Saturday, February 5, 2011

Designing on a Budget

If you know me... (in real life) you know I can surprise you with where I find some of the 'gems' around my house. Most of my unique stuff does come from antique stores, Craigslist, and thrift stores, but the "newer" (trendier) stuff comes from stores that might surprise you... I am a student (on a student budget) after all!

Some of my favorite stuff comes from Ross, HomeGoods/TjMaxx, Target, Marshalls, and... *drumroll*... wait for it.... Burlington Coat Factory! HA! I know, right?! Crazy talk! I seriously went back and forth debating whether or not I should let out my secret, but chances are if you know me in real life you already knew this- and if you DON'T know me in real life- you aren't a threat to me and wiping out the shelves at my nearest BCF! Ha, selfish? Maybe.

Well, I hear it 24/7, "How come I never find any of the good stuff you find?!??" Umm... are ya lookin'?! I started taking pictures of "cute" things that I have definitely seen else where for WAY more... kind of like I started to do here.

Here are some tips that can help you decorate your place on YOUR budget.

This seems fairly simple, but it's true. You won't find ANYTHING if you don't have anything SPECIFIC in mind. You will seriously get overwhelmed. It can also hurt your budget because you'll just get lots of things that could've been avoided if you had a clear goal in mind. I look through tons of magazines, watch HGTV, and catch up on a lot of design blogs. Interior design is a lot like fashion trends- you just know what's 'in' and 'out'. You know what's trending and you look for it. Sometimes you're lucky and if it's really trendy- everywhere will have it (Ex: black and white damask). Wait a few months and most places will have it in your budget (Ex: geometric patterns).

Honey We're Home had an inspiration board before she designed her office. (Ironically, I had my curtains/room before I even stumbled upon it- but it was further affirmation that when something is "in", it's easy to come across!) Please go see how beautiful everything in her home is. She seriously has talent (umm, dream closet!)

With a specific theme for your room you'll have a LOT more luck when you shop on a budget! She made her curtains with Waverly fabric by the yard and I'm sure paid a lot- which is fine because it might be in her budget (and her sewing ability...) but for me, I wasn't comfortable with investing money or time in something I was sure would hardly last 8 months... So, when I found my curtains at Burlington last Christmas (for $9.99 a panel), I knew it was a DONE DEAL.

Blog stalkin' your favorite creative blogs out there helps recognize potential... trust me. I was on Caitlin Creer's blog sometime last semester when she showed this table:

 $250?! Negative. 

She put one similar to the expensive one in this bedroom and it was so adorable to me. It stuck in my mind but it was never something I "had to have". Just one of those things I liked. Well, when I was at Burlington a few weeks later, what do you know- I saw the SAME exact table! It was $80 but I waited until it went on sale. I saw the table for FOUR months before I finally took it to the front and joked with the girl that after months of being on sale- someone obviously didn't want it and it was meant to be mine. I went to pay and she rang it up $9.99 and smiled and said, "just don't return it..." with a wink and I ran out of there like I stole it. I was scared she would change her mind- or a manager overheard and would take it out of my hands. I was so giddy that afternoon I remember texting everyone and their mommas freaking out.

The curtains and the table at home in my bedroom. Love. It was meant to be.

Now that I see things, I instantly recognize where they came from! Even if I'm wrong, now I see something on a tv show and yell, "omg! They got that from HomeGoods!!" They may or may not have, but I'm content with knowing I can go out and get it. It's creepy how I recognize things. I'll go to TjMaxx with my sister and name a blog that has something. "You know ____?! So and So has it... oh c'mon! I'd recognize it a mile away!"

This is just as important than #1. If not more. I never take on a project without "guesstimating"what I can comfortably spend. You (and my dad) would be shocked to know how cheap I come across things. My bff Emily gets kind of mad at my "stupid luck". She really is just insanely jealous (like my vintage Louis Vuitton Speedy that I got at an estate sale for $8) hahahaha. I love showing off my inexpensive finds when the girls come over for Girls Night- it's almost like a game- how cheap I snagged something for!

Knowing what I'm comfortable spending helps me determine what my most important 'needs' in the room are. To me, accent pieces (accessories) can come by easily and for fairly cheap- the main things (a desk in an office, a bed in a room, etc...) are the chunk of your budget. Since I always work around my desk and my bed, my main budget goes towards mirrors, paint, lamps, side tables, accent chairs, and curtains. To say I'm obsessed with mirrors is an understatement. I have them everywhere (even under my bed because I don't have enough wall space). I'm not vain, I just like my teeny tiny town home to appear bigger. Mirrors help achieve this goal. The natural light it reflects just makes my day. I'm just as obsessive with light. I have 6 lamps in my bedroom. 6. 9 mirrors, 6 lamps. Gross.

Once I set my budget, I know what I'm comfortable spending and it really eases the stress by helping me eliminate unnecessary things. I know early on not to spend $20 on a decorative candle holder if I haven't purchased the main focal point mirror in the room... make sense?

If you see something you like, but hate the color, don't just give up on it! Spray paint will be your BEST FRIEND! If something has potential take a chance on it.

Imagine if I never bought Stella!

With a fresh coat of paint (Krylon's Bright Idea), she turned into the beauty I knew she was. Stella was a chunk of my budget for the bedroom- but when you get $10 curtains and $10 side tables, it's ok to spend $40 on her. I knew I'd never get that lucky with a piece like that again!

Mister buddha head over there was also a really tacky gold. One coat of white spray paint later and he is one of my favorite accent pieces. The apothecary jar? $12. Ross. Fake Lemons $5 Burlington. I'm telling you... Keep your eyes peeled.

You don't have to break the bank to have an adorable room. Some of my favorite things are from the thrift store! Just have an open mind!

If you see something that might work... or you find something you weren't looking for and didn't bring the measurements- go ahead and get it (if it fits in your car) and put it in its natural habitat :) Play around with where it could go and worse comes to worse take it back. At least you tried.

 Take my advice- this is VERY important. Because of my obsessive shopping habits and less than organized wallet- I have been blacklisted from many of my favorite stores. No, it doesn't mean I can't GO IN them, it means... I can't ever return anything without a receipt! Go ahead and laugh... it gets my sister and friends every time... Focus. This includes exchanges. They won't let you do anything after a certain amount of returns/exchanges. The sneaky thing is they won't tell you when you're about to max out your limit! So here I am to help you prevent from the embarrassment of being blacklisted :)

It's a new thing with people abusing their policies and now I have to suffer. Or learn to organize. Whichever. JUST KEEP YOUR RECEIPT! I know you think, oh but I can just exchange for something else- just think, "is it worth losing a FUTURE exchange for this $6 candle? What if I lose my receipt for a $150 comforter in the future?" So, use your exchanges wisely! (This includes over the 30 day mark policy, at least they can tell you bought it FOR the price you bought it for!)
Don't let redecorating stress you out. Enjoy it! Don't make it a ONE day goal- you will be disappointed. A room redo is a constant process- a room is never finished! It evolves into something that is completely yours in time. I can't tell you how many changes I've gone through! From my bedroom to my living room, and I STILL struggle with changing! I'm in the middle of a huge office redo that I can't wait to share with y'all!

Living room LAST SEMESTER:

Living room THIS semester:

Bedroom LAST semester:

Bedroom Christmas Break (hahahaha):

Bedroom THIS semester:

(only imagine with this amazing new bedding- Target, clearance...)

Office LAST semester:

Office THIS semester:

There are a lot of things that make me cringe when I look at some old pictures, (even some new pics- sad to say), but I have to keep reminding myself- sometimes it's not worth it! Not worth the money, not worth the time, and not worth the bother! Don't make redecorating a hassle! It should be fun and exciting! If you're stressed- you're doing something wrong... and need to holler at me for help! I LOVE HELPING (keeping an eye out when I find these awesome steals deals)!

This made me smile tonight:

Good luck on redecorating! I know the tips are "no-brainers", but I know a lot of people ask me all the time "how do you do it"--- well, this is how!


  1. I love this. :) Your house is gorgeous. I love the colors, I love all the unique pieces that fit so harmoniously together, I love it all.

  2. Great tips! It is fun to see the progression of your designs! Another great place to check out (if there is one by you) is the clearance room at Z Gallerie. I work at one here in CO and we are constantly marking perfectly good items down to 70% simply because we dont have room for them anymore. I always wait til stuff goes on sale!

    Happy Saturday!
    -Anna (AMSBOle)

  3. Thanks, ladies! I love color! I couldn't imagine having a house with the theme running throughout... I love the freedom of switching things up!

    I WOULD GO BROKE if i worked at Z Gallerie!! I LOVE it there!!! They just closed one by me and I was so sad (until it was replaced with an urban outfitters) haha but yes, I generally think their prices are fair- i can't imagine 70% off!! I bet your house is amazing, Anna!!!

  4. It is definitely a challenge to make sure I actually take home a paycheck! haha


  5. very very cute. love your decor girlie.

  6. that means a LOT coming from you, ashlina! I am obsessed with your style!!!! Thank you x a million!

  7. Ohmygosh in one post you've managed to get me hooked on your blog! so much fabulous information here and I just looooove everything you chose for your decor! The yellows and patterns.... omg. in love!

    I said omg too much. obv, i'm super excited! =) Nice to meet/find you!!! <3

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  8. These are such great and practical tips that all of us could use. What a great post. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    Tip Junkie