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Lackluster walls at home? Low on extra funds? Think outside the box.

Three things about me – I’m not a fan of bare walls, I don’t really care for standard pre-packaged art, and I’m not made of money. Combined, those facts mean I need to flex my creative muscles when it comes to home decor.

Here’s a short photographic tour of some of our home’s walls, and a few ways I’ve made original art on the cheap.

dick and jane
I wanted a vintage, Dick-and-Jane feel in our daughter’s room, but I couldn’t really find anything I liked. So I bought a Dick and Jane calendar, scanned in my favorite illustrations, and cropped them to fit inexpensive frames that I spray painted red. Because they’re small, I grouped them as a set of six, lined horizontally on the wall now above our son’s crib.

On another wall in my daughter’s room, I made simple clothes out of scrapbook paper, ran a length of twine, and hung the “laundry” with clothespins. From beginning to end, this artwork took about an hour to create.

Remember this art I made for our master bedroom?
circle art with scrapbook paper

I made two more for our home, one of which hangs in the kids’ playroom:
circle art with scrapbook paper
This idea from Heidi at Mt. Hope Chronicles really is so easy. Trace circles with a bowl, a cup, or whatever on to scrapbook paper. Cut out, glue on to a canvas, and seal with a decoupage glue such as Mod Podge. Voila.

kids art
On the other playroom wall, we have a simple “art gallery” of latest creations that we rotate regularly. This art is about as inexpensive as you can get, and your kids will beam with pride.

collage art with scrapbook paper
This is a simple collage I crafted out of scrapbook paper and Mod Podge. The abstract look is easier to create, because it doesn’t have to be “perfect.” Just cut and glue on to canvas.

vintage stickers
My sister-in-law gave me these vintage label stickers from Pier 1. The smaller ones didn’t logically lay in an orderly grid, so for them I went with the haphazard look. The larger labels fit my frame’s mat perfectly, so they’re displayed as a grid. Hung side by side, they pack more punch on our large walls.

One of the few things I collect are the letter O, for our last name. These are displayed as a group in the hallway, and are framed by an old bulletin board frame. I plan to paint the frame black, to pull the group together and to match the rest of our black frames in the hallway.

store display from ikea
If all else fails, see if your favorite store sells or gives away their store displays. We bought this huge framed photo from the “as is” section of Ikea – it was former store decor.

For more ideas and inspiration, check out these creative sites I love:

What are your frugal decor tips? Do you have a favorite wall hanging or creation? What websites do you visit for inspiration?

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  1. Rachel

    I love the idea for paper clothes on a clothesline. I’ve mounted fabric over a board and hung it on the wall for a quick shot of color. I also like hanging up old architectural pieces, like a vintage stained glass window.

    Rachel’s last blog post…Good Night for a Good Morning

  2. simplemom

    @Rachel – I love the stained glass window look! I used to have an old window frame hanging on the wall, before we moved overseas.

  3. Emily

    These are some fantastic ideas! I love the scrapbook circles and ooooh the steaming cup of joe set my heart a flutter. Thanks for sharing this inspiration! I will definitely be giving a few of these a try!

    Emily’s last blog post…When Life Feels Complicated

  4. ava

    I just found your blog and I love it! I love your ideas for the walls. Am looking forward to checking out all of your posts. I have bookmarked it and also tagged you on my blog.

    ava’s last blog post…I’ve been tagged……….

  5. Sandra

    Ah! Finally something to do with scrapbook paper since I don’t scrapbook much anymore. Sounds like a weekend DIY project to me! Thanks!

    Sandra’s last blog post…To Twitter

  6. kelly

    Hi Simple Mom — Where do you find cheap canvas? Thanks! – Kelly

  7. Willow

    THANK YOU! These are magnificent ideas! I’m a symmetry freak and I love the decoupaged circles!

    Willow’s last blog post…I Heart Bloggy Love! TWO Awards!

  8. simplemom

    @Kelly – Any basic craft store should have them – Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, etc. If you want higher quality, try an art store by your local university.

  9. Stephanie

    Hello, I love the Dick and Jane pictures. I am not good at decorating walls so this has sparked some great ideas…… Thanks!!!

  10. Blue Castle

    I love the scrapbook paper collage! Your ideas are really great. Thank you!

  11. Lucie

    What great ideas! I sense some weekend projects coming on.

    We make a lot of our art around here and mix it in with the collection of smaller unique pieces we have collected (for not much money) from street artists. On one of my favorite walls we mixed a painting our son did of our street with three small paintings of our city skyline. Vintage reprints of book covers are fun for all kinds stuff! I also love trolling flea markets for unusual finds, like the huge vintage map that hangs over my sons crib (so he knows that he can do anything in the world :))

    And of course for inspiration I like Design Sponge and Apartment Therapy.

    Great post!

    Lucie’s last blog post…When Do You Become a Family?

  12. Allison

    Nothing irks me more than bare walls, too. But I am reluctant to also put up just any ol’ thing. So I also like to adorn my space with posters I purchase from annual art shows here in Oklahoma City. The yearly posters are always so handsome looking and always feature such fun art from “the artist of the year du jour””.

    As for frames, I buy them at Michaels when they have their rotating sales on poster frames. I just purchased a large poster frame for $10 and I’m satisfied with it’s simple aesthetic.

    Thanks for the post!

    Allison’s last blog post…4

  13. Mary

    Wow – cool projects that even I could do!! I’m going to be looking at my scanner with a whole new eye!

  14. rowena

    Great ideas for art. I am always looking for something to put on my walls. Some of my favorite ideas are to use a vintage kimono, or really any cool vintage dress, to hang on the wall so you can see the fabric and lines. I have also found recycled art auction books. You can take the pages and frame them. I have just taped them to the wall in the bathroom, also, where the humidity might damage real art. I also really like display cases, or letterpress drawers. YOu can hang them on the wall and put your tiny collections into them. It’s storage AND art.

  15. Kaye

    Wow! This post blew me away! Those are some awesome ideas for being cheap as well as beautiful!

    Kaye’s last blog post…My Muddled Brain

  16. Mary

    A friend of mine painted a quilt on the bare wall at the end of her hall – it was stunning! (and a lot easier than cutting, sewing, quilting, hanging …)

  17. Rachel

    Very nice. I am inspired to create some of my own!

    Rachel’s last blog post…Bear With Me…

  18. jennifer

    Hi. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog. Your ideas and graceful presentation are very helpful! I have been using your “chore chart” with my almost 3 yr old and it is going pretty good.

    my favorite wall decor is the simple clothes for your daughter’s room. very sweet!

    God bless!

    jennifer’s last blog post…ten on tuesday

  19. simplemom

    Great ideas, everyone!

    @rowena – Yes, I forgot to add an idea that’s in the works over here – scanning and framing illustrations from favorite children’s books. I love classic ones like Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, Olivia, and Madeline.

  20. Jane Anne

    Wow!! Impressive ideas. I need you to come decorate my house!!

    Jane Anne’s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday

  21. Diane K. Danielson

    Saw your post on twitter and wanted to share that despite a few rather expensive prints and a handful of originals we’ve inherited, the artwork that gets the most comment are the ones I made with $15 worth of batik fabric stapled to cardboard and framed with old wood frames I found in the basement that I spraypainted gold and silverish.

    Love the rest of your ideas. I have a hallway that’s been sitting blank for a while due to lack of inspiration. Now I have some. Thanks.


  22. Alexis

    Wow, you are so creative and have some wonderful ideas! I need something to dress up my bare walls now….so I will definitely take your ideas into consideration! Thank you.

  23. hair4myprincess

    I love the Dick and Jane! You’ve inspired me to redecorate my little boy’s room. I paint inexpensive frames all the time too. So much cheaper!

    hair4myprincess’s last blog post…Olympic Hair

  24. melissa @ the inspired room

    Great collection of ideas! Love the “laundry” hanging from the clothes pins! Very cute.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Happy day,

  25. Heidi @ Mt Hope

    I love your Dick and Jane prints with the red frames and the travel labels. Oh, and the framed O’s. I think I’ll share those on my blog in an upcoming post if you don’t mind. 🙂

    Great stuff, as always!

    Heidi @ Mt Hope’s last blog post…Levitical Sayings

  26. simplemom

    @Emily – I remember seeing that on Ohdeedoh. I love it! Very cute idea, rooster-shaped or not. 🙂

  27. simplemom

    @Heidi – I don’t mind a bit! You give me so much of my decorating inspiration anyway…

  28. jodi

    great ideas – i need to get busy…we have several large, empty walls…makes everything look unfinished!

    one other thing we’ve done is modge podge & frame puzzles…we have a gorgeous one in our kitchen that you can hardly tell is a puzzle. Definitely inexpensive and if you love puzzles, also a fun project on that end!

  29. Blogger Dad

    Those are nice photos and great ideas. I especially like the framed vintage labels. Most of our walls are still white since we moved in three years ago. However, my 16 month old son is doing his best to help add some color to the walls with his box of crayons, though.

    Blogger Dad’s last blog post…Baby’s first hurricane watch

  30. simplemom

    @Cheryl – No, we’ve had them forever. We even had them in our home in Austin – but we just recently got around to finally hanging them. They’re right across from the kitchen. 🙂

  31. Angela Fehr

    I love this! Though I am an artist and make my income from selling paintings, I just can’t help but enjoy seeing walls decorated by non-artists – even if it means they’r not buying from me! Love the vintage labels, especially.

    Angela Fehr’s last blog post…Filling a Void: Be The Go-To Artist for Your Clients

  32. kelly

    Thanks Simple Mom. I should have put more emphasis on the word “cheap.” We have Michaels and Joann (and Dick Blick Art), but they all would charge so much for a large canvas like that. As much as buying art does. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way (thinking I’m saving money on my own art, but really I’m not.) – Kelly

  33. kristen

    hey Simple Mom! i just discovered your blog…LOVE IT! i’ll definitely by stopping by every day!

    when i saw your canvas circle art (from scrapbook paper) i got so excited! can’t WAIT to make a canvas for my bedroom. so adorable!

  34. Vanessa

    I love your artwork.
    I did something similar, when I was pregnant with my last baby I had my older two paint with similar colors on a canvas and added a frog to tie them together, I made a larger one myself and now all three hang in the baby’s room. It was fun and cheep and they got to give their brother something they made that will last forever. And when the theme changes will do the same thing and he’ll get to add his own artwork.

    Vanessa’s last blog post…Try something different

  35. Bridgette

    I had LOTS of jewelry that I never wore, so I had been storing it in plastic baggies. The reason for the storage baggies was because I have not been successful in finding a jewelry case that I like, or they just weren’t big enough. Soon, I came the idea of a project. Below are the steps:
    1. I took some old picture frames that I was not using and cleaned them off [and out, if any pictues/glass was still inside of the frame].
    2. Looked for some OLD screen [the kind that goes on doors/windows] because they have very tiny holes.
    3. Cut the screen to the a few inches bigger than the width/length of the frames
    4. Pulled the screen tight as stapling the screen to the BACK of the frame. [and folded over the small amount of extra screen so it wouldn’t really hurt the walls/any ones fingers.
    5. Got some ribbon and to “hang the frame with,” and stapled it to the back of the frame. For myself, this was mostly just for visual purposes.
    6. Got a hot glue gun and put some little “nubs” on the screen. This purpose is to hang necklaces/bracelets.
    7. Stick the earrings through the screen [which they will securely stay].
    8. Hung up the frames.
    9. Came up with the idea to extend the project: to make “shelves” with the glue from the glue gun to have small things tilted at an angle -such as a piece of paper with something written on it , or something else that is lightweight.

    With that project, I can see all of my jewelry at once [given all frames are in the same room], plus they look nice, too [and very unique!]. The jewelry is also been worn more now as well!!

    Bridgette’s last blog post…apple commercials…

  36. Maha

    I recently got into digital scrapbooking again (it’s an off and on relationship), and had 4 12×12 prints made at costco. I spray mounted them to foamboard, glued ribbon around the edge to minimize the rough foam left exposed, and will be hanging them up in my kids’ play room. They love one of them so much, I have to make extra prints just for their rooms. Each picture costs just under $5.00, including all supplies. For digital supplies, a lot of sites offer freebies, so, so far, I haven’t paid for any digital supplies yet. For my other pictures around the house (we still have bare walls after 3 1/2 years), I’ll use pictures I’ve taken, and do a little editing, print and then frame.

  37. mama k

    new to your blog. LOVE your ideas!

    mama k’s last blog post…still here

  38. Jen

    SWEET FIND FOR ME! My husband Jeff and I are in the process of raising funds to add 2 african orphans to our Michigan family. We are artistic, but not exceptional with any one thing. We plan to give “gifts” with certain donation amounts to help get our kids home…. the circle thing is PERFECT, I just made one (happened to have all the stuff).. fabulous! I plan to make a ton more! THANKS Melissa in Australia for giving me this link!

    Jen’s last blog post…Scooter Love

  39. Jennifer

    I’m a textile artist who married a photographer. We don’t have trouble finding things to hang on the walls at our place; we do “argue” over what to put where. 😉

    I’ve bought many a large rectangular table cloth on sale, added drapery hooks and an inexpensive curtain rod, and created custom curtains super easy and relatively cheap. The great thing about the cloth is that it is already hemmed, so there’s no sewing.

    Jennifer’s last blog post…I made a dent

  40. bird

    i think what you did with the letter “o” is fantastic! Everytime i see felt letters, wooden letters, or unfinished ones, i always think- man! How cool! what could i do with those! …and then i never get them, because i never know what to do with them. but now i do! thanks for the great idea!

    bird’s last blog post…making the Mister happy & a Giveaway

  41. Kristen

    I love autumn! It is my new year’s eve kind of feeling. A new start. Fresh new school clothes and supplies. Now I am a mom of 3 starting school and I get so excited when I hear them say – ” I can’t wait to make new friends!”. We go to the hills and rake leaves and have bon fires. The smells and sounds are so vibrant. I feel new in the fall. It is a season of sleep – the trees loose their leaves, the grass starts dying and the plants need overwinterizing. But I feel like it is a chance to start fresh, in my new courdoroy dress.

  42. Julie

    I love the Dick and Jane stuff. That’s so cute! Makes me think of grade school 🙂

    Julie’s last blog post…Roasted Veggie Tart

  43. Octamom

    Really a fun, fun post! Great ideas!!

    Octamom’s last blog post…Dark Frugality….

  44. boston nanny

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information?

  45. Michelle

    Great ideas. As my kids get older, I am really becoming a fan of any kind of kid art that can be put on display. They grow up so fast and those little hand prints are precious!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Green Depression Glass =-.

  46. Rebecca

    I absolutely LOVE the Dick and Jane framed pictures. I was thinking today about how to decorate my daughter’s room, and thought about cutting out pages from an old Dick and Jane book I have, then framing them (because I LOVE Dick and Jane and vintage/retro-inspired decorating). Your idea with the calendar pages sounds so much easier, and I don’t have to destroy a book to do it. Thanks!
    .-= Rebecca ´s last blog ..My Baby: The Sleep Pro =-.

  47. Crossword Puzzle Gifts

    Fantastic Ideas. Excellent patterns on the pics. I am looking for something to spruce up the wall s in my bedroom that is affordable. Thanks for the ideas

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