Since quarantine, the following addictions have gotten worse, in no particular order: baking everything with brown butter, watching Tik Tok, and rearranging my house. Typically this wouldn’t be a problem except for the teeny, tiny detail that I completely Jerry Maguire-d my corporate job to become a full-time writer, making about half of my salary. Meaning I was forced out of my favorite pastime — frivolously buying home decor and collecting throw pillows and baskets (so many baskets) — virtually overnight.
And for a time, it was fine. More of the things I already owned were “re-sparking joy”, and what wasn’t, I sold on Craigslist. But for someone whose neuroticism is often taken out on the home’s organization and “vibe,” going three months without a home decor purchase was driving me a bit mad. But rather than rack up consumer debt, I asked myself what my broke, 22-year-old self would have done. And she would have gone to YouTube, watched a DIY video, and in the words of Tim Gunn, make it work.
Unlike some ‘upgrade’ listicles you’ll find, everything listed here is affordable! Even a writer (me!) can afford this. While there is a sliding scale depending on the size of your space and what materials you have readily available, all of these upgrades can be done around the $20 mark.
1. Color-coordinate (Free)
For a quick freebie that instantly lifts any room or closet, try color-coordinating your books, objects, or wardrobe — or all of the above. It applies a sense of intentionality and personal style with very little effort.
If bold ROYGBIV isn’t your thing, consider sticking to cooler tones or warmer tones. Perhaps even staying within one color family. This is a fun, easy, and low-risk way to express your seasonal mood and inspire creativity.
2. Hang. It. Up. (Free)
Most of us have an IKEA shelf or something from Etsy we bought with the intention of hanging up, but for whatever reason, it collects dust in a corner. Personally, I hung up a few cheeseboards that we rarely use and fit the farmhouse aesthetic of our kitchen and two shelves that were sitting in the garage from a move. (One of which I spray-painted, but we’ll get that part later!)
If you’re stumped on where to start, consider hanging up a shelf, tool, artwork, or even an easy DIY project.
Now, most kitchen appliances are going to run you well beyond $20. Instead, here are practical gadgets that can double as decor…
- Skillets, pans, dutch oven
- Coffee maker (I made a coffee station on a wall to save on space and create a design moment!)
Artwork + DIY projects
I did mention YouTube after all…
- DIY Dollar Store Hacks, Lone Fox
- DIY Wall Art Decor Ideas, Lone Fox
- DIY Trendy Mirrors for Under $25, Alexandra Gater
3. Use sample paint. ($3 – $10)
First, all credit must go to the renter home decor queen herself, Alexandra Gater. I’ve been a subscriber for years, and one of the best hacks I’ve learned from her is buying a sample size of paint if you live in a small space and are looking to upgrade one wall or a piece of furniture.
I updated a wall in our kitchen with a pop of sage, and it cost me less than $5! And I still have paint left over after three coats. I’ll likely use the remainder on an older piece of furniture or future DIY projects.
Not sure how to leverage a can of $5? You can consider a statement wall as I did, or update an old piece of furniture, and even create some original artwork.
4. Change the doorknobs. ($3 and up)
Furniture is an investment, so when you buy a dresser, a nightstand, or even a really great lamp, you’re inclined to hold onto it long after the novelty has worn off. And in most cases, you should keep it. But we’re all prone to feeling fatigued with a specific design style and have the urge to chuck and replace it with something more updated. But if it ain’t broke…just upgrade it!
One of the easiest and most affordable ways to help your furniture age gracefully is giving a trendy pop of the doorknobs.
Here is my 2014 bedroom dresser turned 2020 living room armoire with a little doorknob makeover:
In addition to bedroom or living room furniture, I recommend updating your kitchen and bathroom hardware, too!
5. When in doubt, spray it terracotta. ($12)
Again, I must give credit where it is due: Lone Fox. He turned me onto the fact that terracotta could be spray painted. As someone on a budget, this is the ultimate gamechanger. Though you can find incredible terracotta ceramics at every price point, it has been helpful to update once-chic accessories to a terracotta dream. I personally grabbed this can from Amazon to update some shelves and plant pots.
Home decor is fiercely intimate, but self-expression doesn’t have to be reserved for fancy sales or fancy names. The most beautiful design moments can be inspired by imagination and a lack of funds, as I’ve come to learn.
Jazmine Reed-Clark is a true crime and self-improvement junkie working in HR, and a millennial who (finally) knows the difference between a stock and a bond. She thinks.
Image via Pexels