Changing seasons naturally bring a new look to the great outdoors. But we mere humans have to work a little harder to keep our interior decorating feeling fresh. And when you're making significant changes to your home, it seems like our paychecks have to pull a lot of the weight, too.
If your living spaces look drab and your checkbook looks bleak, don't give up. There are lots of quick, easy and inexpensive things you can do to your home that will make it look bright and fresh. Here are 10 ideas to help you spruce up the place without breaking the bank.
Find a Fresh Coat of Paint
Walls are the backdrop for all of your decorating schemes. One of the cheapest, simplest ways to change the look of a room is to change the color of your walls. Plus, a new coat of paint gives your room an overall feeling of freshness.
If you're not up for painting the whole room, paint less. Pick one wall and give it a coat of a contrasting color.
Still too much? Paint your door. Use an unexpected color for pop, or use two colors to bring out the contours of paneled doors. Even just painting the interior panels of your bookcase or an aging but still useful side table will give you decorator style on a minimal budget.
Another aspect of interior design that will affect the new colors you choose is lighting. What can you do to add a softer mood to a bland room?
You can bring an entire room into the modern age just by changing a light fixture. Do-it-yourself stores have a great variety of stylish, affordable lighting options. It's not hard to change a light fixture -- just remember to turn off the electricity to that light at the breaker box before you get started.
Lighting -- whether it's natural or artificial -- plays a role in the mood of a room, too. You can change the amount of light in a room very simply and economically. Is your room too dark? Consider taking down your heavy curtains or shutters and letting the sunlight in. Going for a romantic look? Use table lamps or floor lamps to put light just where you want it, and replace high wattage bulbs with lower wattage ones for a softer light. Look around for a deal -- you might find a great bargain on a beautiful used lamp at a flea market or antique shop.
Floors need love, too. Want to create a big effect in one fast move? Throw down a bold area rug. Rugs may be underrated just because they're underfoot, but a big, bright rug adds interest and an irresistible focal point to a room. Don't leave your area rug floating around, though. Anchor it with a coffee table or chair so it looks like it belongs there.
Throw down some rugs in the kitchen, too. Bathroom rugs with non-skid backing add a splash of color and an oasis of comfort to work areas like the sink and stove. They're inexpensive, they come in a variety of sizes, and they're machine washable.
Move It All Around
One of the best, no-cost ways to redecorate is to repurpose things you already have. Look around your home and think of how items from one room could change the setting in another room. That old trunk in your bedroom might make an ideal coffee table for your living room. With a coat of paint and a set of casters, a bedside cabinet becomes a rolling bar. Maybe that painting in the dining room really belongs in the study. Try clustering items together, like candlesticks or colored glassware, to create a focal point. Seeing your old stuff with new eyes can be fun, and the only thing you'll spend by moving it around is a few calories.
Bring in the Outdoors
In your quest to improve your interior environment, house plants pull double -- or even triple -- duty. First, they bring a soothing, natural atmosphere into a room. Second, many kinds of house plants actually help cleanse the air of harmful indoor pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, the dominant pollutants in newer homes and office buildings. Third, potted plants like herbs and aloe vera provide fresh ingredients for cooking (the herbs) and healing (aloe vera is often used to soothe burns and bug bites).
Visit your local nursery and pick out a few plants that suit your home. Make sure you check on the kind of care your plants will need -- how much sunlight they'll need, how often they'll need water, and so on. Don't neglect the little guys!
Plants for Healthy Homes
According to NASA research, these plants clean indoor air of harmful pollutants:
- Aloe vera
- Bamboo palm
- Gerbera daisy
- Peace lily
- Spider plant
Appeal to the Senses
Decorating isn't just about eye appeal. It stimulates all the senses. In your furnishings, work in textures that beg to be touched -- like a butter-soft leather chair, chenille pillows or silky curtains.
If you're painting, you might even add textured paint to a wall. It'll look interesting to the eye, but you probably find yourself unable to resist running your hands across the walls as you pass through the house.
Bring in pleasant sounds with a table-top fountain or wind chimes hung just outside a window. Incorporate scent with aromatic candles, a stylish bowl of potpourri or a cylinder of fragrant oil with defusing reeds.
Speaking of senses, adding one or two accent colors can be a quick way to bring character into a room. Read more about it on the next page.
Sometimes, a touch of color is all you need. Choose an accent color (two at the most) that either complements or contrasts with your current color scheme. Then, let that color flash at different points around the room. If, for example, you choose red, toss a couple of red throw pillows on your bed or the sofa. Put red shades on your lamps. Tie back your curtains with cords in your accent color. And use small accessories, like candles, picture frames, vases and book spines, to bring your accent color to tables and shelves.
A room looks its best when it's neat and tidy. In everyday life, however, things get messy. The cheap and easy solution? Lighten the clutter load! Step one is free: Sift, sort and toss unnecessary stuff. Step two: Get creative with nifty storage containers to corral necessary stuff. Baskets or bins that slip into entertainment units and bookshelves work great for keeping small items and toys organized. Larger, decorative baskets can help works in progress, like books and needlework, look like part of the décor while keeping them conveniently close at hand. Other ways to lose the cluttered look:
- Organize your shelves
- Reduce the number of collectibles on display
- Move excess furniture out of crowded rooms
Hang It Up
Artwork adds points of interest to rooms and reveals something about your personality, interests or dreams. There are several ways to add art to your home without breaking your budget. If you want a big, bold statement piece, try flea markets and auctions, including office closures and business sell-offs.
Another option is to cluster small, intriguing framed photos or prints. Hang them in unique ways, suspending them from ribbons or vines, to create a unique presentation.
Feel free to think outside the frame. Heirloom quilts or a collection of items with special meaning make great wall displays. Beauty can be functional, too. Add a focal point and free up kitchen cabinet space by hanging cookware on an appealing pot rack.
Small accessories make big impressions. Changing the cabinet handles and drawer pulls in your kitchen and bathroom can bring a whole new style to your existing cabinetry. It's a great fix for outdated furniture, too. We take light switch and electrical outlet covers for granted, but they're important decorating points. Try upgrading from builder's plastic to something stylish from your do-it-yourself store. In the bathroom, add interesting shower curtain holders and towel hooks. Some types of faucet handles are also easy and inexpensive to change.
For custom accessories, use leftover interior paint to make unique flower planters and picture frames. To put your own touches on lampshades, glue on monogram letters, eye-catching trim, or small, decorative items.
Milk paint is the super inexpensive and easy to both make and use. HowStuffWorks looks at this trendy paint alternative.
- Bokuniewicz, Carol. "Paint Your Door." How to Get the Look: Budget Decorating and Makeover Ideas. Country Living. January 2009. (Feb. 22, 2011) http://www.countryliving.com/homes/how-to-get-the-look/budget-decorating-makeover-0109
- Edwards, Kelly. "10 Inexpensive Decorating Ideas." HGTV. (Feb. 22, 2011) http://www.hgtv.com/decorating/get-the-most-style-for-your-decorating-dollar/index.html
- Good Housekeeping. "Decorating Ideas for $35 or Less." Feb. 22, 2011. (Feb. 22, 2011) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/decor/cheap-decorating-ideas
- Wolverton, B.C., Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Anne Johnson, M.S., and Keith Bounds, M.S. "Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, Final Report -- September 15, 1989." NASA John C. Stennis Space Center Science and Technology Laboratory. Sept.15, 1989. (Feb. 24, 2011) http://www.scribd.com/doc/1837156/NASA-Indoor-Plants