10 Designer-Approved Ways to Decorate on a Budget

Cutting corners when decorating on a budget can be a tricky affair. You don’t want to accidentally skimp in the wrong places—better to spend a little more on a couch that won’t fall apart in a year or two, and spring for a wool rug that doesn’t ignite in full if you look at it the wrong way. But somewhere, somehow, you’ll need to skimp. Designers, who are often catering to folks decorating on a budget, have some of the best tips for cutting costs without compromising quality. Here are some of our favorites.

Choose Natural-Fiber Area Rugs

While a high-quality area rug can be a great investment, it can also be an incredibly expensive one—which is one reason so many designers spring for natural-fiber rugs when they need large-scale coverage. (This 100 percent jute number from World Market is just $370 for a 9′ x 12′ and it looks quite luxe.)

“I like to use natural-fiber rugs layered underneath smaller wool rugs to “expand” the overall rug area,” says designer Lauren Liess.

Match Fancy Paint Colors

Rather than spring for a $300 bucket of paint (which is tempting, because the colors can be exceptional), designer Casey Kenyon recommends trying a Benjamin Moore match of one you’ve fallen in love with (they even have an app, Color Capture, that will help you snatch a color you see and love in the world). “By saving a few dollars [on paint],” designer Sabrina Soto says, “you can splurge on new accent pieces to complement your freshly colored walls!”

At the Connecticut home of Edie Parker accessories designer Brett Heyman, wall color makes a statement.

Paint Inexpensive Wood Furniture

If Bunny Williams thinks it’s a good idea, you might as well consider doing so yourself. Matte finishes will look sculptural, while high-gloss can make a statement.

A coat of paint transformed this rococo wood mirror in Bunny Williams’s Punta Cana home.

Speed Patina (When You Can’t Splurge on Antiques)

While we don’t advocate for faux-aging your walls or wood furniture to look “shabby-chic,” we do admit to sometimes speeding up the real work that nature can do—especially on natural materials like brass, copper, terra-cotta, and more.

The patina on this circa-1970s brass table in designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent’s home can be achieved on a new piece—with a little hard work from your faucet.

Use Found Natural Objects as Accents

“Taking a walk through the woods and collecting interesting things like bark, tree stumps, stones, and botanicals to press can yield striking results,” Liess says, by the same logic that flowers always brighten up a room.

A cypress tree root plays sculptural wall hanging in the living room of Liess’s home.

Buy Thrift Store Art

“Hunt for vintage art at places like Etsy, eBay, Chairish, and in thrift stores,” Liess recommends. We recommend hunting for them the way professional designers do and then giving them a more elevated look with these spiffing-up tips.

Thrift-store art looks elevated indeed in a Liess-designed bedroom (note: the juxtaposition against a refined dresser helps!).

Or Put Your Kids to Work

“Expose your children to the world of abstract art and let them have fun with paint in colors you’d like to see in your home,” Liess says. “En masse, [their art] can feel bold and sophisticated.”

“My son painted “portraits” and was so pleased when I hung them in our home,” Liess says of the artful lineup.

Two Words: Bamboo Blinds

When all you need is to filter the light (dapple: check), rather than block it out entirely, pick up a set of bamboo roller blinds from the hardware store. They’ll give your room a beachy feel—and cost far less than any other window treatment possibly could.

“The bamboo blinds are an essential element because without them it really gets too cold,” says Alexa Hampton of her New York City office. “They help give the space warmth and ground it.”

Know When to DIY

“Clients always think custom-made is more expensive,” Soto says, “That’s not always the case. I’ve made everything from neon serving trays to sofas for much less than the price you would pay at a boutique.” In case you’re not sure what you should attempt yourself, here’s our guide to knowing when to call on a pro.

Stick-on flooring is definitely something you can attempt yourself, as proven by Brady Tolbert’s rental kitchen transformation.