Interior Designers have a short term effect. Their work looks great when they’re done, but give a few weeks and everything starts to resemble the north bound end of a south bound buffalo. The leading causes of this are bad decorations; good pieces are expensive, so most of us resort to knock-offs or kitsch. In this article, I look at some decorating ideas that won’t max out your credit cards, but won’t leave your friends asking why you live on the set of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
"Nice huh? I saved those fabrics from the incinerator at the disease control centre."
1. Change the Lighting
The cheapest way to alter a room’s mood is through the lighting. I don’t mean buying a chandelier or re-wiring the lights; just changing the bulbs or angles is sufficient.
A good example is angling the lights upward, so they bounce off the ceiling. Then turn off the down-lights (any of the lights mounted directly on the ceiling). You’ll get a more subdued look, and unless your dining room will no longer possess the intimacy of a 24 hour kopi-tiam. You can also use cheap torchiere lamps, which are basically lamp stands with upside down lampshades; the light is channelled up instead of down.
Discovered from decades of putting on lampshades the wrong side up.
If your budget is a bit bigger (around $300), you can install track lights. That’s the kind you see in galleries; lights aligned along an electrical track, which can be directed at different corners. It looks fancy and upmarket, and it’s way cheaper than buying a $5000 Ming Vase or something.
Probable Cost: $150 – $300
2. Paint One Thing
Paint is the cheapest decorative element to change. You don’t need to re-paint an entire room (though that’s one option). Throwing a splash of colour on one wall, or even just painting a door, can make a big difference.
"This ought to make our barracks look intimidating."
This works best in rooms where there are two dominant colours; anything more and you’d better be the right age to shop at Hot Topic (read: under 15 years old). Using white will brighten a room, and using black adds a lot of drama. Red is best avoided, unless it’s meant to feel busy and active in the room. A home office with a red wall, for example, will feel energetic.
A small tub of paint can cost as little as $25. Getting someone to paint it will cost maybe $50, or just do it yourself.
Probable Cost: $25 – $75
3. Reposition the Furniture
Shifting furniture costs nothing, unless you’re as physically fit as I am (in which case, the cost varies according to diet plan and backache pills). Instead of whipping out that Amex for a new coffee table, see if dragging the existing pieces around won’t attain the same effect.
"No one said I ought to get the house before the furniture, okay?"
Common repositioning methods are:
- Putting the sofa in the centre (the back doesn’t have to be against the wall)
- Swapping the rugs or carpets the furniture is on
- Arranging furniture to create function corners (e.g. all the DVD cupboards compressed into one corner)
- Pulling things along or away from walls
A quick repositioning can make a room feel new.
Probable Cost: Severe Backache, Nagging Spouse
4. Vertical Gardening
Most of us know that plants add a nice touch. But we’re put off by pots taking up space, pets chewing at them, and children setting fire to them when bored (It’s normal if I say it is, damn it. And these childhood scars are chick magnets).
"Charles, I hope you remembered to clean the moss off the wall. You know how fast it grows around here."
An easy solution is the vertical garden, which is a cheap and awesome indoor decoration. Use suspended box planters or floating shelves to hold the plants, and you’ll get an “exotic rainforest” effect. Especially with plants that have trailing leaves or vines. You won’t lose any floor space, and plants are cheaper than creepy-ass monochrome photos.
You can also use air plants, which don’t need any soil. These range from $8 – $12 a pop, and you can usually get a discount if you buy in bulk. They’re easy to maintain, and they can twine and creep so they’re off the ground.
Probable Cost: $150 (for the box planters mostly) – $250 depending on the plants, and occasional watering.
5. Family Photos
Family photos can work as decorations, if you get the right kind of frames. For this to work, you need an assortment of small picture frames, with a mix of shapes and sizes.
There’s an art to positioning frames, but it’s a very cheap way to decorate a room. Next to the frames themselves, there’s practically no cost. The trick is not to position everything in a straight line; you have to “cluster” the pictures according to a central theme. So something like “holiday pics” or “pics of my grandma” can be grouped and placed on one wall or table surface.
"I don't think that's too many. I think you went past 'too many' 200 frames ago."
You can get picture frames for about $15. If you want to go DIY, $40 of material can make 10 – 12 frames; but it’s not easy. The furthest I ever got was three.
Stitches, that is, after running the paper cutter across my fingers.
Probable Cost: $150 (10 frames) – $400 (10 ornamented frames)
Have you got any cheap decorating ideas? Comment and let us know!
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