Decorating Ideas: Cheap-Chic Tricks from a TLC Star

Decorating your first digs or updating a room or two on a tight budget can be a challenge. Not for While You Were Out TV star and Dollar Store Décor author Mark Montano. This sassy New York fashion and interior designer shops for home decor steals as he strolls the aisles of discount stores such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General and the 99 Cent Store. Ready to give your home a cheap-chic face-lift? Here, Mark shares some of his favorite decorating-on-a-dime ideas.

Pizzazz in the Pantry
If you have some light pouring into your pantry, add some life by creating a hanging window garden. Fill tapered drinking glasses or small clay pots with soil and your favorite herb seeds. Twist wire around the rim of each glass or pot, creating a loop on each side of the glass as you do. Attach a small chain to the loops. Screw small cup hooks into the ceiling or the top of the window frame and hang your glasses from the hooks, varying the height of each glass pot. Finish off the garden by punching holes in the bottom of a loaf pan or two, filling the pans with potting soil and grass seeds and setting them on your windowsill to bring the outside in.

Kids'-Room Revamp
It's bright and fun, but your child's room still isn't what you'd like it to be. Ready to add some oomph? Create a trim all the way around the room with a homemade rubber stamp stencil. Create your own stencil by adding stick-on foam shapes (available at the craft store) to a block of wood. Try clusters of circles, squares or swirls, or mix them up to create your own pattern. Measure up 3 feet from the floor and draw a faint guideline with a pencil on the walls all the way around the room. Pick a paint color that complements the room and dip in your stencil (give it a try on some paper first to make sure you have the process down), then press it on the wall. Turn the stencil around for different effects. Create a stencil with different size circles and make a polka-dot design around the windows. This quick and easy technique makes a big impact. Feel like doing more? Press the foam stamps onto some simple white curtains.

Little Guest Bathroom Luxuries
Grab some tissue paper from the party aisle and some raffia trim and a few of those scented soaps from around the world, and beautifully wrap them for your guest bathroom. Pile them high in a basket with some matching hand towels by your sink, and you're ready for company.

Foliage in the Foyer
Make an impact on the people who enter your home. Gather some interesting twigs and branches from your yard (or the neighbors') and arrange them in a vase. The bigger the better. Grab a handful of faux flowers from the dollar store in a color you like. I prefer smaller flowers and leaves (1-inch diameter) for this project. Remove the flowers and the leaves from the wire stems and hot-glue them to the branches, starting at the ends and then working your way in. Think early-spring cherry blossoms when doing this project. The result is simple and elegant. If you're going for a modern look, skip the flowers and just spray-paint the twigs and branches in dramatic black, gold or red and arrange away. For more height, glue your twigs and branches end to end, and, to give faux arrangements an authentic look, put water in the bottom of the vases and refresh as necessary.

A Splash of Pretty on the Patio
Your plastic patio furniture has seen better days. An easy way to update it? Cover it with festive fabric. To start, clean and dry each piece of furniture. Next, sand the surface so you have a nice rough base to work with. Now you're ready to pick a thin cotton fabric to cover your furniture. I like gingham &#8209- it just says spring to me. You will need about 2 yards for a chair and about 1 1/2 yards for a table. With pinking shears, cut the fabric into 4-by-4-inch squares. Working in small areas, paint on a layer of clear oil-based polyurethane, place a fabric square on top of the spot and paint over it again with polyurethane, being sure to soak the fabric. Continue the process, overlapping fabric squares as you go, until the piece of furniture is covered completely. Basically, you are decoupaging your patio furniture with fabric instead of paper. Let furniture dry for two days, and then toss on a few solid cushions in a matching color. Voilà! Need another matching side table? Take a decorator's table &#8209- the inexpensive wood table with three screw-in legs &#8209- and do the same with the top and legs.

Dressing Up the Dining Room
A speedy, no-sweat way to bring color to your dining room table is with quirky place mats. It's all about lamination. You can trap all kinds of things inside 11-by-17-inch lamination sheets, from old birthday cards and family photos to your favorite pieces of elementary school art formerly plastered to the fridge. I love to create spring collages of flowers and leaves on these mats. This craft is best done at a copy shop, where you can flatten out leaves and flowers on a color copy machine, copy away, cut out the images and lay them in between the lamination sheets, then have a clerk help you run the sheets through a lamination machine. I also like to create "fabric" place mats that match the room. Simply take a piece of a fabric that you like and copy it. It will look exactly like the fabric. Laminate it, and you have a soft-looking place mat that's a cinch to keep clean.

Livin' in the Light
Dramatic glass candle holders can add spark to your living room. To make your own, choose clear drinking glasses from the dish section, flip them over and top them with clear glass saucers. Experiment in the store until you get the desired height combinations, and use clear epoxy or plumber's glue to affix the saucers to the cups. They will look like mini cake plates. For extra sparkle, use some spray adhesive on your candles and roll them in colored sand or sequins and glitter. Another quick and easy trick: Cover small round vases (that look like little fishbowls) with small faux spring flowers and leaves. Insert a small candle, and you have a glowing bouquet.

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