vintage desk with lamp and chair with lambswool pad

Pitfalls to Avoid When Decorating on a Budget

It’s easier than ever to decorate on a budget. Nonetheless, we must be careful where to cut corners and where to splurge. Otherwise, our budget decorating will look like, well, budget decorating. In this post, we’ll talk about three of the most common decorating pitfalls so you can achieve designer-quality decorating on a budget without looking like you’re on a budget.


Discount big box stores

girl on couch at discount furniture store

Discount retailers sell everything from furniture to tabletop accessories to rugs to bedding — to, well, everything and anything you can think of, really. The items are always affordable and also look pretty cute and stylish. So, you buy a lot of stuff and eagerly take it home. You proudly display your cute inexpensive rug and your vase and then realize something is missing. On the store’s metal shelves, that rug and those vases looked terrific, but at home, the items suddenly look kind of cheap.

You want your home to have soul, look stylish, and say “you.” While it might be convenient to head to the store and pick up the sheets, rugs, curtains, pillows, farmhouse signs, and fake plants, please don’t fall for it. You are capable of doing better. They shout “Made in China” more than anything else, and you’re paying more than what you think when the frame breaks or the throw pillow rips at the seams within a day.

The items at these stores aren’t all bad, though. Just be very discerning in what you choose to purchase. The key here is to take your time and dig. I’ve had great success with a couple of things I’ve found at discount big box stores. While they’re far far from my favorite places to shop, if you know your brands and have a knack for finding quality in the heaps of cheap, you will likely come home with a few great treasures.

dining table with candle and tulips

The DIY craze

Making décor projects yourself is a great way to save money. But only to a point. If you want your home to reflect your style and personality, DIY projects need to be chosen carefully. Focus on DIYing small items or accents. Find some mismatched vintage chairs at thrift stores, throw a coat of paint on them, and you have a cute set of quality dining room chairs. Consider repurposing an antique bottle instead of making your own vase from a spaghetti sauce jar with burlap. After DIYing your piece, you should be left with “quality” rather than “art project.”

Too vintage and crusty

Vintage items can add style and soul to a room. Up to a point. Did you ever see a space that is so “vintage” that you don’t want to touch anything in it? The risk of total outdatedness or yuckiness is high if everything is rusty or worn. It’s essential to mix in new and vintage pieces thoughtfully. Two cute but somewhat rusted patio chairs topped with linen cushions are darling in a sunroom but resist the urge to include an equally rusty (vintage) davenport and a rusted table topped with a worn enamelware pitcher. Instead, go for a newer wicker style sofa with comfortable cushions and a more contemporary table.

console with mirror above it

Where to splurge

Some pieces for your home are worth splurging on even when you’re on a budget. Fortunately, you can often find good deals on even the most expensive pieces.

Upholstered Furniture

Invest in comfortable and well-made upholstered furniture. Check out floor samples and outlet stores if you have a limited budget. Consignment stores, thrift stores, and estate sales are also good options and offer a better chance of getting a quality sofa for less money than if you bought it at a lower-end furniture store.


A junky rug will ruin your entire design. Anything made of polypropylene or polyester is a junky rug (unless it’s an outdoor rug). The best rugs are made of natural materials. Cotton, wool, jute, sisal, and seagrass are the best materials.

Two options are available if you need a big rug on a small budget. One option is a flatweave cotton rug. The second option is a large jute, sisal, or seagrass rug layered with a smaller vintage rug. Vintage wool rugs (Persian, Turkish or Moroccan are my favorites) are expensive, but they’re worth it if you can afford them. The smaller ones for layering are often available at estate sales for a reasonable price. 

I’m sure you have some additional tips for avoiding budget decorating pitfalls! Please share away in the comments section below.

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