Design

9 Budget Ways to Transform Your Home

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

Even the smallest decorating touches can make over a home, don’t you think? Moving things around sometimes packs as much of a punch as new furniture. So, if you’re in a decorating mood, we asked five interior designers to reveal how to spruce up a space on a tight budget…

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

Give your lamp shades some love. Swapping out your basic lamp shade for a more colorful one is an instant upgrade — especially if you have white walls. The home of interior designer Emily Henderson is full of oatmeal, navy and black lamp shades. “It changes the look of both the lamp and the room,” she says. “It makes things feel more high end and thoughtful.” She suggests steering clear of anything too bright or patterned, though. “You want to add an additional tone rather than making the lamp the focus,” she explains. Lamps Plus has hundreds of good options, if you’re in the market.

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

Go for a throw. Dress up a plain sofa with a special throw over the back. “It’s like wearing a pretty necklace with a white tee,” says interior decorator Jenny Komenda. It works with beds, too. “A blanket at the foot of the bed is functional when it gets chilly at night, but that layer also adds richness,” says Geoffrey DeSousa, chief curator of Previously Owned by a Gay Man. “I gravitate toward natural fibers like cotton or wool. They’re easier to clean and feel more luxe than man-made fibers.” We love the throws at Ara Collective.

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

Pare down on pillows. Instead of trying to style a bunch of decorative pillows on your bed, just get one lumbar pillow that is at least three feet long. “Boom, you’re done!” says Emily. “The whole bed looks pulled together without any fuss. We love this one and this one.

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

Scatter lighting. Overhead light can feel harsh, so Geoffrey suggests using a few smaller lamps with lower watt bulbs to make your space inviting. “It’s a good idea to have three or four secondary light sources for every room,” adds Jenny. “Target and West Elm have some great inexpensive options.”

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

Add affordable art. Artwork can sometimes drain your wallet, but it doesn’t have to. Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day! suggests finding vintage posters at MOMA or on eBay. She also loves the $15 printable downloads from Jenny’s Print Shop: “You can get them printed for $7. It’s genius.” Another option? Spend $200 on books. “It may seem counterintuitive to buy art books as a decorating technique,” says Jordan. “But having beautiful, enticing books out is one of my favorite ways to make a place feel cozy.”

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

Tray it out. “We have a tray in every room and it corrals both pretty things and necessities, like remotes and coasters,” says Emily. “We have one on our coffee table that holds candles and magazines, and smaller ones on our nightstands. They take a mess and make it look intentional.” They work well in wood, brass and melamine.

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

Mirror, mirror on your wall. Brooklyn-based interior designer Gunnar Larson suggests adding mirrors as a simple and inexpensive way to bring light into your home. “I love this set of round mirrors,” he says. “They are so affordable, you could even buy several and really get creative. Make a large mirror collection or spread them around your home to help reflect light. They’d even look great within a gallery wall.

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

See in black and white. If a gallery wall feels intimidating, opt for simple black and white prints. Jenny loves to hang a few in a cluster. “Black and white photos are foolproof,” she says. “A grouping on a wall or shelf is simple to execute but makes a huge statement.”

9 Affordable Ways to Transform Your Space

Grow some green. Have a room that falls flat? Add some life with big and small plants. “As much as I love flowers, they can be so expensive and they die in a week,” says Emily. “Plants last longer and you can grab great ones at Home Depot for $14 to $50.” And if plants end up dying, Jordan says it’s all part of the game. “I’ve trained myself to feel no guilt if I kill them,” she says. “Just start over again when they’re on their last leg.”

How do you decorate on a budget? Do you have any home styling tips?

P.S. 15 genius tips for living in a small space, and the best affordable art.

(Photos courtesy of Paul Ferney, Amber Interiors, Ginny MacDonald, Alpha Smoot, Nicki Sebastian, Local + Lejos, Emily Henderson and Julia Robbs.)

  1. Sharon says...

    Where is the coat rack from (from the second to last photo)??

  2. Melissa says...

    So glad to see that people are asking about specific items, because it gives me hope that someone will know where to find the print with hands playing cat’s cradle that turns into the bridge…it’s awesome! (The whole post was fun :))

  3. Such great tips! I’m a huge fan of the long lumbar pillow on a bed. Especially paired with white sheets. Simple, clean, effortless!

  4. Faye Tinsman says...

    I’m interested in the rug also.

  5. Tawni says...

    The tip with the lumbar pillow on the bed was wonderful. I’m always at a loss at styling beds. Any tips on how to make the bed nicely with a body pillow? My husband has to sleep with one and I have no idea how to make the bed with one!

    • Allison McCarroll says...

      Use the body pillow AS the lumbar pillow – just put it behind the head pillows instead of in front.

  6. When I was growing up my Mom LOVED picking up new lamp shades when they went on sale and I never got it until a couple of years ago (post-college days) when I started really caring about the feel of my space. I’ve also realized having enough lamps to put the shades onto in the first place is vital for a cozy space!

    thismisscooks.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/moving-and-minimalism/

  7. Amy G says...

    Where can I find d the area rug in the first photo?

    • Kate says...

      Also want to know!

  8. Maria says...

    Hmm, to me the $150 throw blanket is more of a splurge than a budget find.

  9. Gorgeous photos. Thanks for all of the inspiration.

  10. Heather says...

    I love Emily Henderson so much – she has great style in clothing too! I’d love to see a week of her outfits.

    For years I have framed beloved images from calendars! They’re so affordable, and you can end up with a lovely set of similarly sized/themed images. I was recently in Ireland and on a tight budget, but wanted something special, so I got a small calendar of beautiful, colorful illustrations of Irish countryside, and plan on getting frames from Michaels (the best sales are on Mondays!). Plus if you get tired of something, it’s easy to swap out.

    • Molly says...

      Thanks for the sale tip! Frames are always just a bit more than I want to spend!

    • Heather – Emily posts some of her outfits on instagram sometimes :) I love following her, always new and interesting posts.

  11. Where can I get that round mirror shown in 8th photo?

  12. I love the upholstery print on the daybed/chaise in the last photo, any info?

  13. I think the 9th photo down of the wall hooks with shelf is from littlegreennotebook — can you link to the post? I remember the project but couldn’t find it on her blog. Thanks!

  14. I love Emily Henderson. Great designer and seems like a wonderful person too.

    And plants transform a space. Whenever I feel like a room is missing something, it’s usually a plant.

    Kendall

  15. I’m on a hunt for more plants for my space at the moment because you’re right – it’s the simplest way to add more fun and greenery to your space!

    • Meghan says...

      Try Craigslist for FREE plants!

  16. Maranda says...

    I would be interested to see something about combining design styles when you live with someone else. My boyfriend and I are approaching the year mark of living together and we could not possibly be any more different in our living/decor styles. It really used to bother me at first but now I’ve just kind of thrown up my hands and given up.

    • Pascale says...

      I am in the same situation and would love the same kind of post!
      Whilst I mostly appreciate that my boyfriend cares about our living space as much as I do, it can be difficult to compromise our visions sometimes. I’d welcome some guidance on that as well!

    • Oí, I feel ya! I’m a graphic designer and my partner is an engineer… We have VERY different tastes and he couldn’t explain to me why he didn’t like something. Eventually I sat down one day, pulled up images of dining tables, and kept grilling him on why exactly he did/didn’t like something until I felt like I had a grasp of his style. Our first apartment together was not great, but we’ve recently moved into another space and starting over has been really helpful – we even found furniture that BOTH of us love (gasp)!

  17. Kim says...

    Where can I buy the “think creatively…” print?

  18. Esvee says...

    I think the 9th photo down of the wall hooks with shelf is from littlegreennotebook — can you link to the post? I remember the project but couldn’t find it on her blog. Thanks!

  19. Carrie says...

    Where is that brown leather bag from in the 2nd to last photo??

  20. liza says...

    Where is the ottomon coffee table in the tray it out pic from?

  21. Fun to spot a Winter Session bag! (That great orange tote in the second-to-last photo). I have one of those bags and it has held up beautifully for YEARS. Went from work tote/laptop bag to diaper bag seamlessly. Not affiliated with them but a huge fan.

  22. Meghan says...

    I would like to second the Home Depot for plant recommendation- affordable and you can get the big plants (think fern, rubber tree) for less than $25. Awesome! My long term partner and I split this year and plants has been one of the best things for my mental health and wellness. There’s something truly transformative about pruning, watering and caring for something else when you’re in a dark place.

  23. Clean your windows inside and out! Nothing makes a room feel. Brighter and fresher than clean windows.
    I love adding uncoventional items that aren’t necessarily the most beautiful but have meaning. On our mantel we have a small clay ashtray made by a late-friend, in it a feather from a barn owl my 3 year old found on our property and a small stick my son brought home for me when he was 2, a few beach combed treasures, our dog’s collar and favorite toy (she died last month) Doesn’t necessarily make any design sense but to us it’s perfect.

    • Heather says...

      I recently cleaned my blinds, and it too made a world of difference!

  24. Sasha says...

    The best upgrade I ever did was passing on a whole bunch of stuff. Clearing out the clutter let’s one see the few items one truly loves. It’s so much easier to clean. And the clutter won’t come back. I love the clear spaces too much.

    Also thinking outside the box and making your home truly work for you. For example with three dogs and a cat, and a very small space, where our living room is the center of the house (so a big walk through space with few walls), we do without a coffee table or a rug. They just don’t make sense for us. And in the bed room, (with three bed sharing dogs), two queen sized beds next to each other works for us so well, only other furniture are a bed side table and an antique hope chest. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional.

  25. Cynthia says...

    De-cluttering can definitely transform your home. I use trays and baskets to corral things because things in containers look better than things lying around. Switch artwork and mirrors from one room to another. Throws make rooms look inviting, and I like having a pretty quilt at the foot of the bed, not only for extra warmth, but a spot of color. As we live in our house, it doesn’t look like a picture in a magazine, so when someone drops by, I welcome them and offer a beverage. I’ve never apologized for the state of the house.

    • Marilee Sulewski says...

      “… I welcome them and offer a beverage. I’ve never apologized for the state of the house.” I love this! What a practical and realistic sentiment. Thank you.

  26. Yes! Plants and flowers are such great additions especially if you live alone and don’t have pets. It adds beauty and life and something to take care of.

    For the longest time I felt sad when my plants weren’t doing well, but not any more. I replace them with new ones!

    Last night I bought a huge Birds of Paradise plant and stuffed it into an uber to take home ;) See it on @mangotomato instagram.

  27. Scarlett says...

    I love the upholstery on the bench in the last photo and the bedding in the 4th photo down (lumbar pillow picture!) Where are those items from?

  28. Angela says...

    I love the idea one one long lumbar pillow. We have some smaller throw pillows and they are always on the floor because it is just too much to put them all back on.

    Such a random thought…maybe you could do a post on pillows for sleep. I’ve heard people preach the gospel of the quality pillow for years, and I think it’d be great to see a round up of options.

    • Summer says...

      ^ I second this. Pillows are so difficult!

  29. Marie says...

    I think it was Nate Berkus who suggested the following two ways to spruce up your house for free: move furniture to different rooms and clean your house.

  30. Heidi says...

    I framed sheets of pretty wrapping paper in a frame from Ikea. Sheet of paper was EUR 4 and frame was EUR 5. Bargain! And it looks great!

  31. Lo says...

    Some of my favourite artwork in our home are the collection of greeting cards we’ve received and postcards we’ve collected from the places we’ve been. Totally inexpensive, but it’s nice to look back on.

    Similarly, adding greenery at different heights really makes a difference. In our lounge we have a plant hanging from the ceiling, one trailing down the side of the fireplace, one in a pot on a table, one on the floor….its all texture and when the cat doesn’t eat it, beautiful.

    Lo
    http://www.themixtures.com

    • Maud says...

      About the plants hanging from the ceiling – help! How do you water them? Outside hanging plants drain and water runs off. Do you take them down to water?
      Thanks!

    • KL says...

      I find myself at a loss when picking plants I can have around with two cats (my husband and I have an awful history with cats and plants/flowers– a few three day long hospital stays, kidney failure, and constant CONSTANT vomiting). What plants do you have?!

    • Sasha says...

      Maud, I use pots that have an attached bottom, where water can collect. And don’t over water.

    • Maud depending on the type of plant you can water a small amount at a time and give them a good soaking monthly in the shower or tub. Helps get the dust off the leaves too.

    • Kate says...

      Maud, I heard someone one time say to put ice cubes in the plant and they’ll melt slowly and water it!

    • Christy says...

      KL. try the pothos variety and put it up really high. I have two cats (one who had surgery from eating sewing thread, plants, etc) and KNOW what you’re saying! We got a big golden pothos (very low maintenance) from Lowe’s and it’s a low light plant so it is away from the window, perched on top of a shelf and it’s thriving! So pretty and it adds a perfect green accent and won’t kill any four-legged creatures. Good luck.

  32. I absolutely love the green couch! It caught my eye in your recent interview post and I’ve been green with envy ever since. I agree with the plant bit, I always need a plant in my living space, always. <3

    • Sasha says...

      We had a beautiful velvet rose colored futon cover for many years. I loved it – just that one lovely color and texture was so inviting. And velvet is remarkably easy to care for. The green is so pretty also!

  33. What great and affordable ways to transform a living space! I’ll be moving out next year so I’m definitely saving this post for references. I do love that idea of using a tray on coffee tables, etc, because it looks nice and is actually quite practical; you save time cleaning up the table’s surface! And I definitely will go for some affordable art to decorate my home. <3
    Thanks for sharing!

    Joanne | Life in Blue Skies

  34. Thank you SO much for sharing this post, it’s given me some amazing ideas :) I agree with the throw on a sofa, it really can dress it up and improve the look of a room. I also like the idea of having 3-4 alternate light choices in a room – It’s something that I really want to invest in. It just creates a much better ambiance and is far more inviting!!

    Have a lovely weekend :)

    Chloe @ https://girllgonerogue.blogspot.co.uk/

  35. Kelly says...

    I love this post and these pictures are absolutely amazing. I remember seeing the home tour of Jordan and Paul’s house and loving it all! Regarding the tips, my one question is…how do you pull off three to four lighting sources in one room when you ‘float’ furniture in a living room? My side tables and seating aren’t mashed up against the wall so I can’t figure out how to have multiple light sources since trailing cords aren’t an option. The only idea I’ve heard of is to have electrical outlets installed in the floor, but that sounds expensive and worrisome since I want to be able to change furniture layouts from time to time. I know this is a first world problem but if anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear!!!

    • Sasha says...

      Could you do light sources that are battery operated? Maybe even rechargeable? Perhaps use candles?
      If your sofa or chairs sit on the floor, against a wall, perhaps you could run a long cord under, to get to the table? I use a lot of twinkle lights…Could that work somehow?

      I’m bothered by setting cords too, especially from hanging lights. My only solution for this one is white cords on white walls, and to have the cord run down the edge of curtains so it’s a bit hidden.

    • I use sticky Tack to keep cords on the baseboards where I can. Other than that I’m not sure.

    • I once had an apartment where the cable outlet and the wall where the TV fit best were nowhere near each other – so we got some of those 3M hooks with the removable tabs (I forget what that line is called) – they make some specifically for putting along a wall or baseboard for keeping a cord tidy, and we just stuck them along our baseboard (and around the closet door) and it kept the extra-long cable cord out of sight, out of mind.

  36. jeannie says...

    I love that green sofa!

  37. Lynne Z. says...

    Hi COJ team! Just want to take a moment and say that you guys have been absolutely killing it with the content lately! Way to go!

    • Annalisa says...

      I second that – THANK YOU!

    • Summer says...

      Agreed!

    • Heather says...

      I agree!

  38. Kerry says...

    Where is that gorgeous patterned bench in the last photo from??

  39. Annalily says...

    Another easy revamp is to repaint furniture when its feeling blah or tired. I recently got a very simple wooden IKEA bench for our mudroom, and after a couple coats of chalky milk paint and a finish of wax, it looks so inviting and lovely. There are so many great resources on-line now for diy projects, no matter what your style may be- it is fun to get your hands dirty and then admire your efforts for years to come!

  40. wendy clark says...

    Love all of the suggestions but would also like to know where the butterfly prints are from.
    Thanks.

    • Lindsay says...

      I saw these on a blog a few years ago and tracked them down! The artist is in Australia and you can buy prints of her moth series here: http://allysonreynolds.com

    • Amelia says...

      They are by Allyson Reynolds

  41. Stunning homes and great examples! I need that lumbar cushion and the room to go with it. Simplicity at its best.

  42. For cheap art: I’ve bought decorative paper and/or prints at the Paper Source or art stores, stuck it into Ikea frames, and voila! affordable art!

    I also LOVE the tray idea…I really need to invest in one for my ottoman!

  43. trays! I suddenly realize I need to get trays for our coffee table. Thank you.

    Not sure if this is a decorating tip or not, but never apologize for the state of your house when people come over. Even if it’s messy (I have kids – basically messy during the day). People just want to feel comfortable and if you feel uncomfortable, they feel bad for being there. So I think being relaxed and welcoming covers lots of stale decor when you have people coming over :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      such a great tip!

  44. Gen says...

    I’ve been looking for throws – Ara’s Collective looks wonderful! I like that they support providing education and healthcare to their artisans.

  45. Anna Kleinfeld says...

    That store of throws is wonderful! Supporting single mothers in Guatemala + getting a beautiful throw =win win. Thanks for the find, team cup of jo.

  46. Teresa says...

    Where is the large print from, the man and woman on bikes??? :)

    • Katie says...

      I would love to know too!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, shannon, you nailed it! that’s my friend tina’s apartment — she and her partner had an art registry for their wedding, instead of household items, and that’s the piece they were able to invest in!

  47. Love the tip about the lumbar pillow! I spend so much money on pillows, so this will make my wallet very happy :p

  48. Katie says...

    That green couch is my DREAM couch. I need it. For now, I love my red couch. But ohhh a green one.. I need one.

  49. Nadine says...

    When I was looking at the lighting pic, my first thought was: get a pet! And I’d agree it definitely adds to the atmosphere of a house!! Nice list of ideas anyways..

    • Samantha says...

      Ugh, tell me about it. We had an 11yo dog die. We got a puppy, he died about a month and a half after from a weird parasite (he was 4mo). I couldn’t stand my house for weeks, I didn’t wanna be there. I wanted to buy all of the furniture and decorations to change it up because the environment felt so wrong. So yeah, looking for another dog now that we have “recovered”. After two amazing dogs, our house will never be a home again without one.

    • Mandy says...

      I wholeheartedly agree with this. This week we had to say goodbye to our beloved ten-year-old basset hound, and the whole house is all wrong. We’ve been doing lots of driving around and taking aimless walks. Samantha, I’m so, so sorry for your heartbreaking loss. I wish you lots of love and a pup to share your house with. You gave your friends beautiful lives ❤️

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what sweet comments. sending a hug, mandy and samantha. xoxo

    • We lost our 14 year old dog last week—my husband and I got him in college and he moved with us to three cities, 5 degrees, two children and our house and yard just feel a little empty without him! However, I need a puppy like a whole in my head…with two under two I think it would be adding in a third child!

    • Heather says...

      I feel like this could be a CoJ essay series – about pets!

  50. Elisabeth says...

    Where are the butterfly prints from on the first page? They’re beautiful!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Elisabeth!

      They are from Allyson Reynolds! http://allysonreynolds.com

      Hope this helps :)

  51. Rose says...

    Where is that throw from with the dog on top?! I need it!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Rose! It’s from Parachute! http://bit.ly/2rlgF3p

      xx

  52. brianna says...

    There are so many fun ideas here. I love the idea of a long pillow for the bed. It would make curling up in bed to read more comfortable, too!