How to Decorate Your New Home for Less

One of the best parts of buying a home is decorating it. Of course, not everyone has an eye for design or the means to upgrade their space. And for those who don’t consider themselves savvy, decorating can feel like a chore.

As someone who’s moved a lot in her life, I’ve learned a few things about perfecting a home on the fly. I’ve also learned how to do it for cheap, but not in a way anyone will notice. Here, I’m sharing a few of my favorite tips for decorating your new home for less.

Buy What You Love

All too often people survey their empty home and feel compelled to rush out and fill it. This is a mistake, and soon they find themselves saddled with things they regret — and a hefty credit card bill to boot. (You can see how your credit card spending affects your overall financial health and view two of your credit scores, with helpful updates every two weeks, for free on Credit.com.) If you focus on purchasing things you love, you’ll be more likely to curate a home that reflects your true style.

Hit the Flea Market

For many, flea markets conjure visions of old women rummaging through boxes of moth-eaten duds. Not so. Antique hunting is one of the great pastimes, and you can always score a deal if you’re willing to haggle. Though you probably won’t want to buy everything, keep an eye out for tchotchkes or objets with character — from vinyl to antique stemware to farmhouse sinks. Word to the wise: Bring cash and try to go with an idea of what you’d like to find so you aren’t distracted. Also make sure to test items out, like electronics.

Just Add Plants 

Nothing enlivens a home like a plant, and I say this as someone who’s murdered more houseplants than I can count. Despite my black thumb, I continue to buy plants because they’re the simplest way I know of to add color and character to rooms without going broke. They also make me happier, and there’s no shortage of cool and affordable planters to choose from. Place a single stem in the bathroom for an elegant touch or set a jade plant on your nightstand to help you de-stress. Bonus points if you hang decorative planters on the wall.

Put Some Paint on It 

Nothing transforms a room like a fresh coat of paint, and you’ll end up saving a bundle if you do it yourself. Of course, you’ll need to shell out for things like drop cloths, brushes and cans, but if you round up some friends (and order some pizza), chances are the job will get done quickly. Remember, if your ceilings are high or you just don’t feel safe, it’s OK to send in the pros. Same goes for homes with decorative features like millwork and molding — you don’t want to mess up those finishes.

Try Consignment Sites

Like flea markets, consignment sites like Chairish and even Craigslist are helpful for scoring design pieces for less. I’ve seen many a popular blogger trick out her home with Craigslist finds, and Chairish makes it easy to check the condition and size of an item before you buy it. As with anything you’re eyeing online, you’ll want to verify it matches its listing and bring a buddy along to pick up the goods, if necessary. Go here to learn more about shopping safely online.

Image: Thomas_EyeDesign

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7 Decorating Mistakes Rookie Homeowners Make

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Like securing a mortgage, decorating your first home is a rite of passage. But not everyone always knows what they’re doing. “When I first bought my house, I was totally into shabby chic, and then I bought a lot of those things only to realize that I actually hated them,” said Anna Sundman, the creative half of Annabode + Co., the interior decorating firm she runs with her husband in Denver. To this day, “my taste is still evolving.”

Yours truly has been there, too. After upgrading to a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, I quickly began bombarding my husband with links to pricey ceramics, West Elm furniture and whatever else I thought we “needed.” Turns out, I was just overwhelmed by seeing so much blank space.

Since Sundman and I know we aren’t alone, we put together a handy list of first-time homeowners’ decorating mistakes, from buying too much all at once to hanging curtains too low. And while we regret those spending decisions, we’re grateful for the lessons they taught us. After all, you don’t learn how to manage your money without making some mistakes along the way.

1. Thinking You Must Buy Matching Furniture Sets

Whether it’s a table and chair or all-in-one bedroom, “that’s a big no-no for me,” Sundman said. “The most beautiful homes look collected over time.” Also: furniture sets are the equivalent of buying all your clothes from one store — boring! Instead, it’s a good idea to buy your items in stages — it could save you from running up high credit card balances, too.

Going overboard on your credit cards is one of the biggest financial problems new homeowners face — they want to move in and immediately fill the house with furniture, no matter the cost. That move can put undue strain on your new budget. You can see how your credit card use is affecting your credit scores by viewing your free credit report summary each month on Credit.com.

2. Hanging Artwork Too High

Sundman’s done it, I’ve done it and chances are you have, too. Generally, artwork should be centered at eye level — around 57 inches from the floor unless it’s especially large — or eight to 10 inches above furniture, Sundman advised.

3. Hanging Curtains Too Low

Most people do the instinctive thing and hang their curtain rod above the window frame, Sundman said. Not only does this make a room feel smaller, it actually makes the the ceiling look lower. Hanging the rod closer to the ceiling is a visual trick that makes windows look larger. It also helps to make sure the curtain isn’t too long or short. “It definitely shouldn’t float above the floor,” Sundman said, nor should it pool “unless you have a super formal, elegant room.”

4. Holding Onto Pieces You Don’t Like

We’ve all been guilty of keeping pieces we no longer like. I, for one, have refused to part with a teak coffee table I bought in college even though it matches nothing in my apartment. Sundman can relate: “You spend a lot of money on something and feel like you have to keep it.” But there are so many ways to offload used furniture — i.e. sites like eBay, Craigslist and Chairish — it’s smarter to use the money to buy something you love. “If the piece isn’t working, get rid of it,” she said. “Otherwise it’s going to drive you crazy.”

5. Not Making Use of What You Have

Just as rookie homeowners keep things that no longer serve them, they also tend to overlook what might. For instance, I spent hours favoriting pretty vases on Etsy only to realize what I needed to dress up my console was already in my closet. “I definitely would recommend just combing through your things and using that to decorate,” Sundman says, especially old books, which can add personality to any space. “You don’t need to buy a bunch of accessories.”

6. Purchasing Small Rugs

Rugs are expensive, that much we know. But like it or not, they’re an investment that can be worth making. “You should buy the largest possible rug that’ll fit in your space,” Sundman says, and you “definitely want all your furniture to be at least partially on it.” Doing so will bring your pieces together, making them part of a unit.

7. Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Fortunately, my apartment has all hardwood floors. But Sundman says she doesn’t recommend carpet since it can pose a cleaning problem.

“You can’t pull it up and shake it out, and it tracks dust and is hard to clean,” Sundman said. If you’re bent on changing your floors, it may be better to opt for wood or laminate, not wall-to-wall carpet, especially in the bedroom, where dust is a no-no.

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