Get inspired. The first step is to get loads of inspiration and ideas. Go to your local library and check out a few magazines on interior design and home decor. Depending on your personal taste, you might consider the following titles: ELLE Decor, House Beautiful, Dwell, LUXE, Traditional Home, Architectural Digest, and Cottage Style. Also check out any design magazines that are specific to your region.
Now flip through those magazines just to get ideas. Take note of the design elements that you like most. Which colors, textures, and patterns are particularly appealing to you? Jot down any and all of those designer tricks that you find aesthetically pleasing and that you could incorporate inexpensively into your own space: stacked books that double as end tables, collections of antique jars on a mantle or mismatched pewter frames in an attractive grouping, for example.
When something speaks to you, sketch it in your “design notebook” or just jot down the idea. You might not be able to use the idea in your space right away, but when you need fresh inspiration, you’ll have it.
2. Dress the walls. A quick coat or two of paint can do wonders for any space, and it’s an easy project to do by yourself in an afternoon (or two). Just a few hours of work can yield dramatic effects – elevating a boring, blah room into a cozy, warm space. And even if painting isn’t your favorite part of the home decorating process, it needs to be done first so you can make sure all of your other design elements will match or coordinate with the room itself.
Wall tiles, wall flats, fabric panels, and vinyl embellishments are other attractive and affordable options to quickly and dramatically change the look and feel of a space, particularly if you are renting and need a more temporary and removable option. A quick Google search will give you a variety of choices in a wide range of price points.
3. Dress the windows. Behind paint, the right window treatments can give you the second biggest bang for your buck. Your choice of fabric can make all the difference in your room. For drama, choose strong colors and patterns with heavier textures. For a light and airy room, opt for sheer draperies in pastels.
While the right window coverings are important, they don’t have to be super expensive. Browse your local Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, Target, Kmart or Macys. You can often find especially deep discounts online at Amazon and Smart Bargains.