The New York Times: $300(ish) Home Makeovers for the Unemployed

Living Room

Our living room. The green collage on the left, brown pillows on the couch, and throw pillow were all unemployment projects.

When I was out of work a couple of years ago, I threw myself into decorating our apartment – with nothing to do, it was the perfect time to finally paint the lamps I had sitting around, sew new throw pillows for the living room, and figure out the perfect floor plan in the bedroom. But it wasn’t just the extra time I had – I was sick of staring at our disordered apartment and it was starting to drive me crazy.

Today, The New York Times addresses that little-discussed side effect of unemployment: the “cabin fever” that comes with staring at the same four walls all day. The Times found five out-of-work professionals and had designers redecorate their apartment for under $300. Or, at least, that was the plan – all but one of the designers strayed above their budget, although all stayed below the $500 mark.

Whether you’re out of work or not, the article has great decorating tips for those of us, like myself, who are on a tight budget. Granted, I’ve seen a lot of these tips on “Decorating Cents” before, but I think they bear repeating. Also, unlike HGTV decorating shows where the room transformations are always overly dramatic (and sometimes really tacky), the before and after pics in the Times showed how small, subtle changes can dramatically improve a space.

Some of my favorite take-aways from the article were:

1. Make a floor plan. It’s free, and can dramatically transform your space (check out this before and after photo. Amazing!).

2. In rooms without decorative molding, use paint to define the space. This Brooklyn apartment goes from messy to modern, all with the help of blue paint. This Williamsburg apartment also uses paint to liven up the space, to great effect.

3. When you don’t know what to do in a room, start collecting pictures from catalogs or magazines of pieces and rooms you love. For this apartment in Murray Hill, the resident collected design tear sheets and discovered that she was drawn to clean lines, bright colors, and upholstered pieces.

4. A little pattern can go a long way. Just look at how some green patterned curtains brighten up this apartment in the West Village. For a more dramatic look, check out this stenciling job in a Long Island house.



  1. Deb Doyle said

    HATE that stenciled room! Too many stencils in too small a space…the shape of the stencils look Victorian in they hung a bunch of doilies on the walls (in my humble opinion!). ! Have a great weekend Jenna!

  2. moderndomestic said

    Hah, well, huge stencils definitely aren’t for everyone! I would love to do them in my apartment but I’m kind of freaked out that I’d mess them up and then have to just paint over them again. And I’d choose a different shape than the NYTimes decorating people, for sure.

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