My son changes his mind about the theme for his room at least once a year, so I've learned how to do it on the cheap.
Look for character folders in the school supply section of stores like Wal-Mart and Target or out-of-date character calendars on places like eBay or in the bargain bin at the bookstore. Another great idea is to print free downloads onto photo quality paper. All of these can be matted and framed with inexpensive pre-cut mats and simple white or colored frames from the dollar store. You can use the frames over and over. Mylar character balloons and kites also make great wall decorations.
Buy a quilt panel. A lot of times you can get them for $2 to $5 at Wal-Mart or on eBay. Then block it out with strips of plain color and coordinating fabric to make a character bedspread. If you can sew a straight seam, you can do this. It's not hard.
Take a plain gooseneck lamp with a large base and glue the action figure of choice on it. Cover the shade with coordinating fabric. Another option is to use character stickers on a small jug lamp and then spray with acrylic fixative. We did a Harry Potter lamp for $3 this way. We paid $1 for stickers, $1 for the lamp at a yard sale and $.99 for the fixative. We used fabric that was left over from his bedspread to cover the shade.
If character fabric is too expensive and you have a machine that appliques, you can buy 1/2 yard of character fabric, cut out the figures they want and machine applique them onto inexpensive fabric. I did this with Spiderman. We bought 1/2 yard of fabric with two-inch Spiderman figures on it, cut them out and machine appliqued them to black and white spider web material that was on sale after Halloween for $.50 per yard. For about $5, we got custom Spiderman curtains for a large window. It took about three hours to cut out and sew on the appliques. If you don't sew, you can also glitter paint theme-related objects onto plain fabric. For Harry Potter, we bought plain blue and white mottled fabric on the $1 a yard table and then we painted lightning bolts on it with gold glitter glue.
Wallpaper borders are inexpensive, easy to change, and come in almost any theme you would want. We bought three rolls for $6.99 (Harry Potter) on eBay. With the extra, we decorated his ceiling fan blades.
Desks or Chairs
A metal school type desk can easily have the legs and sides spray-painted in coordinating theme colors. The tops screw on and off. I have covered the top of my son's desk two times in plastic tablecloths from the party store, giving us an instant character desk. Both actually lasted as long as he wanted the room. If you buy a chair with a removable seat, you can cover it with coordinating fabric to match the bedspread or curtains for pennies.
I have done Thomas the Tank Engine, Spiderman, Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter Rooms for my son. Our max total has always been under $50 for a complete room change. When we change themes, I sell the character bedspread, matted pictures, and curtains on eBay. Usually I re-coup over half the cost of the room change. With the Spiderman curtains, I actually made money. They sold for $25 and I only had about $5 in them. We'll be doing Star Wars next.
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