A while back I did a post on my top ten thrifting tips (fashion edition) and I’ve been meaning to do a decorating post on thrifting for some time now. What better time to do it than 5:00 a.m. after being woken by a 5 year old with pink eye? Yes, pink eye has apparently struck our house. Cross your fingers that I don’t get it!! Ick! Funny side note: Peyton (the almost 5 year old with the eye problems) woke me up the other morning very concerned because his eye was “goopy”. “Oh no!” I said. “I hope its not pink eye!!”. “Am I going to die?” Peyton asked tearing up. “What!? Why would you think that?” I said. “Because you told me if I ate my boogers than my belly would fill up with boogers and then I would die.” He said super concerned. “And my belly must be full of boogers because they’re coming out of my eye!!!”. HILARIOUS. At least I know my scare tactics are working. Yes, I know. I win the mother of the month award. Anyway…
So in a week I’m teaching a little “class” I guess you could say on how to save money on fashion and home decor. Since I’ve already done a post on fashion, I thought this was a good opportunity to do a post on decor and prepare for my little lesson next week. So here goes:
My Top Ten Thrifty Decorating Tips:
1. Make a plan. Unlike my fashion thrifting, I like to have a plan in place when I’m looking for decor. Best thing to do is design your space first by using graphing paper or an online room editor to map out your floor plan. Then start assessing your needs (aesthetic and functional). Ask yourself: How does this space need to function? What pieces do I have that I can use? What pieces do I need to be looking for? Make a list of all the pieces that you need. You can even keep a file (or Pinterest board) of inspiration pieces. But be flexible to some degree. For example, if you know you need more storage in a bathroom (like I do right now), consider your space constraints and leave the rest up to the thrifting gods. If you get fixated that all you need for that space is a cabinet, you might miss out on a great highboy, armoire, hutch, etc. that could work instead.
2. Sell some to buy some. Like with buying clothes, its important to keep a decor flow happening in your home so you don’t become that crazy furniture hoarder with 7 sofas in your living room. This one is a tuffy for me. I tend to want to buy everything I love when I see that its a killer deal. My justification is that I’ll “use it someday”, either in my own home, or someone else’s. But, I realize that my home is not that big, and my garage needs to be able to hold at least one of our vehicles, so I do my best to refrain from over-thrifting. If you DO find something amazing that you MUST have, decide what it is your going to sell to make room for it. This is kind of a double deal because not only do you get to buy something new (or at least new to you), you also can feel good about using the money you make off of your old item to buy your new one. Almost like a trade. I once wanted a new kitchen table and I found one I really liked on Craigslist. I sold my old table, bought the new table (that came with 4 chairs) and then sold the new chairs (since I wanted to keep my old ones). I ended up making a $20 profit on the whole deal and I got my new table. Can’t get much better than that.
3. Buy used whenever possible. Not only does buying used help the environment by recycling what might be thrown into a landfill, buying used furniture and decor will save you boatloads of cash. Shop thrift stores, Craigslist, freecycle.org, Ebay, flea markets, antique stores, garage sales or even dawn some overalls and sneak out in the wee hours and dumpster dive. I have a friend who goes out really early before the garbage truck comes on garbage day and snags old things that have been taken to the curb. My own home is nearly entirely furnished by Craigslist and thrift store finds and I’ve managed to save thousands. *Exception* NEVER buy a used mattress. And make doubly sure that any upholstered pieces you bring into your home are free of corrosion, bed bugs, or icky smells like pet urine or cigarette smoke. No matter how much cleaning you do or how long you let something “air-out” it will still stink.
4. Shop brands for furniture items. Especially when it comes to pieces that will get a lot of use (ie: sofas, chairs, tables, dressers, beds, etc.) shop BRANDS to find well made pieces that will stand the test of time. I’m typically not super caught up with brand names but working at a furniture store for a while I have realized that there are certain brands that have consistently made wonderfully well built products. When searching online especially I like to just plop in a brand name and see what comes up. Some of the good ones I search for are Ethan Allen, Pottery Barn, Bassett Furniture, Drexel Heritage, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, to name a few. I have some incredibly well built, solid, heavy, Ethan Allen arm chairs in my living room that I bought for $50 each off of Craigslist (originally they went for around $1000 each). Especially if you are planning on investing in reupholstery or a slipcover, buy something sturdy that you can count on. Which brings us to tip #5…
5. Consider reupholstering or slipcovering upholstered pieces. If you find something that you like, that is well built, but might just need a little love, don’t discount it. Reupholster it. If its something you REALLY love and is a great price, you can take those savings and apply them to a professional reupholstery service if you’d like, or you can do what I like best and DIY. There are TONS of great books, videos, online tutorials, and such to help you feel confident to reupholster something yourself. All it takes is time, patience, and simple sewing skills, and you can create for yourself a brand new beautiful custom piece you can be proud of. Its even more fun if you enlist a friend and help eachother along the way. Reupholstering is especially quick and simple on things like dining chairs. A few great reupholstering resources are:
Also, you can sew a slipcover or have one custom made if you want something thats a little less permanent. I’m not talking about those flowing, ill-fitting, sheet-type slipcovers. I’m talking about a simply, crisp, tailored slip cover like those that you see in Pottery Barn and on Better Homes and Gardens magazines. You can save money on the upholstery fabric as well if you shop smart. Often times the fabric stores will run promotions on their upholstery fabric where you can save up to 50% off. Or, you can shop online for discount upholstery fabric. I’ve been able to find upholstery fabric for as little as $4 per yard online. If you like a comfortable, natural, shabby chic look, you can even head to the hardware store and buy canvas drop cloths to use for reupholstery or to sew into slipcovers. They also make gorgeous drapery. Miss Mustard Seed has a FABULOUS 6 part video tutorial making slipcovers as well as several tutorials on bleaching and using canvas dropcloths for upholstery. Walmart has been my friend as well lately. I’ve managed to find soft cotton canvas there for $4 a yard. It would be amazing I think to dye it first in a vibrant color and then to use it to reupholster/slipcover something. Hmmm…I’m going to have to try that soon I think…
6. Shop on weekends, the beginning of the summer, and before the holidays. Weekends are great to shop for used items at garage sales. Find out when neighborhoods are having their community garage sales and go then. Scope out high income neighborhoods particularly if you are interested in snagging some brand name furniture. The beginning of the summer is when folks often tend to move, lightening their load by selling items on craigslist, having a garage sale, or donating items to local thrift stores so this is also a great time to start looking for things to add to your home. Also, right before the holidays people are preparing for company and trying to make their homes look nice so they are buying new and dumping old so that is a good time to check things out as well.
7. Thrift with a friend. Unlike my fashion thrifting, I like to do my decorating thrifting with a friend. More muscle to move stuff! Also, its safer to go with a friend if you are picking something up from a stranger you found online or if you’re going dumpster diving in the middle of the night. Friends are also great at bouncing ideas off of and can help you find value in something you may have passed up.
8. NEVER buy home accessories from furniture stores. Furniture stores mark up their accessories to an exorbitant amount. When I worked as a decorator for a furniture store I would always tell my clients to buy home accessories somewhere else. ( I know, I was an insanely terrible salesperson.) My favorite places to shop for home accessories (pillows, throws, frames, artwork, lamps, mirrors, etc.) are thrift stores (mostly for vintage frames and mirrors), Ross, TJMax, Marshalls, BigLots, FamilyDollar, Target (clearance section), and even the Dollar Store…oh and especially (the mother of all accessory stores) HOME GOODS. I’m obsessed with HOME GOODS. You can also buy hard goods there like tables and chairs but I’d advise only buying these types of things for decorative purposes (areas of your home where you want it to look pretty but they won’t get much use) since they aren’t the best quality. Oh and did I mention rugs? Home Goods is the queen of discount rugs. I’ve many times found gorgeous huge 8X10′ wool rugs there for less than $300. Ikea is also a fantastic place to buy inexpensive rugs.
9. Paint paint PAINT. Paint everything and anything. When shopping for thrifty decor, look at the condition the piece is in, the style, and the size. Leave the rest up to paint. Nowadays there is a paint for almost anything. I particularly love spray paint. Easy to use (especially if you pick up the fancy spray nozzle attachment), goes on smooth, and comes in a huge variety of fun colors. Gather a bunch of mismatched frames and spray paint them all the same color for a quick cohesive grouping. Spray paint lamp bases, the insides of lamp shades, accessories, dressers, mirrors, chairs… you get the idea. Becky Higgins will give you some great tips on painting on her blog if you’d like to check it out. You can completely transform an entire room for practically nothing using paint.
10. Do-it-yourself. One of the best ways to save money on decorating is to do things yourself. You can build a simple shelf with an old pallet board and a couple of brackets. You can paint a beautiful “abstract” painting to hang over your sofa. You can make a light fixture out of posterboard or plastic placemats (I’ve done both and you can find the tuts on my site). Go outdoors and gather sticks or driftwood and make a beautiful sunburst mirror or simple fill a vase. There are SO many things you can do yourself with little effort, money, and (for those of you who are crafting impaired) SKILL! ;) Think outside of the box or get online and study the projects of other out-of-the-box thinkers. And don’t forget to HAVE FUN!! Enjoy the process of creating a space you will love and be proud of, the thrifty way.
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