I love decorating on a budget. My room style could be called “updated vintage” – imagine Anthropologie-like romantic features without excessive girly-ness. If I gave up my Roth IRA contribution, I could get my whole room from Anthropologie, and maybe add a dash or two of West Elm for balance.
(Pictured above is a bed that I can’t afford that would look absolutely lovely in an apartment with 10-feet ceilings that I don’t have.)
Back to reality… spending loads of money on furniture and decor really isn’t in the cards right now. Still, I want to create a comfortable, enjoyable, and dare I say, stylish space (which, I think I have. With varying levels of success depending on the varying levels of messiness in my room).
So here’s what I did:
1. Compile a “style file” to find out what kind of colors, pictures, and styles I like.
I have a personal journal that I paste clips of magazine pictures or note cards from anywhere and everywhere. A graphic advertisement note card from Merck, clippings from Travel & Leisure magazine, pictures of a Seattle boutique, etc. I also peruse Apartment Therapy.
After while, I noticed a theme: I like neutrals with pops of color. I like comfortable (mid-century Swedish might look amazing, but I just can’t live in it). I like dashes of red or aubergine. I like details. I love a good duvet.
2. Look for cheaper alternatives in a similar style.
I love the iron-wrought beds featured in Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel. I love the scrolls and the nobs. But no money = no C&B.
When I first bought my bed, I found the Halingby headboard & frame (since discontinued) from IKEA for only $80! That’s a quarter of what a frame would’ve cost me at another, more upscale store. The frame is less fancy and I’m sure the quality is reflected in the price, but the style is very similar for the picture I’m trying to create.
3. Keep “foundational” colors basic and make “accent” colors stand out.
My furniture are divided into two camps: white, or black. The black pieces are larger and “anchors” my space (I find the look of an all-white bedroom too colorless for my taste), while the white furniture brightens up the room. It’s also much easier to find these basic colors.
Paint is often the cheapest way to change the look of a room or a piece of furniture. I really, really wanted a white secretary desk (graceful and feminine, I imagined).
Instead, I found a $10 IKEA desk on Craigslist, lugged it home, and painted it white. Not quite a secretary, but it will do for now. I can’t paint my bedroom because, well, it’s a rental, but at many places you can check with your landlord and they’ll let you paint. Although, I’ve gotten quite fond of my white walls…
5. Check out Craigslist, yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets.
I got my nightstand at a yard-sale for $10. This is also where the “style file” comes in handy – if you know what you’re looking for, or an idea of what would work in your room, it’d be much easier to walk away from “bargains” that doesn’t fit your style. I got a gorgeous pewter lamp shade for $6 at a local Goodwill.
6. Picked up cute accent pieces at Ross, Marshalls, or TJ Maxx
These stores are great for discounted desk accessories, French fabric boards, and note cards and stationery. I got three sets of 6 satin padded hangers for $5 a set. I’ve also gotten a black & white memory board that fit perfectly with my color scheme for $6.
Too many knickkacks will look messy and haphazard. The key is to keep a small cluster of pieces similar in color (and maybe structure – a group of vases in various shades of blue, for example) or one statement piece (a large, deep, red bowl), and then that’s IT!
I had to resist the urge to add to my knickkacks, but I think my room is better for it.