Style Tips: Changing Your Style on a Budget

Style Tips: Changing Your Style on a Budget

Today we have a Reader’s Question:

I think the scary thing about decorating is……What happens when “all of a sudden” you realize your tastes have changed and you are sitting amongst items you’ve bought over the years that are just not doing it for you any more?

I love so many things I see on your blog, other blogs, magazines…..not so much on TV, anymore, (where did all the good decorating shows go?) …… I know I’m being influenced in a good way ……. but how do you make the switch without breaking the bank?

This reader poses a great question! Many of us find ourselves in this same spot. We have a collection of furnishings and accessories that just don’t feel like “us” any longer. Or we want to freshen up our look and we aren’t sure how. Most of us can’t start over from scratch. Creating a style you love out of what you have is oftentimes more challenging for people than being able to start over with a whole new look. Once you have lived with a certain look for a long time it is hard to visualize a way to make it look new again.

The good news is that updating your look oftentimes can be accomplished on a limited budget and with just a few simple changes.

1) Start with one room. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to makeover the whole house all at once.

2) Find an inspiration photo. It is unlikely that you can duplicate it without starting from scratch, but it can give you inspiration about what you really love. You might discover that you prefer a “spring” room rather than a “fall” room, for instance. Looking at inspiration photos can also break you out of your rut and help you to expand your style options.

3) Ask yourself what you dislike about your room’s current style. Is it too dark, too outdated, too colorful or too boring? Compare your current room with your inspiration photo for clues as to what you don’t like about your current style and contrast it with what you DO like about your inspiration photo.

4) Re-design in a day. If you really want a full makeover, you can start today! Take everything out of the room. Even your curtains if they aren’t your favorite. Yes, this will mean chaos for the rest of the house. Then add things back in one at a time, leaving most of the stuff out of the room. If you just add back a few basic items it will be easier for you to visualize and achieve a new look.

5) Do a mini-makeover.
If a full makeover scares you or you do have several things you love, try getting rid of just the things in the room that you really dislike, which usually means they are uncomfortable or ugly or beyond salvage. Definitely remove all the clutter and knickknacks so you can visual the room with a cleaner slate. De-cluttering is the key. The cleaner the slate, the easier it will be to start over with a new look.

6) Make small changes. Once you have de-cluttered your room and have just the things you are going to keep, here are some things that can be changed easily and on a budget (even over time if necessary) to give yourself a new look. Using your inspiration photo as a guide, consider updating at least some of the following items:

  • New paint (walls and furnishings).
  • Changing window treatments
  • New stylish accent pillows. Try something new and fun!
  • New fabrics/reupholstering some pieces
  • New rugs
  • Throws, even a scarf or piece of fabric can be set over the back of a chair to give it a new look.
  • New or refurbished lamps and/or lampshades
  • Inexpensive accessories. Go for less accessories but make them bigger for a fresh new look.
  • Re-matting photos, painting frames or getting new picture frames can be a quick and easy update.
  • Adding in new textures. Textures are often overlooked as a way to change your style.
  • Try pairing new combinations. Put old next to new, shiny next to rough and expensive next to bargains.
  • Use existing items in new ways and move things around to different rooms.

7) Shop other rooms.

Sometimes you can shop in other rooms of your own home to find the new look you are after. But if not, head to your local thrift store, garage sale, resale shop, discount store or department store and pick up just a few fun new things to add to your old look. You’ll be amazed how a few simple additions can make everything look completely different.

If your furniture has seen better days, or just simply does not work with your new style, it might be time for some “new” furniture. If you need a new sofa or upholstered chair, you can find often find great deals on name brand quality furniture at upscale resale shops. I recently shopped for a client and found a nearly new Williams-Sonoma sofa complete with updated custom quality fabric that would retail at about $3500, for a REAL bargain of $600. From there, we are building a whole new look for her room and staying within her budget. Sometimes all it takes is one new piece to get the ball rolling.

Have fun!

Children’s Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips
Disclaimer: Ugh. This photo above disturbs me. I’m not a fan of the giant Spiderman.

Kids’ rooms can be a challenge to decorate and just as frustrating to organize. Especially boys’ rooms. Let’s face it, their tastes and favorites seem to change all the time. One minute they are into superheroes, the next they are dinosaur hunters. But, I am a mom on a budget (and yes, I am a little bit picky about what my house looks like, even my kids’ rooms). Realistically, I don’t have the time to devote to changing my child’s room all the time. We have three kids so I have to keep my priorities or I’d be redecorating to keep up with the popular cartoons or fads all the time.

Besides that, I think we also need to teach our children to live responsibly and any way you look at it, redecorating every year or two is really wasteful. There are children in the world who don’t have food to eat, so I just feel we need to teach our kids to be satisfied, rather than always wanting more, better and new things. Hmmm, good lesson for me too. I know from personal experience that a baby nursery is a special thing to a mom, but once the child outgrows the baby phase, it is time to start thinking about a room with more staying power.

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

In a previous post on Girls’ Rooms, I was asked how you COULD incorporate their current favorites tastefully and on a budget. Here are some suggestions that I’ve used in my own home for rooms that can grow with your child’s ever changing tastes and storage needs:

  • Keep the basic shell of the room tasteful, neutral (meaning, no theme), and timeless. Instill the fun personality in things you can easily update or change as the child’s tastes evolve. While many people buy their kids character bedding, I find many of the options to be crunchy, scratchy and poor quality. Pottery Barn might be an exception to this. They do have Spiderman sheets now. I’d much rather have Spiderman sheets than that giant $159. on sale Spiderman decal (top, above). If you do find acceptable character sheets, still stick with a good quality classic comforter or quilt (see list below of some good quality bedding sites). Washable is a must, of course!
  • Choose a paint color for the walls that you can live with for a long time, unless you love painting walls. I dislike painting with a passion, so once a room is painted in our house, that is it. No more.
  • Children need lots of shelving for display. They will have ever changing vignettes of special toys and memories. Why throw all those Star Wars guys in a box when you can line them up on a shelf?

    Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

  • Boys tend to outgrow cute decor a lot faster than girls do. Some of us girls still love “little girl” colors and the cute stuff we loved when we were younger! To save money in the long run on boys’ rooms, stick to classic rugs, fabrics, colors and bedding patterns.
  • Reality check: children’s rooms really don’t need a lot of decoration. Kids have colorful and interesting things they like to display. They really don’t need MORE stuff in their rooms, that is what leads to all the visual clutter. Keeping things simple, classic and clean usually makes for a more pleasing overall effect. Make the most of what they already have and use the best of it to decorate the room. Put up hooks or pegs for hats. Put attractive toys on display. Have colorful bedding or curtains. Showcase artwork.

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

    • Children should have lots of room to feature their drawings and art. Try backs of doors, bulletin boards, and clips on walls to hang their creations. Or use frames that you can easily insert their latest masterpiece. Encourage your child to do their own artwork and update it regularly. Keeps them busy!
  • Chalkboards are great for kids. Not only can they use them to create, you can use chalkboards as a tool to help them learn to organize their own to do lists and daily schedules. Instead of remembering everything for your child, you can encourage them to write notes on their chalkboard. Pottery Barn makes these themed ones in the shape of skateboards, but with easy to use chalkboard paint you can turn anything into a writing surface, including furniture or the backs of doors! Uses of chalkboards are endless. You could have a board for “what to bring to school the next day,” a board for a memory verse they are learning, or a place to leave love notes to each other. We have all of those types of boards at our house!

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

    • Children need easy organizational systems that they can learn to use. Under bed containers are a favorite in our house. We label them with changeable labels and categories that are practical and usable for a child. My son’s room currently has under bed bins labeled WEAPONS, COSTUMES and TOOLS. When he wants to scare the neighbors, he knows right where to go. Also, if something is not in a container, it doesn’t belong under the bed. I try to fill the space up with the storage containers as much as possible to avoid the random toys, socks and pj’s that seem to gravitate to the dark corners. Under bed bins have cut down dramatically on the messes I find there. (However, now and then I do discover candy wrappers stuffed behind the bins.)

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

  • Closed or semi-closed storage bins are a must for children. Cleaning up is a never ending task. Being able to toss and hide things quickly keeps everyone happy. Open shelving is fine for a few display items, but everything else should be contained by a bin or basket so it less visible.
  • Sort everything for closed or semi-closed storage into broad but specific categories and find a bin for each. Labeling everything TOYS just won’t work. We have our bins on a shelving unit with labels like ACTION HEROES, CREATURES, BUG STUFF, LEGOS, SPY STUFF, CARS. The labels are easy to change if he outgrows some of the toys
  • If you have traditionally sized large toy boxes, use them for dress up clothes or costumes. I have found them to be generally too large for effectively organizing toys.

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

    • If you happen to be an artist (or know one) and love to personalize your kids rooms, try decorating a desk, chest of drawers, wooden chair or lamps to show their personality. You can paint a mural if you have the time or money to spare and are willing to paint over it or change it later if it no longer is suitable. Better yet, choose something timeless like stripes or a nature-inspired theme. A mural is a big commitment for most people. Sometimes you can involve the child in this sort of project and it is especially meaningful to them. Check out some fun hand-painted murals here and
    • Stick bookshelves wherever you can find space, particularly in close proximity to the bed to encourage them to read (and to keep the books tidy). Many books are also decorative so having them with their covers on display takes care of decorating AND their education all in one step.
    • Make sure each child has a good reading light next to their bed.
    • We put an adult-sized chair and a lamp in each child’s room (if there is enough space) to allow for bedtime stories with mom or dad.

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips

  • You can tuck in small shelves in corners to make every inch count in a small space.
  • Put shelving above doorways to showcase decorative items you don’t want kids to touch or play with. Unless your child might be tempted to climb on furniture to reach things in high places. Then this is not a good idea.
  • Divide children’s rooms and playrooms into zones whenever possible. A place to play with costumes in one area, building sets in another, art supplies in a craft area.
  • Once their room is set up with a place for everything, give children cleaning routines to maintain their own belongings. If you incorporate a daily 10 minute “cleaning frenzy” (our word for a fast paced cleaning session) into the before dinner routine, kids should have no trouble keeping their rooms in order.

Children's Rooms: Decorating & Organizing Tips


Room Design: Where to Begin (See a quick play room makeover!)

The Superhero Exception
About a Boy and His Room
Girls’ Rooms: Fanciful Rugs and Lamps
Eye Candy: Girls Rooms
Whimsical and Tasteful Children’s Rooms


Photo credits: First one is Pottery Barn
Next two are my own from the Street of Dreams
Skateboard accessory photos:
Surfing/Boating room: Jeff McNamara
Team pendant room: Jean Allsop
Red, white & blue room; Blue & orange room; Black bunkbed bedroom:
Corner bookshelf room:
Chalkboard labels on baskets:
Last photo: Laurey Glenn photorapher