The Inexpensive Home Improvement Series: A Living Room That’s Livable and Low Cost

Whether you call it the living room, the family room or the den, there’s always one room where the family gathers to watch television, entertain guests or simply relax and talk to each other. It’s a high traffic area that can quickly seem dated or bland through sheer familiarity. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to freshen up your family’s favorite gathering room. There are simple, DIY projects that will give you plenty of comfort and beauty for less than $100.

Skip Traditional Art Work

Have you had the same painting or oversized mirror hanging over your sofa or mantle for ages? Swap them out for something unconventional. You can find gently worn picture frames at any flea market or second hand store and frame anything from old road maps to vintage board games. For a more contemporary feel, put sleek frames around plywood that you’ve painted with chalkboard paint, then write a favorite quote in chalk. Bonus: You can change the quote to reflect the seasons or your mood.

fabric as art
This beautiful wall art is made from remnant fabric over a wood frame.


Even remnants can be used as artwork. Upholstery remnants can be stretched over wood frames for textural interest and a bit of color on your walls. Or ask your local decorating store for remnants of discontinued wallpapers. You can mat these in white or black and frame them for a grouping on a wall.

Souvenirs as Décor

If you pick up snow globes, small statues of landmarks or any other tchotchkes when you’re traveling, try grouping them together on one end of a table. They’ll not only look great; they’ll be great conversation starters when entertaining guests.

Freshen Up a Floor

If you have worn, wood floors that you can’t afford to restore, consider painting them. The same goes for wood floors that are simply too dark for the room. A soft shade of pearl gray or a vivid splash of aqua on the floor can set the tone for the whole room. If you’re not sure what color to choose, look around at the furniture and accessories in the room and pull out one of the accent colors to tie everything together.

If you’re feeling highly creative, take it a step farther and add a pattern. Using painter’s tape to give you crisp lines, paint tonal stripes to add interest and camouflage uneven floor boards. Stencils can also help you mimic the bold colors and patterns of an oriental rug without spending a fortune on the real thing.

Visit the Salvage Yard

printing box with letters
This vintage printing box with various letters makes a great industrial art piece.

Architectural salvage yards are chock full of interesting pieces that you can use to add interest to your living room. Oversized signs, old metal lettering or numbers or vintage tools can all be hung on the walls of your living room for a rustic look that will stand the test of time. Don’t forget to look for items that can be repurposed. An old piano bench can become a side table with storage in the seat for magazines and newspapers. Old ceiling medallions can be spruced up with a fresh coat of paint and arranged on a wall as art. Choose colors that coordinate with your living room’s décor but add visual and textural interest. For maximum impact, take the colors of the room and make them bolder and brighter on the medallions or old picture frames.

Repurpose What You Have

Many older homes now have central heating, but once used radiators to heat individual rooms. The radiators now take up space living rooms everywhere. But you can put a simple wooden cap over your otherwise useless radiator to give you display space and a handy spot to put a potted plant. If there is a radiator along the same wall as your sofa, you can easily transform the radiator by putting a cap over it that’s wide enough to double as a sofa table. Put a lamp and a few books on it and no one but you will know what’s hiding underneath.

Get Creative with the Walls

If you have an older home that’s a maze of small rooms, open up the space by taking down a non-loadbearing wall. Let the two rooms flow together, sharing the additional light and space. If you love the idea of a “great room,” but hate the idea of your kids’ toys infringing on your adult space, use a decorative screen to define each space without having the walls seem to close in on you. If you have an alcove that you’d like to use for storing toys, don’t turn it into a closet; instead, hang drapes near ceiling level. You can pull them closed when company is coming to hide the clutter. Then open them when the kids are playing. The curtains will also absorb some sound and soften the lines of the room for a cozy feel.

Custom Curtains on a Tightwad Budget

Custom curtains that are created using colors pulled from your room’s furniture upholstery or wall colors add up in cost quickly because they are unique to your décor and are labor-intensive. To capture the look of custom drapes, choose good quality curtains in a solid color then customize them. It’s simple to sew wide bands of ribbon or strips of fabric onto the curtains or stencil colors on using fabric paint. Consider special touches like braided trim or beading as well, which you can find at any sewing notions store or craft shop.

These decorating tips can quickly turn a tired living room into a gorgeous gathering place your family will fall in love with. Choose one or two to start with and you’ll soon be ready to tackle the rest of your home in your quest for beautiful, inexpensive home improvements.

If you’re in the market for a home in the Ellwood City, PA area, visit Look At My Homes, where you’ll find single family homes and duplexes for rent or purchase. Look At My Homes also offers homes in the surrounding areas, including Ellport, Wampum, Koppel and Trafford, PA.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s