Decorate Your Home on a Budget

Updated on May 22, 2016

Ideas for Cheap Home Interior Decoration

Decorating your own home can seem a daunting project, particularly if there are constraints on your budget. Here are some inexpensive and original ideas on how to make your house a beautiful home, based on my own experience with our first home in a terraced house in South Wales. We had plenty of time to think about decoration while we did all the essential work necessary to renovate an old house: installing new floors, central heating, and electrics, and stripping layers of wallpaper. Some of the methods used are described in more detail here.

Photograph by Helen Lush
Photograph by Helen Lush
Living room with painted panelling and exposed brickwork.
Living room with painted panelling and exposed brickwork.

Nine Home Decorating Ideas

  • Use aerosol “spray etch” on glass door panels and mirrors to recreate expensive etched glass effects.

  • Buy a few metres of good fabric and create cushion covers, or trims and panels for existing cushions, matching pelmets and curtain ties to give a feeling of harmony.

  • Strip off old paint and varnish from floors, doors, old furniture and original fittings and fireplaces to reveal their natural beauty, then use wax, oil, natural varnish or repaint as preferred.

  • Make elegant wall panelling out of MDF then finish with eggshell or satin paint.

  • Make your own stencils and add subtle borders to walls with lettering or pattern – avoiding the more 1980s effects!

  • Paint your stairs rather than carpet them.

  • Follow a design theme – use an existing feature such as Victorian tiling and repeat the design on walls, glass etc.

  • Use a favourite painting as a source for your colour palette for paint and fabrics.

  • Transform an ordinary glazed door with stained glass – using recycled panels or commissioning a stained glass artist.

Living room with spray-etched door panels through to kitchen.
Living room with spray-etched door panels through to kitchen.
Paint and fabric samples
Paint and fabric samples

The Living Room

As an artist I am interested in how spaces work to create a flow around a room, with features giving interest at varying levels. Proportion is important and architects and mathematicians have for many centuries recognised the Golden Mean (which is a ratio of 1 to 1.618) as an aid to achieving aesthetically pleasing proportions. It can also be useful when applied to interiors. Here, the room is roughly divided into three sections.



  • At ceiling height an original fitted shelving unit was stripped of paint and is used as a bookcase. Another focal point is created by an unusual pelmet and the use of lettering around the wall – in this case a favourite poem by W B Yeats.

  • The chimney breast was stripped of plaster to reveal the bricks beneath and a mantelpiece added at two thirds height, creating another level.

  • Up to dado level, following the height of the windowsill, we constructed panelling out of MDF and painted it with duck-egg blue eggshell paint. The panelling continues through into the kitchen to give a feeling of continuity. Paintings and prints create interest at each level.

Source
Spray etched door glass.  Photograph by author
Spray etched door glass. Photograph by author

Spray-Etching Glass

A glazed door will allow light through and can be decorated with “etched” patterns and calligraphy. This creates lovely light effects with the etching reflected onto walls. This was achieved by drawing the lettering onto a sheet of clear acetate, then “cutting” out the letters or shapes using a soldering iron with a fine point. Alternatively use a craft knife. The letters are taped or glued onto the glass using masking tape or spray mount as these should not leave a mark on the glass The spray etch is then applied in a few layers, allowing each layer to dry before applying another. When an even, frosted effect is reached just peel off the acetate letters.

Spray etched glass on bedroom mirror
Spray etched glass on bedroom mirror

Bedroom Decoration

Spray etch has been used again in the bedroom, applied around a mirror simply made from a framed piece of mirrored glass. Mirrors are extremely useful for throwing light around a room and giving a feeling of more space. As in the living room paintings and prints are used at different heights to break up space and lead the eye around the room. Here, simple plain curtains are perked up with decorative curtain pole reflecting the dark wood of the picture rail and furniture. The walls have been painted blue - a calm restful colour for a bedroom.

Bathroom with artwork by author and ceramicist Lisa Main..
Bathroom with artwork by author and ceramicist Lisa Main..
Painted stairs take design from original floor tiles.
Painted stairs take design from original floor tiles.

Following a Design Theme

If you are decorating an old house with some original features, think about taking design inspiration from features such as Victorian floor or fireplace tiles, then using this motif in stencilled borders, etched glass, or painted floors.

Here the pattern of the Victorian floor tiles has been used to decorate a painted staircase as well as a narrow border around the top of the walls.

Each of the rooms has its own distinct character which is all pulled together by using cream walls throughout and allowing features such as the panelling in the living room, calligraphy and stencilling to connect rooms and create a flow.

Duck-egg blue panelling and woodwork follows through to kitchen.
Duck-egg blue panelling and woodwork follows through to kitchen.
Stained glass in front door lights up the hallway.
Stained glass in front door lights up the hallway.

Stained Glass

Transform a plain glazed front door by fitting panels of stained glass. These could be recycled from a reclamation yard or made by a stained glass artist. These panels were inspired by other original stained glass doors in the area and made by Cardiff glass artist, Ruth Shelley (link below).

Stained glass adds another dimension to a room, throwing gorgeous patterns of light onto walls and floors, giving a feeling of warmth and vibrancy.

Summary

Inspiration for home decoration can be found in so many places - books and magazines, art galleries, gardens, other people's houses! A colour palette can be lifted from a well-loved painting or reflect a favourite combination of flowers. Adding personal details such as the calligraphy gives warmth and meaning to the home. I believe houses are not just bricks and mortar, they absorb the lives lived in them and reflect their owners personality. You can have a lot of fun too expressing yourself through your home's appearance!

Photograph by Helen Lush
Photograph by Helen Lush

Questions & Answers

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      • DaffodilSky profile image
        Author

        Helen Lush 4 years ago from Cardiff, Wales, UK

        Thank you FlourishAnyway. I like your idea for another interior design hub and will give it some thought. I am very interested in coordinating colour and texture and it would be fun to elaborate on it... :)

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

        The stained glass is so beautiful, and I just love what you've done with the etching. You have such a keen eye. Perhaps consider writing a hub on how to pick out coordinating colors and textures for your interior living space, carrying them throughout your house. What an artist you are! Voted up and more.

      • DaffodilSky profile image
        Author

        Helen Lush 5 years ago from Cardiff, Wales, UK

        Hi Kathryn - you probably know more about etching than me then! I will be describing how anyone can get an etched effect on glass with spray-etch, in the way I did with my door panels in the article - cheating I know but wonderfully accessible to anyone!

      • Kathryn Stratford profile image

        Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

        I look forward to that. I have seen etching done before, and it is a cool detail!

      • DaffodilSky profile image
        Author

        Helen Lush 5 years ago from Cardiff, Wales, UK

        Thanks Kathryn - I appreciate your comments. I'm planning another hub expanding on the etching theme soon....:-)

      • Kathryn Stratford profile image

        Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

        I really like your tips, and that you used photos of well put-together rooms to illustrate your points. Very pretty. I always enjoy looking at design magazines, and watching design shows, so this is my kind of article to read!

      • DaffodilSky profile image
        Author

        Helen Lush 5 years ago from Cardiff, Wales, UK

        Thanks purl3agony - it took a while but we got there in the end! The decorating stage was great fun..

      • purl3agony profile image

        Donna Herron 5 years ago from USA

        These are some wonderful ideas and I love the results! Thanks for sharing with us :)

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