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Lauren McGrath and her mother, Suzanne, an interior designer in Rye, N.Y., work together on their blog, goodbonesgreatpieces.com and co-authored "Good Bones, Great Pieces" ($29.95; Stewart, Tabori & Chang), a decorating book chock-full of sound wisdom regarding how to get your money's worth. Here, they share 13 ways to decorate with a high-low mix of keep-forever antiques and flea-market buys.
1. The best things often come in small packages. Less expensive than full-size sofas, settees also function outside the living room — bringing comfort to a foyer, providing seating at the foot of a bed, cozying up to a dining table. So you're likely to love a love seat long after you've kicked a hulking couch to the curb.
2. Give an outdated lamp a top-down makeover. A modest white drum shade can modernize the fussiest old fixture. And no need to splurge on silk — paper delivers a crisper, more contemporary look.
3. The $2 secret to beautifully stocked bookshelves: Scour thrift stores for hardbacks, typically a couple of bucks each, then arrange them by color for extra pizzazz.
4. Empty frames offer endless potential. It's easy to score these castoffs at junk shops for next to nothing. To turn one into a posh bulletin board, cut a piece of foam core to fit and wrap it in burlap. Another possibility: Have a pro cut mirrors to size.
5. Group dime-a-dozen accessories for major impact. A lone tag-sale tchotchke doesn't say much, but a whole gang of similar ones — now that's a statement.
6. Furniture goes on sale seasonally, just like clothing, so itpays to be patient. The world's largest furnishings trade show takes place every April and October. Over the course of the following months, retailers discount "old" merch to make room for the new. In other words: Shop late spring to early summer and late fall to mid-winter for bargains.
7. Fine art doesn't have to cost a fortune. Before you settle for posters, check out zatista.com, which sells original oils, watercolors, and illustrations — not prints — by emerging artists, for as little as $25.
8. The frugal fix for homely floors? Paint. Refinishing them on your own involves renting a sanding machine, about $75 per day, and buying supplies like polyurethane. As an alternative, simply clean floors and hand-scuff any rough spots; then apply a few coats of a self-priming floor paint (from around $25 a gallon).
9. Expand your seating options. Even affordable dining-room chairs become exorbitant, fast, once you calculate how many you need to surround a table. The smart solution: a bench or two.
10. Feel free to scrimp on shelving. Ordinary bracket shelves from Home Depot start at around $10 — leaving plenty of dough for filling them with decorative stuff.
11. Why pay a premium for matchy-matchy pieces? When pairs of lamps, chairs, and side tables get separated, their prices usually plummet. Take advantage of the opportunity to shake up an overly symmetrical room.
12. Keep it local when deal-hunting online. Winning a $50 wing chair on eBay seems like a coup — until you factor in the cost of shipping it cross-country. Narrow your purview to items you can pick up, with an advanced search that targets sellers inside a certain radius of your zip code (you choose the distance). On Etsy, you can use the "shop local" tab to find goods in your city, state, or zip code.
13. Create handsome storage with hardware-store supplies. Instead of springing for a full-fledged wardrobe or hall stand, put pretty hats, bags, and scarves to work as a wall display. The notched leather straps shown here came from a flea market, but two vertical rows of hardware-store hooks will do the job.