Whether you just moved in to a new house or apartment, or you’ve been living there for over a year, the sense that your space doesn’t feel finished is a fairly universal one. Maybe you know what nonessential furniture pieces you’re missing, or maybe you’ve been trying to figure out what your space is lacking and have come up empty-handed — either way, it’s totally okay that your home isn’t a 100 percent finished product. In fact, it’s a good thing.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in decorating your space is trying to buy everything all at once. Maybe because we see designers on TV shows throw rooms together in 24 hours, we think we can — and maybe should — do the same, but that’s really not wise. It certainly isn’t realistic financially, and it also isn’t how you should go about creating a space full of collected objects that’s uniquely yours. That will come with time.
However, we totally understand the desire to help your space look the part of a finished home, even if it isn’t fully there yet — and despite what you may expect, there are some really affordable ways to add the elements that contribute to that finished, complete look. Feeling good about having guests over to your home doesn’t have to be something you put off until you’ve saved up whatever amount you think is “enough” to finish decorating your space. To prove it, here are 9 home decor purchases that’ll instantly make your space look more complete without breaking the bank.
Decor for Your Coffee Table and Bookshelves
Two things that immediately make a home look unfinished: empty bookshelves (even partially empty ones) and an unorganized coffee table. If you happen to have more shelf storage than your belongings need, lucky you, but that doesn’t mean you should leave them neglected. Spread out your books to fill at least part of every shelf, and fill the other holes with decor — vases, picture frames, sculptural objects, vacation souvenirs, or whatever you feel like putting on display.
Similarly to bare bookshelves, an untamed coffee table isn’t doing your home any favors. This one is an easy fix: get a tray that takes up somewhere between a third and two-thirds of your coffee table (not the whole thing, though, because then you’re back to where you started). Use that to corral remotes, candles, match boxes, and coasters.
Balance out the rest of the tabletop with some larger art books and magazines, or go minimal by leaving it bare. Defining and giving purpose to the space on an otherwise wide open surface is key to helping your room look more intentionally styled.
One of the easiest and lowest-cost ways you can make your house or apartment feel like home is to personalize your lighting. Relying only on the overhead lighting that came with your place can leave spaces you need bright task lighting (like your kitchen) too dark, and spaces you want to make cozier (like your bedroom or living room) too bright. If it’s helpful, try switching out the light bulbs in any existing fixtures, but don’t forget to bring in lamps and wall sconces (these can be temporary too!) to add varying sources of lights. Not to mention, lamps are also great decor and can help to make your space look more intentionally styled and filled out.
Artwork With a Destination in Mind
Having art on your walls is also an effective way to make your space feel more homey and personal. If your home has a ton of open wall space, though, it can be a bit intimidating to know exactly what type or size of art you should hang, and where you should hang it. It’s never wrong to buy a piece of art you stumble upon and love without knowing where exactly you might hang it; but if you go shopping with the goal of buying “art” in a generic sense without much forethought, you’ll likely end up feeling pretty aimless and frustrated.
Think about proportions that will appropriately fill an open space on your walls. For example, a large, horizontally-oriented piece works well over a bed or sofa where it fills most of the wall space directly above that furniture. So does a set of 2 or more smaller vertical prints in a row or grid, like these vintage botanical prints from Etsy (a treasure trove of affordable artwork, BTW).
Also, don’t forget to get creative and explore your 3-dimensional options — antique items (window frames, baskets, signs, mirrors, etc.) can make for great unexpected wall decor that won’t break the bank.
If the extent of your current window covering consists of a pull-down shade or a single drape on a tension rod, it’s time to show your windows a little love. Curtains certainly can get very expensive if you go the custom route, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options out there that will get the job done just as well.
If you love the shade, by all means keep it, but blinds will look a little more high-end (but start at around $30 at your local home improvement store). If your tension rod curtain is serving both privacy and light-blocking needs, it’s probably time to upgrade to curtains that hang on a rod mounted above your window. Window treatments obviously have a lot of practicality to them, but are also VIPs in the decor department — when hung appropriately, curtains can make your ceilings look taller and your windows bigger. And most importantly, they are one of the most impactful decor items that’ll give your space that “finished” look — nothing screams mature, high-functioning adult like beautiful drapes in your home. Target, Ikea, and Bed, Bath & Beyond all have great neutral options that look way more expensive than they are.
Plants instantly — and also quite literally — bring life into any space, which can make it feel complete even when you know you’re lacking some key pieces of furniture. Having plants in pretty pots and baskets is a reliable finishing touch to bring into your home. Not a natural plant mom? There are some great fake plants you can buy online that’ll fool anyone; however, buyer beware: (good) fake plants are usually considerably more expensive than the real deal.
Coordinating Throw Pillows
If you’re like most millennials we know, you’ve got a bit of a mish-mash of living room furniture that doesn’t go together quite as well as you’d like it to. We actually wouldn’t recommend a sofa and chair that literally match (your space will look like a catalog, but not in a good way), but if you’ve got a hand-me-down couch that’s traditional, but a more contemporary accent chair, it can be tricky to connect the two so they look intentional in the space.
Until you’re able to save up for new furniture, a great way to make both pieces work with the space and with each other is coordinating throw pillows. Pick a color palette that works with the colors of each piece (and if that seems to be an issue, you can always use a slipcover to create more similar looking bases), and buy four or five throw pillows that fall in that color palette. You could do two matching pairs and one accent pillow or all different ones; so long as the colors connect from couch to chair and then ideally to something else in the room (i.e. a rug, lamp, piece of artwork, etc.), you’ll immediately have a more cohesive looking space. A brilliant — not to mention easy — way to switch up your pillows on a budget? Pillow covers.
We want to know — what’s your favorite way to decorate on a budget? Where do you love to shop?