Make the most of your decorating dollars

  • Article by: MARY CAROL GARRITY , Scripps Howard News Service
  • Updated: December 20, 2013 - 3:42 PM

Good design doesn’t have to be expensive – just strategic.


You can transform your home into a sanctuary even if you have a limited budget.

Photo: Scripps Howard News Service photo provided by Nell Hill’s,

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You can transform your home into a sanctuary that makes your heart skip a beat even if you have a limited budget. The secret? Knowing where to splurge and where to cheat to get the most from every dollar.

Three places to make an investment

1. The room’s focal point. When the focal point is arresting, the rest of the room looks better just by association. This is where you want to invest your decorating dollars. If you’re decorating a bedroom, for example, most often the focal point will be the bed. If so, invest in a bed frame that makes a statement. Then dress it in bedding that sets the color palette and style for the rest of the room.

With the dollars you have left, finish off the room with less expensive pieces that complement your bed. Do you have furniture languishing in out-of-the-way places that you could move to your bedroom, like a little writing desk to use as a bed stand? Is artwork gathering dust in your storage room? Try hanging it in your bedroom to give it a new lease on life.

2. Items that bring you bliss. My friend is crazy about fine art and would love to fill her home with original paintings by artists she admires. However, she can’t afford to. So, she has come up with a plan to pursue her passion while also sticking to her budget. As she has slowly redecorated each room in her home, she’s picked a piece of artwork to serve as the new room’s highlight. Then, she’s been thrifty with all her other design decisions in the space.

When you’re dreaming of how to decorate your space, what kinds of pieces get you going? An antique armoire? A stylish sofa? A prized piece of antique pottery? Make your investment there.

3. Pieces that don’t have a good low-cost substitute. You get what you pay for when it comes to upholstered furniture. A sofa or chair with a well-made frame and cushions, covered with a high-quality fabric, will look great for years. But a piece made with low-quality materials and substandard textiles may look OK for a bit, but not for long. High-quality upholstered furniture sets the tone for everything else in the room.

Three ways to cheat

1. Get creative with artwork. Art is the most effective way to give a room a finished feel, and there are many ways to infuse your walls with interesting art without spending much. For example, a friend and her husband attend lots of formal dinners, and she always admires the lovely menu cards placed at their tables. So she collected her favorites and slipped them into inexpensive frames. They look amazing perched on a shelf above her stove.

Another friend spiced up her sofa table with framed photos of her ancestors. What do you have that you could put on your walls?

2. Repurpose old furniture. Do you have old pieces of furniture you can remake to add style and character — maybe a chair that’s covered in an outdated fabric that you can reupholster, or an old dresser that you can brighten with a coat of paint? Or scout for interesting pieces at flea markets or tag sales or even by the curb on large-trash day.

3. Inexpensive accents. Mix one or two quality pieces with fun little inexpensive surprises. Try anchoring a display around a fine accessory, like an antique pitcher or sculpture. Then, fill in with cheater pieces, like faux ferns in a pot, a decorative plate propped in an easel or a bowl filled with moss balls. Treating yourself to low-cost accents allows you to pep up your rooms without a guilty conscience. These aren’t the pieces you’re going to pass down to the grandkids, but they are sure fun for now.

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