Before you hit the stores, peruse the underused furnishings arranged throughout your home and that are stored in attics, garages, and cabinets. That forgotten console could make a nice dressing table; a cushy but worn club chair and vintage standing lamp could create a bedroom reading corner; concrete garden tables come inside as nifty nightstands; and accessories of all sorts -- such as living room lamps and ancestral portraits -- enliven tabletops, shelves, and walls.
Apply your imagination and a little elbow grease to create customized furnishings on the cheap. Use glossy paint finishes to give tired bedsteads, nightstands, and footboard benches a lively lift. Dress up plain Jane lamp shades with stenciled motifs or complementary fabric remnants held in place with spray adhesive. Gather like-size and similar colored frames (or coordinate the mismatched with quickly applied coats of paint) and use them to showcase inspirational images and sentimental missives.
As the largest piece in the room, a bed deserves to take center stage. Turn a simple bed frame into a fabulous focal point by crafting headboards from salvaged shutters, picket fencing, or French doors. Transform a nondescript headboard with a slipcover stitched from a vivacious fabric pattern. No headboard? Cut a piece of MDF (multi-density fiberboard) to the desired size, cover it with batting and a plush fabric, detail it with nail-head trim, and hang it behind the bed. Or, simply paint or stencil a headboard shape on the wall.
Blank walls make for cold and unwelcoming spaces. Happily, you can easily and inexpensively add warming layers of color and pattern. Suspend a collection of vivid dishes that match your aesthetic; group thrift store artworks that share a theme or color scheme; display colorful quilts and blankets on wall racks; and bring in tall bookcases to fill corners and add bedroom storage.
Reasonably priced high-design bedroom amenities and essentials can be had for a song when you take time to comparison shop. National chains that offer brand names for less, discount stores, and big-box home centers provide bedroom furnishings, lighting, mirrors, and textiles that work in bedrooms great and small. For the best deals, shop clearance aisles and closeout bins first.
Once you've determined the bedroom's color scheme, keep your eye out for patterned pillows, art, and area rugs that encompass your preferred palette. Starting with neutral walls and bed dressings opens up your embellishing options, which in turn makes it easier to flush out any bedroom design with bargain-priced accents.
You'll save money and optimize available space when you use style-apt pieces that satisfy multiple functions. Look for bedsteads equipped with bookcase headboards and underbed storage drawers or trundle beds; buy cedar chests, ottomans, or vintage trunks that provide storage and seating; use nightstands equipped with drawers and/or cabinets; and move in cupboards or armoires that provide extra linen storage while doubling as media centers.
When money's short, it's time to come up with clever no-cost solutions. Stack big coffee-table books or old suitcases as noteworthy bedside tables; bring in birch-bark branches or beach-combed treasures to create displays; stitch pillow covers from fabric remnants, table linens, throws, and tea towels; and hang your kids' finger paintings as changeable art exhibits.