Hey: Congrats on getting your new home!  Now that you spent your money on the down payment and closing costs, you may want to hold onto your savings for emergencies.  So, wondering how to decorate that new space without going into major debt again?

Here’s a list of 12 tips that helped us when we bought our home:

  1. Make your plan Before you begin on any improvement project.  Prioritize which need to be handled first.  Figure out realistic costs of the projects, and add 15% to your estimates.  Measure the area where you plan to put that cabinet or couch.  Knowing what will fit will avoid non-refundable mistakes. 
  • Find your design inspiration.  Check internet or magazines and figure out what you like.
  • OK, you have a plan, now check your budget.  Be honest with yourself about what you can afford.  If you don’t have the money for what you want, figure out how much you can set aside for home decorating.  Yes, you could charge the furniture, but you might be paying on it long after the joy wears off.
  • Repurpose what you have.  So, you hate the couch you have now, even though it fits in the new home.  Until you can afford a new sofa, consider getting a good cover for it.  Can elbow grease fix that light fixture you hate?  Great clean it and place the dingy bulbs with new LED natural light bulbs.  Do you really need new kitchen cabinets, or can you get them refaced/painted?  Wouldn’t a coat of paint make the bedroom fresh?  When you choose to repurpose, you might be surprised at how many videos are available to help you through it, and how much fresh paint can transform a room or piece of furniture.
  • Try on the minimalist look for a while, but if you need new furniture, consider buying ready to finish furniture.  Unfinished pieces may actually be better quality pieces, since the blemishes aren’t hidden under dark stain and you can pick the better piece.  It also gives you control over the colors you want on your wood furniture pieces, whether one unified color or related but different tones for interest.
  • Someone once said I would rather have second hand than second rate.  Check out your local habitat for humanity Restore or other resale shop and benefit both your budget and someone in need.  Look for quality over a specific style in secondhand stores, and inspect every piece very carefully.  Buy only what you will be comfortable with.  China, porcelain, plastic and metal clean up easily, but clean anything you buy second hand.
  • Use Color.  Lots of it.  Adding the colors you love is an inexpensive way to accessorize your home…just remember to use color carefully when painting walls.  Most professional decorators recommend that you use a neutral or soft color – one that you won’t tire of quickly – on the walls, then add a secondary color in the furniture followed by a bolder accent color for cushions, rugs, pillows, vases, drapes etc.
Photo by Huseyn Kamaladdin from Pexels
  • Express yourself!  Try your own hand at framed photos, painting or collections.  If you hate it, then don’t use it, but you may enjoy the process.
  • Take the projects in sections.  DO NOT immediately tear out everything because you plan to replace it.  Set a schedule for stages and for the budget. For instance: When you take out the carpet to reveal that beautiful wood floor underneath, you may find the reason for the carpet is that the wood floor ends halfway through the room where there used to be a wall.  That could mean you will need either new flooring or new carpet and your costs will spike.  Make sure you include hiring a professional or handyman for projects beyond your experienced, just in case.
  1. Get feedback.  We needed to redo our kitchen when we moved into our home.  I really hadn’t spent much time preparing meals in any kitchen, so I asked others people that had a lot of meal prep experience.  It helped me make layout improvements that I still appreciate today.
  1. Live in the space before making massive changes to its interior. Even with the help I got in our kitchen rehab, I wish I had waited to do the rehab.  As you live in your new space, you will get a feel for its quirks and nuances.  This can help you figure out the best way to arrange and decorate your space.
  1. Looking for design help on a budget?  Consider hiring a student designer. Your home is going to be great, just take your time and enjoy the process.  And congratulations on your fresh canvas.