Somewhere along the way between upscale shelter mags and the ubiquity of HGTV, we’ve been led to believe that in order to have exquisite home decor, we need to be swimming in cash.
But here’s the reality: To make an impact, you don’t always have to empty your bank account. All it takes is one show-stopping piece of art, a minimalist plant, or a conversation-worthy light switch to make an entire room feel different, says Lauren Visco, an interior designer in Chicago.
“Time and time again you’ve heard the saying ‘the devil is in the details,’” she says. “This could not be truer when it comes to subtly elevating one’s home.”
Not made of money? Relax. You can find budget-friendly pieces that will do the trick. Here are six pieces under $100 that designers recommend to transform your space.
Color-coded ‘books by the foot’
Photo by Carol Vaughan-Davis
You’ve seen those gorgeous color-coded bookshelves in home decor magazines, yes? No longer is this an aspirational decor choice; New York–based designer Evelyn Benatar is increasingly bringing this fashion-forward look into her clients’ homes.
“As an interior designer, I’m asked to design a lot of built-in bookcases and fill empty shelves,” she says. “The one secret source I’ve used over and over is books by the foot.”
She heads to the Strand Bookstore in New York City, where you can get old books for as little as $20 a foot. You can alternatively hit up any used bookstore near you, or buy online from retailers who cater to this decor need specifically.
“I usually discard the book jackets and then decorate by color,” she says. “The results are always transformative.”
What to buy: Strand Books’ Books by the Foot, $20
A conversation-worthy outlet cover
The light switch might not be the first place you look when you enter a room. But you’d be surprised by how much an unusual light switch cover can transform a room, Visco says.
“Swapping out your outlet covers or light switch cover plates will surely make guests ‘ooo’ and ‘ahh’ when they walk into a room,” she says. “The plates will speak for themselves as guests will be sure to notice it right away if they have to turn the lights on.
What to buy: These whitewashed iron outlet covers add an antique touch: Anthropologie Tin Roof Outlet Cover, $18
Another seemingly minute detail Visco says can make a huge difference? Adding new—or vintage—hardware to cabinets, wardrobes, or nightstands to instantly spruce them up.
“Have you ever seen an unframed painting or photograph, and then the same things, matted and mounted in an ornately carved frame? There’s a big difference,” Visco says. “This same idea applies to hardware—from the drawer pulls on your dresser/cabinets, to the tiebacks on your drapery curtains, to the coat hooks in your foyer. The hardware serves as the little extra touch to make the main element pop.”
What to buy: Buster and Punch Furniture Steel Knobs, $50. “Try these glamorous, yet edgy knobs on a dark wood nightstand for some true wow factor,” Visco says.
Wrapping paper disguised as artwork
Photo by Alexander Johnson Photography
Haven’t started your Picasso collection yet? You can still hang up a beautiful display without spending a lot of money. Visco suggests framing wrapping paper—yep, the same stuff you use to wrap birthday presents.
“Art can transform any space and give it some extra personality,” she says. “Hanging framed wallpaper or wrapping paper is one of the most budget-friendly ways to give a room personality. The best part? If you get sick of the paper, swap it out and use the old paper for your next present exchange.”
What to buy: Papersource Herb Garden Flat Wrap, $6
Black-and-white or faux fur pillows
Photo by Rachel Horn Interiors – Discover living room design ideas
“Large, new pillows can transform a space into a warm, cozy, up-to-date room,” says Sandy Levin, interior designer and home staging expert in New Jersey.
For best results, try to find some that are at least 18 or 20 square feet in size, are of solid color, and don’t match or clash with the upholstery in the room.
“Try to look for pillows that reflect current home decor trends, such as black and white or animal fur,” she says. “They are simple, strong basic colors that evoke the ‘tribal style’ look that is very trendy right now.”
Fiddle-leaf fig plant
Photo by Georgeanna Parks Interior Design
Don’t overlook what a touch of green can do for a room—both for the look and for the air quality.
“One option to elevate the room is with a lively green plant,” says Marina Umali, a feng shui interior designer in New Jersey. “It’s an inexpensive investment, and it brings in good energy and great color to liven up any space.”
Umali likes the trendy fiddle-leaf fig plant. “I choose it for its rounded leaves and luscious look,” she says.
She also recommends a midcentury modern–style wood stand and simple white pot as a home for your new plant.