Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to: Decorate like West Elm on a budget

Fact: I have never been inside a West Elm store.

However I've spent an unusually large amount of time recently staring (and drooling) at their catalogs and website. I think I love this store. But my first-time-home-owner budget doesn't always love their prices. Never fear. I have some tips for achieving the West Elm look without breaking the bank.

1. Decorate with baskets.

Have you noticed how many West Elm scenes feature decorative storage baskets? The correct answer is yes. I especially like these dark "Kooboo" ones:

But $49 or $69 for a basket? I would have some 'splaining to do to Rob if I bought one of those. The thing that I appreciate most about this decorating trend is that baskets make an area look less cluttered and more clean. So in theory, any basket that is in nice shape would serve the same purpose. Luckily, there are many places to find cheap baskets. If you have a Home Goods in your area, I recommend checking them out first. Great selection and super cheap prices.

I found these similar ones for only $9.99 on Amazon:

Maize Round Woven Basket

or Maize Woven Oval Basket

There's also these lighter colored ones, only $10.99 for a set of 3: Household Essentials Woven-Rush Round Baskets with Lids.

Why pay $79 for these boxes with lids (from West Elm)...

... when you can try these ones from Ikea for only $9.99:

Where to shop for inexpensive baskets: Target, Home Goods, Michaels, Walmart, Amazon, TJ Maxx, Ikea.

2. Glossy white accent pieces

I also see a lot of glossy white vases, bowls, and general accent pieces in the West Elm photos. Very modern and chic.

But the prices range from $15-67. Even the low end seems high, to me. Check out the vase I bought for $1.97 at Walmart and spray painted with an inexpensive glossy white paint.



You can find cheap vases, jars, and bowls at Good Will, Ikea, and many local dollar stores. Or you can even spray paint things you have around your house, like cleaned out wine bottles, growlers, or old jars. Check out your local thrift stores for little statues, sculptural lamp bases, or plant pots. These things can all be spray painted.

Here's my Walmart vase, a wine bottle I spray painted, and a larger Ikea vase that I bought on clearance:

I don't display them this way in real life.

And while we're on the subject of spray painting, here's two real antlers (my sister found it in a field) that I cleaned up and painted for our mantel:

The DIY approach is fun, easy, and much more cost effective. (You can read my spray painting tips here.)

3. Gallery style frames

Seen here, here, and here:

Personally, I really like the look of gallery frames. These frames are $12 for the smallest 5x7 size and quickly rise in price from there, hitting the $50 mark for the larger sizes (16x20 and 18" square). The Norwegians in my home state of North Dakota would say "oofda" to that. So let's beat it.

Here's a 4x6 one for $4.95:

And the same style in 8x10 is only $7.75.

The art supply store Blick has a huge collection of affordable gallery frames, available in various woo colors, metal, or even very natural-looking bamboo material. Prices range from $8 to $20 for the sizes I listed above at West Elm.

And of course I can't ignore the excellent Ribba collection from Ikea. We have at least 8 or 9 of these around our house.

They are available in a few colors (black, white, medium brown, light maple wood tone) and a ton of different sizes. Prices range from $2.99 for the 5x7 and $14.99 for the 16x20. We have a 16x20 Ribba frame hanging above our fireplace, as seen in the mantel photo:

And if you like really big prints, there's a 28x40" size for $27.99. That's a steal for a frame that large.

Need something to put in your new gallery frames? Stay tuned for a future post on some DIY art ideas.

4. Pillows and throws with soft texture

Another thing I noticed in the West Elm catalog: They love to toss a softly textured throw or pillow into any scene.

Look - more baskets.

Look - more gallery frames.

I can dig it. I especially love a cozy blanket. But not in the $49-99 range. And $29-79 for a single pillow cover? That's nuts when you consider that you need several of each to get that nice, layered look. Not gonna happen.

That's why Ikea is once again your friend. The fleece-y Polarvide throw is only $3.49:

Or you can pick up a super soft, chenille-like Felicia throw (in a bunch of lovely colors) for only $9.99.

Rob and I have two of the super fuzzy and soft Ritva throws, only $7.99:

We love them so much that we plan to get more.

We also have the Ofelia and Stockholm throws from Ikea. They both sell for $29.99, which is usually more than we pay for throw blankest, but they are superb quality and a really nice addition to any room. And they're still a heck of a lot cheaper than the similar ones at West Elm (or Pottery Barn, for that matter).

Our guest bed - Comforter cover ($25) and Ofelia throw ($30) from Ikea, cream toss pillow ($10) and throw from Target.

Ikea also has a variety of pillows and pillow covers for under $10.

And then there's Target, one of my favs. They have a pretty nice selection of knit, chenille, and cotton throws and blankets for under $20. I like this plaid throw for $19.99:

Here's a trendy faux fur one for $20:

A great cable knit one for $27:

Want something a bit more fancy? Here's an Italian wool blanket at Sierra Trading Post for $23 (sign up for emails and you will likely get a 25%-40% off coupon within a week or two):

Where to shop for throws and pillows: Ikea, Target, Walmart, TJMaxx, Home Goods, Sierra Trading Post,, Amazon.

5. Sheer curtain panels

Why pay $19-49 per panel for these sheer curtains at West Elm...

... when you can pay $5 a panel (like I did) on these very similar Re-Style brand sheers from Target:

Even cheaper - this $5 pair of sheer curtains from Ikea:

There's also this Alpine Flata pair for $15 at Ikea ($7.50 a panel, if you aren't good at that math stuff).

And last but not least:

6. Wooden bowl filled with rocks

Ah yes, the most perplexing decor combination of all - the wooden bowl filled with rocks. I see this in design magazines left and right. But why? To be honest, I like how this looks, but I'm not sure why. It's just some rocks in a (usually wooden) bowl. At least with a throw blanket or decorative basket, you get some use out of the item. Even so, this is an easy and cheap look to get at home. I have a bowl of rocks on the shelf in our bathroom:

Previous owners put popcorn texture on the walls. Yuck. It's going away soon.

I got the bowl on clearance for a dollar or two at Target. The rocks were taken from the North Shore on our honeymoon.

I picked up a second wooden bowl, this one hand carved, for $13 as a souvenir during our San Francisco vacation.

Wooden bowls have character, yo.

If you fall for this trend like I did, here's where to find the necessary goods.

First, I've found some of the most inexpensive wooden bowls on Etsy. Here's a salad bowl with 4 mini seriving bowls for only $4. Or here's a bamboo dish for $4.99 at Ikea. Once again, Target comes through in the clutch with many wooden bowls for under $20. There are also many inexpensive options at Amazon.

Then all you need are some rocks. I picked up a bag of rocks for around $1.50 at Ikea. They also have them at craft stores like Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics. Or you can even find your own rocks outside and clean them up. Just don't steal them from a national park. I'm not bailing you out, if you do.

In summary

Alright, let's recap. You can decorate your home like West Elm with:

  1. Baskets
  2. Glossy white accent pieces
  3. Gallery frames
  4. Pillows and throws with soft texture
  5. Sheer curtain panels
  6. Wooden bowl filled with rocks
Remember, you don't have to pay a fortune to have some style in your home.

Have something to add? Comment below or email me your budget decorating tips here.

I'm linking this up with the Penny Pinching Party by "The Thrifty Home." Visit the blog for more creative ways to save money.


micah @ the yellow front door February 21, 2010 at 10:31 AM  

I love your tips! Sadly, our local West Elm store just closed but thank goodness for Target and Home Goods! If an Ikea ever opened up in Kansas City, I would probably die of excitement.

Jen M February 21, 2010 at 11:52 AM  

I adore your take on the white accent pieces - very inspiring! I laughed at "oofda" - my mom lives in Norway now and she says that.

Amanda @ Little House on the Corner February 21, 2010 at 12:45 PM  

Good post! I think you did a great job of pulling together ideas that can be replicated on the cheap. I have some bottles/jars that could be painted, I like that idea. I'm also even more convinced of the need for an Ikea around here... I've never been to one. :(

Kate February 21, 2010 at 7:10 PM  

Such a great post. I laughed at the wooden bowl filled with rocks, it really makes no sense but looks great :)

Alexis L. of One Grand Home February 21, 2010 at 7:50 PM  

I love how detailed this round-up is. You've really captured the spirit of West Elm. (And honestly the catalog is so much more evocative and inspirational than the set-ups that I've seen in-store, I don't think you are missing much.)

Danielle and Clint February 22, 2010 at 6:07 AM  

We don't have a West Elm in Michigan and I drool over the site also. Your tips have a great point to them! If you like the style, just do it on the cheaper end. It takes a little more work to find the items, but it's worth it!

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog February 22, 2010 at 11:18 AM  

Great tips! I vote for more budget friendly shopping tips... maybe Anthropologie, Crate and Barrel, or Pottery Barn can be next?

Also, I agree with Alexis, the store isn't all that impressive.

And a sidenote: popcorn texture on the walls?!

jellybean02 February 24, 2010 at 11:57 PM  

Great tips! I am a big fan of spray paint as well!

Elle February 28, 2010 at 2:04 PM  

I love your tips - the side by side pics are great to see!
aaand I totally just added the cable knit throw to our target registry :)

Jen March 2, 2010 at 3:37 PM  

I love your ideas and those pictures are all great. I have spray painted a lot of things, but never thought about painting pottery. Love it! I especially love the clean and crisp look of whites and neutrals, you have great taste.

magenta February 10, 2011 at 8:47 AM  

I really love the look and feel of white sheers, very modern. Target currently has them on sale for under five bucks a panel. These are really great tips.

Anonymous September 30, 2011 at 9:36 PM  

thanks so much you are amazing!

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