High stan­dards, low bud­get

Tricks for fur­nish­ing your space on the cheap

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - HOL­LEY SIM­MONS

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.

Think big

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.

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