Little Big House: 22 Ideas for Decorating on a Small Budget
Charm on a budget
Vibrant color, recycled finds and low-cost decorating help any home live better. Designer Sandy Avis shares the budget strategies she used to decorate her family's northern Michigan vacation cottage.
Look for salvaged materials, such as this recycled and refinished front door, to add authentic charm on a budget.
Use colorful details, such as these two bright turquoise Adirondack chairs, yellow pillows and whimsical folk art, to add personality.
Savvy materials choices
This home's budget-friendly attitude starts with the structure. Unique but practical, the 1,477-square-foot home incorporates found materials, such as a recycled corrugated-metal roof, pine ceiling beams salvaged from a factory teardown, quarry tile floors and even pieces of broken Fiesta dinnerware and recycled bricks in the porch foundation.
Inside the Empire, Michigan, home, Sandy set out to add loads of color, bargain antiques and smart storage-- while sticking to a strict budget.
Budget kitchen treatment
Buy a simple movable island, like this compact Ikea unit, instead of a more expensive built-in cabinetry piece. The island efficiently pairs a food-prep surface with shelf storage underneath.
Make an easy, budget window treatment with folded tea towels (only $2.95 each) mounted on tension rods.
Recycled storage and shelving
Use salvaged (and repainted) wall shelving in the kitchen. It's a smart substitute for costly upper cabinets, and the open shelving makes it easy to put away dishes.
Reuse an antique cabinet as a pantry. Or repurpose your old pre-flat-screen-TV armoire for this task. Outfit the interior with pullout wire drawers.
Antiques can be practical
Get vintage charm with pieces such as this antique kitchen sink, which came from a historic building in central Illinois. Its old-fashioned utilitarian design, with large drainboard, works well for a family.
Hang inexpensive fabric skirting to hide storage for pots, pans and recycling units.
Rescued knobs -- and cabinets
Use your imagination to repurpose local finds. Knobs in the kitchen are actually ceramic insulators from old electric farm fencing. The white knobs pop against newly painted red cabinetry rescued from a local farmhouse.
Create a budget-friendly centerpiece instead of a standard arrangement or vase on your dining table. Sandy displays single-stem wildflowers in old milk bottles and a galvanized milk crate found at a barn sale.
Browse estate sales for bargains such as Sandy's living room armchairs.
Add slipcovers for splashy style along with easy cleanup. Sandy also slipcovered new cube ottomans to match.
Add accent pillows. It's one of the easiest and cheapest ways to give a room oomph. These pillows incorporate the bright color scheme in a mix of solids and patterns.
Brighten an antique table with a coat of bold paint. Sandy grabbed the square side table in the corner because it had a galvanized metal top that matched her coffee table. A coat of red paint coordinates with the walls, which are yellow-orange to echo sunsets on Lake Michigan.
Easy bath organization
Add sturdy hooks below shelving to enhance storage space in a small bath. The hooks came from the local hardware store.
Art from architecture
Turn architectural salvage into artwork. Sandy found the window pediment above this bed at an antiques store for $65.
Go bold with colors. The carefree setting for Sandy's cottage inspired a lively, nature-inspired color scheme throughout. The bedrooms use greens and blues to reflect the sky and treetops seen through the windows.
New use for old things
Repurpose your furniture. A cloth wardrobe originally used by the boys when they were young now provides plenty of storage for the master bedroom.
Make an inexpensive plywood frame. Rather than using a traditional (and pricey) frame in the boys' room, Sandy attached posters to plywood panels using metal tacks and washers.
Paint cement floors to add instant style in a lower-level space. In the boys' basement hangout, rich colors warm the floor and walls, while inexpensive artwork hangs from wires, and a futon provides sleepover space for friends.
Transform galvanized bins and slide-in canvas baskets into stylish storage for the family. Handwritten tags tied on with ribbon help keep everything organized.
Use galvanized pipe to construct a simple outdoor shower. Sandy and Todd found everything they needed in the plumbing department of their local home center. The shower keeps beach sand and dirt from being tracked into the house and is popular with the boys' friends.