I just love to decorate. My house, my friend's house, my friend's coworker with 2nd hand information and advice relayed back and forth, my brother and sister-in-law's garden (gardening is just decorating your yard) etc. There is something about pattern, line, texture and scale that just thrills me. But I'm sooo thrifty so decorating is like a challenging game. Even when I had my high-powered corporate job and tons of money, I was thrifty with my decorating dollar. It's just more fun for me that way. Anybody can decorate a room with a $15,000 budget. Lets see ya do it for $1500 or even $150! So here are my top frugal decorating tips to help you on your way.
Have a design plan. I can't stress this enough. Draw a diagram of your room. Play with furniture layout prior to purchasing. Measure what size pieces will fit in your room. Pick an inspiration piece for color, texture, style, etc. Determine what your style preference is and stick to it. You've got to use your resources wisely so plan it out ahead of time! And for goodness sakes, don't pick paint color and then try to find fabrics and furnishings to match. Pick your patterns, fabrics and large upholstery pieces first then pull colors from them.
Use Paint. A gallon of paint can totally change the look and feel of a room - for only $35! It's your cheapest design tool. Splash your walls with color, or add just a touch with a feature wall. Don't underestimate the power of paint! You can also paint mismatched accessories, lamps, picture frames, etc. to unify them. Almost everything can be painted.
Shop unexpected sources: Craigs List, Walmart, Target, Overstock.com, eBay, Etsy. Who wouldn't want to be able to shop the high end stores with the amazing catalogs that make us all drool? You CAN get the look for less! I routinely see modern items I love at Design Within Reach for hundred or thousands of dollars. But with major shopping skills I also see similar cheaper designs at Crate & Barrel or CB2 and then even cheaper versions at Ikea or Target. DWR white laminate Saarinen table is $1613 and Ikea's Docksta table has the same look and is only $149. Would I prefer the designer? Not if it is the only thing I can afford and it sits alone in the room. And if you must have the designer version troll Craig's List and eBay looking for people who either don't know what they have and are selling it dirt cheap (my favorite kind of people) or those who know and just want to change out their items. You should get it for at least 50% off list price.
Use unexpected materials. Can't afford the curtains you are lusting after? Make your own with a drop cloth and freezer paper stencils. The blogosphere is full of inventive ideas on using the latest craze in new and inexpensive ways. Think of burlap, twine, painters canvas, books, coffee filters, etc. All items that have been in focus lately and had tons of projects available for you to replicate. When you see something you like in a designer or high end store or catalog Google it! Instead of paying $40 for Ballard Designs burlap curtains, find out how to make your own out of $1.29 a yard burlap.
Accessorize and use scale to your advantage. One large accessory is better than 5 scattered small ones. What's your room's "wow" factor? You only need one. When money is tight, skip all the little things and focus on one "wow".
You can be thrifty and have beautiful things. I hope you are inspired!