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October 17, 2013

10 Budget Decorating Tips

As ya'll know, I've been working on our living room lately. Today, I thought I would show you some of the changes I've made and share some of my budget decorating tips I use when trying to max out my little budget.

I'm the first to admit that I make a lot of decorating mistakes, but one thing I am good at is stretching a dollar.
I will make that dollar do the SPLITS.

The last time I blogged about this room was in May of last year (in a very embarrassing post), and quite a few changes have taken place since then. But, just for fun, let's go back to the very beginning and remember what the living room looked like the day we first moved in. 

It was basically a blank canvas. It's changed about a million times since then, and I'm sure it will change again soon. 
Anyone else suffer from compulsive-pillow-swapping-syndrome?

Anyways, here's where we are today. 

The couches, ottoman, and TV are pretty much the only store bought items in this entire room. The rest I've gathered from thrift stores through the past few years.

As I mentioned in my teaser last week, I made a few pillows out of some colorful fabric and spray painted a thrift store tray gold.

And then I just spent a lot of time making stuff and collecting things that I loved.
A bit of Jesse's music gear is in just about every room in this house (he's a man who can play a mean keyboard), but I've decided that his guitars make for great decorating accessories. He doesn't understand this at all, but enjoys the fact that I keep photographing his beloved guitar.
This one's for you, boo.

Some old thrift store end tables were painted a soft white (furniture paint tips found here) and I found a really great blue and white ginger jar at the thrift store for around $7. 
I feel like normal people probably wouldn't get excited over that find, but TRUST, there was excitement in my little frugal heart. It didn't know what to do with itself.

And just to be authentic, no, there are not flowers in my house on a daily basis. Jesse always knows a blog post is about to happen when I bring $3 flowers home from the grocery store. 
It just makes for a prettier picture. :)

Sidenote though: I got that little clear square vase at the Dollar Tree for a buck. I've seen them for $5-10 everywhere else. 
Dollar s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d.

And now for my favorite new addition.
I decided to create a gallery wall around the TV.

I think I spent a total of about $30 on the gallery wall, which feels like a major accomplishment since one new frame usually costs $20.
Also, yes, Kevin is back. 
I don't wanna talk about it. 
But, I will. Next week. For now, let's just give him a friendly wave and go about our business.
Moving on.

While mixing metallics used to drive me crazy, it's quickly become something I love. For the gallery wall, I used silver and gold frames. I found a few modern silver frames on clearance at Target, and sourced the rest of the frames from thrift stores. 
Most of the art was handmade or something thrifty.

Here's the gallery wall breakdown.

I made a few abstract pieces of my own using several blue and green paints combined with the amazing gold leaf paint I used here.

I've found that even the most simplistic art looks great when matted and framed.

I also made a large abstract piece of art that was super easy to do, but totally ended up being a favorite.

I framed that piece in a large $2 thrift store frame and just spray painted the mat white. It was originally a muddy orange color, but it was an easy fix.

And see that little gold leaf anchor?
 I made that using the same tips I shared in my gold leaf art tutorial.

I made a gold leaf ampersand, too.
It fits in well with a few thrift store finds...a botanical print (re-framed in a modern frame), a metallic seashell print (kept in the original frame) and an ornate mirror.

And to further my obsession for all things cat, I added a giant jaguar print.

I found it for $4 a couple weeks ago at the thrift store (which I sneak peeked on Instagram) and nearly fainted when I saw it.
And you think I kid. You can also see my little ginger jar and seashell prints that I scored nearby.

It's weird, but I make no apologies for my feline obsession.
To know Cheese and Tootie is to be obsessed with them.

Oh, and those horses? 

 Got 'em from a book. A 99 cent thrift store book.
It was titled 'Careers for Horse Lovers' and provided me with 7 great horse photos and 700 questions.

*One-manhand-per-post quota fulfilled.

As for the mirrors on the gallery wall, those all came from the thrift store, too. I actually found all of these at once, and couldn't pass them up. I gave them all a quick coat of this gold spray paint (affiliate link) before adding them to the gallery wall, as they were originally a little too antique looking.

And that, friends, is the living room. 

So, now that you've seen the latest living room updates, completed for a total of about $100, let's talk about a few ways I stretch my dollars.

Here are my top 10 budget decorating ideas.
#1. Mix and Match.
The key is using a little old and a little new. Find a few great new pieces and fill in the gaps with things you collect over time. In my experience, most of those gaps can be filled with thrift store finds....if you're willing to take the effort to look.
#2. Know where to look.
Over the years, I've scoped out nearly every thrift store in town. Most of them are not great. Several of them are amazing. I check out the amazing ones frequently, as it's a first come first serve situation. My best thrift store tips can be found here. I also frequently search for items on Craigslist (tips here) and spend a few weekends during the summer going to local garage sales and estate sales.
#3. Don't be deterred by the current color of an item.
Once you can look past the current color of an item, your whole little decorating world will change. The possibilities are endless once you understand that it's the shape that matters. You can always Rub n Buff, paint, stain, or spray paint. (Here are some great spray paint tips to get you started.)
#4. Make your own pillows.
I used to waste a lot of money buying pillows. That ended the day I discovered this.
#5. Paint furniture.
This sums up my life. Basically, just go read this.
#6. Update hardware on furniture. 
Even if you paint thrift store furniture, the hardware is usually really outdated. A really easy way to update it is to either replace the hardware all together, or to spray paint it a better color. Either way it makes a huge difference. 
#7. Make your own art.
I don't care how unartistic you think you are. I promise that you can make abstract art. Plus, if you put it in a great frame, it will look like a million bucks. I know this because about 75% of my art is really terrible and if I put it in a matted frame, Jesse usually thinks I bought it. Fact. :)
#8. Pass on the junk, buy the classics.
I've fallen into hoarder-territory several times throughout the years while thrifting. Over time, I've learned that I don't need to purchase every little item I like just because it's a dollar. I've learned the importance of waiting for those really great finds. 
My trick is to ask myself if I will like this 10 years from now. If I have to think about the answer, I need to set it down.
#9. Don't be afraid to fail.
The best part of budget decorating is that it allows you a lot of room for messing up. If you've only spent $50 on that dresser, it's not the end of the world if you ruin it because you got a wild hair to paint it pink. 
#10. Be unique.
This is my favorite tip.
 Be unique. 
In my own little journey, I've found that through limitations comes creativity. When you can't just run to (insert whatever store floats your boat here) and plop down thousands of dollars for new stuff, you're forced to think outside of the box. The minute I stopped being embarrassed about that and actually embraced the fact that I do things differently, my world blossomed. 
And I know yours will, too. 

That's all for today sweet friends. 
Thank you for sharing in my little journey. :)

For related posts please check out the following:

That's all for today! 'Til next time!
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  1. Very nice. You scored some fabulous finds. Fun, fun, fun.

  2. Get ready to HAMMER.
    It looks so fresh and pretty girl! You are a supreme dollar stretcher :)

  3. You always inspire me to thrift shop! We just moved into our first home. Sadly we have to renovate before I can do any redecorating. I love the gold anchor picture.

    1. Thanks so much Tiffany! And I SO understand your pain....I renovated and painted for a good year before I ever really delved into the decorating side! You'll get there though! Congrats on your first home! xo

  4. Virginia! It looks really beautiful, polished yet cozy and inviting at the same time. Great work and tips as usual! Thank you!

  5. As always I love this! Such great tips

    1. Thanks SO much, girl! You are always so sweet! xo

  6. Love your tips! Love your blog!!

  7. good tips Virginia :) I love ginger jars, every time I see one at a thrift store I grab it! I scored one at a rummage sale for $1...that was the deal of the century :) I also love the pilllows on your sofa. happy weekend! xo Kristin

    1. Thanks so much Kristin! $1?! I think I would faint. And I realize that is slightly irrational. Just slightly. :) Thanks so much for stopping by today! Enjoy your weekend, too! xo

  8. I need to be more like you-- I go to a thrift store and get SO overwhelmed. I'm just not great at seeing the potential in things, I suppose!

    1. Oh, I bet you are and just don't know it!! Love ya, Heather!

  9. I may have accidentally left 2 comments, but I just wanted to tell you I love your blog! And I'm loving how your style has evolved--the living room looks awesome. I wish you blogged more often, but your ideas are so great and the way you write is hilarious, it is worth the wait for a new post! Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much Amy! I wish I could blog more, too!! Ha! My little brain just only works so fast! :) So glad ya'll are so patient with my while I come up with new stuff. And thank you so much for your sweet comments! Hope you have a great weekend! xo

  10. Awww I love tip #10. One of the hardest things to do in a society that frowns on "different" but boy oh boy do we blossom when we can be ourselves :-) Love love love all your great finds and your quirky spunky writing!

    1. It's so true! Once we figure out how to be ourselves, everything is so much better! Thanks so much for your sweet words! xo

  11. Looks great and awesome tips. I love the gallery wall around the TV.

    1. Aw, thanks so much Julia!! You're are so sweet! Have a great weekend! xo

  12. Wow, what a great job! I do believe certain people are born with "thrift store eye" and you clearly are one of those people. When I go into a thrift store all I see is junk. But you have the gift. Would you be willing to tell us what gold paint you used on your frames? It is a beautiful shade of gold. Thanks.

    1. Thanks SO much, Nancy! You are such a sweetheart! My 'eye' is just the result of a lot of practice...and there are so many who have a MUCH better eye! :) I went back and added a link to the gold spray paint I use and love. It's my absolute favorite! Hope that helps! xo

    2. Thanks for the link, Virginia.

  13. Excellent (small)budget decorating tips! And I know this too cuz I've been doing this probably for longer than most of your readers have been alive ;-) And best of all, your 'after's are always fantastic! Love your style.

    1. Thank you so much Connie! Always such a sweetheart! xo

  14. Every time I read your blog I just wanna run (drive I mean) to my nearest Goodwill!! I always look forward to new posts! :)

  15. Wonderful thrift store finds! (That ginger jar looks so expensive with that floral arrangement.) Your living room is so bright and pretty. Great job on putting everything together!

  16. I love your blog posts that are like this! So helpful, and so real life!


  17. I love your Pinterest page and website...very user friendly ideas and all done with a sense of humor and a bit of sass! Love it! Sharon from NC

  18. I love your blog and am obsessed with how you decorated your house. Your pop of colors and the gold/silver combo are my inspiration for our new house. I want to try to paint a similar painting like yours above your TV, where did you get all those diverse blue/green paint colors? I feel like a Michaels type store won't have such a great selection. I have a million other questions, but I am going to control myself for now :)

    1. Thank you so much!! Actually, I just went to a home improvement store and bought small samples of interior paint. I've used them for several projects and they are about $2 each. Super affordable and you can pick them out in any color you want! Hope that helps! :)

  19. I had to go back and read your post about all the design "mistakes" you've made in the living room. I loved seeing how the room has progressed! The gallery wall is gorgeous and definitely "makes" the room. Well done!

  20. OMG I can't tell you how much I love your blog. You inspired me to spray paint my patio furniture and cover my pillows and it turned out great! You. Are. Awesome.

  21. I love the gallery wall! I saw a similar one over at another blog and between the two of you, I really want to do something in my daughter's bedroom. I have one I like in my foyer but it's pretty much all "typical" artwork. I love the way you mixed in little mirrors and quirky pieces.

  22. how did I miss this post! The room looks great! I love the pop of colors on the pillows and I am loving your gallery wall. I have seen a couple examples lately of the frames around the TV and I love this idea! It looks really great and it has come such a long way!

    House Envy

  23. The new updates to the room look awesome! I also just saw your new mantel on another post - perfection!

  24. Hi i just found your blog you are amazing. What great ideas!! I was wondering if you remember the color of your living room wall?

  25. I just discovered your blog and I am hooked. You are freaking hilarious and so creative. I just can't get enough. Seriously, my family is sitting here wondering why I keep laughing. Your tips are super useful, your house is beautiful, your projects are creative, and I love that you share your DIY mistakes along the way. It makes me feel a little better about (the multitude of) mine. :) You've definitely just acquired another Pinterest follower. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks so much, girl! That has to be one of my favorite comments ever! Thanks for making me smile today! xo ~ Virginia

  26. Thanks for the tips! Your anchor art is my favorite piece. I'm doing my toddler son's room in a camping/forest friends theme and am going to use my guitar in there as a decoration since there's no where else to put it in this little house! Hopefully it puts off the "singing around the campfire" vibe. ;)

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. You are amazing! Visionary, Re-vampress, teacher, and decorator!

  29. I see you framed the picture of a horse from a does one frame calendar pictures? There's always that little hole to be used for hanging purposes. Then there are beautiful greeting cards that one can frame..even Christmas cards to be framed and displayed at Christmas. I have lots of frames stored that I don't use anymore but still keep.

    Do you make a running list of items that you are looking for when you go "Thrifting?" Yard sales are good sources too..when the weather allows!

  30. You keep it real, Virginia. Love your creativity and your generosity in sharing your tips, tricks and how to's.!

    Keep On Blogging Along, :D

  31. My husband and I are actually buying a home the first of next year and your blog has been so inspiring! I can not wait to try new things on a low budget with what we have already! I can'y stop reading your blog! Thanks and keep it up! I need your advise!

  32. Best Blog I have read till date :D :D :D You totally rock :D :D :D
    I can't wait to decorate our new house being built and share it with you :D

  33. Love your gallery wall tutorial as well as the rest of your blog! Your gallery is what inspired me to create my own! My husband and I bought our own place a couple years ago and it has been a DIY dream or disaster, depending on the day, and now I am blogging about it. Would love for you to stop by! Brenlee @ Simply Put Sincerely Us

  34. Love your gallery wall - I thought everything was expensive art but getting prints at the thrift store and out of books is genius!

  35. What is your gorgeous wall colour? I am going to re-decorate my lounge dinning room. I have terracotta floor tiles and have no idea what colour curtains, lounge setting and wall colour to go for yet. The kitchen which is part of the lounge/dinning room is black and white and I'm not sure if I should take the same colours through or not. I'm scared of having too much black and white

  36. Where have you been all my life? I love your voice and your style! I'm so happy I found this today...just one more reason Pinterest is a gateway drug.


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