Concierge & Errand Association. For more information about the author and ON THE GO 4 U, please visit


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