Tools of the Trade


If you’re embarking on the budget decorating lifestyle (and believe me, once you start, it WILL become a very addictive lifestyle), you need to be prepared to get dirty. Less cash means more hands-on work. It’s like being a vintage car collector. You know going in that if you can’t pay a fancy mechanic lots of money to restore your dream car, you’re going to be putting in the hard work, getting under the hood, stripping the engine, and getting up to your elbows in oil.

And just like a car collector, over time you will find that there are certain unavoidable tools you’ll need in your toolbox… tools of the trade, so to speak. That’s what this post is all about. The tools of budget decorating that you shouldn’t live without:

1) Imagination.
Okay, imagination isn’t a concrete tool that will fit in your toolbox. But it’s definitely the most important tool that a budget decorator can have. Imagination allows you to see the potential of a piece. When you’re on a budget, you have to be able to see the hidden beauty that lies inside an item. An excellent example is this great DIY post by Manuela of The Feathered Nest blog. And if you think her redo of that charming little table didn’t require a large enough stretch of imagination, then you should check out this headboard project from Leigh at Found, Now Home.

Afraid your imagination isn’t up to snuff? Don’t worry, this is a trait you can work on. Reading blogs like this one and surfing interior design websites will help. You’ll be amazed how all the inspiring images you view start to influence and build your eye. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing potential EVERYWHERE.

2 ) A Sense of Adventure
Once again, this isn’t a physical tool, but it’s one you can’t live without. The way I see it, this is a necessary life tool! You can’t be afraid to try things and step outside the box when you’re decorating on a budget. This is an adventure. You’re on the hunt. And like a safari hunter, you have to be willing to go the extra mile to find what you’re looking for. A sense of adventure sends you out into the world, ready to scour theGoodwills , the thrift stores, the pawnshops, and the junk yards of the world. And, sometimes, it lets you try the unexpected, like maybe turning milk crates into a low divan for your Moroccan inspired sitting room (now there’s a thought!).

Decorating (and life) becomes a little more joyful when you approach it with a sense of adventure. Try it, you’ll definitely like it!

3) Power Tools
Yeah, now here’s the good stuff. You need some power tools. Nothing too fancy to start off: an electric screwdriver, a cordless drill, a sander, and, if you’re feeling reallyDIY, a brad nailer and a small saw. These will get you started off right. Oh, and a staple gun. An electric staple gun preferably, unless you want a work out while you’re reupholstering chair cushions.

4) A measuring tape
Not just any measuring tape. If money is not object, get a sonic laser measuring tape. Then you don’t have to worry about having a second pair of hands to keep things straight. If high tech is too much for you though, a regular Black and Decker tape measure still works.

Which ever you choose, use it religiously! Measure everything… and measure it twice! Like carpenters say, measure twice, cut once. Even if you’re not cutting, measure twice. You’ll thank me when you avoid bringing home the perfect piece that’s about four inches too big. Been there, done that, and trust me, it’s not a nice feeling when you’ve bought a chair from a place where returning it will cost more than you paid for the chair in the first place. (It’s a sad and long story… gee thanks,!)

5) A hammer
What’s to say? Get one you can wield and practice on spare wood until smashed fingers are a thing of the past. (And, of course, a hammer is nothing without nails… just buy the huge variety pack. You might not know when you’ll use half of them right now, but you’ll thank me later.)

6) A Space Planning Program
Technically this isn’t a requirement, but oh, how nice it is when you have one. Got a troubled area? You know, that one room you have NO IDEA HOW TO DECORATE. Just plug the dimensions into your room planning program and play with furniture arrangements to your heart’s content. Before you know it, you’ve got it all figured out.

Happily, I even have two free resources for you to test out. The one I use is the online room planner provided by Jordan’s Furniture. (Never shopped at Jordan’s but I’m very appreciative of their room planner!)

I’m also very excited to report that Google, king of all awesome free things, is now offering a free 3-D planner, SketchUp. I only found it today so I can’t tell you how easy it is to use. It’s Google though, so I’m sure it will rock!

If all that is too much for you, the low tech, pen and paper way will also work. Personally, I can’t draw straight lines, so this isn’t an option for me, but if you were into paper dolls as a kid, pen and paper might be the way to go. Think of all the fun you can have cutting out furniture!

So that’s my recommended list. I’m sure it’s not the end all list… I’d love to hear what ya’ll keep in your toolbox, so leave me a comment!


2 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade

  1. the feathered nest says:

    Thanks so much for the link! You’re absolutely right about it taking more hands on work! I really wanted a new round white dining room table but it just wasn’t in the budget so I took my old pine table and painted it white. THAT was a job and half! So much sanding and coats of paint and poly. I think it took me over a week to do it. But I really love it and all it cost was a gallon of white paint!


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