I received a comment last week where a reader shared that she felt like she would never own things that were as beautiful as those that are in my house because her decorating budget was limited. First of all, I wanted to reach through the computer and give her a hug. I was thankful for her honesty and openness. I was also thankful for the fact that I knew exactly how she felt. I’ve shared many times over the years on this blog that I know how frustrating and discouraging it can be to have a non-existent budget to put towards your creative outlet and customizing your home. I remember looking wistfully at decorating books and magazines, feeling more discouraged than inspired. But even though I have a bigger budget now, I still love decorating bargains.
Working as an antique’s dealer for almost 10 years and home blogger for over 11 years has allowed me to work on my home in a way I never would’ve been able to before I started my business. (You can read my business story HERE.) It literally is a part of my job to work on my house! And being an antique’s dealer allowed me to have a steady flow of pieces to buy and sell, picking my favorites along the way. Believe me, though, when I say that I started with hand-me-downs, freebies, and $10 dressers and just continued to trade up, piece by piece, refining my style and skill along the way.
The house that you’re seeing now isn’t where I started. It’s 10+ years of working on my house professionally and 10 previous years of doing it as a hobby, spending all of my birthday and Christmas money on things to use in my home. I don’t want you to look only at the expensive things, the splurges. For the past 8-10 years, I have taken a spend and splurge approach. I can save in some places, so I can splurge in others. I’ve also learned that I’d rather wait for just the right piece and save up instead of buying three of four things that I don’t really love. I’m willing to wait and splurge for things that make my heart flutter when I see them.
So, I thought there might be some value in pointing out some of the best bargains that I’ve found over the years.
I’ve had this pair of wing chairs for over 15 years and they were free leftovers from a yard sale. The owners couldn’t sell them or even give them away at the yard sale, so they gave them to me to furnish our home in PA. I slipcovered them once in dropcloths and a second time in hemp sheets when I used to buy and sell them. The funny thing is that they are blue checked underneath! They’re just not quite the right blue check for my house, but they might get unveiled one of these days.
I don’t remember the exact amount I paid for this hutch, but it was in the neighborhood of $125-150. They were setting it up as I walked through their booth and I told them to not even bother screwing the top on. It was going right back out to my van. Believe it or not, most of my antique dressers and cabinets cost around $150 or less and several of them were between $20-50.
This beautiful dresser in our living room was one of those $50 craigslist finds…
The chandelier in my dining room was an unbelievable $4.00 at a yard sale. The stupid thing is it was $5.00 and I asked for $1.00 off! I kept it packed in a box for 3 years until I had a place to hang it in my PA house. I love it so much that I moved it with me to MN. Four dollars. And the buffet, chairs, table, and hutch were all found on craigslist.
My everyday ironstone is from a huge set of 1960’s restaurant ware I found at a thrift store. (You can read about that haul HERE.) A reader tipped me off to the stash and I drove an hour and hauled hundreds of pieces down a huge flight of steps to buy bowls and plates of all sizes and shapes for $0.25/each. I sold a bunch of them at my last Lucketts Spring Market, but I kept a bunch of pieces for our family to use as our everyday dishes. They cost less than the dishes I bought to use in my college apartment!
I hope that when you look at my home, you see decorating bargains mingled with splurges and recognize that a house doesn’t have to be all one thing or all the other. I hope you see the work I put into some of those pieces by slipcovering, refinishing, and painting them myself to make them work in my home. And I hope you see that you can do that, too. It does take a lot more time, intention, patience, and resourcefulness when your budget is small and I know that from first-hand experience. But it also forces you to be creative and innovative. Some of my craziest and best ideas came out of thriftiness and some of my favorite pieces have been freebies and hand-me-downs.
That can be true of your home as well!
What’s your best decorating bargain for your home?