Gothic Martha Stewart: starting, shopping, motifs, projects, resources, notes

Forming a Plan
Most of us have a limited budget for decorating our homes, but that doesn't mean you can't surround yourself with beautiful things and pleasing vistas. Everyone can decorate fancifully on a budget, but it takes patience, a good eye, and the willingness to expend some effort. You have to be able to see the potential in an object, and then actually act upon it. A $2 chair isn't a bargain if you never use it because you didn't take the time to repaint over the ugly orange finish or reupholster the green vinyl seat. If you don't have the time to spend the effort, then you better save up your money for expensive fancy things that you'd won't have to change at all.

So, if you've decided you do want to go the low-budget route, here's a few tips on how and where to start.

Decide What Look You Want
Whether you're following a suggested style or you're inventing one of your own, the first thing you must decide is what look, mood, and ambience you want for your home. This will determine everything else you do, so don't go shopping or furniture stripping until you're pretty sure of what you want it to look like in the end.

Look at What You Already Have
Think about the furniture and accessories already in your house. What do you like and what don't you like? Of the latter, what exactly is it that bugs you? Can you possibly change it? Ugly sofas can be slipcovered and their cushions can be re-plumped with fiberfill. Boring bookcases can be painted or covered with fabric, as can dull dressers. An old bedframe can be revamped with a fabric-draped headboard or canopy or just a can of paint and some faux finish techniques. And broken furniture can often be mended. Don't automatically assume you need new furniture (unless you have a lot of money to waste). You can probably salvage a lot of what you already have.

See What You Can Get for Free
Ask your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers if they want to get rid of any furniture or home accessories. A tactful way to do this is casually mention in conversation that you're decorating your home in such-and-such style and you're on the lookout for these items. If anyone has something suitable, they're very likely to volunteer it ("we've been meaning to get rid of this chair..."). Also keep an ear out and take note if anyone you know is moving or redecorating, since people often get rid of things at those times. Another good time is at the end of the year -- some people save up all their old junk to give to Goodwill as a charitable deduction on their taxes. Since the deduction isn't usually that big, they probably won't mind giving some things to a friend.

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