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50 Easy Decorating Ideas Under $50

No need for an extreme makeover. Here are 50 ways to make small decor changes that will make a big difference in your home.

By Mary Kate Frank

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Wood table with linen runner
Laura Moss
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1. The next time you entertain, set the scene with a chic linen runner. So simple, yet it makes your dishes and centerpiece the standouts. Bonus: Ironing is a snap.
—Rosanna Bowles, designer

2. Give your entry oomph with an adventurously painted front door. Think high-gloss yellow, green, blue or even pink for maximum impact.
—John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, Madcap Cottage

3. Bring home a rex begonia. The spectacular spiral-leafed plants—waxy or fuzzy, streaked and splashed with silver, pink or purple—are instant magic in an interior.
—David Stark, David Stark Design

4. Keep family photos current. Instead of framing, put snapshots in an attractive bowl on a table where everyone can sift through them. Trade old images with new ones every few months or so.

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5. Arrange a display of candlesticks in mismatched finishes—silver, glass, wood. Unify the arrangement by using the same color of taper for each. All red or all black makes a striking effect.

6. Add zip to a small bathroom. Adhere a trio of decorative medallions in different sizes to a wall and paint a contrasting color or matte black to add extra dash. Westinghouse ceiling medallions, from $9, homedepot.com.

7. An artsy knob instantly updates a cabinet or dresser. Ceramic geometric multicolor knob, $8/set of 4, worldmarket.com.

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8. Turn dozens of postcards into a charming display by tacking them up together on a wall. There are no rules—collect from flea markets or your favorite trips and arrange any way you desire.
—John Derian, John Derian Company

9. Pull out that stash of Grandma's china and the hodgepodge you've collected from flea markets. Alternate different patterns with your everyday white.

10. To make a room more inviting, ditch the unflattering overhead light and use different types of fixtures—a hanging pendant, sconces, floor and table lamps.
—Deborah Needleman, author, The Perfectly Imperfect Home (Clarkson Potter)

11. Rearrange your rooms. Bring the sideboard from the dining room into the entry and use a table in the foyer as a TV stand in the den. Play around with micro areas too, like the mantel.
—Nate Berkus, Nate Berkus Associates

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12. Give stairs the wow factor with a DIY striped runner. Section off vertical bands with painter's tape, then fill in using three different shades—yellow, orange and black, say, or blue, brown and white.
—Cortney Novogratz, HGTV's Home by Novogratz

13. For an easy, cheap chic way to accessorize, think small. Arranged on a mantel or sideboard, items you've collected over the years—like salt and pepper shakers—make great little sculptures.
—Jonathan Adler, designer and author, Happy Chic Accessorizing (Sterling Innovation)

14. Get the look of wallpaper without the expense or commitment. A fun stencil design used as an accent or all over makes a room come alive. Chrysanthemum no. 2 stencil, $35, oliveleafstencils.com.

15. Update your bedding with a stylish set of monogrammed pillowcases in a bold color that ties into your decor. Grand embroidered extra pillowcases (standard size), $28/set of 2 plus monogramming, potterybarn.com.

16. Create the illusion of a high ceiling by hanging curtains at least 18 inches above all the windows.
—Kirsten Krason, Kirsten Krason Interiors

17. For a colorful pop in a kitchen or kids' bedroom, replace plain-Jane switch plates with brightly patterned styles. Bonus: Fingerprints won't show. Hobbie Horse Designs handmade custom Joel Dewberry Modern Meadow switch plate cover, $7, etsy.com.

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18. Have a piece of glass cut to fit the top of an everyday table. Put a rich-looking fabric or wallpaper underneath, or paint the underside of the glass in a vivid shade for a sophisticated look.

19. To create a little drama in the living room, switch out the white shade on your favorite lamp to black. Black fabric drum shade, $30, lampsplus.com
—Nate Berkus

20. Go glam in the bedroom. Paint walls chocolate brown, trim and night tables high-gloss white. Behr's Premium Plus in Revival Mahogany, homedepot.com.

21. Design a centerpiece "scene" of five small to medium bouquets in tiny vases. Many silhouettes bud vases, $39/set of 5, wisteria.com.

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22. Pep up a windowsill with some quirky accessories. Transform a bunch of your kids' cast-off miniature plastic farm animals or dinosaurs with high-gloss white spray paint.
—Charity D'Amato, Chartreuse

23. Splash a little color on the inside of a door. Use 1-inch painter's tape, a ruler and paint to emphasize a molding or design bold geometric shapes.
—Sara Tuttle, Sara Tuttle Interiors

24. Lighten up for summer! Swap heavy curtains for white sheers. Then dip the panels in buckets of Rit dye for a lovely ombré effect. Lill curtains, $5, ikea.com.
—Meg Caswell, HGTV's Great Rooms

25. Frame pretty tea towels or wrapping paper as cheap chic art to punch up a bare wall.

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26. Any decor can benefit from an element of surprise, like upside-down-designed planters. Boskke small recycled sky planters, $16 each, aplusrstore.com.

27. Tassels are the earrings of the home. Hang one on a doorknob or use two as tiebacks for curtains.
—Jonathan Adler

28. Vintage scarves in mixed prints and hues, stitched together, make cheerful curtains for a kitchen or even a teenager's bedroom.
—Holly Becker, decor8blog.com

29. Instead of a nightstand, put a spare chair or ottoman next to your bed as a place to park a stack of books, catalogs and magazines.

30. Enhance your rooms with the flick of a switch. Use adjustable dimmers to lower light for watching TV and up it for reading.
—Phoebe Howard, interior designer

31. Make a big impact with a bouquet of tall field blooms. Gather an armful of forsythia, Queen Anne's lace or whatever strikes your eye and arrange in a colossal container on the floor by the front door.
—Jessica Helgerson, Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

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32. Dress up a white bookcase by painting the outside edges in black. Two contrasting or complementary colors work too!
—Holly Becker

33. Revamp an old linoleum kitchen floor in a checkerboard pattern with self-stick black and white tiles. Or get brave and go chevron!
—Meg Caswell

34. A few hits of red energize a space. Shop your house for crimson accessories—vase, cushion, lamp—and relocate them to one room for maximum pizzazz.

35. Jazz up the wall behind a mantel or console with mirrored tiles. Pick up a box or two and simply adhere the squares. 12" x 12" mirrored tiles, $10/set of 6, homedepot.com.

36. Use a richly patterned fabric to cover a couch or chair without the cost of reupholstering. Scarf medallion tapestry, $39, urbanoutfitters.com
—Gillian Lefkowitz, Gillian Design

37. Fashion a custom headboard for the bed from a roll of fanciful wallpaper. Simply trace your desired shape, cut out and apply according to instructions.

38. For a quick mini makeover, rotate your throw pillows on sofas and chairs by season—or whim!
—David Stark

39. A lacquered tray turns an ottoman into a side table, a bunch of odds and ends into an organized vignette, and a sideboard into a minibar. Bärbar tray, $7, ikea.com.

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40. Nothing beats a pouf for versatility. Not only will it work as extra seating in almost any room in the house; it doubles as an occasional table or a prop for feet. A gold version amps up the luxe factor. Decorative pouf, $50, target.com.

41. When it comes to glassware, don't think matchy-matchy. Pep up your current crop with blue or green tumblers.
—Matthew Robbins, author, Inspired Weddings (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

42. Group empty frames of different shapes and sizes, bought cheap at secondhand shops or yard sales, on your wall. Painted in monochromatic or contrasting shades, they're as eye-catching as art.

43. Break up the pairs! Odd numbers of vases and decorative objects—three or five—are more pleasing than symmetrical arrangements.
—Sabrina Soto, Target's style expert for home

44. Don't save all your best furnishings for the living room. Put a fancy lamp or mirror in a more unexpected spot, like the kitchen.
—Sara Tuttle

45. Play around with hardware store items as decorative accents. Polished copper pipe fittings can be napkin rings; brightly colored mini clamps strung on picture-frame wire display prized photos.
—Annie Selke, author, Fresh American Spaces (Clarkson Potter)

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46. Decorate your desk with pretty objects that do double duty: A ceramic egg crate is a catchall for small items like paper clips; an old trophy holds colored pencils.
—Holly Bohn, seejanework.com

47. Put up a paper lantern in the entryway—the bigger the better. Oversize elements take the attention off a petite space. Oval lantern, $9, pearlriver.com
—Tamara Kaye-Honey, House of Honey

48. Do like the pros: Hang your photos and prints low on the wall. You should be able to look down on the bottom picture—about 57 inches from the floor is an average best height.
—Deborah Needleman

49. Bring a colorful outdoor table indoors as an accent piece next to a sofa or paired with a chair. Kiwi pedestal table, $40, crateandbarrel.com.

50. Look to nature for decorating inspiration. Use hefty stones as doorstops or bookends, use smooth pebbles to anchor flowers in a clear vase, or pile the prettiest shells from your vacation into a glass cylinder.

Originally published in the April 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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