Savvy Decor and Design Ideas Under $50

Achieve fresh style on a budget with these use-anywhere design ideas that are versatile and easy to do.

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Coffee Table Chic
Coffee Table Chic

    Here are my go-to items for styling a coffee table: a stack of two to four coffee table books, a decorative box (or a smaller pair of boxes, stacked), a decorative object such as a shell or Moroccan star, and a tray. Any three of the four look great (bigger tables can handle more stuff). Add a small bouquet of flowers for extra credit. Voila! Instant chic!

    -- Elaine Griffin, interior designer and Better Homes and Gardens makeover maven,

Pretty Work Space

    Whether your desk is in the living room or a home office, ban the banal! Even the most utilitarian desktop necessities should add to your space's glamour. Shop discount stores for colored juice glasses to use as pencil cups, contain small supplies such as a stapler and paper clips on a tray on top of a decorative box (turn it upside down), and go for the chicest stacking paper trays you can find.

    -- Elaine Griffin

Lamp Revamp

    Think of a lamp and its shade as separates, just like a blazer and slacks. Change the shade, and you have a whole new look. Trending now: Nonwhite shades in solid colors or patterns that complement the room's color scheme. Tip: A lampshade should be about three-fourths as tall as its lamp. You can switch harps (the curved metal piece that holds the shade) out to get the exact height you want; find new harps at big-box hardware stores.

    -- Elaine Griffin

Tea Time Flowers

    Use teapots and teacups for vases. Put flowers into several and leave them clustered on the table as your centerpiece.

    -- Kelly Moseley, designer,

Outdoor Decor

    Take your decorating outdoors. Spruce up the front step or patio with galvanized tubs turned into sleek gardens. Be sure to drill several holes in the bottom for proper drainage, and place the container before planting because it will get heavy. Bamboo and succulents are perfect choices for a galvanized tub.

    -- Kelly Moseley

A Cozy Spot

    A reading corner or bedside become much more inviting with the soft glow of a lamp. In fact, don't be afraid to put a lamp in unusual places such as the bathroom or kitchen for a fresh look.

    -- Kelly Moseley

Pretty Pillows

    Pillows are an instant way to decorate a room. Take a neutral palette and give it life with colorful fabrics and texture. Use pillows as an opportunity to accentuate a color in room or to introduce a contemporary element to a traditional room. Choose a slightly oversize pillow with a feather-filled insert for a softer, relaxed look.

    -- Kelly Moseley

Shower Refresh

    A new shower curtain is a simple way to update a bathroom, often the most overlooked room when it comes to decorating. A fabric curtain presents a more luxurious look than a plastic one. (Team it with a liner.) Choose colors that complement your towels and other bath linens.

    -- Kelly Moseley

Debut New Hardware

    Freshen kitchen cabinets with new hardware. This is an easy way to give an old kitchen a new look without breaking the bank.

    -- Kelly Moseley

Stick to It

    Wall decals add instant art. Try white on a colored wall, or colored on a white wall for extra pop!

    -- Marcus Hay, freelance style director,

Fresh and Frugal

    Glazed bud vases look most effective with a variety of different blooms, twigs, and leaves. Try grouping them on a tray for an instant centerpiece on a coffee table

    -- Marcus Hay

Statue Panache

    Plaster busts and animal figures add a classic feel, especially if painted in a high-gloss paint. (White is an obvious paint color, but it's also fun to try something unexpected such as sage or black.)

    -- Marcus Hay

Making Memories

    Create personalized art with a shadowbox or "collector's frame." Pin in vintage family photos, memorabilia, pins, ribbons, postcards, etc., to create a "story." Or pick a theme, such as spring garden, first home, or sports moments.

    -- Marcus Hay

Photo Gallery

    Convert photos you want to group on a wall to black-and-white or sepia tone. They'll look more artistic and cohesive

    -- Erin Gates, interiors and fashion stylist,

Bright Lamps

    Give an old lamp new life. Spray-paint the base a bold, glossy color. Buy an inexpensive shade, and trim it out with grosgrain ribbon. The lamp will look 10 times more expensive than it is and be unique to your home.

    -- Erin Gates

DIY Botanical Prints

    Create your own botanical prints by scanning leaves -- ferns are perfect! -- and having them blown up and put into standard-size frames. Or print them out yourself on 8.5x11 paper and frame them in a group.

    -- Lauren Liess, designer and blogger,


    Nothing wakes up a room like accessorizing with fresh greens or flowers. One of my favorite places to "shop" for live arrangements is in my own yard. Simple large leaves such as hostas and ferns create laid-back elegance.

    -- Lauren Liess

Wow with Wallpaper

    Nothing adds dimension and pattern like wallpaper, but even one roll can be pricey. To cut costs, focus your project to the backs of bookshelves and use high-quality gift wrap instead of wallpaper. The paper can be applied just like wallpaper, using wallpaper paste. (If you're noncommittal, I've found that double-stick tape or 3M hanging strips also work wonderfully.) At about $8 per roll, you won't feel guilty about the little spruce-up.

    -- Jenny Komenda, blogger,

Skirted Tables

    Skirted tables are all the rage. They have a timeless quality, especially if tailored and pleated. Pick up an inexpensive decorators table from a craft or discount store (usually for less than $10). Iron your fabric into pleats, then staple the skirt to the top of the table. Sew a hem around the edges of a fabric circle, measured to fit just to the edge of the tabletop. For about $30, a glass shop can cut a piece of glass to fit the top of your table (at least 1/4 inch thick for safety purposes; also have the edges rounded off).

    -- Jenny Komenda

Rustic Appeal

    Hardware and farm/feed stores are my favorite places to shop. Galvanized buckets, bins, and pails make great catchalls for shoes, toys, magazines, and more. Canning jars are pretty little organizers in a bathroom, kitchen, or office -- and they make great vases, too.

    -- Janna Lufkin, stylist and organizing expert,

Order Your Coffee Table

    Coffee tables are truly clutter catchers, but a tray helps restore order -- whether it's corralling something decorative like a few books and a vase of flowers or the TV remote.

    -- Janna Lufkin

Add Character

    Look for things that have character or tell a story. For example, I love pillows made from vintage grain sacks. If the real ones are too expensive, look for spinoffs; they may not be the real deal, but they'll still have more character than a dime-a-dozen pillow.

    -- Janna Lufkin

Pair Decor and Storage

    Decorating and organizing go hand in hand for me. Recently I needed to find something to tidy up little things that always land on the countertop at my back entrance. The solution? A steel bread box! The lesson? Everyday things make great decorative organizers.

    -- Janna Lufkin

On Display

    Look for ways to elevate everyday household items. Dryer sheets, powder detergents, muffin liners, you name it, look so much better "displayed" in clear canisters than in their actual packaging. Muslin pouches can organize small collections.

    -- Janna Lufkin

Chic Soap

    Instead of keeping dish soap and other items in plastic packaging on the countertop, buy a pretty dispenser. A bonus is that you can buy bulk and just keep on refilling.

    -- Gabrielle Blair, blogger,

Uniform Style

    Disparate frames make a mantel or display look junky and lacking a cohesive thought. Unify your picture frames in a themed collection. Scout silver frames whenever you can get your hands on good ones. Bone frames are another favorite for a fresh, less formal look. Even simple white wood frames transform a random photo fest into a gallery of family history.

    -- Liz Levin, designer,

Open Cabinetry for Less

    Love the look of open shelving but not able to rip out cabinets? Remove the doors, then paint or wallpaper the backs of the cabinets with a contrasting color.

    -- Julie Holloway, designer,

Refresh Your Furniture

    A matching bedroom ensemble can be boring, but it's usually the less-expensive route. So go ahead and match, then add your personal touch by painting the bed or one piece of the furniture. I made my matched set seem more my own by painting the bed with a semigloss oil-based white paint. I changed the look of the nightstands, too, with clearance knobs.

    -- Julie Holloway

A Colorful Welcome

    You only live once, so pick a bold door color and paint it with a semigloss or glossy paint. A must in my book: Paint both the front and the back of the door so it?s beautiful on both sides.

    -- Julie Holloway


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