12 ideas for frugal artwork

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and is currently traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Having moved countless times in the past decade, I’ve grown to appreciate a minimalist look to the decor in my home. The stuff we’ve chosen to keep and hang on our walls is stuff we truly love.

There are so many great choices for art, there’s no need to default to cookie cutter motel room-style art. An added bonus? So much of it can be done frugally.

Here’s a peek at some of the art in our home (and art from our previous apartment overseas), along with some very cool ideas from others around the blogosphere.

1. Letter wall

Our last name begins with O, which is an easy letter to find on the cheap (think oval-shaped frames). But it’s still not too difficult to find just about any letter in unexpected places.


Photo by Kyle Oxenreider

Most of our Os were found in random shops here and there. Craft shops sell some you can easily paint or decoupage; you can also print a large-sized letter in a nifty font and frame the page. Several of the smaller letters on our wall are actually Christmas ornaments, and most recently, I found several at Urban Outfitters.

2. Circle art

A few years ago I used this idea from Heidi at Mt. Hope Chronicles – it’s a simple canvas decoupaged with scrapbook paper circles. This one hung in our previous master bedroom:

And this one was in our kids’ playroom:

We had to leave them with friends because they just don’t pack well for an international flight, but I plan to make more circle art wherever we land next. It’s an easy way to pack a punch of color, and it’s fun to make, too.

3. Fabric on canvas

Squares of fabric are also an easy way to add color to a wall. Simply stretch a piece of fabric onto a canvas (or simple wood frame) and voila — instant art on the cheap.


Photo by Kyle Oxenreider

These are fat quarters from my local fabric store, stretched (and masking taped!) on to square wood frames found at Goodwill for $.75 each.

4. Children’s book prints


Photo by Kyle Oxenreider

Kids’ books have the best art. The best. And since I can’t bear to tear pages out of our beloved library, I simply scanned some of our favorite books and printed them on high-quality photo paper.


Photo by Kyle Oxenreider

I then spray painted a collection of thrift store frames in blue, yellow, and red for original, meaningful art for our kids’ bedroom.

5. Blankets and quilts


About a year ago I had fabric scraps and cloth napkins that I couldn’t bear to part with, but they didn’t really have a specific project destiny. So I quickly stitched them together, backed it with a simple sheet, and sewed ribbon loops on top.

It hung on our kids’ bedroom wall, but they were allowed to play with it anytime they needed a fort or flag. When they were done, they just hung it back up.

6. An original painting (signed by the artist, I’m sure)


Photo by Meredith

I love love love this idea from Meredith at Like Merchant Ships. She purchased an inexpensive, oversized painting off Craigslist, then had her daughter go to town with paint.

It works well because Meredith first painted a blank slate of white over the original, and because it’s so huge – it makes such a modern yet sentimental statement.

7. Plates


Photo by The Nester

Nester at Nesting Place wrote awhile back here about using plates to decorate your home. Mismatched plates are abundant finds at thrift stores, and put together as a collage, they can look classic, modern, vintage, or funky.

Plate hangers are easily found at craft stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby.

8. Embroidery hoops


Photo by Amanda Soule

Amanda at Soule Mama, handmade genius, has some of her family’s embroidery projects and simple fabric swatches hanging on her walls with simple hoops serving as the frame. Original and frugal.

9. Framed scrapbook paper

In our previous apartment we displayed scrapbook paper in simple frames from Ikea (also shown in the top photo). You can also use wrapping paper or wallpaper and achieve the same look.

10. Wall dots


Photo by Jessica Levitt

I bought the cake circles for this when I first saw it on Jessica Levitt’s blog, but never got around to creating it (moving overseas and having a baby will do that to you). If you have a needle and thread, fabric scraps or fat quarters, and cardboard, you can easily make these wall dots!

Instant color, and easy change for seasons and moods. Love it.

11. Travel and concert souvenirs


Photo by Sharilyn

Instead of celebrating a great concert or memorable vacation with a t-shirt or side table tchotchke, why not buy art? You can find the coolest concert posters, maps, travel advertising, and city logos in unexpected places. Check flea markets and thrift stores on your travels, or check online at one of your favorite musicians’ website for promotional materials.

Last week, Sharilyn at Lovely Design gave a tour of her walls, and she has one of the most amazing, personal poster collections I’ve seen. Check it out and be inspired.

12. Your kids’ scribbles

Yep, those daily productions from crayons, marker, and paint can become sweet little works of art with the right display. Frame them in inexpensive frames and hang them at kids’ eye level, and you’ve got a gallery they can show off.

Rotate their art every few weeks to keep things mixed and to display their artistic progress (read about more ideas on what to do with that plethora of kids’ art).

13. Support artists and buy their art


Art by John W. Golden

Yes, original paintings are expensive. Prints of paintings are not. You can find some high-quality, low price artwork and photography on Etsy — some of my favorites are:

I also really like the posters at The Poster List. Good prices, too.

So there’s really no excuse for run-of-the-mill artwork hanging in your home — the options are endless.

What’s your favorite frugal, original way to spice up the walls in your home?

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Comments

  1. Nice post, I have a few new ideas.

    I decorated a tiny cramped bathroom a lot like your circle cutouts using the same technique (magazines as source material) an applied them directly to the walls :

    item 23 in this post :
    http://lowstressweightloss.com/blog/alternatives-to-eating-when-bored/1773

  2. Thanks so much for the link to Belle & Boo, loving the letter wall, I might have to start one with m’s

  3. Thank you for the inspiration!
    We are hanging coloured or paper covered clipboards on the wall and attach artwork, postcards, children’s artwork, pictures there. And sometimes we simply use a nail in the wall and hang a paper clip to change the decoration as we like it and when taste and colour preference changes. Another nice idea is to hang open boxes, covering the back with scrapbooking paper and put items in there for display – cheap and easy to change!
    Yvonne

  4. Looks lovely, not frugal at all.
    However, for wall decorations you can apply the less is more principle as well.

  5. I gave my kids black ball point pens and a white paper and told them to scribble. No pictures, just scribbles. I then framed them in black frames and had 3 pieces of original art.

  6. Great idea with scanning the illustrations and printing them on photo paper! I, too, am loath to tear up any children’s books, but this is the perfect solution. Thank you for sharing!

    BTW, I am loving the more personal feel to your blog. :)

    • avatar
      Dee Volkeret says:

      Please remember that these books and illustrations are copyrighted. A better idea is to find books at tag sales, thrift stores, auctions… Many used books are damaged and so tearing out a page is much less painful.

      • avatar
        Dee Volkeret says:

        oops I’m sorry- I just re -read your idea. I thought your were copying books from a public library. As long as these are books you own and you are not selling the copies I think your ok- kind of like downloading a cd onto an ipod.

  7. I love these ideas but I’d personally only use a few because I like bare walls also. Feels more spacious to me. Loved the copied artwork idea from the children’s books but not sure how legal that is. Doesn’t copyright law prohibit that?

    One of my all time favorite wall hangings in our house is this:
    http://fimby.tougas.net/they-grow-up-too-fast

    My youngest daughter’s paint smock from her toddler days, framed. It sits above my desk, along side artwork by her brother and a needlepoint my eleven year old did when she was 8 or so.

    • I, too, like the less is more look — for the topic of this post I didn’t show you my blank walls. :) I have plenty of those.

      I don’t think copyright laws are in violation here because I’m not selling anything and because it’s in my personal home.

      • You could even find a second copy and tear out the pages and frame those, not that I’ve done that…

        • Likewise, framing the art is a great way to re-purpose those “much loved” books in your own collection that have been read so much they are falling apart.

      • I don’t know that those conditions matter. Certain creative commons copyright licenses allow for that but the copyright pages of most children books I’ve seen strictly prohibit copying of any form without written permission from the publisher.

        I’m not trying to be a copyright stickler on this (I have copied pages from books for kid’s homeschool projects) but as a photographer I think about how I don’t want my own work copied, with makes me naturally think about other artists. Just something to think about (like we don’t have enough already!).

        I like Nester’s idea below. That would solve that problem.

        • Another great place for cheap art is calendars, which you can get in pretty much any style. I have art from one that I love, that looks just like old fashioned children’s illustrations, and they sell them off cheap after the first of the year. And no qualms about tearing the up.

  8. I have to admit I have quite abit of original Artwork signed by the artist in my home. (I have 3 artists that are always handing art that “needs” to be hung up). These are great ideas!

  9. Oh Tsh – so many fabulous ideas, and no one would ever know they were top of the line art ideas. I remember gasping with delight when Meredith posted that. I even bought an old yard sale canvas (not nearly as big, because she really found a gem of a size) and never had my kids paint it….thanks for the reminder.

    • Me too… That was probably one of my favorite things she’s ever shown on her blog. And I’ve yet to find a canvas of that size, either. :)

  10. Great ideas. Tsh, I came upon Total Money Makeover at the library last week and checked it out ’cause I remember you use his strategies. What a great book- an frugal art fits right in. Thanks!
    Sarah

  11. Love this post! Thanks for such great ideas! And most of them are “frugally green” too – re-purposing materials and finding supplies at second hand shops – right up my alley!
    And I love the little peaks inside your home – it looks beautiful!

  12. My teenage daughter decorated her room with my husbands old record album covers. They are colorful and fun. She also printed off pictures in black and white of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe etc. from the internet and framed them in thrift store frames that we painted black.

  13. One of my favorite of your latest posts. Love the pictures, and I totally need some new ideas for our walls! Being military, we will be moving a lot, and some of our ‘art’ has taken a beating already, just in the past two moves….so I know we need some frugal yet familiar additions to our home. Thanks!

  14. i really like the feed your soul project which offers free, high-res, download-able art to print. i’ve used several of these pieces in our home. :) http://indiefixx.com/Feed_your_soul/downloads.html

  15. What fantastic and fabulous ideas! Thank you!! Before long I’ll have some new walls to adorn when we move next weekend, I’m inspired! :)

    One of my favorite DIY wall art was in my sons room with scrap book paper and foam board:
    http://www.wonderwomanwannabe.com/2009/11/diy-mod-podge-wall-art-project.html

    I found a project I’m excited to try over the weekend http://www.remodelaholic.com/2010/03/pieces-of-you-mosaic-pottery-barn.html
    – a mosaic made out of scrapbook paper squares – I think that mod podge and I are becoming fast friends! :)

  16. Love all the ideas you’re all sharing!

  17. Love all of these ideas. One small point: regarding #3, it’s easier and cheaper to use canvas stretchers (the wood frame without the canvas) than an actual canvas. Stretchers are easily available at most art supply stores and you have total flexibility about the size. Also, while tape will work, it can become dry with age. Attaching the fabric to the stretchers with staples will last longer.

    If you like the idea of hanging fabric on a frame and want a piece of modern art, consider fabric from IKEA (cheap!) or Marimekko (not cheap, but awesome). Check out the cotton fabric:
    http://www.alwaysmod.com/marimekko-cotton-fabrics.html

  18. I take #9 (framed scrapbook paper) one step further: I print out a poem or Bible verses on vellum, lay the vellum on top of the scrapbook paper, and frame the whole thing!

    • Oh! Another thing I’ve done is create my own alphabet print for my daughter’s nursery. Head over to etsy to find some inspiration, create the print in a Word document, and have it printed on cardstock at your local copy shop for a more professional result. I used a very basic font and 7-8 different colors and it turned out wonderfully, but you could use a bunch of different fonts and one color, too.

  19. The ideas are great!
    Thank you for sharing them ;)

  20. Love, love, love this post. Wanted to mention the joy of painting stuff. Find a frame or curio at a garage sale, like the lines but not the colour? grab some cheap acrylic paint and a gloss, and make it over. This is fun because it gets you in the habit of evaluating stuff for the overall shape/lines, knowing that in many cases you can then paint it to the colour you would like.

  21. Thanks for the inspiration. The fabric on canvas is definitely my favorite. We used this technique for our black and white themed bedroom.

  22. I really like the letter wall! I think I’m going ot have to try that!

  23. I framed a couple pages from Toast catalog in my kitchen with some $5 frames and $2 mats–I love them! There were literally 20 or so I could have chosen. Love Toast!!

  24. LOVE the idea of huge art done and signed by the kids!

  25. avatar
    Julia B says:

    Love the art, and I think I’m going to use the children’s books idea for our baby’s room. Question- is that an Ikea crib in the quilt idea picture? We’re considering purchasing a crib from Ikea but were uncertain about the durability. We don’t want to invest a lot of money into a crib because we’re most likely moving overseas in the next year, but we want something safe and solid.

    • Yep, from Ikea but bought second-hand from a friend. When we bought it from them it was already 3 years old, and it worked great for us.

      There’s a chance we’re moving back overseas in a year, too, so for Finn we’re just using a pack-n-play. Maybe you could just do that…?

      • We just used a pack n play for our little one, she didn’t mind at all (we moved more than a couple times in her first year). Now we’re moving her straight into a big girl bed.

        Love all the art ideas!

  26. Love what you’ve done especially the wall dots. So many creative designs!

  27. Love the post!

  28. Love the idea of making prints from favorite children’s books. We’re huge readers around here and there are so many much-loved characters and scenes that we want to remember, even as the kids grow older.

    I’ve got a family wall of fame…it started with B&W photos of my parents, grandparents, and I’ve been adding to it regularly.

    My walls are basically a 24/7 art show of my dad’s work. I have 7 pieces in the living room alone!

  29. These are all great ideas. I love the giant canvas to paint. Now to just find one.

  30. I LOVE LOVE LOVE these ideas! The scrapbook paper circles! I could sort of hoard my gorgeous papers, but put them on display to actually look at daily! So many great ideas! I am going to totally share this page with my friends!

  31. Great article and I love the art. I too like to make my own frugal art, I like to be unique and would hate to walk into someone else’s house and see the same bought art on the walls as my own. :)

  32. I love these ideas, they’re going to help me decorate my house which is sadly lacking in style and decorations. THANKS!! Can’t wait to start.

    Melissa
    http://imaginationsoup.net

  33. avatar
    Rhiannon says:

    I really like these ideas!
    We really only have two walls with art on them both are very personal. The first has various art from any overseas traveling we’ve done. Nothing fancy though- one is from a street vendor, one from a gift shop, another is the top of a candy box and another is a factory painting. And they’re all framed to blend together (no matching black frames for my hubby!) .

    The other is our family tree wall. We have a beautiful family tree that we bought on our honeymoon and it hangs at the bottom of the stairs. Starting with our son, we have been slowly collecting pictures of every person on the family tree. We hope to have everyone on there someday!

    We’ve had so many people come to our apartment and tell us it feels like a old home not a apt. and I think its because of those large personal art statements.

    Beautiful walls can be achieved!

  34. I adore these ideas! The fabric canvas is amazing and can add so much. I’m going to keep these in mind for my Button’s room… I’ve got to get to that someday soon!

  35. These are awesome ideas! I always value something more if it has personal meaning to me, rather than just something I bought for a lot of money.

    Tim D
    http://www.momentary.org
    what are you grateful for today?

  36. avatar
    Kay Chase says:

    I have a display of 12 images from a calendar which I cut up and just blu-tacked to the surface in a 3*4 grid.

    I also have a handsome print I purchased from a museum which I had foam-backed for not much money; the piece cost tens of dollars altogether, and, because it doesn’t have a frame, it kind of “floats” on the wall. It’s not as well protected as something properly framed would be, but we love having it as long as it survives.

  37. wow, those ideas are great!!

    we use a lot of our kid’s art in our home, nicely framed people are often amazed our kids made it.

  38. Being completely artistically impaired, I love this post. I’ve often wished (and searched for) a book on easy to create wall art. The ideas you show here look easy to implement. Art and pictures on the walls make a house a home.

  39. Amazing! And so wonderfully inspiring. I’m just getting ready to decorate my kiddos’ room and a new nursery. Thank you so much for putting this together. I’m so glad I wandered on over here from WiseBread and discovered your blog.

  40. avatar
    Gayle Haynes says:

    I’ve been looking for something big and cheap to go over my couch. I can do this! Your ideas are fabulous, and cheap and meaningful. But it may take a while.

  41. I bought foam board from the craft store cut it to 12×12 squares and then glued patterned scrapbook paper to it. It gives the appearance of painted artist canvas.

  42. avatar
    eggnostriva says:

    Seriously. Bible verses on your wall. I have no objection, if thats your thing, to bible verses per se. I repair monuments in English churches for a living. I once took down a lettering panel and found behind it. Black gothic script of old testement fire and brimstone nonsense. This had been painted over a fantastic pattern of arabesques and climbing roses in vermillion dye. The contrast was shocking. That small moment in English history that aimed to suck the joy from peoples lives was appalling. I know which one I would prefer to have on my walls.

    • Hi there, eggnostriva — were you commenting about something from the post? Because I never mentioned putting Bible verses on my walls. Someone else might have from the comments, however. If you want to chat with someone else about that and you’d like them to see your comment, feel free to click “reply” under their comment. An email will be sent to them.

      And thanks for reading. :)

  43. avatar
    eggnostriva says:

    Hi Tsh. Sorry my mistake. I was commenting on Haleys comment, and not on your lovely blog. I appreciate that a protocol was savagely broken, and I will do my best not to let it happen again.

    • No problem; there’s no protocol really. Just wanted you to know that if you were speaking to a fellow commenter, they wouldn’t see your comment unless you hit reply directly under their name.

      No need to apologize. Carry on… :)

  44. Wonderful ideas! Love the fabric uses, they can be transformed from home to home by the personal choices of the crafters.

  45. Amazing post by authour on 12 Ideas for Frugal Artwork

  46. Very useful ideas for frugal artwork nice one for the people.

  47. Regarding idea # 10: This is also a great use for those old vinyl records your mother insists you not throw away!

  48. Thank you for the inspiration! and usefull ideas

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