Read on for our top 10 recession-busting decorating tips. (We think you'll love the results long after the economy has improved!)
1 Paint a room. Yes, we decor writers always harp on about paint, but the fact is, it's the cheapest, easiest and most effective way to refresh any room in your home. Give a tired bedroom a facelift, or "neutralize" an out-there home office to prepare your home for resale in this buyer's market. Yes, we know you love aubergine but potential buyers may not!
2 Two words: fresh flowers. Flowers are under-rated as a small-ticket luxury. True, a basic supermarket bouquet costing $10 and replaced weekly, comes to $520 per year, but swap three lattes per week to freebie office coffee and you’re there. Want more floral cost cutting? Display just one or two long-lasting tropical leaves or a stem of long lasting blooms. Phalaenopsis orchids and calla lilies can last up to two weeks if you keep them out of direct sun and replace the water every couple of days.And don’t forget: once your garden comes into bloom, you'll have free fresh flowers until mid-autumn!
3 Reface or repaint kitchen cabinetry. If the recession has you postponing a planned kitchen makeover, extend the life of your kitchen by giving your cabinetry a new look. Have it professionally refaced, or, if DIY is more your style, sand, prime and then give it a new coat of melamine or oil paint.
4 Put all your lights on dimmer switches. You can buy dimmer switches for under $20 at any hardware store. Dimmable lights create instant mood lighting while reducing energy consumption.
5 Throw down an area rug. If your hardwood has seen better days but you can’t afford to have it professionally refinished, get an inexpensive sisal or sea grass area rug. The neutral tone won’t draw the eye downward like a colourful (and pricey!) gabbeh might, but will blend in while disguising scuffs.
6 Let the light in. Why are your drapes shut all the time?! Roll them up or tie them back and give your rooms a more cheerful and expansive feel. This simple step makes a huge difference. (If intense sun is a problem, just draw blinds as needed, not all day long.)
7 Clutter bust. True story: I was hating my living room last week and wondering why I wasn’t feeling the magic anymore. Did it need a makeover? After staring it down, I realized, it wasn’t my 10-year-old sofa that was the problem; I still like it. It also wasn’t the pile of kids’ toys sitting inside my giant carved-wood bucket by the fireplace; I still like the idea of casually using an antique to hold everyday kids’ stuff, too.
It was the toys not inside the giant carved wood bucket that was the problem. It was the toys on the floor. It also was the magazines peeking out from under the 10-year-old sofa. And the seashells from our last vacation piled on top of the mantel. I threw everything into the carved wood bucket, neatly folded a throw blanket over top (I’ll move them to the attic another day) et voilà: mini living room makeover.
Moral: Often, you don’t need to spend money to make rooms look better. You need to move your junk out of sight.
8 Freshen the air. Whenever weather cooperates, let in a fresh breeze. No, you can’t see it, but it will give any room a noticeably fresh feeling. Likewise, use odour sponges or volcano rock to absorb odour in a musty basement, and essential oils and scented natural soy candles (not chemical air fresheners) to beautify the scentscape in common spaces and bedrooms.
9 Add mirrors. Mirrors make rooms seem larger and brighter. Beautifully framed mirrors also enhance a space, much like artwork. Hang some wall mirrors or lean an oversize floor mirror against the wall in common areas like a living room or dining room. True, some mirrors can be pricey. But pretty vintage models can be found inexpensively at flea markets and yard sales. For a more contemporary look, try Debbie Travis’ affordable collection at Canadian Tire, or the variety at Kitchen Stuff Plus. Great finds of all styles can be found discounted at HomeSense. The bargains are out there.
10 Add cheap art. Nothing adds personality like original (or almost original) art. Frame kids’ artwork or paint your own creations directly onto canvas. Print your photos onto printable fabric and either mount them or turn them into unique sofa cushions. Or go to etsy.com for affordable screen prints and lithos.