Problem: “My battered old couch was a gift from grandma but it’s time for a change. How to take the financial ouch out of buying a new couch?"
Solution: Jean Nayar, author of Money-Wise Makeovers, says there's really no need to buy a couch when you can transform your old piece with a slipcover. She recommends slipcovers from SureFit that fit almost any couch. Try her cute do-it-yourself idea: Use upholstery tacks or pin the slipcover onto your couch, then cover the pins with ribbons to create a more tailored fit. Another option is to have your couch reupholstered. 'Find a second-hand or vintage sofa from a thrift store and then have it reupholstered in a fabric you love,' says Lauren Liess, an interior designer, and founder of the Pure Style Home blog, 'This is a great way to get a high-end custom piece while paying mid-range prices.'
If your couch is so ugly that even a new cover won't give it a facelift, Liess and Nayar recommend Designer Sofas Direct and Broyhill Furniture for affordable couches. "A newer company called LoveSac just came out with affordable modular furniture that you can reconfigure in dozens of ways and build into new shapes over time," says Nayar.
Problem: "I’m in the market for a new bed. How can I get a quality mattress for less?"
Solution: You can have a comfortable and luxurious bed, without emptying your checking account. Don't wait for Black Friday or year end sales to buy a discount mattress. "Now, many stores have year-round sales,' says Lauri Ward, author of Use What You Have Decorating. 'Sign up for Google Alerts to keep you informed of any luxury brands that are having online markdowns. Several less expensive, less thick, memory foam mattresses like Nature's Sleep have also come on the market. These cost approximately one-third to half of what the well-known brand costs."
"If you can’t afford a new mattress, an alternative is to purchase a quality topper to place over your existing mattress," says Nayar. "They come in varying thicknesses, and are made from everything from down to memory foam to eco-friendly Talalay foam and they are much more affordable than an entire mattress."
Problem: "My bare walls are depressing. How do I decorate with affordable art that doesn’t make my house look like a dorm?"
Solution: Here’s an inexpensive and awesome idea from Ward: "Start by purchasing 4, 6, 8 or 9 low-cost black wood or metal frames. Then, buy an old art book (you can find one on sale, or use your own black and white photography). Select one subject, i.e. all flowers, all landscapes, all animals, and frame the pictures. Now group them, in even rows - 3 rows of 3 or 2 rows of 4 - hanging each one 1 1/2" apart."
Wallpaper prints, too, are a goldmine for classy wall art. "A lot of wallpaper is so beautiful it can be framed and hung like a work of art,' Nayar says. 'I’ve seen long swaths of wallpaper framed in large frames and hung like murals to frame a door."
Heidi Smith, founder of the Budget Wise Home blog, suggests trying an online site like VintagePrintable.com, that lets you download and print artwork for free.
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Problem: "Help! I can’t afford custom drapes and the ready-made ones are always either the wrong color or fabric."
Solution: "For a classic yet inexpensive window treatment, stick with plain, sheer curtain panels in ecru or white," says Ward. "These ready-made or even custom panels can work with any style interior and provide an elegant, soft look that will provide privacy when needed and also allow light in when pushed to the side. Select the best hardware you can afford for an upscale look: get poles and rings that will coordinate with other metals in the room."
Nayar recommends that you give ready-mades a custom touch by adding a border panel at the bottom with a custom fabric. "Look for remnants at your local fabric store. Online fabric sources like DenverFabrics.com regularly offer sales. Other sources for great affordable fabrics are Westminsterfabrics.com and Freespiritfabric.com," says Nayar.
Problem: “My bathroom could use a new coat of paint, but I’m short on cash. Where can I find bargain paint?”
Solution: Visit the 'oops paint' section at Home Depot (and other stores, like Lowes), where they keep high quality paint that either came out mistinted, or has been returned by people who changed their mind. You can get a quart for the bargain price of $5, or a gallon for $10, instead of paying $20 for the same one new. “You can easily mix 'oops' paint colors to create your own custom color,” says Lindsay Ballard, founder of the Living With Lindsay blog. For instance, she picked up a $5 can of yellow 'oops' paint at Home Depot and mixed it with some leftover white paint she already had. The result was a creamy white that looked fantastic on her rehabed coffee table.
Nayar recommends second-use building supply stores such as Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores or Housing Works for discounted recycled paint. Finally, if you're not picky about color, try Diggerslist.com, Craigslist.org, and Freecycle.com to score other people's surplus paint at cheap prices.
Problem: “I’m remodeling my kitchen but I can’t afford pricey cabinets and countertops. How do I get that state-of-the-art look without breaking the bank?”
Solution: This sounds obvious, but make a trip to Ikea. "Ikea has fabulous cabinets at the most reasonable prices—I’ve seen beautiful high-end kitchens in magazines like Elle Décor that include Ikea cabinets,' Nayar says. 'Another option is to use open shelves instead of overhead cabinets. Or you can paint your existing cabinets or simply change the doors and keep the cabinet boxes for an affordable upgrade.'
Ward tells her clients to opt for natural stone and stainless steel countertops. Although they're a lot more costly than laminates, they look stylish and are easiest to clean. "If these two are out of your price range, consider a mid-range option such as Corian, Silestone or Caesarstone that comes in a wide range of stylish colors and are very durable," she says.
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Problem: “I’m dying to splurge on a luxe chandelier for our dining room, but I don’t have a thousand dollars to spend. What’s a good alternative?”
Solution: Emily Chalmers Caravan, author of Flea Market Style, offers this decorating trick to get a great chandelier at half the price: 'Find a good second hand chandelier frame then you can always pick up a cheaper one just for droplets and carefully mix and match onto the working frame.' If you're not a DIY expert, you can buy affordable lighting online. Leiss suggests websites such as bellacor.com and candelabra.com.
As tempting as a chandelier might sound, Ward tells her clients to spend their money on more sensible lighting. "To make any room look loftier, stick with lighting options that hug the ceiling,' Ward says. "Track lighting is a terrific choice because the fixtures are tiny and they make spaces feel more open; they can be easily adjusted so they illuminate the dining table as well as artwork; and they can be moved to your next home and reused."
Problem: "I spotted an expensive antique rug at the market and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Where do I find unique rugs?"
Solution: "Two of my favorite sources for fun affordable rugs are Dash & Albert and Company C," Nayar says. Ward recommends you look on eBay. "eBay auctions one-of-a-kind antique and semi-antique rugs at reasonable prices from well-rated sellers, throughout the year,' she says. She also adds, 'If you’d like a new rug to be a particular size you haven’t been able to find, check out the wall-to-wall patterned broadloom at your local carpet stores. You can have a rug cut to order and even bound with a decorative border that coordinates with your décor, to give your home a distinctive, one-of-a-kind piece,".
Jean Nayar is the author of Money-Wise Makeovers: Modest Remodels and Affordable Room Redos. Visit her blog at The Happy Home Workshop.
Lauri Ward is the author of Use What You Have Decorating. Visit her blog at Redecorate.
Lauren Liess is an interior designer. Visit her blog at Pure Style Home.
Heidi Smith is a budget decorating expert. Visit her blog at Budget Wise Home.
Lindsay Ballard is a decorating expert. Visit her blog at Living With Lindsay.
Emily Chalmers Caravan is the author of Flea Market Style. Visit her online shop at Caravan.
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