Add charm to your home with these inexpensive tips and tricks

Nothing makes you feel more appreciative for where you’re at than revisiting where you’ve been. When we purchased this little cottage, Chris was finishing his last days of medical school and I had just accepted a surprise position {which was short-lived} two hours east in Kansas City.  With a home still to sell in Columbia and minimal salaries, we gathered what we had in hopes to find a home in charming Prairie Village. The quest was more difficult than what we had anticipated with homes quickly selling to the highest bidder. We settled on a small, but charming cottage with 3 bedrooms, 1 bath and a basement that was accessed from the 1 car garage.

We didn’t have a lot of means, but wanted to make the home ours, so we diy’d out of necessity. Fortunately resources like Lowe’s made a lot of updates attainable, like new light fixtures for the exterior and a new dining room chandelier. I thought I’d share all the details of our little cottage, including how and why. Let the tour begin!

before and after - adding character to your home

When we purchased the house, it was fine, but blended into the neighborhood and felt a little blah. The color in person reminded me of silly putty.

Add charm to your home with these inexpensive tips and tricks

I’d say we put in a lot of sweat equity, but we didn’t make a dime when we sold this home {due to the market simultaneously tanking}. We painted the exterior cream and added a new roof. The first lesson learned was the color samples for roofs are all too small, only showing one of a few variations of the color swatch. Ask for a larger sample or homes with that color roof before you commit. We thought we were selecting a weathered brown when the majority of the shingles had significant amounts of red in them. Chris constructed wood shutters and stained them to add a little character.

DIY wood shutters - a step by step tutorial to add character to your home without a lot of expense.

As most homes do, it evolved. We initially painted the door a soft green, but I couldn’t get it quite as dusty as I wanted, which led us to take drastic measures…more on that in a minute. Craft stores are an excellent source for inexpensive decorations. I believe I purchased this wreath for just $12!

Inexpensive decorating ideas

We removed several layers of paint to reveal a beautiful wood door. I would have loved to have taken it with us. Photos don’t do it justice.

How to add character to a home on a budget

How to add character to a home on a budget

We updated the exterior light fixtures to embrace it’s cottage style. I believe these were less than $30 each from Lowe’s.

Decorating a small cottage on a budget

These photos were taken when we listed our home, so we depersonalized, removing rugs, etc, but they still give you a general idea of our little cottage.

Add charm to your home with these inexpensive tips and tricks

We hung our kitchen/dining room chandelier {ahead} from an old scale we found at my grandmother’s house in lieu of the standard chain. It added a lot of character without spending a penny. We removed it just before listing so that we could take it with us.

Inexpensive ways to add charm to your home | cottage decorating ideas

Our 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom cottage was about 1,000 square feet. Hosting was always a challenge. For Adalyn’s first birthday party, we pushed the table against the wall so that guests could easily pass through and used it as a space to serve desserts.

birthday dessert bar

In the living room, this $5 piece of molding, painted white, added a little charm to the fireplace.

Decorating a small cottage on a budget

I used family heirloom books, an inexpensive frame from Target and a couple of trinkets to decorate the bookcase.

how to decorate on a budget

cottage decorations

We didn’t really have an entryway and needed a place for coats, so we created a coat hanger from a few craft store hooks and an old picture frame for a makeshift mudroom.

Beautiful, inexpensive and functional decorating ideas

DIY coat hook for small entryways - an alternative to a mudroom

I collected old silver platters from thrift stores, spending $1-3 each and hung them over the piano. Collections are an inexpensive way to decorate and fill a large wall. You can learn how to create your own platter wall here.

inexpensive decorating ideas that add character to a home

decorating on a budget

As I mentioned before, we had very little to invest in this home and focused on lighting. My office chandelier was just $88, found online.

How to add charm to a home on a budget

I had dreamed of a Pottery Barn Kids light fixture for Adalyn’s nursery, but it was nearly $300. I found similar at Home Depot for $80. Since then, I’ve picked up a lot of great shopping tips and tricks…you can read about them here.

how to decorate on a budget

Her nursery was simple and sweet. A crib, gifted from Chris’ parents, a slipcovered rocker purchased on Craigslist for $200, a wardrobe, which is an heirloom from my family, a rug I patiently waited to go on clearance at Pottery Barn Kids, 2 $20 cream roman shades and a handmade mobile.

neutral nursery decorating ideas

how to create a mobile

I also repurposed some of my grandma’s old picture frames, removing the art, and added $2 wood craft store letters in the nursery.


The galley kitchen was small. We didn’t even have a pantry, just a small cabinet nestled between the microwave and refrigerator. When we purchased the home, the kitchen was bright green. One night while Chris was working late, I painted the chalkboard wall – before chalkboard paint was easily accessible or came in an array of colors. the only other investment we made in the kitchen was the $19.99 pendant light from Lowe’s.

Vintage kitchen ideas on a budget

I wanted to make the bathroom feel like a spa, on a budget, of course. We purchased a $10 shower curtain, a 4 pack of flour sack towels, a $10 picture frame for Chris’ pencil sketch and painted the walls in a dark grey.

inexpensive bathroom ideas

Our cottage was far from perfect, but it fit us perfect at the time. Reflecting on it has made me appreciate all of the progress we have made in our lives and our current home. I hope you enjoyed the tour of our “first” home.

Decorating a small cottage on a budget

Our little cottage was captured by a few friends over the years including Lori, RPM Photography and Click Photography. Thanks, friends!


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  1. The cottage looks absolutely gorgeous! Love the colour of the front door, so pretty! 🙂

    Alex | Pink Elephant Blog.