10 Smart Ideas to Help You Save Money When Decorating Your Home

Hunker House
credit: Paul Anderson

When you've poured all of your cold hard cash into a reno, or a new place to call home, how do you afford those vital finishing touches? Your favorite design experts have a few smart — and sometimes surprising — ideas.

1. Rethink pairs.

Alaina Kaczmarski, writing in The EveryGirl, would like to remind you that "pairs" of things don't have to match. "Often times in home decor, you need two of something: two lamps, two end tables, two nightstands, or two dining chairs for that matter. And buying two of anything is — pause for shock — twice as expensive! Well, the good news is those two items don't have to match." When purchasing two of something, she says, match size and proportion — not necessarily the price tag.

2. Think small.

Meghan Hackett-Cassidy and Erin Hackett of Hackett Interiors in Bronxville, New York, suggest you focus on the small stuff. "Sometimes the littlest things make the biggest impact in a room," they say. "Luckily, you really don't have to budget much for these accessories. You can spend less than $10 on a statement piece that will add style and sophistication to your coffee table, bookshelf, or dining table. It's easy to find the difference in quality in a sofa, but less so among a shelf full of fun finds."

3. Go slow.

Kristin Gunnette, senior designer at Atelier k in Los Angeles, says don't rush the process. "Take your time finding pieces that tell a story. You do not always need to fill all your walls, or spaces immediately in order to make a space great. Spaces should grow with you and reflect the personality, pieces you find during travels, and amazing finds."

4. Spend to save.

Another tip from Gunnette is to actually spend money — where it counts. "Investing in a few quality pieces — like a dining table, sofa, coffee tables, bed frames — carry the visual weight and character allowing you to save on secondary furnishing and accessories. Investing in key pieces that will stand the test of time allows you to continue to layer your interior to become a well-curated room."

5. Use what you’ve got.

Maureen Stevens of Maureen Stevens Design in Austin and New Orleans says you can always rework the things you already have. "It is so easy to just buy new. But if furniture or an item still works, or it's a beloved item — an heirloom or special gift, then why not use it? A desk can be changed into a different color, old chairs can be reupholstered, an old cabinet can have new hardware. Add decorative onlays or appliques or even wallpaper it. Or the easiest — moving it into another part of the house where it can still be functional in that space."

Reworking your existing furniture and accessories has other benefits as well. "You're saving landfills and saving your wallet," she says. "It also helps to get your creative juices flowing."

6. Glass vases are your friend.

Courtney Thomas of Courtney Thomas Design, in Southern California, has one specific, and useful, tip. "Never underestimate a good, varying-sized collection of glass vases. They are extremely versatile. They can be used for organizing pencils on a desk, storing cotton balls on a bathroom counter, arranging florals for a centerpiece, or as light diffusers for candles."

7. Thrift it.

Daleet Spector, a Santa Monica, California-based designer, is a big fan of looking someplace other than your typical furniture or design store. "My favorite way to save money when decorating is by hitting the local thrift store for accessories," she says. "I find all kinds of treasures from vases to boxes to artwork, and I'm saving money and the planet at the same time!"

8. Head to the flea market.

Spector is also a regular at The Rose Bowl Flea Market, about an hour away in Pasadena. It's one of the most famous flea markets in the country. "Flea markets are great places for interesting finds that won't break the bank. I buy everything from furniture, rugs, accessories, and plants."

9. Don’t ignore the stores right in front of you.

Spector is also no stranger to the home departments at stores you already know and love: "I love scoring furniture and accessories at stores like Urban Outfitters, World Market, and IKEA. They're often low on price, high on style and you'd never know where they came from." The key? Mixing high and low.

10. Sell it.

Remember, Craigslist is your friend. Anna Smith of Annabode + Co., told Hither and Tither: "Sell what you don't love. I've said this so many times — if you're thinking of redecorating a space and you're on a tight budget, always start by selling the things you don't love and put that money towards the pieces that you do."


Laura Lambert

Laura Lambert

Laura Lambert is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers lifestyle, design, and women's health.