Changing your environment can greatly improve your outlook. And that doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
The key to great decor isn’t how much money you have to spend. More importantly, it’s about seeing possibilities in what you have already. You’ll be surprised at what you can do yourself for little or no cost.
1. Use what you’ve got
I have a friend who calls herself a professional arranger because people hire her to come to their homes and “redecorate” with the things they have.
She goes through every room, the attic and basement; every cupboard and closet taking inventory of everything available for her final designs. Then, she completely clears the room and starts from scratch to furnish and decorate with only the things that she found in the home. The results are amazing.
(If that triggered something in you that whispered, “I wish someone would pay ME to do that,” check out the International Association of Home Staging Professionals. Or offer to do this for a few friends, take before and after photos and order business cards. You do not need a license or any particular certification to become a professional arranger.)
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2. Paint is cheap
Changing the color of one wall can change the entire mood and look of that room. One quart of paint is all you need. You can fool the eye with the way you use paint, therefore making a room appear larger or smaller just by the choice of color.
Cool colors and lighter tints make walls look farther apart; rich, dark colors bring walls dramatically closer, creating an intimate look in a large room. Consider these tips to make the job much easier.
- Check your local hazardous waste recycling center or the Goof! shelves in the paint department at Home Depot for free or low cost paint. One reader painted her entire house for $45 using three super low-cost five gallon buckets of brand new but leftover construction paint.
- Use an old vinyl tablecloth as a drop cloth or spend a buck for one at a dollar thrift store. They are heavier than the plastic drop cloths at Lowe’s and will last for many rooms of painting. When you’re done, just hose it off and hang over a clothesline or fence to dry before folding and storing.
- When you take off outlet and switch covers, put the screws back into the holes so they don’t get lost. You can also put the covers and screws in a sandwich bag.
- Line your roller pan with a plastic grocery bag (inside out if it has writing on it) on the paint tray. Then you can just invert the bag when you’re done and throw it away.
- Clean your brushes with a dryer sheet. A glass jar works great for this. Stuff the dryer sheet into it then fill with warm water. Place brushes bristles down into the water and allow to stand for 3-4 hours. Rinse brushes well and dry.
3. Strategic placement
The furniture you use most should be farthest from the entrance. If possible, avoid positioning couches, chairs, dining tables or desks against walls. Give yourself at least three feet between the furniture and walls.
4. Pictures and art
Most people hang pictures and art too high. The focal point for a single picture or the center of a group of pictures should be at eye-level for a person who is five feet and seven inches tall. If that’s not you, I’ll bet you know someone who is that height.
5. Groups of pictures
How you group and hang pictures on your walls makes all the difference between a room that is boring and one that is inviting.
Gather the pictures you want to hang in a particular grouping. Then, get a large piece of paper the size of the area where you will hang these pictures, and lay it on the floor.
Arrange the frames on the paper the way you want them hung on the wall. Use a marker to draw around each item. Remove the pictures and tape the paper to the wall. Make sure it is straight! Now, you can easily see where to put each nail.
Once the nails are in place, carefully pull the paper away, and hang the pictures in their proper places.
Houseplants should be right for the light available in the area where you want to display them. Some easy growers that don’t require a lot of extra care include Philodendron and Boston fern.
Check out this How to for Philodendron Houseplants—especially the part on breeding and you’ll understand how I’ve turned one fairly sick-looking little Philadendron that I rescued from Home Depot into four big, healthy specimens for my home. Easy peasy!
7. Do it yourself
Whether it’s making slipcovers, painting a wall or ceiling, or laying tile, you’ll save a ton of money when you can do these things yourself.
Find inspiration in a blog or website that reflects your taste. I have several, but my current favorite is Tidbits-Cami.com. This girl can turn trash into treasures and she’s telling all her secrets. While I haven’t jumped into all-white-with-touches-of-pale-pink in our home (isn’t it just beautiful?) I just can’t get enough of Cami’s amazing photography. Her blog posts, projects and photos inspire me to no end!
Search online or take a class at your local home improvement center. Typically these are free or you pay only for the cost of materials. Do a search of what you need to know. Watch YouTube videos—these days you can find one to show you how to do just about anything around the house!
The parks and recreation departments of many cities also offer low-cost classes, as do community colleges and universities.
Need an emotional pick-me-up? Change up your environment and see how good it feels. Then send me pictures!