Ben Kuhl - April 28 2022

Decor Ideas That Won't Break The Budget

Floating Shelves Bathroom

Did you see a few home décor items at the store that you absolutely fell in love with but couldn’t see handing over that much money for? You’re not alone in that. We’ve all been there at some point, probably more than once. However, looking through what stores have to offer can provide a lot of inspiration for DIY projects and more affordable alternative options.

That’s why we’ve come up with some great ideas for cutting costs and still getting that look the stores promise. Here are some knock-off and DIY décor ideas that are definitely worth looking into and trying out if you want to give your home a new appearance that says you spent a lot of money even when you didn’t.

Paint on canvas

Are you starting to feel like the décor on your walls should be just a little bit more mature than band posters and haphazardly applied LED strips? What about going with original painted canvases to give it that totally-nailed-adulting feeling? Hang them on the wall or display them on floating shelves. Don’t worry. You don’t have to take out a loan to make it possible. Whether you want something abstract or art with more detail, it’s possible. Here are three ideas to make it happen without having to shell out the cash or attend four years of art school:

kitchen Floating Shelves

Image credit: John P via ShelfExpression

Paint by number

This is a perfectly valid option if you aren’t quite ready to create a masterpiece entirely on your own. It’s like a coloring book page, but with paint, and you can put it on the wall after without anyone knowing how it was made. There are a ton of paint by number kits out there, especially in craft stores, that can create some fairly astounding results if you don’t mind taking the time required to carefully fill in all those little numbered areas. The best part is they come with everything you need – paintbrushes, paint, and the canvas.  All you need to add is your time. 

When shopping for paint by number options, keep in mind that acrylic paint will dry within a day in most cases, but some oil paint can take months to dry and requires special handling (and not touching it) in the meantime. If you need something that will be ready soon after you finish painting, always opt for acrylic paint. 

Start with a blank canvas

Do you remember all the times you have looked at paintings and thought, “I can do that”? Well, in a lot of cases, you really can. The simple shapes and random stripes that fill canvases in a lot of home décor stores are no harder to replicate than it is to accidentally dump a can of paint on a canvas.

Find a simple style that is easy to replicate, buy a blank canvas from a craft supply store, and create an abstract masterpiece of your own for a fraction of the cost. Your visitors won’t know the difference. However, if you really want to fool them, give the paintings a random signature at the bottom that isn’t yours and then claim it’s an obscure artist no one has ever heard of. We won’t tell.

Go secondhand

Last but not least, it’s worth looking around to see what is available used. You might even find a real near-masterpiece for five dollars in a yard sale if you’re lucky. You never know what’s out there until you look. Generally, what you will find is a mix of more recent mass-produced paintings, unknown artists, and older paintings. 

Perfect picture frames

Have you seen a style of picture frame that you like, but you don’t want to pay the money to get a set of them? In a lot of cases, basic picture frames or even cut out cardboard can provide a base for the perfect frame if you have the time to add some paint, gloss, and a little patience to get it right. 

Kitchen Shelves with picture frame

Image credit: Nikol L. via ShelfExpression

How to do it:

Note the style and color of the picture frames that you would like to replicate. If you’re among the many who weren’t born already holding a paintbrush, choose a simple style with a consistent color and surface that will be easy to reproduce. Avoid anything too complex, and get ready to use YouTube to learn a specific painting style if it’s anything other than a solid color. There are a lot of great tutorials out there that are extremely easy to follow.

The next step is to find old frames in your house, hit a thrift store, or visit a dollar store. Get the frames that most closely match the size and shape of the picture frames that you are interested in replicating without the cost of buying them new. If you don’t even want to spend that much, find some cardstock or cardboard, cut it to size, and use it as the base of your frame.

Next, it’s time to get paint. Find one in a color that matches what you are going for. If you want a consistent coat, go with spray paint. If you’re looking for more of a hand-painted look with intentional flaws, you’ll want to use a paintbrush to apply the paint. Also, remember that metallic colored paints are an option, so don’t worry too much if you’re using a plastic frame to get a metal look. Just be willing to invest a little more in a good coat of gloss to really make it shine.

Now, find a well-ventilated area, especially if using spray paint, protect everything in the area, and give your frames their first coat. Let it dry, and then repeat to give the frames a second coat. Finally, give them a clear gloss coat if needed. Wait for them to dry completely, and your frames will be ready to go.

Do you still need something modern and unique to put in those frames? See the idea right below this one.

Inspirational quotes

We’ve all seen those inspirational quotes that add a little something special to a home. We see them in picture frames, on wall decals, and set into various items. They can be found in kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways everywhere. They add creativity and inspiration. They highlight a homeowner’s or renter’s individual style and perspective.

However, we can think of something that’s even more creative, more inspirational, and that will highlight your individual style and need for expression even more – the quotes that inspire you the most, not just the quotes that were the most inspiring ones that the store had in stock that day.

Make your home 100% you. 

pipe shelves with quote

Image credit: Nancy S. via ShelfExpression

How to do it:

If you have a printer, this is a super simple task to complete, and it should take less than ten minutes in total. Copy and paste or type out your favorite quotes, and put them in any paint, image editing, or even a text editing program such as Pages, Microsoft Word, or Google Docs. Center the quote on the page, choose your font and size, and then print it out.

If you don’t have a printer, or if it’s out of ink (aren’t they always?), you may have to do it the old-fashioned way and practice your best handwriting to get your chosen quotes onto paper. From there, you can place the quotes in picture frames on pine shelves, add a cardboard backing to the paper and skip the frame, or use the lettering as a stencil to paint your quotes on walls throughout your home (in the last case, you will most likely want to go with a large font).

It’s a solution that saves money and provides more value. What’s not to love about it?

Add to the pilows

If you have plain pillow covers and cases, think of them as blank canvases ready to be painted on. Except, in this case, the paint is buttons and pom-poms. Other than that, you just need a needle and thread and a little bit of patience to create a home decor style that would have cost a whole lot more at the store. Do you want to do more once the pillow covers are done? Blankets and soft furniture can have the same applied to them. Create a look that flows throughout the house.   

living room floating shelves

Image credit: MacKenzie R. via Shelf Expression

Get inspired

Visit stores online or in person. Go to websites like Shelf Expression and visit Pinterest. There are a ton of great ideas out there waiting to be discovered and to inspire you. Consider what color scheme you want, what style you are going for, and what you can use or change that is already in your home. 

Get creative

Look around at what you already have and don’t use anymore. An old birdcage can become the perfect place for candles.

Old mason jars can become candle holders as well. Old cups can be converted into flower vases. Old clothing can become new throw pillow covers.

Salvaged wood has endless possibilities. It can even make a great creative option for holding up handmade shelves. It all comes down to using a creative eye and considering the options. 

Custom Shelves

Image credit: Pine floating shelves via Shelf Expression

Renew what you have

If you still have paint left over from that last project, this could be a great one to do next. Furniture that is feeling out of date doesn’t have to. A little paint, some sanding and wood stain, or contact paper can completely change the look of your furniture. In the case of contact paper, you can even give the face of your fridge a completely new look. Make the changes while no one is around. The next time they see your place, they might think you’ve spent money on some serious interior decorating. 

custom shelf stains

Image credit: Shelf Expression Wood Stain Samples

Hit the thrift shops

If you haven’t decided on a décor scheme to go with yet, it might be worth looking into what’s already available out there. Whether you’ll repurpose them or use them as-is, there are a lot of treasures waiting to be found. Polish them and give them a new life. If you’re into antiques or have a love of the décor of a past decade, this could be a true treasure trove.

Hi, I’m Ben! I’m a woodworker, shelf creator, stain matcher, and general DIYer who blogs about all things woodworking and current custom floating shelf design trends.  I'll even try my hand at non-shelf topics.  Anyone can be an expert these days as long as they sound authoritative, right?  I may even add some humor here and there (my wife thinks I'm funny, sometimes).  Here's my story:  Learn more.

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