Low-cost tricks to big-time style

You don’t have to have a big decorating budget to dress up your home. Here, ways to give your place a welcoming, stylish look without spending a lot of money…

Layer one rug over another. Large area rugs with a lot of detail can be expensive. If you have a small, patterned carpet in an area that could use a larger one, place a larger, inexpensive jute rug (TheCompanyStore.com has several styles) underneath it to give the feeling of a large, elegant area rug.

Frame black-and-white pictures. They make a sophisticated wall display. At a thrift store or used-book store, buy books illustrated with black-and-white photographs or drawings. Cut out the pictures that appeal to you, place them in simple inexpensive frames—Ikea has nice ones—and group them on a wall. For bigger prints, I like to do three on a wall…for smaller prints, five or six.

Shop hotel liquidator outlets. These stores buy furniture from hotels that are redecorating, and the pieces often are in great condition and surprisingly stylish and affordable.

Example: I paid $25 each for two marble end tables and $40 for a marble console from a high-end hotel in Los Angeles. New, these would have cost hundreds of dollars.

Search the Internet under “hotel liquidators” and the name of your city. I also shop at salvage yards (for architectural artifacts from old buildings), estate sales and CraigsList.org.

Declutter your bookcases. Instead of covering every inch of space with books, give the eye places to rest—leave some shelves empty except for a single, treasured object. You also can group books by size or color.

To create the look of custom built-ins, stand two freestanding bookcases side by side and attach molding between them and around the edges.

Wallpaper the powder room. Wallpapering a small room gives you a lot of impact for little money. Prepasted wallpaper makes the job easy. Bold, graphic prints are trendy now. If you prefer a classic look that won’t go out of style, grass cloth is a sophisticated choice. Even if you want to have a professional put up the wallpaper for you, it shouldn’t cost more than $30 to $60 for the labor per roll of wallpaper.

Add glass to kitchen cabinet doors. You can change the look of your kitchen without going to the trouble of replacing the cabinets. Remove just two or three cabinet fronts, and have a handyman use a jigsaw to cut a big rectangle in each one. (You can do this yourself if you are skilled with a jigsaw.) Smooth the edge of the cutout…stain or paint it if necessary…and have a glass cutter cut a piece of glass to fit each door. The glass costs about $4 to $8 per square foot. Behind the glass doors, display your collection of vases, a stack of colorful dishes or your good china.

Spray paint older appliances. White kitchen appliances look dated now. To get the look of an expensive new refrigerator, I painted my old one using Rust-Oleum Universal Spray Paint in glossy black. Unplug the empty fridge, remove the doors and roll it outside. Sand it lightly, give it two coats of paint and let dry overnight.

Important: Protect the inside of the fridge by sealing it off with sheets of plastic and painter’s tape from the hardware store.

Add a mirror to any room. Mirrors add ambient light, and their frames draw the eye. Place a mirror behind a lamp or underneath a sconce to reflect light.

Cover light-switch plates with wallpaper. The color and pattern add visual interest to a wall. Ask your local wallpaper store if it has any leftover pieces you can buy cheaply. Take the switch plate off, and trim the wallpaper to fit the plate. If the paper is not prepasted, use a little spray adhesive. You also can wallpaper the inside of bookcases.

Give new life to old curtains. Instead of replacing the whole curtain, buy fabric, cut it into wide strips and add a contrasting border to curtain panels. Or you can use wide ribbon. If you don’t sew, use iron-on fabric adhesive to attach the border.

Freshen up bedroom furniture. Change the knobs on a dresser or a nightstand—my favorite now is brushed bronze ring pulls. For an updated look, combine stain and paint. I like to stain the outside of the piece dark walnut and paint the drawer fronts white.

Display collections on old silver trays. Sterling silver trays are easy to find in thrift stores. I clean them up with half a lemon. Use them to organize shells, jewelry, old bottles or demitasse cups. A tray makes any group of objects look intentional and artistic.

Make your entryway welcoming. If your entryway is small, use a table or dresser that fits comfortably to one side without limiting your walkway. Top it with fresh flowers in a vase. Have a brightly painted chair or bench for guests to sit on as they remove or put on their boots and wraps.