how to decorate your home on the cheap.

Decorating a home: it is seriously one of only a handful of activities that I can say I truly love.  I also love reading, watching TV with Todd, writing, eating carbs, and... no, that's it.  Just those things.  And if you take decorating off the list, I can skate through my hobbies without spending a ton of money.  But if you add decorating back to the list, it can get pricey quick.

My main goal when I was starting to decorate our first apartment all those many moons ago was to do it on the kind of budget that only allowed $35 a week in groceries.  It seemed a little hopeless at first.  But I started to realize that, if you're willing to hunt around, and wait for The Things to find you, you can end up with a stellar, very personal home for not a ton of money.  So I thought I'd share my favorite places to find antiques, tchotchkes, and rando bits of ephemera that can really make your home your home.

Garage Sales
This is where I usually found myself in those early days, hunting for ten-cent onesies for Atticus and only-slightly-broken laundry drying racks for the cloth diapers (that were also bought at a garage sale).  I also found some crazy deals on pretty stuff for our house.  Antique ball jars and chalkboards, old books, even house plants were scouted out.  And this.  This $7 tufted blue velvet wingback chair is the Crowning Jewel of my garage sale efforts.  (If you see something you love at a garage sale, don't be afraid to haggle, especially if it's a single-family sale.  This puppy was priced at $10, which is still a great deal, but $7 is an even better deal.  Ain't no harm in asking.)

Estate Sales
If the garage sale is the place to find all the stuff someone else thought was worth getting rid of, the estate sale is the place to find all the stuff someone else thought was worth keeping.  These things are goldmines, because the stuff was considered valuable (to someone, at least), but is now being jettisoned, usually for dirt cheap.  Some of my favorite finds have been at estate sales, like this little planter basket inside an antique egg basket.  ($10.50 total for this killer setup.)  I've also found dressers, pretty kitchenware and art.

Gifts and hand-me-downs.
Don't be afraid to accept basically anything solid your family offers you.  It might not be your jam at the time, but eventually you'll probably think of something cute to do with it.  My mother-in-law had a collection of tiny, antique brass bells, which were so lovely, but I wasn't sure what to do with them, so they stayed in storage.  Eventually, it dawned on me to string them together and hang them from our buffalo skull at Christmastime.  But I loved them so much that they never ended up coming down at the end of the season.  They're one of my favorite things in the living room now.  Another piece I just love is a vintage painting of my mom as a toddler.  She had received it from her mom and didn't know what to do with it, so you better believe I scooped that thing up and gave it a place of honor.

And my piano.  Oooh, I love that thing like a human child.  My dad was all, hey I have this free piano sitting in my garage, yawannit?  And I was like, sure thing and I hope it's not ugly.  AND THIS IS WHAT HE BROUGHT ME.  People, please.  I just took the front off of it and it's a showstopper.  Lesson learned: ALWAYS SAY YES TO FREE STUFF.

A photo posted by Todd Van Voorst (@toddhenryvanvoorst) on

It's coming together slowly.

The side of the road.
You might think I'm kidding, but I have found so much awesome stuff in people's trash piles.  An antique headboard.  Beautiful old suitcases.  Vintage tennis racquets.  Old books.  In fact, 75% of the d├ęcor on top of my piano was in some lady's junk pile.  Keep your eyes peeled, son!

Make it to fake it.
If you're at all handy (or, like me, are not at all handy but are well-loved by people who are), why not try making something awesome on the cheap?  We needed a new, bigger table, and I fell in love with one from Crate and Barrel (uh, cha-ching much?).  I sent my sister the link, and for Christmas, she made us this kick-ass, look-alike eight-seater out of an solid wood door and some lumber from Home Depot.  (Pictured here with chairs from - where else? - a garage sale.)

Hunt your own house.
Be willing to work around weird stuff, or move things from place to place.  This bathroom had an uber-weird old toilet, but it ended up being really cool once I upped the drama with a chandelier I moved in from the entryway.  Try to see that 'same old same old' kind of stuff in a new light.

Craigslist and Etsy.
I have to admit, I don't shop these sites often.  Like, hardly ever.  I kind of hate internet shopping.  I often like being able to see and feel what I'm buying for my house before I spend money on it.  But I did find Penelope's beautiful Jenny Lind bed on Craigslist, and a vintage coral wool blanket on Etsy that now lives on one of our living room chairs.  (Pictured below on the chair on the right.)

Bed frame for $50 on Craigslist, dresser for $30 at an estate sale

Flea Markets and Antiques Shows??
I would love to tell you to check stuff like this out.  I'm fascinated with the idea of the flea market, but I'm also a little terrified, so I've never gone.  I've toyed with the idea of telling people that some day I'd like to go to Round Top or Brimfield, because in theory I would.  But I also know myself well enough to know that I'd walk in, spend 30 minutes being totally overstimulated by all the people and the pretty, unique things and the good deals, and then go home to sleep off the excitement of the day.  (That's the same reason I spend very little time hunting through thrift stores.  It's mentally, physically and emotionally too much for me.  I'm really kind of terrible at being a normally-functioning person.)  But I was reading this blog post that mentioned that Walnut, Iowa is also known as Antique City and holds a yearly antiques show, so maybe I'll dip my toes into that scene on a trip home next summer?  And if it goes well, maybe I'll make plans to visit some of the other stops on the list.  (New Orleans?  Charleston?  Twist my arm.)

Do you guys have any places you love to find affordable stuff for your home?

1 comment :

todd said...

I love your decorating style!