Start Fresh: 27 Frugal Home Decorating Ideas

Home decorating ideas start to flood my mind every January 1. There's something about starting a fresh new year that makes me want to shake things up in all aspects of my life, including my living room.

Fortunately, living on a dime has also meant figuring out how to redecorate for pennies. Since I tend to move around a fair amount, I've learned out how to add personal touches to a new home using more elbow grease than dollars. Using tips and tricks accumulated over the years, I've developed my own visual style, stretched my imagination and found unusual ways to implement ordinary objects.

One of my favorite tricks is to check out more expensively appointed homes or merchants like the Home Decorators Collection, steal ideas I like and recreate them in my unique way. The results can be better than the original and the source often doesn't recognize my thievery.

The most important tip I can give, however, is to express your own taste. Make your home a reflection of your personality and the way you like to live. The result will be pleasing to the eye and fulfilling for your soul. Read on for 27 more frugal home decorating tips. When it's time to buy supplies, remember to check back here for home decor free shipping codes.

1. Use a Utilitarian Approach
Make the useful decorative and the decorative useful. By combining function and aesthetics, you won't need to buy as much and can save on space.

woman washing a wall

2. Wash Your Backdrops
Background colors become dull and lifeless from dirt and age. Brighten walls and window covers with a good cleaning: A quick swab may reveal a dinginess you never realized was there. Wash all the light bulbs and fixtures while you're at it to maximize light and energy efficiency.

3. Hide Ugly Woodwork and Windows
Disguise unattractive windows and beat-up woodwork by painting it the same color as the wall and choosing a window fabric of the same color. Use an enamel paint (latex or oil based) for easy cleaning.

window filled with plants

4. Fill a Window With Plants
Your view will be partially blocked from public viewing, but light can still enter the room. Can't put up shelves? Try hanging plants from the ceiling at a variety of lengths.

5. Cover Windows Cheaply
You don't have to spend a fortunate on window treatments. Colored or patterned sheets are inexpensive and give you lots of fabric with which to work. Just don't hang the sheets as-is or your house will look like a dorm room. (Window Film and More offers a clever alteranative to standard window treatments.)

6. Update Blinds
Paint blinds an updated color, as in the above photo. To add an extra touch, paint a design on the blind that appears when closed. A large stencil can help with this project, if you're not of an artistic bent.
7. Enlarge Small Windows
Make windows appear larger by extending the curtains beyond the window area. It's surprising how easy it is to fool the eye with this trick. You can also hang curtains to create a window where there isn't one, giving a small room a bigger feel.

homemade lampshade

8. Pep Up Lampshades
Are ordinary shades too plain for your unusual lighting fixtures? Stencil on a design or cover them with fabric. You can make your own shades using fabrics that coordinate with the room. I once used an old shade frame and Mardi Gras beads to make a colorful and playful lamp shade.

9. Scatter Rug Remnants
Wall-to-wall rugs are expensive to buy, install and maintain. Many carpet stores, however, sell room-sized remnants at a reasonable price. Such pieces are easy to rotate for more even wear and can be taken with you when you move.

10. Renovate a Concrete Floor
You may live in a basement but it doesn't have to look like one. Stencil a design or paint a concrete floor an attractive color. A girlfriend once used stain to make her concrete floor look like marble stones.

11. Paint Just Part of a Wall
Haven't collected enough artwork to cover your walls yet? Paint a design on a wall, once you have your landlord's permission, that is.

cabinet door being repainted

12. Repaint Cabinets
Metal and wood kitchen cabinets can quickly become outdated and look shabby. Painting them the latest color can brighten your kitchen and give it a fresh look. Remember to sand and prep before you paint, however, or you'll end up with lots of chips.

13. Make Your Own "Cupboards"
Kitchen lacking in storage space? Build shelves and cover the front with roller matchstick shades. Open kitchen shelves also are quite popular. I'm presently using open cube units to store dishes and pans in my kitchen, which allows me to show off my pretty china while expanding mobile storage space.

14. Decorate With Kitchenware
Install a pegboard and hang your pots, pans and utensils from it. They add interest to the room and make cooking easier. Intersperse the kitchenware with dried flowers or other non-kitchen items for added eye appeal.

15. Expand Filing Cabinet Usage
Filing cabinets provide an abundance of storage and can be used in a variety of ways. Use new pieces or buy used ones at office supply stores. Cover them with fabric, wallpaper or a coat of paint to make them more attractive. I've made two file cabinets perform double duty by placing a cutely painted piece of wood across them to form a rustic desk.

President Obama moving a couch in the Oval Office

16. Rearrange the Furniture
A new furniture arrangement can do a lot for a room. Rather than lining up all your furniture against walls, place some pieces out toward the center of the room or at angles. Try not to make a television the obvious focal point of your living room and you'll find the space opens up.

17. Restore Your Present Furniture
This can include anything from adding new hardware and creating a slip cover to refinishing or painting battered wood.

18. Creatively Divide Rooms
Louvered doors or screens connected by hinges make creative room dividers. I once hung mismatched junk-yard windows from the ceiling to create a transparent divider that defined a living room from dining space.

19. Repurpose Old Trunks
Turn a second-hand trunk into a seat by adding a cushion. Place a weathered piece of wood or piece of glass on top to make a coffee table. Use a trunk as-is for an end table, shelf or coffee table.

wrought-iron gate headboard

20. Recreate Your Headboard
Use wood remnants to form a picket-fence look. An old wrought-iron gate gives a bed that classic touch. Paint a headboard on the wall or hang an attractive piece of fabric. Check out More Headboards for some creative ideas.

21. Trash Your Bedroom
Make a bedside table from a trash can, box or packing barrel topped with a circular piece of wood. Cover with a floor-length tablecloth.

22. Repurpose School Lockers
Hit a local surplus auction for old school lockers. Paint them and use for a unique storage space. (My boss did this in our office and they look really clever.)
23. Decorate Walls With Discards
Make a simple wall hanging from a drapery sample, dish towel or small rug and hang from
a pair of rods. I use the printed front of an old rice bag as a wall hanging to display and store my pin accessories.

dried-flower arrangement with mandolin

24. Don't Toss Old Flowers
Encourage gifts of flowers and hang them to dry before the bloom is off the rose. You might also try growing lavender, straw flowers or other easily dried plants for indoor use. Also try using some interesting weeds from the countryside.

25. Give Rooms a Well-Read Look
Books needn't be bunched together on a bookshelf. Create small groupings for added color, texture and design. Discarded books (particularly encyclopedias) also make good bases for tables and beds, but make sure you first tightly glue them together.

26. Bring Mother Nature Indoors
Try an interesting branch hung behind the sofa, dried grasses in an old pot, a stack of pinecones on a shelf, or river stones used as paperweights. I once painted colorful rings around tall, stripped branches in the same colors as a garage sale vase to fill an empty corner.

27. Wallpaper With Magazines or Old Books
Provide bathroom visitors with ready reading material by securing old magazines, children's books or rescued encyclopedia pages to the wall with wallpaper paste. You can cover the entire space or just spot the pages around the walls. (Friends still talk about my bathroom covered with pages from 1960s magazines.)

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