1. Not having a plan
Just because you don't have the budget to totally redo your room all at one time, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't spend some quality time thinking about what your functional needs and aesthetic goals are for the space. I always tell my clients that it's best to dream big in during the initial brainstorming phase for a room. What would you do if budget wasn't a concern? It's much easier to work backwards and see how we can achieve a similar look on a smaller budget than to limit your creativity at the outset of a project. My favorite place to find interior design inspiration? Pinterest!
TIP: Don't forget to "click through" your favorite home decor images that you find on Pinterest! Most of the time, they will lead you back to an awesome blog with even more photos and details about that room design!
2. Forgetting to take inventory of what you already have
While most furniture salespeople would tell you to skip this step (and have you buy everything new!), I know that you guys are a savvy, creative bunch. See what you can do with the furniture you already have first. Borrow from other rooms or try re-imagining a piece with new paint or fabric. I'm not saying you should settle for a something that really doesn't work for the space just because you already have it, but if you have a piece that is functioning well and just needs a little tweak to make you love it again, go for it! You'll be able to put the money you've saved by diy'ing towards something else you really need for the room.
3. Not bringing photos & dimensions of your space with you to shop
Your drawing doesn't have to beautiful or even to scale, but by figuring out what limitations you are working with from the get go, you'll save yourself a lot of time in the long run. Even better, plan your arrangement ahead of time using the process of elimination. Figure out where the biggest piece will go and find out how much space you have left for things like storage and tables.
This was one of the first things I did with our new house. I knew I wanted a king size bed for our master bedroom, but I wasn't sure if it would fit and still allow room for things like nightstands and dressers. By drawing the room to scale with the bed, I was able to see how much room I had on either side for nightstands and figured out where I would place our dresser. I am still on the hunt for new nightstands, but now I know exactly what size parameters I am looking for!
4. Going shopping without a budget
And no, "as cheap as possible" does not count as a real budget. Before you step foot in a furniture store, you need to sit down and figure out how much money you are actually willing to spend on your decorating project. Of course there is a trade off between price, and quality (which in furniture boils down to comfort + durability), and with furniture you generally get what you pay for but that doesn't mean that you can't be smart about prioritizing your purchases to get the best value for your dollar. If you are working on a pretty tight new homeowner budget like I am, prioritize which items you need to buy new and which items you wouldn't mind purchasing second-hand. My general rule is that upholstered pieces (especially sofas and mattresses) should be purchased new but I don't mind finding the majority of my wood pieces at thrift stores or on craigslist.
TIP: If you are working with a design consultant at a furniture store, be upfront about your budget from the get go. Your consultant will be able to save you time by quickly pinpointing brands within the showroom that match your style, comfort needs and investment level.
5. Focusing on small details first
When you want to decorate but you know you don't have much money to spend on a room, it's easy to find yourself frequenting the clearance aisle at Target, picking up things like picture frames and jewelry trays and candles, etc. I've been guilty of this myself, but I'm here to tell you DON'T DO IT! Your living room isn't going to go from "ehhh" to "wow" with the addition of just one more tchotcke, so put the ceramic bulldog down.
Don't focus on the small details before you invest in large scale, high impact pieces to set the tone for your room. It might not seem like you are spending a lot on your weekend trips to Target, TJ Maxx and Home Goods, but if you add up over the course of a year, you will might be surprised to realize that you could have bought those new barstools you've been coveting instead of enough mismatched table lamps to light a small village.
What are your tips for decorating on a budget? What are your favorite stores with good deals on home decor?
Infographic design and hand-drawn illustrations by me, digital color rendering by the talented Jamie Barchanowicz. Stay tuned because she's launching her own shop very soon!