top 5 tips for decorating on a budget | part 1

Marian ParsonsDecorating, Secret Weapons

When I was in New Hampshire, speaking at the Sage Farm Antiques Market, I gave a presentation on decorating on a budget.  As I prepped for that and then as I was teaching, I was reminded how passionate I am about the subject.

Yes, it’s nice to have a generous budget when you’re decorating and yes, there are things that are worth saving for and splurging on, but oh, the creativity you have to have when your funds are tight!  And honestly, while most of the “million dollar homes” I’ve seen are beautiful and there are some amazing amenities, they don’t look like “home” to me.  Some of my very favorite decorating ideas came out of thrifty necessity and make-do-itive-ness.


So, I decided to take that presentation and turn it into a series here on the blog.

And tip #1 is…


I think it’s a no brainer that you can save a lot of money by doing projects yourself as opposed to hiring them out, but I think we DIYers sometimes forget how intimidating a DIY project can be for someone who isn’t a natural DIYer.  (Well, that sentence is a mouthful.)

I’ve been asked simple things before, like how to hang a pictures or curtain rods.  To me, it seems like a non-intimidating, super easy project, but for some, I can see the hesitation in their face and the doubt that a nail pounded into a wall will hold something in place long term.

If you’re new to “do it yourself-ing” or new to a specific DIY project, start simple.  Give yourself success in a small thing, so you have the confidence to tackle more projects.  DIY failure can sting, it can be costly, and it can make you hesitant to tackle another new project.

So, start simple.

Paint & fabric are your besties and they can totally transform a room.

If you only sharpen two DIY skills, I would suggest painting and sewing.  You can dramatically change an entire room with paint and fabric.


Just imagine a room in your house that you’re not in love with.  Go look a it if you need a refresher.

I’ll wait.

Now imagine that room with fresh paint on the walls, coordinating pillows, curtains, maybe even slipcovers to unify mismatched pieces of tired-looking upholstery, if we’re really going to go nuts.  Wood furniture pieces that are dated, dark, or just the wrong color get a new look with some paint in a pretty hue.  And it can all be done with a brush & roller, a sewing machine, and I bet for less than $500 if you do some smart shopping.


DIYing can save big money.

This isn’t my top perk to DIYing, because sometimes it’s well worth the money to hire a professional.  It’s also possible to get yourself in a DIY snafu that ends up costing more than just having it done properly from the getgo.  But, if we’re talking about making slipcovers or painting a piece of furniture, unless you’re absurdly talented at royally messing things up, then you can venture into new DIY territory without too much concern that the effort will end up costing more money.

Making a slipcover is a great  example of saving big money, though.  Custom slipcovers can run hundreds of dollars (even thousands), but one can be made with an inexpensive fabric for a fraction of that.


(This slipcover is made out of antique hemp sheets, but I made many, many slipcovers out of drop cloths and white cotton twill before I worked with more expensive textiles.  The chair was free, though!)

You can knock-off decor that is out-of-your-budget.

This is my very favorite thing about DIY and is a motivator to me more than saving money.  When you are DIYing a room, you can create a custom high-end look with some smart shopping and elbow grease.


When I was a newlywed, I fell in love with some toile pillows at Tuesday morning.  They were $60/each, which was outrageous to me at the time.  I started frequenting my local fabric store that had an amazing remnant bin and everything in it was $5/yard.  Even the really beautiful designer fabric was just $5/yard.  So, I picked up toiles, checks, plaids, and other pretty fabrics that coordinated, along with some tassel fringe, and I made my own pillows for just a few dollars.



Now, you can do that!  You can!  I mean, if you mess up a small amount of remnant fabric while trying to make a pillow, is that really a big deal?  No, it’s not.  And you’ll get better and better each time you make one.  You’ll be making curtains, bed skirts, and slip covers before you know it!

I think it’s also fun to hunt and peck for pieces you can afford that will give you the look you want.  Oh, if you’ve never experienced the victory of scoring a $4.00 crystal chandelier, you need to get out more!


More to come on this series, but until then, here are some posts to encourage you through some DIYing…

Video tutorial series on making a slipcover

DIY Window Valance

Simple pillow tutorial (with piping)

How to make a ruffled bedskirt

Cleaning & sealing chippy antique pieces

Painting tips that could save $1000

Dear Reader | To the one who is scared to sew

Distressing Painted Furniture | tips & techniques

top 5 tips for decorating on a budget | part 1

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