Cheap Decorating

I had a dear friend who was a decorator (who is now with the Lord) who gave me lots of help and teaching on decorating a home. I remember how she would call a bucket of paint “instant beauty,” and she was a very good painter and re-finisher. I agree with the end result (the beauty part), but it is never instant with me. Painting takes me ages and ages. But it is amazing what a bucket or two of paint can do, and compared to other things, it really is inexpensive.

Plants are what she called “cheap decorating” and it’s true. Put a plant in a corner and it can fill an otherwise bare room, or add interest to those empty spaces on a counter or table. When the college students start pouring into our community, the local grocery stores have bargains on house plants. And if you don’t destroy them, they can make a home beautiful for years. dscn1471.JPG

My mother-in-law insists that flowers should be part of the weekly food budget since they add so much to the table. And it doesn’t take much to get a big impact. She prefers the Japanese arrangements, so that means one, three, or five stems. Americans tend to think more is better and sometimes shove way too much into a bouquet. Either way you like it, flowers can be cheap decorating as well. If you can’t manage fresh ones each week, a blooming plant can perform for quite a while.

A friend gave me a long, narrow, white dish with relief sea shells on each end for my birthday. I bought a couple of bags of seashells and filled it up, and it is blessing me each time I see it on my coffee table, reminding me of the Oregon beach. And another friend gave me a darling striped jug which is sitting on my blue buffet quite cheerfully. It needs nothing.

So share a few of your cheap decorating tips with us. We are all ears.

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14 thoughts on “Cheap Decorating

  1. I decorate with books — out of necessity and because I love them. A stack of old books on a table, pretty coffee-table books, an open cookbook on an easel… They’re also good as pedestals to lift another object.

    I love the dish of seashells, by the way. Sea glass would be pretty displayed like that, too.

  2. Mason jars filled with finds from nature walks….pretty rocks, pinecones, red twigs, pussy willow branches….I think a simple “vase” puts the emphasis on the contents and also keeps it homey, not fussy.

  3. Edith Shaeffer makes excellent suggestions in her book “Hidden Art”. When our church ladies went through that book last summer, I got so inspired. Every day I re-decorated my table with a fresh cut flower stuck in an old wine bottle.
    Another thing I love to do to add color is tie a bright scarf or bandana around my clear glass water pitcher on a hot day.
    From a Simple magazine idea- turn over your metal colander and place a candle under it for fun mood lighting after sundown.
    And, my friend taught me to pull out unused colorful bowls or platters for everyday displays, or to change up the mood in a room.

  4. Dishes…my girls and I love to decorate with the pretty dishes we already own… Plates on the walls, teapots on the buffet, bowls of vegetables or fruit, pitchers used as vases, crytal trifle bowl full of themed items. Then the decor is pretty AND useful. And a hearty amen to books. On the 4th of July my daughter made a display with flags, dishes, a square of cotton fabric, and antique history books. Very attractive! Quilting cotton can be got fairly cheaply during a sale and if you buy a single yard with a themed print and hem the edges it can be used in a number of different ways…swag, sash, table runner, tablecloth, bread bowl cloth, line a basket.

  5. Oh, I really like the platter with the seashells! That looks so pretty.

    I do something sort of like that with the funny looking rocks (FLRs) that my boys and husband bring home frequently. I took a large clear hurricane/vase and just piled the rocks in there. That way, they are displayed, sort of, and are easy to take out and pass around when visitors come by. Because, what good is a funny looking rock if you can’t show it to your friends?

  6. Tea-towels have to be one of the best inventions for decorating. I have two drawers full of colorful vintage and new tea-towels. They make great wall hangings when stretched over a canvas. Put them under a centerpiece to add some color to the table, cut them up and make throw pillows or curtains. Hang them in the bathroom to brighten it, the kitchen to cover an ugly oven, and over shelves to make extra storage. Lay them over a tray or a basket before filling it. Or, if they are the right fabric, you can chop them to pieces and make a baby sundress. It’s almost embarrassing to think how many things in my house have been made out of a dish-towel or a napkin!

  7. Mt Mother collected rocks from various places over the years. Some had mica, some stripes, some white, etc. She often placed small baskets of rocks on a window sill. We always had paperwhites in the winter. Bulbs are foced indoors and then ejoyed. We also brought in branches around the end of February. Within a couple of weeks we’d have vases of quince, lilac, forsythia, dogwood, etc. blooming. I’ve also used a small basket in the middle of the winter to hold several limes or lemons. Great color here in Maine in the middle of the winter. Cones, winterberry, and dogwood twigs make great inexpensive holiday arrangements. In the fall, produce from the garden makes great centerpieces. Group squash, gourds, peppers, down the center of the table and add candles.
    Have you ever noticed how many grasses there are along the roadside? They dry and make a great fall arrangement. And what’s better at Christmas than a centerpiece down the table with evergreens and then fruits arranged down the center of the table? Make the pineapple the center of the arrangement and then add different colored fruit to balance each side. Apples of different colors, oranges, lemons, etc. Check out Williamsburg decorating books for ideas.

  8. I love to see flowers displayed in a pitcher or mason jar. Also, either myself or my talented mother have made all the curtains in my home. It adds just the perfect touch to each room to have pretty, flowey window treatments. And, I love to see fruit in a handmade wooden bowl we were given one Christmas displayed on our kitchen table. A good smellin’ candle adds quite the homey touch as well….

  9. Here at the kitchen desk are several bright little gifts made by my children. They are taped to the window frame (with blue painter’s tape): little accordion-folded paper thingys with paper flowers on their ends–rather like a bug’s antenna. Two of them have sweet love notes written on the flower.

    Another idea for children’s artwork: a friend framed some of her daughter’s colorful artwork. Frames can be purchased at great prices at yard sales. I bought a nice one, with mat, yesterday for $3.00.

    Recently, a family member gave me a high-end decorating magazine. In it was an article featuring a designer known for using “found objects.” The living room shelves contained interesting objects, some almost junky, that together made a nice display. (That’s something I can do with Gramma’s childhood rollerskates, Grandpa’s heavy binoculars, a silver trophy… sentimental stuff of absolutely no use…)

  10. I very much enjoyed the post, Nancy. Glad you’re back!Decorating is one of my loves. I often tell my husband that we don’t have enough rooms for me to try out all of my ideas (maybe I can convince someone else to let me decorate their house!).

    We have been furnishing our home on the cheap…thanks primarily to Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) and Freecycle (www.freecycle.org). So far we’ve found our piano, couches, patio sets, bookshelves, dining room table & chairs, vintage hutch and dressers all through Craigslist or Freecycle.

    Just this past week, we received a gorgeous, cranberry, micro-suede, sleeper sofa that is only a few years old, for FREE. With a limited budget, free works. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, pay attention to the bones of couches and chairs. You might find one that is covered in a hideous material, but add a slipcover and it would look just lovely.

    Throw Pillows are a great way to update the look of a room. I have a few different sets that I change out seasonally in our living room. Bright Marimekko prints for summer and textured velvet for winter.

    Also, shop off-season! Want to decorate for the 4th? Shop now and find the items at clearance prices. (JoAnn’s has all of their summer & holiday merchandise at 70% off). I am slowly able to add to my holiday decorations closet by shopping these sales. It just means I have a year to anticipate where I will use the items. ๐Ÿ™‚

    In all of this decorating talk, I do find it is good to be reminded of contentment. With such a flood of great crafty blogs available at the click of a mouse, it is really easy to get caught up in “What the Jones’ are doing” to their home and comparing ourselves and our homes.
    Do what you can to the glory of God with the time, resources and energy He’s given you. The end result will not always be the same. That is where the beauty lies.

  11. I second Anne’s idea. Books aren’t always cheap but they are beautiful and they are necessary anyway. No need to repaint if you just put up lots of shelving and fill with books. Amazon is always great for inexpensive new books while BookMooch.com is great for free ones.
    My current favorites are Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets (so elegant), Overlook Press’s editions of Wodehouse, Persephone Press’s “Originals” series of books by and for women and Penguin’s “Great Ideas” paperbacks. the most expensive are only $20 new and the cheapest less than $9 and if you can pick some up used all the better.
    Of course old books are even better and often cheaper so shop those used bookstores, garage sales and thriftshops and rescue all the beautiful old books from oblivion!

  12. What great ideas! Thanks ladies. A number of our walls are decorated with copies of book illustrations. They make a striking and unusual arrangement when enlarged on pretty paper, matted, and placed in a frame. We have four of our favorite scenes from “The Chronicles of Narnia” over the sofa, and our baby daughter’s room is full of colorful watercolor illustrations from the Toot and Puddle series.

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