Decorating on a Budget

Try some of these easy-on-the-wallet ways to decorate your home and enjoy living there with these inexpensive improvements.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton

Decorating on a Budget Change the personality of a room without spending a fortune. Your home is your castle, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a king's ransom to breathe new life into a tired décor. Try these easy and inexpensive decorating ideas you can do yourself that will transform a room in an afternoon or weekend.

Fast Facelifts

* Update a lamp by changing its shade for about $30. When shopping for a lampshade, take the base with you to see which cover looks best. Make sure the shade covers the bulb, electrical socket and on-off switch and is in scale with the base.

* For a quick-fix in a bathroom, add new a new shower curtain, rug and towels to give a color boost to the room for less than $100.

* Replace a ho-hum kitchen light fixture with a stylish new one for $50 to $100. You'll be surprised at its impact.

* Declutter the family room and rearrange the furniture. For about $50, you can add a tall houseplant in the corner to soften the room's hard edges.

Weekend Wonders

* Remove an old varnish finish from a small table or chair to allow the patina of the wood grain to shine through. Use an antique refinisher to remove the varnish and wash away any residue with mineral spirits; wipe on tung oil for a fine topcoat finish. You'll spend about $50.

* If you like the existing wall color but want to add some pizzazz, stencil a border near the ceiling or at chair rail height. Use a pre-cut acetate plastic stencil pattern, available at craft stores and home centers. Stenciling is easy: After securing the stencil sheet on the wall with masking tape or spray adhesive, dab a stencil brush in paint and apply it in the stencil holes, then reposition the stencil sheet on the wall, repeating until the design is completed. For a 12-foot-by-15-foot room, this project will cost about $50 for the stencil, brush and two colors of acrylic paint.

* If you're not an artist but want a whimsical way to decorate a kid's room, try a paint-by-number mural from www.elephantsonthewall.com, an extensive online source of murals. For under $100 you can purchase a mural kit that includes a pattern, transfer paper, color guide and instructions; mural themes include nursery rhymes, Noah's Ark, sports and animals.

* To give a custom touch to a window blind, shade or drapery, add a fabric cornice topper. Choose material that complements your furnishings, assemble the cornice and upholster it with batting and fabric using a staple gun. At www.diydecorator.com you'll find cornice frame kits, not including fabric, for about $75.

* Cover up an ugly floor with carpet tiles to make a room appear larger and more unified. This modular flooring solution is based on 18- to 24-inch square tiles, and doesn't require adhesive. A pad is attached to each tile. Tiles cost about $2 per square foot at home centers and websites.