Designers' Top Updates for Cozy Spaces on $100 or Less

These affordable design ideas will give new life to your favorite room.

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July 06, 2016

Photo By: Terracotta Design Build

Photo By: Christina Wedge

Photo By: Christina Wedge

Photo By: Christopher Oquendo

Photo By: Christopher Oquendo

Photo By: Haven Design Works

Photo By: Terracotta Design Build

Photo By: Michael Habachy

Photo By: Christopher Oquendo

Photo By: Thomas S. England/Dwell with Dignity Atlanta

Photo By: Thomas S. England/Dwell With Dignity Atlanta

Photo By: Thomas S. England/Dwell With Dignity Atlanta

Photo By: Marc Maudlin Photography

Photo By: Marc Mauldin

Photo By: Marc Mauldin

Photo By: SNAP Real Estate Photography, LLC

Photo By: Miles Design Group

Photo By: Miles Design Group

Photo By: Thomas S. England/Dwell With Dignity Atlanta

Photo By: Thomas S. England/Dwell With Dignity Atlanta

Photo By: Crates and Pallets

Photo By: Crates and Pallets

Photo By: Crates and Pallets

Photo By: Ashton Woods/Troy Campbell Photography

Photo By: Ashton Woods

Photo By: Devon Garner

Photo By: Black Southern Belle/Lyndi J Photography

Photo By: Mosaic Group [Architects and Remodelers]

Photo By: Janna Allbritton

Make Pillows Pop

Bolster your seating with pillows bearing favorite locations and phrases. You can take a linen pillow and use stencil and spray paint to add the name of your town or home country, or anything you want, says Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, architect and designer with Terracotta Design Build in Atlanta.

Decorate With Clocks

If you have family out of town or travel often, arrange a trio of used clocks on a wall and set them to those time zones. That way you can keep track of what time zone they're in, and also avoid trying to Facetime them in the middle of the night. Designer Robin LaMonte set these clocks to Atlanta time, where this family lives, and China and Paris, two areas where the mother often goes on business trips. Depending on the look you are after or your budget you can also use mismatched clocks sourced from garage sales, for a more inexpensive option.

Give Old Maps New Life

Designer Robin LaMonte loves bringing travel items into rooms, and it doesn't have to be a souvenir you picked up on vacation. Instead, buy an atlas (you can find used ones at flea markets) and cut out the states where you vacationed or where you have family, and put them in simple black frames.

Top Off the Table

Metallics add a modern touch to a room without breaking your budget. For table decor under $100, Parker Kennedy Living used a sea urchin from Target and a lacquer green and gold box from C Wonder. They didn't have to buy new books, since the homeowner already owned those, as well as the table.

Customize Your Tables

A skirted table can soften a room, especially if you have other wood furniture, molding or beams. To save more money, hunt in the fabric remnant section, or use a white canvas or even a long tablecloth to cover the table and add a glass top. Parker Kennedy Living also added a round mirror to the top of the side table. Mirror companies often stock round mirrors, which are more affordable than having one cut to size. "That’s a good way to get a lot of bang for the buck for a table under $50," said interior designer Lance Jackson. "It puts a little more custom look to it."

Play Around With Paint

Paint is a go-to choice for enhancing a room, especially on a budget. Using dark trim with lighter walls brings out the architecture and painting the bookcase in a rich palette makes the entire space appear more expansive, says Donna Mathis with Atlanta-based Haven Design Works.

Let It Shine

Painting the walls high-gloss white is a great way to give a room a high-end finish and to increase the amount of light in the room, says Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, designer and architect with Terracotta Design Build in Atlanta. Adding trim is an inexpensive way to give order and a high-end look to a wall with a flat screen TV, she says.

Create a Vignette

A chaise is a great piece of furniture to add a dash of design in an affordable way. "Instead of just having a plain daybed or chaise you can layer it," says Atlanta designer Michael Habachy. Position a tray on top of a throw, or even use a textured or patterned scarf or pashmina that you own.

Fix Up a Wood Cube

A basic wood cube is cheaper than buying an upholstered or leather ottoman. So Atlanta designer Rachel Greathouse did a quick and easy fix. She covered the top of a cube she bought from a discount home decor store with a piece of sheepskin, which creates a comfy spot for feet to rest. You also can find faux fur at a fabric shop and buy just enough to drape over the top. For even greater savings, you can build your own ottoman out of plywood.

Spray Paint for a New Stunner

For an inexpensive quick fix, Atlanta interior designer Steve McKenzie used two shades of gray paint to update an ugly blond 1980s cabinet. He worked with DIY blogger Dena Stormer on the project for Dwell with Dignity, a nonprofit agency that does home makeovers for families living in poverty. "Dwell with Dignity likes to reuse or refurbish anything they can, showing the families that with a little bit of work, you can transform anything," she says. "I love that idea." She removed the doors, sanded it down, taped off the inside, primed it and then sprayed the doors separately from the console.

Supersize It

To fill a big blank wall, take your favorite vacation photo and upload it to one of the many sites that now print large format photographs. You can create an impactful, personal work of art that's inexpensive, says Atlanta interior designer and home decor store owner Steve McKenzie. He created this room as part of the makeovers given to families by Dwell with Dignity Atlanta, a nonprofit organization. 

Rescue Discarded Designer Fabric

Scour the close-out bins at fabric stores to find designer textiles in patterns and colors that you love and that fit with your furniture. Then follow DIY instructions to make easy-sew pillows that add a pop of color to complete a room, says Atlanta interior designer Steve McKenzie

Go Coastal

For a coastal-inspired living room, these accessories can easily be replicated at discount home decor stores, says designer Robin LaMonte of Rooms Revamped Interior Design. Look for colorful bowls and plates for under $100.

Play Up the Background

When you paint the back of a bookshelf, which is a favorite update by designers, coastal and colorful accessories pop out even more to create a pulled-together look for the room.

Ditch the Frame

Art on canvas, instead of framed masterpieces, can be a lower-cost option to personalize a room. Designer Robin LaMonte says many of her clients hang artwork by their children prominently in their home. Find blank white canvas packs sold at arts and crafts stores.

Commit to Color

A monochromatic look can be bold and budget-friendly. Consider matching your curtains to the walls, as seen in this metro Atlanta model home by the designers with Monte Hewett Homes. Since time is money, you can save time by not worrying about finding a complementary color or pattern for the drapes.

Save on a Gallery Wall

Gallery walls, such as these six images of city scenes, group common images and give a pulled-together look to a space. But the framing can get expensive. Interior designer Michelle Mentzer with Miles Design Group in metro Atlanta suggests keeping an eye out for regular discounts at arts and crafts stores. These were part of a half-off stock frames deal every other week at an arts and crafts store.

Step Out of the Box

A top trick by designers for making a living space feel more homey is adding a fun rug to the flooring, even when you already have carpet. You don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on an area or antique rug to fill the entire space. Instead, look for a smaller accent rug in a pattern that adds pizzazz, like this cowhide rug designer Michelle Mentzer with Miles Design Group found in metro Atlanta. The pictures of landscape art and the chevron and plush accent pillows were on sale at a home goods discount store.

Upcycle and Enjoy

When designers find furniture for cheap, they don't let the existing finish keep them from using it in a room. Designer Julie Montgomery of Julie Montgomery Interiors found these side tables on casters at a thrift store. Then Dena Stormer, a DIY blogger, used a semi-gloss coat of Behr Marquee in Alabaster to give them a clean, fresh look for this living room makeover for a family, through the nonprofit Dwell with Dignity Atlanta.

Make Framed Art Affordable

When you have bold, colorful art and furniture, designers often use restraint on the frames. The frames don't need to match, either. These white and black frames in the gallery art cost less than $10 each. This room was part of the home makeovers created by designers and DIYers through nonprofit organization Dwell with Dignity Atlanta for families transitioning from homelessness and poverty.

Use Crates and Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood can warm up a space, and crates can add all-important storage, even to an area on display. Jen Woodhouse of The House of Wood used crates to fill this bookcase, making it decorative and functional. For another custom touch, she wrapped this bookcase in Crates & Pallet’s reclaimed pallet wood.

Bring Driftwood Back

Driftwood decor is a go-to choice when designers want to bring a coastal look into a home, whether it's on the water or not. It can be as simple as gathering one big piece or multiple pieces that catch your eye on nature strolls. A large piece also can fill a section of your bookshelf, which saves even more money on decor.

Put a New Twist on Boxes and Books

Create your own special shadowbox with cool-looking maps or maps of favorite places, or any other motifs that appeal to you. Give stacked books that you already own a cohesive look by simply having the spines face the back of the bookshelf, as Jen Woodhouse of The House of Wood did in decorating her recycled wood and crate bookshelf.

Illuminate Treasures

When choosing items that you own to fill a bookcase, think about creating a contrast, says Leigh Spicher, Ashton Woods' national director of design studios. In this Orlando model home, neutral book pages and accessories stand out against the dark wood of the built-in bookcase. "Sometimes our favorite decor is something we already own," she says. If you save money by using existing items, you can also add picture and display lighting to illuminate treasured pieces.

Refresh a Wall

Create an accent wall with an inexpensive finish, like this white brick veneer in a Naples, Fla., home, for a comfortable, casual living space, says Leigh Spicher, Ashton Woods' national director of design studios. You also can paint existing brick or whitewash it. Also, white, gauzy curtains can be found on a budget from most home retailers and fit into a coastal-inspired design.

Embrace the Era

Even in traditional built-in bookshelves, you can add in vintage elements on a budget. Atlanta designer Devon Garner filled in the gaps with album covers, which you might be able to find in your attic or at a flea market.

Freshen Up With Flowers

You can save money by buying a small bouquet of flowers for a vase on a table, then enhancing it with a few leaves from your bushes and trees to add depth. Instead of books, display colorful city guides, even ones you pick up on travels, to highlight favorite destinations.

Cozy Up by the Fire

To give your room a cozy feel for free, rethink how you arrange the furniture. For example, is there a spare chair in another room that you can pull beside the fireplace? For this room, Mosaic Group [Architects and Remodelers] positioned the furniture to address the fireplace, creating a salon effect where several people could settle in for conversation.

Reuse a Coat Rack

Wall space above a bookshelf doesn't always have to have art. In this living room, designer Janna Allbritton used a wood coat rack with metal hooks, which is cheaper than a painting. Then display anything you want, whether it's a simple number for a graphic element or colorful hats or scarves. 

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