I love my Pottery Barn catalog. But I don’t love their prices. Does that mean I need to lower my standards? Absolutely not! Many popular home decorating trends can be yours without dropping a huge sum of money every time.
My favorite thing to do with the catalog is to look at the style they’ve created and decide what similar objects could be used in place of the expensive “antiques.” It’s the best way to combine frugality and fashionable trends by simply being creative. You don’t need to sacrifice aesthetics in order to save money.
Here are my 5 favorite ideas:
1. Displaying photos on a free standing shelf
Instead of investing in some absurdly expensive piece of art, a popular style of displaying photos is to put them on a wall-mounted shelf and mix in other attractive objects. I love this style because you can mix it up all the time, and add and move items as you wish. At the same time, you don’t need to spend a lot – you can either get a lot of different frames at garage sales or thrift shops, or buy a number of cheap black frames at Target or Wal-Mart. And often, if you have several framed pictures tastefully placed among each other, the overall effect will be better than just that one picture you were dying to have that would have cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars. As far as what to fill the frames with, you can use pictures you already have, or even clip out some pretty pictures from magazines and frame them. I have several framed art postcards from IKEA, and you can usually get some at art museums. For the shelves, you can get them for very reasonable prices at Lowe’s or Home Depot, or you can just use the top of a low bookcase.
2. Decorative filled jars
Why do the Pottery Barn stylists think these jars look good? Because they’re filled with items that are of similar size and color, not because they’re filled with $20 of rocks. You can achieve the same effect with a glass jar or bowl filled with 90% off Christmas ornament balls or silk flower heads. And if the items are exactly the same color, you can also vary the size and end up with a slightly different, but equally neat effect. You can even use some rocks you pick up from the beach.
3. “Found” objects
My grandparents probably would have thought decorating with “found objects” was a sign of mental illness, but antiques from everyday life such as this vintage fruit-drying tray are gaining new life as a way to add a little history to your home. If you’re looking for history and can’t find it in your attic and think it’ll cost a fortune, you can find them at affordable prices at flea markets everywhere – you just have to know how to repurpose it. Instead of thinking, “I need a small tray,” try to look instead for the shape of the object – a large cigar box would probably fill the same niche and add some interest at the same time.
4. Brightly colored or patterned pillows
Pillows in a contrasting color are a cheap way to add a new color to your room, and enhance your sofa or chairs as focal points. If you’re not sure what to get, here’s a guideline – if you have a solid-colored couch, get patterned pillows, and for a patterned couch, get solid-colored pillows. Make sure that the colors go with the colors in your furniture. You can also coordinate prints with solids, choosing a solid color that is present in the print to keep the theme together. There’s no reason to pay $50 for a pillow, though – World Market is a great place to get unusual patterns and bright colors for less. And if you are even the least bit capable when it comes to using a sewing machine, it’s amazingly easy to sew some patterns into a pillow cover and it usually only takes a yard or two of fabric. For more mileage, hit up the fabric store’s remnant section and pick a matching print and solid for a double-sided statement.
5. Large art pieces
Why are large pictures that are otherwise identical to their smaller counterparts often five times as expensive? Are they more soothing? Are they more tasteful? No. Bigger is not always better. Don’t try to impress your guests with size, but rather with taste and quality. Often, a more original presentation will impress your friends more than a giant, framed picture that you probably had to spend a fortune on.
If you’re scared to frame your own stuff, poster sites like allposters.com and art.com also offer framing services. You can get a significant discount on beautiful art by buying prints and posters and having them professionally framed through the site. For smaller prints, frame them yourself with a trip to the craft store. Art is an inexpensive and colorful way to add personality and interest to your surroundings, and there’s no reason to spend a fortune. You can also pick up items to turn into art at antique stores – I bought an adorable framed picture of violets sitting in my bathroom that once sat as a plate in an antique store. Also, old magazines are a great source of kitschy advertisements and long-ago glamor that you can frame. And, at such low prices, why not switch out the frame contents now and then to update the look?
Bonus frugality: Pottery Barn also has a partnership with Benjamin Moore for inexpensive, specialty paints in stylist-approved colors. The colors are very nice, and having a set of pre-selected colors helps you avoid the painful process of trying to select between sixteen shades of apricot at the home store. Painting a room is the easiest way to make a really big change, and it just takes a day and some supplies. A $34 gallon of paint can have a huge effect on the room and give it a whole new feeling – you’ll get a lot farther adding a sense of warmth or serenity when you use the walls as a way to decorate, and not just the furniture or accessories.
Readers, what’s your favorite style tip? How do you keep your house looking chic and stylish on a budget?
(photo credit: dichohecho)