Decorate your Family Room, without Breaking the Bank!

by Kathleen Wilson


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The family room is one of the most important rooms of the house. This is where we spend relaxed time together, where we scurry to get the kids together for school, where we enjoy hobbies, and sometimes where we entertain or dine. It needs our attention, and we deserve to have a comfortable and charming room from which to run our household, even if we don't have unlimited funds! (I have five kids and three stepkids. You want to talk limited funds?) Here are some great ideas to transform your family room in a weekend with a little elbow grease, a little creativity, and some great ideas for TheBudgetDecorator.com!

  1. Pick a theme. You wouldn't write a story without a plot, and basically, when we decorate, we are telling a story about who lives there. Are you a nature lover, does your family love sports, are you very traditional, or do you like a very minimal room? Once you have a theme, it's a lot easier to pick and choose the elements in the room to create that feeling, and can save you a lot of money in mistakes when things don't quite go together.

  2. Pick a color scheme. This is only slightly more complicated than picking out your favorite hues. First thing, if your home is an open floor plan and you can see another room from your family room, try to include one color from that other room in your family room scheme. It will help the rooms flow. Also, consider your theme when choosing colors. A nature inspired theme would look more inviting with earthy tones, sports could use brighter, louder accent colors, and more traditional rooms probably aren't going to go for chartreuse or fuchsia. One tip with color in the room? Use your main color on 60% of the room, your second color on 30%, and your brightest accent color on only 10% of the room. Try to spread the color throughout the room evenly, and it will lead the eye so as not to bore your guests!

  3. Tackle your largest area first, which usually is the wall area. With your walls, paint is my first suggestion. It is cheap, easy, and can transform your room in an hour! Try a rich or deep tone on just one wall, then a lighter version on the other walls or ceiling. Paint is not your only options when dealing with walls however. Other budget ideas include hanging panels of fabric, quilts, or even a beautiful tablecloth as artwork over the wall. You can apply fabric directly to the wall by wetting the fabric with liquid starch and smoothing over the wall. This is great for renters because it is easily removed with water later on. It's helpful to use thumbtacks on the outer edges to hold in place while it dries if necessary. Contact paper cut into strips makes great removable wall border, and you can now find close-out wallpaper border at the dollar shops for (you guessed it) a dollar! Stenciling fits into many more casual themes, and uses very little paint to achieve a great effect. Faux finishes such as sponging and ragging are very popular, give a wonderful rich feeling, and are very easy to learn. Don't let anyone convince you that you need expensive glazes; they are nice, but not mandatory. You can base paint with a semi-gloss, then thin your top coat with water, and sponge, rag, or rub it on the walls. Want a chair rail or ceiling border but can't afford wood molding? A great idea I just ran across is to use a ribbon as your "molding" and secure it to the wall with upholstery or brass tacks, evenly spaced. You could also use glue or wallpaper paste to decoupage the ribbon onto the wall.

  4. Next, you need to tackle those windows. The biggest problem in family rooms is usually a sliding glass door. Now if you have kids and dogs running in and out, I have one suggestion for you. Forget expensive blinds! It is only a matter of time before the vanes start falling out, they get permanently bent when they get shut in the door, or they fall down all together! Use something inexpensive to give privacy. Roll up wood look blinds are very cheap (be sure to look for the wood look variety, real wood blinds are more pricey) and you can hang several shorter ones which will last longer than having to raise a very heavy six-foot-long one every morn! Fabric panels can be made very cheaply out of twin flat sheets, and if you don't sew, you can get iron on hem tape. Inexpensive wood dowels can make great rods, and you can glue practically anything onto the end of the rod to make a perfect custom (and cheap!) finial. Try a pinecone, a racecar, or a teacup. Use your theme to add a great detail.

  5. Furniture. This is a word that makes many budget decorator's cringe. It can be expensive, but there are many ways to make the most of what you have, and to pick up inexpensive alternatives. The first tip is pretty predictable. Try slipcovers. Family rooms' casual attitude makes them perfect for this treatment. Here's a great tip. Go to your local home improvement center and pick up canvas painter's drop cloths. Throw them over your piece, tuck into cushions, and then use ribbon, cording, even rustic rope to tie around the bottom edge or skirt area to keep the cover snug. Now the trick to making slipcovers look great is to accessorize them. Add throw pillows and blanket throws. They can easily be made from the same sheets that you made the curtains from. You can even stuff pillow covers with old towels in a pinch. Blanket throws can be cut from a yard of polar fleece fabric. It does not fray, so no sewing is required. Just cut some fringe and toss on the couch! The last thing you should remember about furniture is paint. Paint mismatched furniture all the same color, and it will blend it together. You can do a lot to hide a poorly made piece by adding a little wood molding and a creative paint job! You can also make little details such as leaves, scrolls, or dots with joint compound or salt dough. Allow your detail pieces to dry, glue them to your wood piece, and then paint the whole piece of furniture. It will look hand carved!

  6. Lighting. Lighting is important in a family room because of all the diverse activities that go on there. Lamps can be found at thrift stores and made new with a new shade, or a coat of paint. Decoupage a lamp base with glue and tissue paper or gift wrap. Punch holes around the edge of a lampshade and weave ribbon, rope, or suede lacing. Add stenciling to the edge of the shade, or decoupage on pressed leaves and flowers. Poke needle holes through the lampshade in a pattern to match your theme, and the pattern will glow when the lamp is turned on. Buy cheap battery operated stick lights at the dollar shop and place them underneath shelves to light up artwork, treasured books, or countertops.

  7. Ok, the fun part, accessorize! This is where you use your theme, bring in things that say you, and personalize this room. If you don't have a large enough piece of artwork for that big wall, you can group many smaller pieces together to form a large "piece." Dollar shops have frames for a buck, and just about anything can be framed, from a garden seed packet, to magazine or catalog pages, to the Mom's Day card your little one made you. Add a few diverse pieces to your grouping, like some pretty china from your cabinet, your grandfather's clock, or even the house numbers from the first house you lived in as a family. Pick up cheap candles and set them in a pretty bowl filled with nuts, stones, or potpourri. Stack attractive books on a table, or add a tassel to your ceiling fan pull. Use your creativity to express your family's personality, and enjoy your relaxed evenings and your hectic mornings just a little bit more.

Kathleen Wilson is an author, national columnist, and editor of The Budget Decorator. For more free ideas, free ebooks, and inspiration on budget decorating, visit her at TheBudgetDecorator.com and sign up for her free newsletter.

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