Free or Cheap Decorating Advice

Cheap Decorating Advice from Brands You Love

by Dawn Smith

freeIt’s difficult to strike a balance between investing in the aesthetics of your rental or base housing and budgeting for the inevitable transfer in just a few short years.  Military spouses are fantastic for making something out of nothing, especially given a little bit of free inspiration from national brands we love.  This is why I urge you to look through the junk mail (both virtual and postal) to scan for free or cheap opportunities to add some charm to your temporary living space. 

Brand names we all encounter regularly often have hidden freebies or cheap projects offered on their websites or blogs. It just takes some time to sift through their beautiful photographs and flashy sale offers. Check the fine print--free stuff is usually tucked in at the bottom of the literature. 

Use this guide to browse through free decorating advice from the stores you shop every day.

Furniture and Home Goods

Pottery Barn: Pottery Barn’s reputation is the quintessential go-to resource for the start of a new home decorating project and has the price tags to reflect its popularity. I often find myself inspired in their show room, and then I head to less expensive retailers to find a similar look. 

But if you’re investing in a piece of furniture purchased from PB, it makes sense to have a professional come and offer free decorating advice for any room. Their Design Services program will provide a consultant to help coach a room makeover, for free, without obligation.

PB also offers free help with party planning. They are there to help pull together table settings and home bars in time for your next holiday event. If you are like me, someone with vision but no handyman skills, you’ll appreciate their offer for hardware installation for windows and pictures galleries for a small fee. 

Tip:  If PB is your style, don’t miss their blog, Inside and Out.  It’s filled with decorating how to tips and fabulous photos for inspiration.

Ballard Designs: If you prefer a European flair in your home, this comprehensive brand offers many looks from various styles of decorating and often has designers feature their personal collections. They actually title their blog, How to Decorate with an entire section devoted to "How To," all for free. It doesn’t get easier than that! 

Tip:  Ethan Allen and Lazy Boy both offer versions of free home styling or decorating consultation.

Home and Furniture Paint

Sherwin-Williams:  Everyone knows paint is the quickest way to change the feel of a home.  Updating a look is easy with the help of Sherwin-William’s website feature, ColorSnap Visualizer. Users simply upload a photo of the room they want to paint and ColorSnap allows weekend artists to "paint the walls" with thousands of color options for interior and exterior paint. 

Even if you don’t have your own picture, it offers templates for styles of homes such as Craftsman or Colonial to match your own. It is endless hours of fun of coordinating trim and wall colors because the program allows you to easily erase any mistakes.

Tip:  After you print the color choices, there is a $10.00 off a $50.00 purchase coupon for redemptionwhen you bring the list to Sherwin-Williams.

Annie Sloan: The chalk paint queen continues to rule the furniture rehab business. This forgiving paint allowspaintbrush any free curbside treasure to be transformed into an envy-worthy piece. Because of its user friendly appeal and variations of color saturation just by adding water, the high price point seems to be justified because the paint can appears to be bottomless. A little goes a long way. 

Legions of fans have posted their own blogs, You Tube channels, and Pinterest boards, so there are plenty of ways to garner free advice and tips for chalk paint projects. Plus, there are several recipes out there to make your own with latex paint and plaster of Paris or other additives.

Tip:  Although Annie Sloan trademarked the name, other major paint brands, including Valspar, have jumped on the "chalky finish" paint band wagon and offer their own versions for a lower price. 

Home Projects

Home Depot and Lowes: Both companies do an excellent job providing free how-to and DIY sections on their websites for varied levels of abilities.

  • Lowes shines with its achievable and trend forward projects highlighted in its digital Creative Ideas magazine. Garden, storage, and decorating tips are available in addition to inexpensive projects called Easy Budget-Stretching Updates

  • Home Depot adeptly covers free DIY workshops in each of its stores. Schedules vary by locale and date, but current topics include:  tile floor installation, paint and drywall repair, and seasonal projects such as Learn to Build an Outdoor Serving Station. 

Tip: Always, always ask retailers if they offer a military discount. Both Home Depot and Lowes do, as well as Pottery Barn.

Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores: The possibilities are really endless here for decorating your home inexpensively. They offer plenty of seasonal décor, fabric, and small furnishings to enhance any space.  I like the way they grab all of their deals and coupons and put them in one collective space. There isn’t any hunting or searching for the weekly deals. 

They also have a very unique take for online learning. Their Craftsy classes are online training opportunities for relatively inexpensive fees. For example, photography classes are learned at your own pace and start at about $25.00. Sewing Custom Curtains and Draperies is priced at $19.99 and also done at your pace. The best way to view classes is through the Craftsy App or on your personal computer.

Michaels:  Michaels offers many reasonable priced classes in-house, but lean toward craft adventures instead of home projects. They also have a robust email coupon blast.

Tips: Set up a dedicated email to receive retailers' promotions only. Newly registered customers usually will get a 10 percent coupon just for signing up. From then on you can expect daily or weekly coupons and sales fliers to appear. 

home_stagingIt’s a lot of work to get a temporary home ready quickly for your family to be comfortable. The pre-planning involved to envision your beautiful things in another home down the line adds another dimension of thought.  This doesn’t mean there aren’t savings to be had. If you examine those store mailers carefully and scour your favorite retailers’ emails and websites, it will be fun to catch additional deals.

Bonus Tip:  Look into local community colleges or technical schools near you.  Many offer military discounts and the personal growth classes are ever-changing.  I have seen beginning sewing, home staging, floral arranging, and various home decorating options.  Some have been so specific to have "budget," "inexpensive," or "easy" in the class titles.