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Everyone wants a stylish home, and not everyone has money to pay for an interior designer. Luckily, the trend toward embracing your personal style lets you use your imagination and some clever resources to give your home the look and feel you want.

You don’t need a huge budget. But, to get it done right, you’ll want time, inspiration and the willingness to do some work on your own.

One: Assess your budget.

First, take stock of everything you have on hand and anything you really love. As interior designer Nate Berkus says, when approaching a new project always start by asking, “What can stay?” It saves money and, often, tells a personal story. Once you know what you already have, price out everything you need – from shelves to nails. Don’t forget your tools – the price of a hammer, drill, and level can add up, but if you don’t have them you may be able to borrow from someone you know or a tool library nearby. Planning your expenses up-front helps you avoid surprises down the road.

Also, know your own DIY limitations. If a bathroom facelift is at the top of the list and plumbing or wiring needs to be moved, you’ll probably want to budget for a pro for certain tasks.

Two: Gather ideas and start to shop.

Whether you save magazine pictures, use apps like Pinterest or Houzz, or snap photos of things you like, having a wide range of inspiration will help you stay on track when you start to shop.

Shopping with a strict budget may take a little time, but think of it more like a treasure hunt. You’ll be hitting up local thrift stores, and you can feel good about it since many of them give their profits back to the community. See if there are regular flea markets and furniture consignment shops nearby, and visit estate sales in your area. A quick Google search will turn up a few names, and you may be able to sign up for an email list to find out about upcoming sales. To find paint and DIY supplies, including wood and other building supplies, at a lower cost than retail, look for a Habitat for Humanity® ReStore or similar store nearby. You never know what you’ll find, and unique items always make a home look fresh, interesting, and well designed.

Three: Use your space well.

Decluttering is one of the easiest ways to make your space feel larger, but it doesn’t mean you can’t keep collections, toys, or piles of magazines you still want. Here are some interior design secrets to help you live a little larger:

  • Keep it light: If you have an apartment or home with white or light colored walls, you’re in luck. Light colors and cool colors (like blues and greens) seem to make spaces larger.
  • Keep your eyes moving: Choose chairs, stools, and couches with legs and feet that show, instead of being covered by fabric. Pieces that look like they sit right on the floor keep eyes from roaming throughout the space, and make it feel more cramped.
  • Placement: Pull furniture a few inches off the wall, to give the appearance of more space. Keep items you need in baskets or decorative boxes (almost always at thrift stores!) on the floor, or under tables. It keeps your items handy and your eyes moving around the room.
  • Go up: Shelves can keep you organized, and give you an attractive way to show off your thrift store finds, plants, collections, or favorite mug. If you can put holes in your walls, use inexpensive brackets and wood from home stores to hang small shelves at varying heights on your walls. Home stores like The Home Depot® and Lowes® cut wood for free, and you could stain or prime and paint to match your taste.

Four: Cover what bothers you with paint or fabric.

Bring unmatched or dingy mirrors and frames up to date with a cohesive, colorful new look from a fresh coat of paint or a new fabric cover. Paint them all one color, or choose three or four complementary shades you can mix yourself from two paint colors you like. Use thrift store fabric – or fabric you have on hand from outgrown or worn out clothes – and wrap it around the outside of the frame, fastening it with glue, staples, or tack nails in the back.

If a new couch and chairs aren't in your budget, try giving your old ones a new look by adding inexpensive throw cushions. Cover your existing pillows with new fabric, or use a wool cable sweater or flannel shirt for a cheerful look – thrift stores are usually great resources for both. Not a sewer? Simply cut the fabric to size, use a hot glue gun to fasten the fabric in place, and cover glue lines with ribbon or a narrow strip of the same fabric.

Five: Do something big.

Create an interesting focal point with the old door, gate, or headboard you’re sure to find on a thrifting mission. By scraping off any chipped paint and covering with a paint color or design you like, you can transform a larger piece into an interesting art piece to hang above a couch, in a hallway, or behind your bed as a headboard. Paint carved pieces in a single color, or bring out features with an additional hue. Give depth and dimension to a flat door by adding colorful designs with the aid of your imagination and some painter’s tape, to define lines.

Another great way to bring larger art into your home is to hang framed photos on the wall. Thrift stores often have one-of-a-kind vintage posters and signs. Places like Walgreens and Vistaprint® print poster-size photos, and both often run sales and provide discount codes. So search your photos, or take more to memorialize you favorite moments in poster size.

Six: Show your whimsy or creative quirky style.

Next time you visit your favorite thrift store, keep an eye out for kitchenware. Look for old cooking pans to paint in bright colors and hang on your kitchen walls, place above cupboards, or display on shelves. Old colanders, muffin pans, loaf tins, and pie plates are all good choices. Paint the whole piece with a base color, then use a smaller brush to add a design or pattern in a complementary color. If you prefer a vintage look, search out wooden and wire kitchen utensils to display on your walls or kitchen shelves. Look for things like cutting boards, spoons, rolling pins, or wire egg baskets. For a more modern twist, cluster and overlap similarly hued plates and hang them on the wall. Plate hangers are an inexpensive way to turn your eclectic plate collection into wall art.

There are many affordable DIY projects to decorate your home using what you have or what you can find at your local thrift store. Fabric, scissors and paint – and a little creativity – go a long way to turn old household furniture items into stylish, updated pieces on a small budget.

Disclosures

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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