7 Items That Cost Almost Nothing But Make A Home Beautiful

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Well, a full two months into our active apartment search, and we’re calling it off. We’ve been unable to find what we are looking for at our price point, so we’re going to revisit it in six months when we are ready to raise our budget without cutting into what we save each month. It’s a feeling that feels at once great and sucky, because we’re being mature about things, but I had been really looking forward to making that move for some time and getting my hopes up about what our new place could look like. Ah well, life goes on.

In any case, we decided to take the time (and money we’re no longer spending on movers/brokers/etc) to redecorate our whole apartment. We’ve set a budget and have now entered the “buying the big items” portion of everything (as well as the all-important Getting Rid Of All The Crap We Don’t Need/Use portion). The goal is to have it looking incredibly beautiful, simple, and wonderful by the time his parents come to visit (their first time in America!), and while there will be many before & after/DIY posts to come, for now I am just starting to look around at decor options.

Obviously a lot of my decor will come from thrift stores and the like, as it’s by far the best ratio of “not expensive” to “no one else has it,” and I hope to pick up many great things there once my furniture has arrived. But for now, I’ve just started exploring online for ways to touch up and transform the basics I’m getting. Here, seven cheap-yet-wonderful decor touches I’ve found that everyone should consider:

Mirrored Trays

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Mirrored trays (and honestly, in many cases, you can just use small mirrors that you get at IKEA for literally a couple dollars) are amazing for making your weird clusters of things look intentional and beautiful. No longer do you just have a bunch of nail polishes, then a few candles, then your “everyday makeup” area. You now have deliberate collection of different products which capture the light (go mirrors!) and are wonderfully separated. Add a tea candle or small flower in a tiny glass to each one and you are basically the budget Lisa Vanderpump.

Amazon, $19

Unique String Lights

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Sometimes, the plain string lights can look a little “college dorm room,” or “I still haven’t taken these down since Christmas,” which is probably not the desired effect. But more original styles of string light, like these with soft, round bulbs, look way more deliberate and decorative. They make a room feel whimsical and sweet without looking totally immature, and can be moved easily on a whim for a totally different look. (String lights can be equally beautiful in a bedroom and a kitchen, and it’s nice to be able to change your mind halfway through the year.)

Etsy, $17

Design-y Coasters

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Not only can you use them for a wide variety of things besides “putting a cup on them,” they are also great as wall decor. And any workspace is taken to the next level by a simple white mug resting on a colorful, charming ceramic coaster. It’s by far the cutest way to have your morning coffee.

Etsy, $17

(Good) Fake Flowers

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There is a weird misconception among some people (including, formally, me) that fake flowers are always shitty, and real flowers are always the best choice. And while I still spring for the real thing for special occasions/dinners, there is a big difference between gross, dusty fake flowers your grandmother used to keep, and the beautiful ones you can find now. There are tons of handmade flowers out there that look a) close to the real thing and b) joyously beautiful, without having to be replaced every five days at least. If you’re not trying to put a significant “fresh flowers” section in your budget, but love the look, these are an awesome choice.

Amazon, $15

Decorative Drawer Knobs

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Pretty much the secret formula of Life Well Lived is a basic IKEA dresser with adorable knobs and maybe a few other minor changes/dashes of paint. You get all the cost-effectiveness and reliability of IKEA without getting that “I know you got that from IKEA” glance from everyone who walks in the room. It’s perfect!

Hobby Lobby, $3.49

A Chalkboard

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Chalkboards really hit that perfect home decor trifecta: They’re attractive and chic, they serve an actual purpose, and they take up a bunch of space on your wall that you then don’t have to worry about decorating. Put one in your bedroom and one in your kitchen, and you will never again forget things while running to the store. (Or, almost never.)

Lions Deal, $41

Candlesticks

blomster-candlestick-set-of-__0122686_PE228782_S4 By far the cheapest and most effective way to add some #drama to your decor, long crystal candlesticks take any room from Brandi Glanville to Lisa Vanderpump in mere seconds (and dollars). They are gorgeous in bedrooms, dining rooms, or even — if you have the square footage for it — your little vanity area. Treat yo self and get some candlesticks with beautiful white (or powder pink/blue) tapered candles. You won’t regret it.

IKEA, $14

Feel like you’ll never save enough money to be a real person? So did Steph Georgopulos. Read about it in Some Things I Did for Money.

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