Design Matters

Some budget-friendly ideas to decorate your home

by Val Nehez
Posted 3/7/24

People often seek our advice on affordable ways to enhance their home's appearance. The first question: “Why are you doing this?"

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Design Matters

Some budget-friendly ideas to decorate your home


People often seek our advice on affordable ways to enhance their home's appearance. The first question we will always ask is: “Why are you doing this? “What do you want to get out of it?”

Usually, our clients come back with some version of the following:

  • “We want the living room to feel bigger and be nicer to host fancy cocktail parties.”
  • “We want a place where the whole family can pile together for movie night.”
  • “We want to finally have a place to display all our collections.”
  • “We want a place where everything can get put away.”
  • “We are a ‘no shoe’ house, but where do they all live?”
  • “I am a solitary writer, where can I carve out my sanctuary?”

The first step should always be the critical consideration of what you want to accomplish. Next, how you decide which elements will have the biggest impact will determine how you allocate the budget you have. 

For example, beautiful wrought iron hooks can be mounted to a distressed or wood grain board hung at the entry. Add a pretty bench underneath and you’ve just created a mudroom. You can sit on the bench to take off your shoes, hang your coat and push your wet boots underneath. 

Once you can answer the “why,” you have a clear path forward. 

Budget-friendly decorating ideas will start to show up and find their place in your vision; including reinventing what you already have. 

Money certainly doesn't buy love. It also doesn’t buy taste. Spending a lot of money does not ensure a great result.  Cost-effective design solutions are a common concern. 

Stay with your mission of what you specifically want to accomplish. Logical simple solutions will begin to appear. 

The following are simple ideas that yield great returns:

Tall fabric

Hanging slim, unassuming curtain rods higher and wider than the window will instantly make a room feel bigger and dressier. Forget pricey places like the Shade Store, Ikea has great curtain fabrics. (Sewing a rod pocket in a sheet can work too). 

Sometimes we even just drape a great piece of fabric on a rod or over a simple sheer linen curtain. 


Put it on an accent wall or a ceiling. Or just over the window like we did in this laundry room.  

And remember, peel-off removable wallpaper is great for apartments…


Old-school lighting is a fabulous way to upgrade a room. Don’t be afraid to rewire. Lighting should be classic and timeless. 

Light temperature

If I could do only one thing for all homes, it would be to fix the light temperature.

In order to be good global citizens, many people are using LED light bulbs. These lights can be painfully cold - and cast a hard blue light that is anything but relaxing. 

This is very simple to fix and still be green. LEDs have come a long way since the early days, so it’s not hard to find them in warmer colors. Just make sure to read the color information on the box, and pick something that’s under 2,700 K. 

Jar shelves

Slim, simple, and highly functional. Looks great! And as a bonus, they might help you cut down on buying yet more plastic….

Change the knobs

This is a brilliant way to refresh your kitchen or bathroom. A big visual jump. And you can do it yourself with a screwdriver. In a pinch, you can even use a butter knife.

Val Nehez is the owner and principal designer at Studio IQL in East Falls, which you can find at and on Instagram at studio_iql or for smaller projects quickandlovely_design.