• Erin Zaranec

Self Care: Decorating on a Dime

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

If there's one truth that has been firmly planted throughout my life it is that I am cheap. Frugal, cheapo, stingy - call it what you may - I take none of it as an insult. In fact, I think being cheap is crafty... I'll even go as far as saying it's an art form.


A few months ago, I upgraded myself from a teeny, tiny efficiency unit to a two bedroom duplex. The move gave me A TON of more space, space that I could finally put my own stamp on.


But, moving is expensive. Even if you try to be cheap about it... which, trust me, I did... moving takes a toll on your wallet. I was so eager to make the space my own, though, and wasn't bringing many decor pieces with me. So, I got real crafty with my budget (and my decor!) and now have a space I love and I could afford!


I truly believe having a space you love is a form of self care. Being able to relax in an environment that feels like a true home does wonders for my attitude on a daily basis.


Here's how I did it:


1. The world is your marketplace!

Some of my favorite items in my home were found on Facebook Marketplace. I LOVED using marketplace because I could shop from anywhere and met some fun people along the way.


I got my couch for $250 on marketplace from an amazing man who just needed to get rid of his nicer pieces since is wife was now homeschooling the kids. The couch is basically brand new and previously sat in their living room - you'd never know it didn't come right from a showroom.


I also my side table in my living room on Marketplace - a piece I got for less than $75. The couple that sold it to me picked it out with an interior designer just a few years ago. The piece came from Italy and cost them more than $700! SCORE! They were so happy to meet me and find out it was going to a new home in Lakewood - they once rented in Lakewood, too.


Other amazing pieces I found were my papasan chair (super expensive in stores and I found a brand new one for $30!), an old school filing cabinet that perfectly matches the print on my desk ($5), an incredible pallet shelf that was created with old Cleveland shipping pallets ($10) and a Wendell August stamped plate feating the Cleveland skyline ($10).

Marketplace tip: Search strategically by city. The really cool thing about marketplace is you can really shop from anyone who resides in any city you're willing to drive to. I knew, for example, I wanted to keep my search for a couch pretty local so I wouldn't need to drive a U-Haul all over. For things like my pallet shelf, though, I expanded my search into the southern suburbs and the more wealthy cities along the lake.


2. Anything and everything can be decor

Books, postcards, greeting cards, vintage marketing pieces, heck - I even have placemats on my wall. Don't let the traditional definitions of decor dictate what you put around your house. It's just like looking at jewelry - the price of any ring seems to SKYROCKET the second it's labeled an engagement ring.


If you decorate your home with pieces that aren't traditionally considered decor, you can do it all so much more budget-friendly!


I found this kick-ass Cleveland Trivia ($7) at a flea market and immediately knew that I needed it for decor. I also found a vintage Cleveland book ($5) that matched perfectly with the little theme I had on this shelf of my built in, so I grabbed that, too.


In my dining room, one of my favorite pieces is this amazing octagon mirror I hung on my wall. In a former life, this mirror was a table I found at a garage sale. I sawed the top off and, ta-da, wall decor for $3!


Some of my other favorite decor includes a geode piece that was originally the top of a storage box - by letting out a few screws it became an accent piece on my file cabinet. I love my book stacks that function as decor and my vintage book page bundles that I found at a flea market!


I even keep my older candle containers that have any sort of pattern or texture in them. Sometimes, as seen in the picture, I just let them sit empty to give the illusion of a candle. Other times, I melt all of the wax out and simply use it as an accent piece.


Also... TRIVETS. What is a trivet, exactly? I don't know! But - I LOVE THEM! I have a special place in my heart for decorating with bowls and trivets. I have an amazing antique trivet from India that I found at a flea market that is currently sitting in my storage drawer just looking for a space in my home. In my living room, my main hanging decor consists of an old bowl from Articles, a trivet I found in a flea market in Dallas, and an old embroidery hoop.

Cheap Decor tip: Greeting cards make for great decor! I have a Beyoncé greeting card on my bedroom side table, a Trader Joe's greeting card that sits on top of my file decor, and a Fiber and Gloss postcard that makes a perfect accent on my living room side table! Most cards are super cheap - you can get an illustrated card from a local vendor for $1-$5.


3. Shopping small = personal shopping

Looking to switch up your decor? Skip out on West Elm, HomeGoods, and, yes... even Target. I definitely have some decor pieces from big box stores, but they're just kind of filler pieces for me. My favorite pieces are ones that only I have (ha!) because they came from local resale shops or local vendors who make their own pieces.


If you've never been to The Salvage Yard in Fairview Park, All Things for U in Cleveland, or The Cleveland Flea - I'm sorry. Truly. That hurts my heart. These are the places that define my personal aesthetic. You need some time, you need some patience, but you're going to walk away with one-of-a-kind pieces. By shopping from collectors, the prices are so much lower than in big big stores.


Some of my most complimented pieces are placemats that I have hanging next to old portraits of my grandparents. Those beautiful drawings of Cleveland? Yep, you read right - placemats. I also have some amazing pressed flowers and a beautiful drawing of flowers I found at Brewella's - a coffee shop in Lakewood. It's definitely not typical to head to a coffee shop to find your next home decor piece, but I got both pieces for less than $20!


See that little bitty picture of a lion in that first picture? That's an actual sketch an art student few for me after I struck up a conversation with them on the street. Save everything, people, anything and everything can be decor!

Shopping small tips: Whether you're speaking to a vendor at a craft show or the owner of a resale shop, don't be afraid to ask questions! I always let vendors or shop owners know that I'm looking for, because, well, they're the experts. I've had shop owners keep my name on a list and call me whenever new things come in, I DM plenty of shop owners when they post fun things, and I'm always asking vendors at craft shows and flea markets what else they have that didn't make it to the show.


Other decorating rules I follow...

  • Walls were made to be nailed in! SO MANY PEOPLE are afraid of putting holes in the walls. To which I say, chill. That's why caulk was invented. I rent, so I do need to be careful with how much I try to customize a space, but I also know that every hole I put in the wall can be filled. I'm actually maybe a bit too careless about this... I never use a ruler or measuring tape when I hang things. If you move some of my pictures, you'll often just see other little holes in the wall from the first few hangings I did that didn't look quite right.

  • You can never have too much texture I stick to a base color pallet for certain rooms - I love jewel tones like emerald and deep corals for my living room, lighter neutrals for my bedroom, brighter yellows and colors for my office. I definitely don't stick to these colors, but I tend to stay in the same families. The one thing I go crazy over is texture! I have lamps with such fun and intricate bases, etched metal pieces, yarn art, and more. Color is good, but texture adds so much to a space.

  • Know before you go. I will literally plan my weekend around a craft show or a flea market. Facebook events are a shoppers best friend. Nearly every local flea and craft market is advertised on Facebook now. And, if you're going to a good show, they'll list out the vendors beforehand. I ALWAYS review the vendor list before going to a market. After a market or two... or ten... you'll start to recognize the vendors you like and you'll know exactly where to find them when you walk in. But, don't be afraid to go off that path - the best vendors have yet to be found by you!

  • Patience makes the perfect room If you're anything like me, once you get the idea in your head to decorate you want it done and done now! I feel ya. But, I've realized that the key to a perfect room is patience. I've made multiple trips to my favorite resale shops in the same month, looking for any new items brought in. It's rare that I leave disappointed.

Want some more insight on my days? Follow the blog on Instagram at RatherBeReadingCle!