50 Ways to Decorate Your Home on a Low Budget, According to Experts
These affordable low-budget decorating tips from the pros will make your home magazine-worthy.
Everyone wants to spice up their home décor every once in a while, and the good news is, all it takes is a little creativity and some design know-how to change it up—no dipping into your savings necessary. It's true! You don't need to shell out serious cash or start knocking things down to the studs to completely reinvigorate your space. We talked to some of the world's top interior designers to come up with the ultimate guide of practical and affordable interior design tips. So if you want to decorate on a low budget, these 50 ideas will help you turn those lackluster living quarters into a standout space in no time.
Incorporate accessories from your travels.
Who says the only thing you can bring back from your trip is jet lag and expensive artwork? You don't need a huge travel budget to find interesting pieces for your home. "People always think you have to spend a lot of money, but a kitschy postcard in a cool frame is chic," says interior designer and lifestyle expert Courtney Cachet. "Maps are free and look cooler in other languages."
And you don't have to fly overseas to add your travel findings into your home either. "If trips to Paris, Bariloche, or Mumbai aren't on your agenda, don't sweat it," Cachet notes. "A scarf you bought on the street at a flea market in San Antonio can be just as cool as one purchased in Montmartre. The things you cannot buy at Target are the little details that create conversation, that make a room unique—and you're documenting your history in your home."
Add color to your hallway.
Adding some color to a small space, like a hallway, can have a major impact—as long as it's the right one. Courtney Keene, director of operations for MyRoofingPal, says choosing a lighter color paint for these areas will "give the illusion of space." This way, the color won't overwhelm your home the way painting an entire room in a dramatic hue might.
Or paint your molding.
If you want to spruce up your space and don't have a huge budget, try switching up your moldings. "Change your baseboard, wall casings, and crown molding," suggests J. Pickens, host of HGTV's The Work Around. "I have toured [around] 1,000 homes and nearly 80 percent of them have the same three molding profiles. And if it's not in your budget, consider painting the molding with a color instead of just your walls."
Put up some floating shelves.
Need a new way to display your books that's more appealing than those stacks on your nightstand? The pros at Mr. Handyman recommend adding some floating shelves to your walls for a look that's unique and attractive, while also acting as a storage area.
And invest in a set of stylish bookends.
Adding some stylish bookends will make your floating shelves or bookshelves even more of a centerpiece. Opt for fun ceramic or even geode bookends instead of plain brass ones.
Add in a few hanging plants.
Turn any room into an indoor garden with the addition of a few hanging plants. They also draw the eye upward, making low ceilings look taller. "They're beautiful, budget-friendly, mood-boosting, and add interest to any space they're placed," says Claire Boyle of ePlanters. "For more of an interior jungle vibe, use hanging planters with string of turtle or string of pearl plants for a veil of cascading greenery."
Install a gorgeous fireplace surround.
Even if you don't have a working fireplace, you can make your living room look like a million bucks with a pretty fireplace surround. Look for intricate wood or marble ones at antique shops and home improvement centers, like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Strategically place some backlighting.
"Just like theatre lights can change the appearance of a stage, lights in your home can make a huge impact," says interior designer Lori Wiles of Lori Wiles Design. She recommends using lights "in large plants or behind furniture to highlight their shapes and create interesting shadows."
Not ready to invest in a totally new lighting scheme? No problem! "Candles—real or battery operated—make dark shelves glow with warmth and help you see the more interesting spaces in the room," she adds.
Use sconces instead of overhead lighting.
Feel like those track lights aren't cutting it? Add some wall sconces, whether built-ins or plug-ins, to cast a more attractive light and to give your home some vintage charm.
Or make a chandelier your room's centerpiece.
If you have a space that looks cluttered with too much furniture in it, go minimal with your tables and chairs and let a dramatic chandelier steal the show instead. And you don't have to cough up thousands for a beautiful light fixture—sites like Overstock and Wayfair have incredible chandeliers options for under $200.
Add interesting light switch covers in every room.
Little details matter. If you want to make your space less boring, take out those outlet covers that came with your house and replace them with more visually-exciting variations, like wooden ones or those with ornate details.
Turn clutter into collections.
Those tchotchkes may look like little more than clutter sitting around your home, but making them into mini collections and displaying similar items together can make your space more interesting without going full kitsch.
"Combining several small things with a few larger elements, like hurricane candle holders or simple potted plants, becomes an interesting collection that is meaningful to you," says Wiles.
And in general, take a "less is more" approach.
While too many objects can make your home look cluttered, thoughtful culling and curation of your objects on display can create serious visual appeal.
"Stop filling every single nook, cranny, walkway, shelf, and table top with objects," says Pickens. "Empty space will make the objects that you do have 'pop' all that much more."
Bring in a large leaning mirror.
If you want to make a room look bigger and more cohesive in one fell swoop, anchor it with a large mirror. Since it reflects the space around it, Jamie Safier, a luxury real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in New York City, says a big mirror will open up the room and give the illusion of depth, even in a space with minimal square footage.
Make cushions part of your seating arrangement.
Sofas and chairs aren't the only way to add seating to your home. There's a less expensive and cozier option right in front of you: Floor cushions! Pickens says that adding these can "open up the ways and places that you can sit and relax."
Spruce up a side table with a coat of black paint.
Have a side table that's seen better days? Painting it with a few coats of high-gloss black paint can camouflage its flaws while making it look more au courant.
Go for the gold accents.
Gilded pieces have come a long way since the brass-heavy days of the 1980s. If you want a fresh take on gold décor, opt for brushed metal instead of the shiny stuff, and pair it with rich jewel-toned furniture and accent pieces.
And embrace colorful accent furniture.
A bright shade of yellow, red, green, blue, or even purple can really liven up a room. Pickens urges homeowners to not shy away from color. "I'm not saying that you should paint your walls fuchsia," he says. "But, certainly a fuchsia chair in the right spot might spice things up a bit."
Mix and match your dining room chairs.
A little whimsy goes a long way when it comes to making your house look more interesting. To achieve this look in your dining room, mix and match chairs in different styles, but with complementary tonal palettes.
And do the same with your door knobs and hinges.
Your identical door hardware might look consistent, but that can be a snooze. "Not everything in a house has to be so perfectly matching. Variety is a good thing," says Pickens. "Use different door hardware throughout the house—bonus if you can find some cool antique ones."
Bring some outdoor furniture in.
Want to make your inside living space livelier? Bring those patio pieces indoors! For example, Wiles recommends using "colorful metal garden chairs around a vintage farmhouse dining table."
Reupholster old furniture in modern fabrics.
If a piece of furniture has good bones, there's no reason to get rid of it just because the upholstery is faded or ripped—especially when doing so can cost a fortune. For a new twist on a classic piece, have your old furniture covered in brightly-colored fabrics or ones with vibrant, modern patterns.
Paint a patterned wall.
Who says that accent walls have to be a single color? If you want to spruce up your space without spending big, you can completely transform any room by painting a patterned accent wall—think stripes, polka dots, or a chevron pattern.
Create a wallpaper accent feature.
Love the look of patterned wallpaper but don't want to—or can't afford to—cover an entire room? Just do an accent wall instead! Since you're only papering a single wall, you can go bold with your pattern and color choice without overwhelming the space. You can even use peel-and-stick wallpaper that'll make changing things up easy.
Or stick up some removable wall decals.
If wallpaper is too much of a hassle or expense, go for a similar look that comes with a lower commitment and a lower price tag. Stick-on vinyl wall decals will instantly add character to your space—and for less money than new wallpaper or a new shade of paint.
Install some wainscoting.
That beat-up looking drywall makes your house look dingy and dull. To spruce it up, install some wainscoting and a chair rail to your walls. It's a relatively inexpensive addition to any space, and you can have the boards cut at your local hardware store.
Or add some picture frame molding.
Picture frame molding can make your home look like it's right out of a Wes Anderson movie, without cluttering up your walls. It's the perfect decorative addition for the minimalist who also doesn't want to be bland. Here's a guide on how to do it yourself for under $50!
Add some 3D art to your walls.
Are your walls looking a little too flat? Pickens suggests adding a sculpture piece to bring them to life. It's a "great alternative—or accent—to a large, flat canvas on a wall," he says.
Use letter boards.
A little signage can bring a lot of character to any room. "Letter boards allow you to effectively inject humor into a space that's otherwise low on energy," says Nicole Gittens, principal designer at New Vision Interiors and Events. "Purchase a letter board or box in colors that coordinate with your home, and if you don't know what to make it say, search the internet! There are tons of fun things you can spell out that'll make your space come to life from one season to the next."
Decorate with pet portraits.
If you're a dog or cat parent, chances are high your pets are just as integral to your family as your human relatives are, so why not honor them with some artwork? Plus, adding pieces that include your fur babies can make your space more interesting—and you can easily commission pet portraits on creative websites like Etsy for relatively low prices.
Or make your own art.
Not every piece of art needs to be done by a professional. "Art is everywhere," says Gittens. "Think outside the box when it comes to nabbing some cool pieces for your home and even try your hand at creating your own art, especially if you have an artistic flair."
Create some interactive displays.
Good art doesn't have to be admired from afar either. Encourage your family and friends who visit your home to create their own masterpieces with an interactive display. For example, Pickens has nondrying modeling clay all over his house on little pieces of wood. "Everyone who comes in loves it. You can play with it and make shapes or sculptures," he says. "It's a fun thing to interact with while you are having a conversation and has been a big hit with adults and kids alike."
Put together a gallery wall.
One of the easiest ways to make a room come together is by putting up a gallery wall. And since these typically look better when they aren't too matchy-matchy, it's the perfect opportunity to use those frames that never quite went with the décor of your house.
You don't have to spend a ton of money to make your home a whole lot more interesting. "I'm a big believer in thrifting to find unique pieces that are serious conversation starters," says Gittens. "Yes, it takes more time to find these one-of-a-kind pieces, but they bring such a great element and interest into an otherwise boring, ordinary space."
Open up your kitchen shelving.
Why hide your beautiful ceramics behind wooden cabinet doors? "Use open shelving in the kitchen," says Pickens. "I love kitchen cabinets with no doors at all. Kitchen dinnerware and tools come in wonderful shapes and colors and can be beautiful when styled appropriately."
Or add glass doors to your cabinets.
Even if you're not ready to commit to a kitchen full of open shelving, you can still improve your aesthetic by removing your wooden cabinet doors and opting for glass-paned ones instead. Just make sure that, if you do so, those shelves are lined with pretty plates, bowls, and stemware, and not plastic sippy cups and novelty mugs.
Install a patterned tile backsplash.
Mosaic tile may be the go-to for practically every interior designer on TV, but if you want to make your kitchen look a bit more elegant, go for patterned ceramic tiles in white and blue instead. And if you're planning to sell your home in the near future, Safier recommends a safe, neutral colored backsplash.
Hang long curtains in your kitchen.
While kitchens often have short café curtains that only cover the window, if you want to upgrade your space, try long ones instead. Going longer will not only make your ceiling appear higher, it's also an easy way to add a pop of color to what might be an otherwise monochromatic space.
Wallpaper your ceiling.
When it comes to decorating, Doreen Amico-Sorell, an interior designer based in New York, urges homeowners to not forget their ceiling. "Treating it as the fifth wall, more attention [should] be brought upwards by ways of wallpaper, molding, or painting in colors other than white," she says.
Since molding your ceiling can be expensive, try the more inexpensive wallpaper option method. Not only can a wallpapered ceiling in a bedroom cover up a myriad of plaster and drywall flaws, it can also give you something pleasant to look at when you're lying in bed at night.
Or try some faux tin tiles.
Adding some faux tin tiles to your ceiling does double duty: It can instantly add appeal, and also disguises any flaws without costing too much if you install them yourself.
Or add some intrigue with a coffered ceiling.
If you want to go big, make your ceiling the centerpiece of your home by having a contractor add a coffered ceiling—of if you're handy, DIY one yourself. You can even paint the inside of the woodwork to add more dimension and allure.
Paint your flooring.
If your floor looks worse for wear, try painting it instead of the more expensive option, replacing it. Sand the floors down to remove existing paint or polyurethane. Then, you can use an oil-based paint to cover the imperfections in your flooring, making it look brand new.
Or have some patterned woodwork installed.
If you want to add a unique flair to your home, have new flooring installed in a pattern—like herringbone—instead of just a typical vertical orientation. The homebuilding pros at Taylor Morrison recommend this as one of their top 2020 design tips. They note it adds drama and creates visual interest in otherwise boring spaces like a laundry room or guest bath.
Build your own built-ins.
If you have a bit more cash in your decorating budget, have some built-ins added to your bedroom or living room. They keep things organized and add a touch of old-world charm to even the most modern spaces. If your budget's a bit smaller, you can always buy prefabricated bookcases and measure them to fit a certain space, anchoring them to the walls and each other for a seamless look.
Soften up your basement.
John Cook of design company wakaNINE says it's so important not to forget your basement's potential impact on your home's overall aesthetic. "Basements rarely have good natural light or windows, so bringing nature indoors via light fixtures can correct both issues. Light shades of natural materials and organic shapes can soften the often harsh lines in a basement," he says. "Fixtures with minimal profiles and depth lend themselves to basements as they often have low ceiling heights. Always put light fixtures on a dimmer so that you can control the environment–bright for game night and reading, low for parties and relaxing, and off for movie night."
Install a patterned runner on your stairs.
Instead of covering your stairs with a boring roll of beige jute, opt for a patterned runner instead. This small change will turn your staircase into a talking point, rather than an afterthought.
Brighten up your front door.
Want a one-hour, low-cost project that can make your house stand out? Simply repaint your front door. A pop of color on the outside won't clash or take away from your interior design scheme, but it will add some serious curb appeal.
Combine classic and modern elements in a single room.
You don't need to stick to one time period in a room to make it look cohesive. Combining modern and antique elements in a space can liven it up, highlighting those older items without making the whole place look stuffy.
And don't stick to a single store.
If you want to spice up your home—especially on a budget—you've got to shop around. "Don't shop for everything for your home in one place. That is most certainly the formula for boring," says interior designer Vicente Wolf of New York-based Vicente Wolf Associates. "You want to mix up the look with different ideas, giving your home depth and individuality."
Go easy on yourself.
Sometimes, putting too much thought into your design instead of listening to your impulses can make for a space that feels fussy. Design is an art form, so allow your creative side to take the wheel. "Don't judge yourself too much or overthink it. Go bold, get creative, and make mistakes," says Pickens. "It's all part of the learning process."
Additional reporting by Kali Coleman.