Her Husband's Worried About Spending Money on Decorating

Updated: Jul 17

I received a reader email letter from Mary in Washington, USA that I thought I would share with you as this topic is right up my dollarwise decorating alley!

Hi Kathryn,

Q: I read your blog and newsletter and saw your free reader Q&A so wanted to write about my most recent decorating frustration. I see you and your husband do a lot of DIY decorating and organizing together so thought maybe you could (both?!) give me some ideas.

Here's my challenge:

Several months ago my husband and I both retired at the same time and we relocated to a new-to-us smaller house in Washington state that needs some updates. We bought the house because there were three bedrooms near each other on the main floor, plus we got a great deal! We planned to each set up our own den and have the third bedroom be our master bedroom. We decided the den updates would come first so we each had our own personalized space to read and work on our computers etc. before we moved on to other home updates. We set a budget per room, (we've always had joint finances), and we agreed that however each of us wanted to set up and decorate their own den within that budget amount was totally to be left up to each person since it was our personal space, plus we have very different decor and color tastes.

Things were going well ... until Covid-19 hit, and now my husband is worried sick about money, but I think he's over-reacting because I think we have enough money to easily stay retired. He's insisting we just use our dens as is now, but I can't stand the thought of that as they are dated and drab, and I need a nurturing modern space that feels like "me," plus with all the rain/gray in Washington, I need color inside! Finally, my husband (grudgingly) agreed to lower our original budget to $500 per den to update things right now, but NO more, he says. That doesn't seem like much money to me with what home things cost these days! My small sofa and chair and desk I already have are in really good shape but dated-looking, and the walls and carpet and windows in my den are dreary and ugly. I want to make sure I don't go over budget yet that it looks reasonably good when I'm done. Help!

A: Well Mary, never fear, as you are certainly not alone in this situation as many spouses worry about money and/or think decorating is a "frivolous" way to spend money, and Covid-19 has brought out money fears in many people these days. But with a budget of $500 for your den, you can still do a lot to make it look fresh and nice. I suggest making do with that $ amount, (since we are all in uncertain Covid-times), rather than cause further angst between you and your husband. Now, realistically, for $500, your den likely won't look like a glossy national house magazine spread, but you CAN make it nice for yourself for $500 since you already have furniture.

Here are my dollarwise DIY ideas:

1. Pick your favorite paint color and paint the room yourself, saving money on hiring labor. For a small den, a gallon of paint should do. (Or maybe your husband would be willing to help with the painting labor too to save money.) :) I like Ecos Paints as they are non-toxic. You might also consider buying a complimentary color too if you have baseboards to paint. Baseboards and ceilings that are the same color are kind of a fresh and modern look. If your desk needs refreshing, paint it! Or, just paint the top. Ecos Paints has paint especially for woodwork that works great on desks and chairs etc. too. They also are very helpful and can match other brands' paint colors too -- just call if you have questions.

2. Next up, I'd suggest updating your upholstery furniture. But since recovering upholstery professionally is as expensive as buying new furniture (or more), how about slipcovers? Not perfect, but better than old tired upholstery. Try Wayfair or Amazon. If you don't want to use slipcovers, consider covering your furniture with colorful quilts or fleece blankets that are easy to toss in the washer and dryer and look good for a long time. If possible, steam clean your upholstery before you put the slipcovers on.

3. Once you choose your slipcovers, try finding complementary curtains to match. Or if you don't like curtains, how about an inexpensive accordion shade for a more modern look? Amazon has many budget-friendly curtains, and most are washable too.

4. If your carpet is worn, clean it yourself, dry it well, and then measure the room and choose an area rug to place right over the carpet, with a foot or so between the rug up to the wall. Rugs are not that expensive these days and can be delivered right to your house. Wayfair has great area rugs in many colors, prints, and price ranges. Alternatively, if you're ambitious and patient, you could take up the carpet and paint the floor with Ecos floor paint. (No, I am not affiliated with Ecos Paints; I just like their paint.) My husband Steve once painted our whole 922 SF condo with floor paint and it turned out great.

5. I'd also add a piece or two of new colorful canvas art for a more updated look. Wayfair has wonderful art pieces and great sales. Amazon has nice canvas art too. I have personally bought from both places and been pleased. Or, use Collage.com to make your own art from your own special photos. They run great pricing specials.

6. You might also consider some small silk plants and flowers to add a green garden-y touch that doesn't require upkeep expense in the future. Or, faux succulents look real and add a nice look too. They even come in colors other than green, too. Just rinse them off in the shower to clean!

7. Lastly, two of the best budget-friendly decorating tools are colorful throw pillow covers and soft cozy throws in your favorite color to add personality and warmth. Or again, make your own throw or pillows with Collage.com.

Make a loose plan on paper before beginning, prioritizing which things you really want to spend money on right now to stay within your $500 budget. Example: Maybe plants can wait, or just buy one plant and two pillows, rather than six, to make it work.

Hope that helps, good luck, and hug your (worried-about-money) husband!

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