In this post we will discuss how to decorate your home for cheap or free.
I love January! For me, it is one of the most productive months in the entire year. And this is why:
It is an excuse to clean and organize my life!
This includes just about everything, from relationships to filing systems. I know it’s all over the Internet; people talking about how they are changing out the old for the new, especially when it comes to home revamps.
Let’s be real; not many homeschooling moms who live on one income have a lot of extra money to do a total redo of our domiciles. We must use our dollars (no matter how thin they are being stretched) to purchase things such as clothes, electricity, and bread.
This is not a new conundrum. Women have been decorating their homes “on a dime” for eons. My grandmother told me stories of how my great-grandmother decorated her rented farm homes during the depression, how she would repurpose and recover old bed springs and turn them into sofas, or paper the walls with burlap. We had a joke between us that our decor style was “late Salvation Army.”
My own mother was a great example of how to make the best of what you have. She sewed curtains and changed out accessories for a new look when things began to look shabby.
Lately we’ve been doing a bit of a refurbish of our own home. We are renting, so there aren’t any remarkable remodels happening, and we don’t have a lot of extra cash, so we aren’t changing out furniture. We are simply taking what we have and making the best of it.
Here are the principles I am following:
#1: start with the foundations.
This means my goal is not to create a trendy building where magazine photographers feel comfortable. No, I am attempting to create a space where the Holy Spirit will feel welcome and my family will feel loved. This is according to the words God gave to me this year:
Beauty and Nobility
I plan on building this revamp on four things:
- His Word.
#2. Create Your Own Style
Joanna Gaines is our example here. I can imagine how she began–living within a budget on a farm in Texas. One thing she must have had was a “junk pile.” This was where a farmer would throw all the trash he couldn’t burn (incinerating garbage was common practice even when I was a little girl in the 60’s).
She went through and found the old oil cans, piping, old wood, etc. and decided she would take these elements, along with cheap subway tile, etc., and create a unique “look” using some basic design rules. Then she and her husband replicated this style in their refurbished houses, and, voila! an entire design style was created.
Now everyone is paying through the nose for items that mimic farming cast-offs.
While I appreciate the clean, bright farmhouse look, it’s not for me. For one thing, it is built on a sensation that is gradually wearing off. People are growing tired of not having any color in their decor. So, in a few minutes, it will be passe, and all of the farmhouse stuff we coveted and shelled out bucks for is going to be found in garage sales all over the country.
It’s a cycle retailers count on. Styles tend to be promoted for about ten years, within which another style is introduced that is directly opposed to the original, so that more things can be marketed and sold to replace the original items.
Just like Joanna Gaines, take what you have and make the best of it using basic design principles. Trends may come and go, but if you know how to use what you have (or what you can find or afford), you can create ambience and beauty no matter what your circumstances.
Here are some questions I ask myself when making decorating decisions:
- Is this timelessly classic?
The current trends come and go, but some things are here to stay, such as throw pillows–I can’t remember a style that hasn’t included them!
Then there are others, such as distressed, white paint, that we will be refurbishing or hiding in the next season of trends. An alternative that doesn’t change?–a piece of furniture in its original wood, or with a nice stain and varnish. These may be more or less desirable at certain times, but they never really go away.
- Is this personal?
Does this appeal to me, or am I just using it because it is popular, or because some famous person I admire is using it? If I had never seen it in a magazine or on Instagram, would I still like it? If it doesn’t fit our family, it doesn’t matter who recommends it as a “must have.”
#3. Make the Most of What You Have
You can’t create a style or use basic design rules if you have a house that is dirty and cluttered with items that are shabby or not taken care of. This is why it is best to start by:
Decluttering and rearranging.
Get rid of the trash, and things that cannot be repaired or repurposed. Putting the ugly in the rubbish bin will leave more room for the beautiful.
Cleaning and Refurbishing.
Feeling sad because the furniture in your house is looking shabby? Why not clean it, polish it, and make it look like new again? Sometimes all it takes is a quick wipe down, but there are inexpensive ways to take things even further. For instance, there are ways to get out cup rings in furniture surfaces using common liquids. There are also furniture markers for shallow scratches. If nothing else, you could use some inexpensive chalk paint or contact paper to go over a surface that is beyond fixing.
Shop Your House.
I have lots of good things, but they are not all in the best places. For instance, that cute table next to my half-moon couch could not be seen so I moved it in front of a window at the end of a walkway. I also had a stash of pretty dishes in a closed cupboard which I moved to open shelves in my dining room.
Here is something you can do if you feel you are in a rut with your decorative belongings:
- 1) Gather your items and lay them on your dining table
- 2) Redecorate your house by “shopping” your table. You will be amazed at how many fresh looks you can create!
Get rid of stuff that is ugly or aggravating.
Life moves so quickly, and we are so busy with the “big stuff” that some of the pinching details often escape our attention. For instance, there was this thingie–I don’t know what it actually was–that I kept around for years because it was made of some nice metal and had some pretty details. It may have been a firewood bin, or it may have been something for yarn, or it may have been something else, but I never found out. Because it was metal and pretty, I couldn’t get rid of it. I would set it near the fireplace, or the sofa, and sort of put stuff in there, but it was awkward and even caused injury when kicked or tripped over. Wood did not fit into it because it was not wide enough, and it was way too big to fill with yarn. We sometimes stuffed throw blankets in it, but it was so huge it really did not look like it belonged.
Finally, after about 20 years of shuffling it around, I put it in the back of the van and gave it to the thrift store.
The relief was great!
Of course, this is not always practical or possible. Some things, such as an ugly vacuum cleaner, are necessary. There are also times when we would like the pretty option, but we can only afford (or find) the ugly one. In some cases we can get creative and disguise awkward necessities such Internet routers or electrical strips. In other cases, we must deal with the situation as it is (this is when I us my “selective vision” and pretend the eyesore does not exist).
Study good design to gain an eye for decorating principles.
Use magazines, or go online and (as a treat after you have taken care of your people) and scroll through Boho, Farmhouse, Cottage Core, etc. on Pinterest, Instagram, et al. Take in what things gain your attention, what is in the background, how things are arranged. Write down some of the repeating principles you find.
You can also gather information via reading blogs, watching video, etc. in order to gain this knowledge. Here is one site with a good article.
Add in slowly and carefully.
Anyone can take a wad of cash and quickly throw together a magazine-ready home, but that isn’t what we are after. We are trying to build a museum of love, filled with objects that bring out the best in our surroundings and the people who enjoy them.
This takes time.
So, we take what we have today and make the best of it, but we are looking to add or change as we live, as we take the hands of our loved ones and dance through this life together. One day we might have a vase of flowers on the coffee table, another a basket or a stack of books. Each season brings new interests, new needs, that must be handled with beauty and nobility.
As we adapt to each change, we save the beautiful and useful, and we archive or toss that which does not fit the occasion.
This is why I love thrifting, garage-saling, etc. They are not instantly gratifying, but take time and energy. Each purchase must be weighed carefully, and each excursion must be graced by God. Oftentimes, the searching is done with others that we love or enjoy, so it is not only about the acquisition, but the relationships it encloses.
This is what I call, “organic” decorating–the type that flows naturally from who we are and who we love.
Did you know home decorating is in the Bible?
Yepperee! Check this out:
Through wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches.Proverbs 24:3-4
Here are the basic Biblical principles:
- GOOD is beautiful, noble and orderly (even trees and clouds are not random, but are regulated by mathematical order–think The Golden Ratio and fractals).
- EVIL is ugly and chaotic (think Dada, cubism, etc.)