A few years ago I found myself wandering around a home goods store while I was temporarily living in Ireland. The sudden urge to settle down and have my own place to decorate came rushing over me the way those unexpected emotions tend to: Unrelentingly and out of the blue. My overwhelming desire to stay in one place came as a complete surprise to me at the time. Here I was traveling around one of the most beautiful countries in the world and I’m daydreaming about home décor?
Looking back on a majority of my life, designing, decorating and organizing my space has always interested me. In fact, when I was younger I used to completely tear apart my perfectly clean room just so I could move things around and reorganize.
After I returned from traveling in 2014, I packed up my two-door Honda Civic with all of my material possessions and moved my life to the Grand Canyon State. By the grace of God I quickly got a job and my very own apartment. I was over the moon happy. My own place to do whatever I wanted with. I was living the dream! I didn’t have any furniture, but man, I was still living the dream!
I’ve never been one to pay full price for anything, so as the paychecks started rolling in I found myself wandering around thrift stores and antique shops in search of the perfect pieces for my new home. Apart from my mattress, couch, television stand and dishes gifted from my lovely family, every item I got was second hand. This treasure hunt for eclectic home décor quickly turned into a challenge that I looked forward to on the weekends. After a year and half of living in Arizona I had completely decorated two apartments that I was darn proud of.
And then I got married, moved to Colorado and found myself living smack dab in the middle of a bachelor pad. Starting from scratch and figuring out how to incorporate my feminine style into our first apartment together seemed like a daunting task, but room by room I started chipping away. Here we are, three months away from moving to Georgia and I finally have our home decorated!
It only takes one trip around Pottery Barn to realize how expensive decorating can be and unfortunately not many of us have $75 to spend on a napkin holder. With that being said, over the past few years I’ve learned that it is possible to make a cozy space on a budget. It just takes a bit of motivation and a whole lot of creativity!
Here are some ways to stay on budget while still allowing you to create a space you looking forward to spending time at.
Go to the thrift store.
Okay, did you expect anything else for my number one piece of advice!? The hipster movement has made it more acceptable to shop second hand, but I’d like to think I was thrifting before the hipsters (Does saying that make me a hipster? IDK). Anyway, thrift store finds are the best finds. You have to be patient and go with an open mind, but I can promise you that with those two things you are bound to discover some goodies.
Insider Tip: Most thrift stores offer discounts each day based on the color of the tag. For my local Coloradans, the Arc is always 50% off on Saturdays!
Think outside the box.
One awesome thing about having your own spot is having the authority to be creative and do whatever the heck you want. Did anyone ever say that an end table actually had to be a table? I think not! The bottom part of this “table” is my grandpa’s luggage from the 1950’s. If you look closely you can see his initials on the front. The middle part is a picnic basket that I snagged from the Goodwill for $3 and the top is a basket I picked up from Marshall’s.
Additional Plus: Each of these are also used for storage!
Below you’ll see one of my first rummage sale finds from Arizona. Before it found a home with me, it was an antique Pepsi holder. I threw some hinges on that baby and WA LA, spice rack.
It’s okay to not match.
Yes, I said it and I’m sure there are a few readers out there cringing in their britches. While this piece of advice ultimately comes down to personal preference and taste, I think it’s applicable to every decorator to some degree. It’s much more time consuming and expensive if you’re looking for the “perfect item” to go with a specific room. Conversely, if you keep your design ideas flexible, it will be not only be easier to find the right pieces, but it will also add character to your space.
Recycle and reuse glassware.
Below are a ginger beer bottle and a whiskey bottle that I cleaned up after we were finished drinking them. I’ve used these as vases and as decorative pitchers for water and juice.
Pro Tip: Soak the bottles in warm water for 24 hours before scraping off the labels. Use Goo Gone to remove the remaining gunk.
Some of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever seen aren’t the ones that are 4000 square feet or the ones with rugs that just scream, “Don’t touch me! I’m worth more than your life!” The most beautiful homes I’ve ever seen are the ones that tell a story. The ones with pictures on the walls. The ones with souvenirs from around the world. The ones that make you ask questions that often result in stories.
Everyone’s story is obviously much different. In my case, I love traveling. When you walk into our apartment you’ll find photos from my adventures and relics I’ve collected along the way. I love when people ask questions because it opens up conversation and allows us to learn more about each other. Whether your passion is fishing or fashion or fine art, find a way to incorporate it into your home.
Pro Tip: I usually use Snapfish or Shutterfly for all of my photo printing. Before you place your order, check retailmenot.com for coupon codes. Almost every time I’ve purchased prints I’ve gotten 50 percent or more off my total cost.
Pay attention to detail.
My most recent decorating obsession is taking off the boring, silver knobs from furniture and replacing them with these beautiful, intricately designed knobs I found at World Market. It’s such a small modification, but I think it gives each piece more character. Also, they are only $4 each!
Know where to shop.
Call me crazy, but a couple weeks ago I found myself at three different grocery stores in the same day just so I could get the right item at the right price. If I had more time I’d probably do this regularly!
Knowing where you will get the best quality product at a reasonable price can make your life easier and save you quite a bit of money in the long run. Here are a few items for the home that are extremely inexpensive at various stores:
Candles – Marshalls or TJMaxx ($3-$10)
Fresh Flowers – Trader Joe’s ($4-$10)
Decorative Pillow Cases – Amazon ($6)
Picture Frames – Ross, Marshalls or TJMaxx ($5-$15)
Storage – Big Lots
Keep your eyes peeled.
Last summer my family and I were in Wyoming visiting my brother and his family. After dinner we found ourselves walking down a back alley to get back to the car. All of the sudden we realized we were missing a member of the clan. To our surprise (and the rest of Sheridan, WY) we looked back only to see my dad rummaging near a dumpster holding up a suitcase. “It’s a typewriter!,” he exclaimed. Most of the family took it as a joke, but both my dad and myself knew what a unique find this was! My dad spent the rest of his visit refurbishing this 1970’s typewriter. I love this piece for a few reasons. First off, it has a story (a funny one at that!). Secondly, it serves a purpose: I actually use it to write letters. Thirdly, it’s just pretty and is a perfect decoration for almost any room.
The wooden slab you see below was found a couple years ago when Kevin and I were hiking in Breckenridge. We came across an old mine that had collapsed into a million pieces. We grabbed a slab of wood, promising ourselves we would do something creative with it. Over a year later it was still sitting in our office. I finally had a vision and got to work. I attached some hinges to the back, stenciled some letters and painted the word, “Slainte,” onto the front. This is an Irish term I came to love when I was traveling in the Emerald Isle. It means, “To good health,” and is similar to saying, “Cheers!” It’s amazing what you can do with some old materials and a little imagination!
What are your favorite ways to decorate? Do you have any budget hacks for the home? Please share!