How to decorate on a limited budget

We have had some wonderful experiences decorating our home on a student's budget. We were directed in many special ways, some of which include the following:

Using the library as a source for decorating magazines and books. We researched to find out what we liked and what color scheme looked good in our home.- Using discount store paint at half the price of name brands - with comparable results.

Checking office furniture stores for used, high quality living room and dining room furniture. Office furniture is usually very sturdy and built to withstand high use.

Checking rental-return stores for lamps. We were able to get lovely lamps, then replace the shades at discount store prices.

Buying sheets at white sale prices for slip covers and drapery linings.

Checking thrift stores for drapery rods and blinds. These can be expensive items but are often donated when people redecorate.

Using the distribution center as a source for prints and posters. We are told to have pictures of temples, prophets and gospel subjects in our homes and these can be purchased many times for less than $1. Frames can be obtained from local thrift stores, and mats can be cut from mat board using a hand-held level cutter and a straight edge.

We've been able to re-do our home for the price we would have paid for an inexpensive new sofa. The counsel to stay out of debt needs to be taken seriously, and we are provided the way to accomplish this. - Ruth Morgan, Broken Arrow, Okla.

What we did:

Simple plan

Having a simple decorating plan can solve many decorating problems.

Plants give a room an instant sense of warmth and coziness. Large or tall plants can be placed in corners to soften and give dimension to an area. Plants can be in pots or baskets and placed on the floor beside furniture. Small plants can be worked in with accessories and lamps on table surfaces. This works especially well with artificial plants, in a container or without.

Large rugs add interest as well as give a finishing touch to a room.

New fabric can be used on throw pillows, slip-covered ottomans, window treatments and with other do-it-yourself projects. Make sure your selections complement existing items. - Tim Strickland, Columbia, S.C.

Only what's needed

When we were married, we had $150, a car and some old furniture my mother had given us - a bed, dresser, table and worn love seat. We noticed many couples were nearly camping out in their apartments, but we decided to make ours "home."

We decided what we needed, then looked at magazines in a local library for ideas. As money would allow, we shopped at garage sales, Deseret Industries, thrift shops and discount stores. We tried to buy only what we needed.

Four dissimilar wood chairs painted the same color, with matching ties on cushions, looked great around our table. Old folding chairs, painted, work well. Worn upholstery can be cleaned with a brush and soap suds, and covered with a new throw or slip covered. Plain sheets, found on sale, are great for curtains, table cloths, lamp shade covers, slip covers for pillows/furniture, shower curtains, etc.

For classy bookshelves, we used concrete blocks painted with white enamel, stacked with boards. Part of an old smooth door, with wood posts for legs, sanded and polished, made a great desk. - Bonnie Marshall, Provo, Utah

Feeling of accomplishment

I prayed for inspiration so that my home would reflect our personalities and testimonies. I then boxed up everything that I felt didn't fit that goal. My home was bare for a season. But then I began to make a list of things I loved and slowly I made the curtains and flower arrangements, and found the pictures suitable for our home. Through the years, I have wall-papered, painted, stenciled, sponge-painted and refinished furniture to save money. The feeling of accomplishment and of making it "our" home could never be more sweet than if we had spent lots of money on furnishings. - Stephanie Lee, Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas

Get rid of clutter

The best decorating tip is to get rid of the junk and clutter. Make sure your home is clean and smells good. Bake something yummy or boil cinnamon and nutmeg in some water on the stove. Use stencils or sponges cut into simple shapes and acrylic paint to decorate plain, whiter shower curtains. Quilted wall hangings can be made from recycled clothing or old sheets and dyes. - Jennilyn B. Landbeck, Havre de Grace, Md.

Avoid trends

Remember President Spencer W. Kimball's advice: Paint up, clean up, fix up. Keep everything in good repair, and try not to have anything "ugly" in view.

Seek counsel from professionals who are available in many retail stores where home furnishings are sold.

Comparison shop and purchase items when they are on sale.

Stay away from trendy furniture and fabric that will go out of style soon. - Diane Mathews Hintze, Buenos Aires, Argentina

`Our Family'

We decorate around the theme, "Our Family," which includes our ancestors. Over the years, we have acquired, mostly as gifts handed down, beautifully framed pictures of our grandparents.

Today, our home is decorated beautifully with reminders of our family, our ancestors, our travels and our service to God, via our mission. - Don and Joan Conkey, Woodstock, Ga.

Learn new skills

Be willing to learn new skills. Learn to sponge paint walls and borders, refinish or re-upholster furniture, arrange flowers, lay linoleum tile, sew curtains, etc. Relief Society homemaking meeting is a great source. - Lois Cole Laudie, Olathe, Kan.

Be creative

Find creative uses for things already owned. Place a few seashells around folded bath towels. Use baskets to hold everything from kindling to newspapers and books, yarn and desk supplies. Frame a scarf, a piece of patchwork or lace, calendar or note card art as well as photos, children's artwork or needlework. Use large canning jars to store/display dried pasta, beans, etc., on the kitchen counter. - Patti Whitman, San Diego, Calif.

How to checklist:

Make simple decorating plan; set goals, be patient.

Look for used, thrift items; buy only what is needed.

Take advantage of local resources, such as libraries.

Be creative, use what you have; learn new skills.

Write to us:

June 1 "How to curb impulsive spending."

June 8 "How to cope when your child has had a permanently disabling accident or illness."

June 15 "How to help your spouse adjust to retirement."

June 22 "How to teach children respect for the Sabbath day."

June 29 "How to adjust to life-altering changes."

July 6 "How to develop meaningful family traditions."

July 13 "How to help children cope with the death of a loved one."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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