Savvy Decor and Design Ideas Under $50

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

Garden Fresh

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 hosta and fern, create laid-back elegance.

-- Lauren Liess, designer and blogger,

Frame Something Fun

Art isn't limited to works on paper. Frame fun textiles for a unique take on wall decor. Here, a grain sack purchased on vacation adds a graphic punch to the dining room wall.

Splendid Stencils

Use a stencil to add interest to a blank wall. A quatrefoil-inspired stencil transforms this living room wall into a focal point. Stencils can also be used to spruce up plain throw pillows, coffee tables, and other flat surfaces.


Turn off-the-rack window sheers into custom creations. This budget-friendly method will bring an extra dose of style to your windows - no sewing required.

Custom Window Treatments for Less

If affordable off-the-rack curtains are too short, lengthen them with a fabric remnant. Here's how -- no sewing required!


Simple Embellishment

Transform plain-Jane chairs with a luxe-level embellishment: nailhead trim. 

Go to the next slide to see how it's done.



Dress up a plain piece of upholstered furniture with nailhead trim. Use these tips to help you achieve embellishment success.

DIY Nailhead Trim

Adding nailhead trim is quick, and you only need a few supplies. Watch and learn the tricks to doing it right.

Corner Detail

Use brass corners and flat brackets to dress up a plain coffee table. Look for them in the hardware aisle.


Lampshade Update

Use embroidery floss to embellish a plain lampshade. To create this look, make long stitches for the vertical lines on the shade. Add V shapes in two colors and hash marks underneath.

Headboard Refresh

Revive a tired headboard with a length of fabric. Simply cut the fabric to size, hem, and drape over the headboard for an extra pop of pattern and color in your bedroom decor.

Sparkle and Shine

Add a little shimmer to an existing ensemble of pillows with a metallic accent pillow or two.

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, interior designer and Better Homes and Gardens makeover maven,

That's a Wrap

Embellish a plain glass vase with rope. Simply coil rope around the vase and secure it in place with glue.

Give It the Slip

Don't spend money on an expensive new ottoman. Instead, give an old one new life with a simple slipcover. Most slipcovers are machine-washable, and they can be easily switched out as decorating tastes change. Topped with a wooden tray, this ottoman doubles as a coffee table.

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

Go to the next slide for our coffee table styling tricks.

Add style to your coffee table with a just-right arrangement. With a mix of accessories, books, and flowers, and our favorite arranging tips, you can create a magazine-worthy tablescape.

Coffee Table Styling 101

Watch and see how easy it is to style a magazine-worthy coffee table.

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, 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,

Go Bright

Grab a quart of paint in a color you'd never dream of putting on your walls and paint just the back of a bookcase. The pop of color will do wonders for any room.

Cut to Size

Have a dining table, but need a coffee table? Cut the legs down to the right height and your living room has a brand new piece of furniture.

Bench Update

Soften a bench with a blanket and some belts and get a completely different piece of furniture. Fold the blanket so it is the width of the seat. Drape over the bench and cinch in place with belts. Place the belts wide enough apart so that nobody has to sit on a belt.

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, freelance style director,

Frame (Almost) Anything

Virtually any small trinket or memento can become wall art. Simply remove the glass from a picture frame, mount the object on matte board, and hang up. 


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, interior and fashion stylist,

Dazzling Dresser

Staring at a dull dresser? Banish the boring with simple install overlays, which come in a variety of shapes and designs. Look for ones that can be painted so you can customize your look even more. 

Refresh Your Furniture

A matching bedroom ensemble can be boring, but it's usually a 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-base white paint. I changed the look of the nightstands, too, with clearance knobs.

-- Julie Holloway, designer,

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 yourself on 8.5x11 paper and frame them in a group.

-- Lauren Liess

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 spin-offs; they may not be the real deal, but they'll still have more character than a dime-a-dozen pillow.

-- Janna Lufkin, stylist and organizing expert,

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

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 crafts 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).

-- Jenny Komenda

Stylish Staircase

Staircases are often looked upon as mere passageways between areas within the house. Give your stairs an instant and inexpensive style update with a few coats of fresh paint. A stripe of pale blue paint down the center of these steps gives the look of a stair runner but costs significantly less money.

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 a white decal on a colored wall or a colored decal on a white wall for extra pop!

-- Marcus Hay

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: shades in solid colors or patterns -- not white -- that complement the room's color scheme. Tip: A lampshade should be about 3/4 as tall as the lamp base. You can replace the harp (the curved metal piece that holds the shade) to get the exact height you want; find new harps at big-box hardware stores.

-- Elaine Griffin

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 where you want it before planting because it will get heavy. Bamboo and succulents are perfect choices for a galvanized tub.

-- Kelly Moseley

Making Memories

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

-- Marcus Hay

Pretty Pillows

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

-- Kelly Moseley

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

Chalk It Up

Personalized drawers and cubbies make organizing easy for every member of the family. Outfit your storage solutions with do-it-yourself chalkboard labels, and allow your little ones to express their creativity freely. The hand-drawn names and illustrations function as playful works of art.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uniform Style

Disparate frames make a mantel or display look junky and lacking of 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,

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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