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Decorating on a budget:

budgeting, planning, and patience

Interior Decorating on a BudgetSo you've decided to decorate your home or apartment but know that you don't have much money. Where do you start? And, SHOULD you even consider starting? As a professional interior designer I can say clearly, yes, you should start. Don't worry, I am not saying you should spend money you don't have, but decorating on a budget can be a rewarding experience both in terms of the results you will see in your home, and in the journey itself of getting to know yourself in relation to your interior decorating preferences.

Budgeting for interior decorating:

If you are considering interior decorating for your home but you do not have much money to spend on it, then a budget is essential! If you are already budgeting your personal finances, good for you! Then you probably have in mind a figure that you can spend monthly on your interior decorating, or yearly on your interior decorating. In any case, that is half the work.

If you are not currently using a budget for your personal finances, I suggest you first put together and learn to live within your budget and THEN when you know how much you have in your monthly budget for interior decorating, come back here to this website and read this article!

But let's assume you have been following your budget for awhile and are sure that you wish to add interior decorating to the budget as one of your discretionary expenses. I mean let's be honest here, you already must buy furniture, at least some furniture, and towels, and rugs, and cooking accessories, and on and on and on with stuff for the house. So you may as well put together a plan that will make these decisions geared toward your overall interior decorating vision!

In the long-term this will save you money and is therefore a good idea monetarily. So the sooner you can place interior decorating as a discretionary expense into your budget the better!

Start to formulate a plan:

Although you may feel that you are miles and years from realizing your interior decorating vision, you are compelled to work toward that vision. So I am going to tell you as a professional interior designer, take some time before starting the actual shopping and take stock, an actual inventory if you will of what you already own that helps you toward this vision.

Don't fear! I will NOT be asking you to put together an inventory of everything you need. That is too daunting when you have almost nothing and can be depressing as well.

Taking inventory of your life:

Let's say that you are in your twenties and are living in your first apartment which is for the most part empty. But you probably own SOMETHING that you can place in your inventory.

Interior Decorating Help from an Interior DesignerA cheaply made sofa that you hate does not count toward your interior decorating vision. This is due to the fact that spending the money to have it re-upholstered is throwing good money after bad. This would also apply to any other cheaply made pieces of upholstered furniture. Nor does anything else that you own and use out of necessity that is cheaply made count toward your interior decorating vision, this is because it will not last you long-term; and anything that you absolutely, positively hate does not count.

An example of this would be very nice quality pots and pans that a well-meaning aunt bought you as a housewarming gift and made sure that they had yellow exteriors to match the tile in your new apartment. Little does she know that you HATE yellow! Although these may work for you for a few years, you know deep inside that eventually they will have to go regardless of their high quality.

So what do you own that you love?

  • One possibility is the print in your bedroom could be part of your long-term interior decorating plan, it was affordable and is just a print and your roommate hates it. It was pre-framed in some inexpensive plastic frame but the colors and the theme speak to you in a way that you can't explain. The fact that peers may tell you that they hate something and yet you still love it proves that this is most likely true love. This is probably something you will hang on to for the better part of your life. And someday you will have it re-framed!
  • Another example of something to place in your interior decorating inventory maybe is your grandmother's china. Right now, you would never entertain formally and it is packed lovingly away in boxes. But even though if you went out and picked out your very own china, this would not be the pattern, it was your grandma's and you loved her so you love it.
  • If you have a toy left over from childhood that you never could throw away because it has too many fond memories, that's a possibility.
  • A folded American flag encased in a wood and glass triangle from your veteran grandfather's funeral is a good choice.
  • Your collection of books that you have been adding to all your life because they reflect your love of reading.
  • Maybe you play the trumpet and the instrument itself is beautiful to you.
  • A collection of music can also qualify here.
  • Maybe long, long ago somebody gave you a piece of artwork that you have rolled up at your parent's house waiting to be framed. Maybe this should be part of your interior decorating plan.
  • Your parent's home and other relative's homes are great places to find objects that mean the world to you that they are at this point in their lives maybe all too willing to get rid of because they would love to downsize but can't seem to find the heart to give their cherished possessions to charity. They may be thrilled that you want them. Ask. You won't know until you do, and if you do not ask, and your parents assume that something has no value to you they may donate it to charity without consulting you. Then you will have lost a cherished memory.

Planning, planning, planning

So let's say that the entire interior decorating inventory consists of your grandmother's china, a cheaply framed print that you love, and a collection of music.

Let's relegate each of these objects to a room. The china is obviously for the dining room. Well, a future dining room anyway, your apartment doesn't have a formal dining room.

The collection of music, we'll place in a future living room because that is most likely where the future fabulous sound system will go.

The print, which others don't seem to like, we'll keep in the master bedroom. If you would like to feel more secure in your choices, you may want to read "Do you have good taste? Does your partner?"

Why did we take inventory?

Interior Decorating with a St. Louis DesignerSimple, now we know exactly what we are missing: everything else.

Let's say the interior decorating budget is $50.00 monthly. It may be only $10.00 monthly but whether it is $10.00 or $1000.00 monthly it must be spent wisely. This means spending it on what you NEED for your long-term interior decorating plan.

The inventory gives us more of a concrete plan.

The print is primarily olive and medium grass green colors. So now we have already picked out the colors for your future bedroom! For a better understanding of how to pick a color scheme for interior decorating consider my article, "How to pick colors for your home decorating".

Your grandmother's china has strawberry pink roses on it. So I guess the dining room will have at least one color in it's design that's strawberry pink.

The music collection needs a suitable piece of storage furniture.

All of this also helps when you start to consider buying homes in a few years. Now you know not to buy a house that doesn't have enough wall space in the living room for the music storage case that only you know the size requirements.

The house will have to have a dining room, and the stained glass in the room will have to have colors that go with strawberry pink!

The bedroom will have to have a good place to hang your print.

What can I possibly buy for $50.00 monthly? You may be thinking....

Interior Decorating on a Budget | St. Louis Interior DesignerActually quite a lot. Starting with garage sales, you likely will be able to collect all your table linens and kitchen dishes. All kitchen pots and pans (even if you want good stuff) all kitchen accessories, your flatware; an entire matched set if that is your goal. Actually no matter what you seek you can find it at a garage sale if you are patient. Shop every garage sale you see, and check the newspaper for listings of garage sales to see what types of things they list they will have.

Craigslist is obviously a wonderful place to keep an eye out for specific things.

In St. Louis we have many antique malls. These are great places to find anything and everything for your home. Try every antique mall in the St. Louis area from time to time.

Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, and the Salvation Army have resale shops too in St. Louis, and you would be astounded at the quality of some of the things people occasionally give to these charities!

Antique stores and vintage resale shops are a good choice too to work on your interior decorating vision, they aren't all expensive and there are always bargains to be found!

For help deciding what to buy, and maybe what not to buy, peruse my article "Accessorizing: Avoiding interior design clichés, kitsch, trends, and grotesques".

Here's the TRUE secret to decorating on a budget:

Patience! Patience! Patience!

If you have a big budget, you can go buy exactly what you want that fits your interior decorating vision exactly and you can have it right now! Isn't that great? But, you will have to spend ten times more money on interior decorating even in the long run than the person with little money but who has willpower and has cultivated patience.

The one with only $50.00 a month and an over-abundance of patience will be able to build exactly the home they imagine, with exactly what they wanted, in perfect (or fixable over time) condition at EXACTLY the right price. I'm not kidding. If you keep shopping, refuse to settle for something that is not what you want and are willing to pass up exactly what you want when it isn't the right price, your patience will be rewarded!

Interior Decorating Tips from an Interior DesignerHere's how you develop the patience to pass up the perfect thing at the wrong price. Within your $50.00 monthly budget there are TONS of things out there to buy that you need for your future perfect home. Buy those instead. What I mean by this is that sofas and sets of crystal and entertainment centers that are exactly what you imagine don't come up all that often for sale for only $50.00 but it does happen.

So instead of seeking those things look for the types of items that OFTEN sell for $50.00 that are exactly what you imagine. These types of things would be sets of kitchen dishes, sets of flatware, pots and pans, and pretty much anything one might need for a kitchen.

Other types of things that often sell for $50.00 are home accessories of all types, meaning artwork, vases, clocks, planters, lamps, jewelry boxes, wall shelves, trashcans, pictures frames, linens of all kinds, plant stands, candleholders, barware, centerpieces and any sort of knick-knack you personally may be interested in.

Furniture items that often sell for $50.00 are: fabulous tabletops with no base. Fabulous bases to tables with no tops, chairs, end tables with no matching other end table or coffee table. But keep in mind that if you found one, you can probably find another in time; smaller desks, music stands, smaller entertainment centers, outdoor furniture and many other objects. For help on deciding what type of end tables you may prefer, see "End tables, to match or not to match, that is the question....".

Any month that you haven't found anything to buy that is exactly what you need for your interior decorating that is also within your price range means that next month you get to be a $100.00 shopper!

While you are shopping for all of these $50.00 objects, shop for furniture as well. I said SHOP, I didn't say BUY. What I mean by this is that you should look for furniture that fits your interior decorating vision without getting frustrated if most is out of your price range. There are two reasons why shopping constantly without expectations to buy is good for you.

First is that occasionally when you check that price tag, you will be stunned that the object in front of you in perfect (or good enough) shape that is exactly what you want is affordable! In this case, buy it!

But the second reason is because since you are so young, you MAY not be sure exactly what style of furniture you really want. Shopping develops a discerning eye and your personal taste. It also conditions you to know what types of prices to expect for different things. So when the time comes, you will know when a bona-fide bargain is standing right in front of you.

Here is the good news I have been saving for you until the end. No matter what you believe today, I promise you that if you follow this advice you will get to a point in your life where you will be able to afford more expensive things. This happens in everyone's life, or at least in this uncertain economy it happens in everyone's life that is lucky enough to have and who continue to hold a steady job!

You may not believe it now when you are overwhelmed with all the things that a new household requires of your budget, a new family and a first home increase these financial pressures more, but one day soon, you will find that you can expand your monthly interior decorating budget to $100.00! or maybe even $200.00 or more, and of course the monthly interior decorating budget can always be saved for a few months to buy those really expensive things.

I also promise you that a home put together and built piece-by-piece with love and hard-earned money, planned painstakingly, and with countless hours scouring for bargains will be all the more sweet!

However, if you need a professional interior designer to help you find or carry out your personal interior decorating vision, I am here to help, contact me at [email protected]