Once you hit a certain age, it becomes decidedly less charming to live in a crappy college-style house OR a bland, personality-less apartment that looks exactly the same as all the other apartments in the building. After you get a job that keeps you out of your home for hours and/or stresses you out, your home becomes your refuge and you yearn for it all day.
But moving and decorating and, essentially, creating a Home versus just a Place to Crash is expensive. And if you spend a ton of time on Pinterest pinning a dream home, you start to think there’s no way you could pull together anything that cute and enviable.
You can! It’s not that hard. You just have to be smart about it. I just moved into a big, newly renovated old house and we’ve started to fill it up with beautiful things and make it a sweet, cozy home without spending a ton of money. Here’s how:
1. Craiglist. Craiglist til your eyes cross. Craiglist is especially great if you live in a mid-size city (I’m in Minneapolis, which isn’t super huge and has a ton of surrounding suburbs) or perhaps within driving distance of an upper-tier suburb. Craiglist has everything! Make a lap or two through the “Free” section every so often. Figure out what you’re looking for, like “shabby chic China hutch,” and search that shit! Craigslist is also great for alerting you to garage and estate sales, which are great resources for furnishing your home for relatively cheap. I got my bedroom set of ‘70s French Provincial-style dresser, desk and nightstand for $250 flat. We had to drive a little bit to get it, but the singular items had been selling for more than that on Minneapolis’ Craiglist page.
2. Flowers. I don’t know what it is, but a fresh bouquet every week really makes a house feel lived-in and welcoming. Thrift some cute, cheap vases and keep them on hand. Even “cheap” flowers like carnations look sweet in a small cluster. The farmers’ market is the best place for pretty bouquets under $10.
3. Every time you’re at Target, make a lap around the end caps. That’s where they keep the clearance. I had to buy all new bedding when I moved and got a new bed, and I was super lucky to find sheets that matched my comforter for a whopping $20 on 75% off. $20 for king sheets that washed nicely and feel pretty damn good for how cheap they were – priceless.
4. Ask your family members. Your aunts/uncles/parents/grandparents probably have furniture and knickknacks in their basements and attics that they’re not using. A lot of my furniture has come from my antique-obsessed parents. My black lacquer stacking shelves? My friend was giving them away and I snapped them up for free.
5. Remember – paint is your friend. The cheapest-looking furniture can look 100% better with a coat of paint. My roommate and I spray-painted our thrift-store wicker garbage can metallic gold and it looks super rad and unique. Just like a can of paint can give a room a much-needed facelift, it’ll do the same for furniture.
6. Thrift like a fiend. I looooove thrifting. I would do it every day if I could. Our champagne glasses? All 20, artfully arranged in the hutch, are thrifted. My pretty, cut-glass drinking glasses? Thrifted. The trays I keep my perfumes on? Thrifted! Thrift stores are the best place for those special little touches. I think that mismatched, but pretty, place settings look really thoughtful and creative for a dinner party or even a casual gathering. Potato chips are way prettier in a china serving piece ($4.99) than a plastic bowl.
7. Have artist friends? Ask them to create you something, or purchase their existing work. It makes your home look pretty and you’re contributing to their success. I have work from a few of my friends and it feels much more special than something I could’ve gotten at, say, Ikea.
8. Speaking of Ikea – utilize it. Don’t make your rooms 100% Ikea. That’s tacky and it looks very “My first home out of college!” But Ikea is an awesome place for things that LOOK more expensive than they are. I’m a big fan of their gallery frames, which are super cheap and look pretty darn close to the ones from Pottery Barn I used to buy.
9. Rugs are a key element to filling up a room. You can find fancy Persian-style rugs cheap at thrift stores – just give them a really good cleaning. If you want to spend a little bit of money, I would recommend Overstock or Etsy. This is another thing you can easily score at Ikea. What’s a living room without a big cozy rug?
10. Clean up your shit. Keep your house clean. That’s the number one way to make it feel welcoming and relaxing. I keep pretty bowls near the door for keys and sunglasses and a small tray for mail, so it’s not scattered all over the coffee table. Shoes go in the closet right away. Small things make a huge difference. Make a habit of tidying. It soon becomes routine.
11. On that art tip – I can’t stop wasting time on Society6.com. Not only can you get sweet iPhone cases from a variety of artists, but you can also get their work on pillows, prints and even rugs! I’m like … do I need Marilyn Monroe throw pillows? Probably. I love unexpected, offbeat touches like that.
12. Candles. I preach the gospel of candles all the time because having a few flickering at night relaxes me right away. My favorite “Looks expensive, smells expensive, but isn’t that expensive” brand is Voluspa. They scent the room with a gorgeous, long-lasting aroma and the tins are beautiful too. I also like the Illume for Target brand; they go on sale all the time so you can get them for cheap! Bath & Body Works can be a good place to pop into for candles too.
These are my big tips. What are yours?