High standards, low budget
Tricks for furnishing your space on the cheap
Friends of mine would probably describe me as “crafty” and “creative.” But that’s just because they’re too polite to tell you the truth: I’m cheap.
My stinginess has led me down dark alleys in search of scrap wood to build a coffee table for a fraction of the price of the Restoration Hardware version I adore. And it means I’ll often wake up to pictures from my roommate of dilapidated, discarded furniture on the street with the message, “This made me think of you.”
As a result, my apartment is filled with inexpensive pieces gathered in unconventional ways or made by yours truly. In fact, the other day while I was tidying up, I realized every item — with the exception of my mattress — cost less than $300.
Here are a few tricks and shortcuts I’ve learned along the way that make it easy to save a buck or $200.
Know what to buy vs. DIY
Any time I see an item described as “industrial” or being made with “reclaimed” materials, my DIY senses tingle. Additionally, the plumbing section at your local hardware store is brimming with potential storage solutions.
I built the clothing racks in my dressing room using copper piping and concrete, and I’ve made a simple, versatile blanket ladder using dowels and copper fittings. And if you find an affordable dresser but hate the knobs, you’re just a few twists away from a sleek piece when you update the hardware.
Buy textiles when you travel
When travelling through foreign countries, you can find items at markets for a fraction of the price at home. Take the massive white rug in my living room that I snagged in Mexico City for $30. Or the hand-embroidered blanket draped across my bed that I picked up in Burma for $40.
Host a tchotchke swap
Similar to a clothing swap or a book swap, a tchotchke swap is a way for you to exchange items you no longer need for something fresh. It’s how I picked up a crystal chandelier (really!) for nothing.
If you have a large, blank wall to fill, opt for a large anchor piece, such as a giant map or a handmade installation. For my living room, I searched “DIY backdrop” for inspiration and found instructions on how to make a huge tassel hanging on a wedding website.
Paint often and paint everything
A can of paint is the single most inexpensive way to change the look of your home. Don’t be afraid to go big here. I wasn’t, and I’m thrilled with my bright blue living room and coral dining room. And consider painting your cabinets and doors.
Go to estate sales
This is the best way to shop for furniture because the prices are unbeatable. Plus, you can haggle for a discount if you’re buying multiple items.
Make your existing belongings do the work
Books, clothing and dinnerware can also look beautiful when displayed in the open vs. stored in a cabinet or closet. Be sure to choose your items wisely: think floor-length floral frocks hung on a clothing rack instead of a row of white tees.
Add some plants
There are a number of foolproof houseplants that cost next to nothing and will last a long time, including ZZ plants, snake plants and pothos.
Don’t be afraid of prints
If you want to make an otherwise bland room come to life, just add prints. The bright green floral couch in my living room serves as the anchor for the space, and the wallpaper in my dressing room turns a drab wall into a happy garden. Plus, the pattern is so bold that I needed to cover only one wall.
The author uses a hutch to display her shoe collection.
The blue chair was originally $40; Holley Simmons had it recovered.