Ever wonder if a small budget is enough to transform a room?  It is one of the most frequently asked questions I get from prospective clients.  Well, I have 4 mood boards to show you how possible it is!  Each of the bedroom mood boards below are in the $500-1000 budget range.  All of them have a base price of $500-700 and one splurge-worthy item to be added later as budget allows.

My mood boards are anything but formulaic, but I have definitely noticed a trend of what works for small budgets.  I find to make the biggest impact with a small budget there is a simple recipe to follow.

Small Budget Makeover Recipe


  • One Heaping Spoonful of Pattern
  • A Pinch of Bold Color
  • A Dash of Fun Lighting
  • A Handful of Fluff (optional)


  • Spread the pattern out on a large surface like a rug or duvet cover.  Sometimes curtains work, too.
  • Drop in a pinch of bold color on art and decorative objects.  Don’t add to much, but use it in at least 3 places around the room.
  • Add a dash of lighting with a fun task lamp, table lamps, or candle sconces or holders.
  • Optional: Sprinkle on a handful of your favorite fluffy decorative pillows.

Okay, enough of my silly recipe analogy.  The point is with a few easy steps you can makeover a room on a small budget.

  1. Start by reserving 25-50% of the budget for a bigger ticket patterned item.  The best bets here are a rug, duvet cover, or curtain panels.  The color and pattern of this piece will be the starting point for the rest of the makeover.
  2. Draw an accent color from your patterned piece.  Use that color in at least 2 decor items.  Select art and objects for the room in this color.  Remember you don’t have to have a mass of things to make a big impact.  The bold color will do all the work for you.
  3. Don’t forget the lighting.  There are great affordable options.  No rules here.  Add a light in the accent color.  Add interesting lights.  Add sconces or a tealight holder for mood lighting.
  4. Lastly, with any budget leftover sprinkle on the pillows. Do a mix of the main accent color and a more neutral secondary accent color.

Here are four client mood boards to show how I did it:

Soothing Modern Master

These first two mood boards were created for the same home.  My client is doing a big switcheroo of all her bedrooms to make room for a new addition to the family.  She wanted a makeover for her new master bedroom and she needed help figuring out how to combine her guest room and office into one room.

The focus for the master bedroom was decor, art, and primping the existing bedding with extra pillows and a throw.  To round out the makeover I recommended two splurge items.  The rug adds a great pattern to the room and is essential for warming up the wood floors in a bedroom.  The other splurge recommendation is a night stand replacement.  These are modest splurges my client can add to the room when her budget allows.


Following the recipe:

  • Heaping Spoonful of Pattern: Wide Gray Striped Rug
  • Pinch of Bold Color: Chartreuse and gold on pillows and art
  • Dash of Lighting: Bedside Lamps and Candle Sconces
  • Optional Sprinkles: Lots of pillows and a great throw for the bed

Lively & Fun Guest Room/Office

For the new combined office and guest room, I wanted to bring in some fun color inspired by the rug.  Repeating the orange from the rug around the room makes the room lively.  The splurge recommendation here is a narrow desk.  My client had a small desk and another unit for a printer that she was willing to keep.  I recommended a slightly larger, but still narrow desk that could accommodate both the computer and printer.  In a small room, minimizing the number of furniture pieces helps keep the space from feeling cluttered.


Following the recipe:

  • Heaping Spoonful of Pattern: Colorful rug and more subtle pattern on curtain panels
  • Pinch of Bold Color: Orange on accessories, lamp, and pillow trim
  • Dash of Lighting: Task lamp for the office area, Sconces for the bed
  • Optional Sprinkles: Lots of pillows to make the bed like a daybed

Here Comes the Sun Master

The next master bedroom is a very happy place.  My client loves yellow and wanted help incorporating it into her decor.  I was happy to oblige, as a fellow yellow lover.  New bedding and a great rug make the room nice and sunny.  The splurge item in this room is the high back chair.  My client had a large empty space in the room where you might normally put a dresser.  With a huge walk in closet, she did not need a dresser in the bedroom.  I thought the space could be filled up and most functional as a reading and play area for their young daughter.  The book shelf and rug give a good start as a play area.  Splurging on the chair will make it an adult reading area, too.


Following the recipe:

  • Heaping Spoonful of Pattern: Ikat duvet cover and colorful dhurrie
  • Pinch of Bold Color: Yellow throughout
  • Dash of Lighting: Bedside reading lamps
  • Optional Sprinkles: Instead of extra pillows, I recommended a color to paint existing night stands, a handsome striped stool, a silver suede fabric to recover the existing headboard, and another burst of pattern and color for the curtain fabric.

Worldly Elegance Master

The client for the last bedroom just wanted a few art suggestions, which turned into a low budget makeover plan.  This warm bedroom called for earthy tones in the warmest hues.  The big splurge for this space was the giant map art to go on the blank wall across from the bed.  Since my clients both hail from the other side of the globe and love to travel, it seemed fitting for the space.  Just imagine laying in bed and dreaming about the next place you want to visit.


Following the recipe:

  • Heaping Spoonful of Pattern: Warm paisley duvet cover
  • Pinch of Bold Color: Subtle pops of orange and yellow on art and pillows
  • Dash of Lighting: Lotus tea light holders for mood lighting
  • Optional Sprinkles: A geometric and floral pillow to compliment the duvet

Note:  Out of respect to my clients, I share completed mood board designs, but I do not share the source information.  I hope you find the mood boards inspiring.

When Money is Tight

It may seem counterintuitive to spend money on mood board services when you only have a small budget to work with.  But, I think that is when there is more at stake.  You can’t afford to make mistakes.  It can be harder to find great pieces in lower price points.  I sort of geek out on small budget project.  I think they are a fun challenge to be solved.  I spend just as much time sourcing for a small budget project as I do for larger budgets.  It takes extra legwork to stretch every dollar.

What small budget room can I help you tackle?



In just 15 minutes a day for 5 days, you can refresh one room. Without spending a dime.

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7 Responses to My Secret Recipe for Small Budget Makeovers

  1. Erin says:

    Very useful post! I’m in the midst of redoing my living room/kitchen (open concept) on a budget. I did some of the things you mentioned without even thinking about it. Maybe I actually know what I’m doing, LOL!! This also gives me confidence to buy a rug I’ve been eyeing, because it will be such a splurge but such a statement.

    • Jackie says:

      Erin, That’s great! If you can afford it, go for the splurge…the right dose of pattern and color can transform any space.

  2. Lisa says:

    What a fun post! I like that your recipe is easy to follow and makes sense. I find that I can get carried away when designing my rooms and I forget the basics. I think I need a bigger space to play in. I’ve been wanting to do our master bedroom in the Hollywood Regency style (toned down a bit). Is that a style that you feel comfortable with? It would be fun to see what you come up with. Feel free to email me.

  3. CohoesMom5 says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have been struggling with finishing my family room and now I know I need to go for a bold pattern on the rug or window treatments.

  4. Candy says:

    This is such a helpful post. I used it in terms of my daughters nursery, which is finished, to decide what works and what doesn’t and why. Now I will use it to complete the other rooms in my house. Between this article, the Design Style Crash Course, Whole house palette post, and Love vs Appreciation I am well on my way. Thank you! I can’t believe you are self taught and live in MN, too. Everything you say/write makes so much sense. I am so lucky to have found you.

    • Jackie says:

      Candy, Thank you so much. And, yay for a finished nursery! I am so glad you are finding these articles helpful. I hope I can keep bringing you more great content. And keep me posted, I love hearing decorating success stories.

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