Decorating on a Budget: A West Elm Painting Hack

Decorating on a Budget, A West Elm Painting Hack _

Having a well-designed space to call home can make such a difference is your overall happiness. I’ve lived in all kinds of different spaces, from homes in the suburbs to dorms to apartments in the city, and I think that I can be happy in most kinds of spaces as long as I give the décor a bit of attention.

A lot of people think that having a well-designed space means spending a lot of money: hiring a designer, getting custom furniture or expensive art. I patently disagree. If you have a bit of an eye for design (or a friend who does!), all you need is a little creativity to make any space beautiful on a budget.

Grammy’s big move

I’ve recently been helping my mom design a new apartment for my grandmother. My grandmother is moving from Florida up to Massachusetts to be closer to my parents, since she needs some extra help these days, and the move was somewhat hard for her to accept. My mom wanted to do everything she could to make the move as seamless as possible, and setting up a beautiful apartment for my grandmother to come home to was a central part of her strategy.

I helped by creating a Pinterest board of design ideas form all around the web. We wanted to go with clean whites, blues and greens and keep the design simple and modern. It was so much fun putting together an “inspiration board” of sorts and then finding all the pieces to bring that inspiration to life.

One item that we had a hard time finding was art. Art can be tricky (and expensive!) but it makes a huge difference in a space. I find blank walls to be very depressing, and something as simple as a poster in an IKEA frame can make a big impact. In this case, we had found some beautiful pictures from West Elm that we loved, but they were super expensive! They were also going to take weeks to arrive, and we just didn’t have that kind of time.

Our inspiration images from West Elm. Sources:

Our inspiration images from West Elm. Sources: here, here and here.

It was time to get creative. I looked at the pictures and thought “we could do that!” They were fairly simple and geometric, so I figured that I could reach back in time to my art training in high school and college and try to replicate them. They were also all intentionally abstract and “rough,” so I thought that any imperfections would only add to the character of the pieces. With my mom as my “sous chef,” so to speak, I knew we had a fun afternoon project ahead of us.

I was able to purchase all of the supplies I needed at a local art store for about $90 (yay coupons!). We didn’t have any of the requisite supplies at home, but if you have paint brushes or any other basic paints supplies at home you could definitely re-use them. This was not a precise art. I bought simple acrylic paint, cheap brushes, this awesomely thin painter’s tape , and three canvases that were already prepped with gesso.

I splurged a bit on nicer, 1.5” thick canvases, but I could have gotten .75” canvases for about a third of the price. The great thing about DIY-ing art is that you get to make your own decisions about each individual aspect like this, instead of having to use some pre-selected set of characteristics as when you buy finished pieces.

Getting the supplies together. I forgot how much fun mixing paint is!

Getting the supplies together. I forgot how much fun mixing paint is!

Once we had all the supplies ready, we got started painting. Our strategy was to divide and conquer. My mom started on the first image by laying out the white lines using painter’s tape. She was then able to paint over the tape and pull it off at the end, revealing a beautiful and precise image.

A progress shot of the first two paintings. Starting to come together!

A progress shot of the first two paintings. Starting to come together!

I started on the second image, which I just decided to free-hand. I started by painting outlines of the squares and then filled them in, blending some of the colors together to get a richer look. In the end, it looked a little plain, so I dry brushed some light blue paint onto the background. It made a huge difference and looks great!

Our works in progress!

Our works in progress!

Finally, I worked on the third image. I started by marking the midpoints of the two long ends of the canvas. I tried to work with that as the centerline. I made one “V” and then used that as a guide for the remaining lines. I alternated colors randomly to achieve an irregular look.

The finished products! we were pretty proud of ourselves.

The finished products! we were pretty proud of ourselves.

The whole project took us about 2 hours from start to finish and we were so so pleased with the end result. We wound up with beautiful paintings for a fraction of the cost of the originals. What’s more, my grandmother now has custom art created by her daughter and granddaughter, which for her is surely worth more than any store-bought art.

What is your latest home décor DIY? Have you ever painted your own artwork?

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6 thoughts on “Decorating on a Budget: A West Elm Painting Hack

  1. Love it! Mr. T and I are always doing stuff like this. Usually I come up with the idea and since he is more of the artist, he figures out a way to make it work practically. Though we hate bare walls as well… so we don’t have a problem with needing to fill them. In one of the kids’ rooms, we took a really old 1950s book with awesome pictures and blew them up at Costco to poster size and framed a series of three of them. They look awesome, cost like $50, and required hardly any work at all.


    • The posters you made sound awesome! I did something similar with a map that I loved. I got it printed at poster size from a local bookstore for $20, put it in a $25 ikea frame, and now have a beautiful, big piece of art for my wall. Oh, and I’m the only one who has it!!


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