Way back in January, I asked whether you all would prefer the kind of inspiration boards I’d been putting together–without regards to cost–or if it’d be more helpful for you to see some boards done on a tight budget. The budget boards got the most votes, and so I’ve been hard at work putting some together for you. They definitely take more effort; pretty stuff is everywhere, but pretty and cheap stuff is a little more hidden. It totally exists, though! If you can, scour your local thrift stores and garage sales–you can find an incredible number of gems–and if you have any schools or universities nearby, watch for surplus auctions. A lot of them have a secret stash of mid-century furniture just waiting to be unloaded for pennies, if you know when to go.

But since I can’t hunt down bargains in all your hometowns (sniff), I’ve found some on the good old Interwebs, ready to be snapped up by style-hungry Dollar Menunaires. One trick to making your home look stylish is to focus on small “vignettes” here and there–they’ll take focus off pieces that may be older or less snazzy, and make it look like you put a lot of effort into a room. Also, investing in larger pieces in neutrals (white, gray, and wood tones) is a good idea, since those pieces can transition easily between styles, colors, and rooms. With that in mind, I’ve put together a cheerful breakfast nook for just under $500–furniture, lighting, decor and all! Let’s take a look.

OK, it’s unabashedly feminine, but you could just as easily swap out the colors and decor elements to make something more your style if you’re not feeling it–the bones are very versatile. The paint color shown here is Benjamin Moore ben. paint in Yours Truly. It’s soft and comforting without being little-girlish. One gallon, which should cover a small area like this nicely, costs $35.99.

1. Cut the sweetness a little with an unexpected pop of color, like this letterpress calendar in neons from Wishbone Letterpress. At just $8, it’s a real bargain for its size, too.

2. IKEA might seem like an obvious choice, but there’s a reason–it’s hard to beat their prices, and the sleek modern style goes with everything. Their KNAPPA pendant lamp has all the charm of a Le Klint without the hefty price tag–it’s only $29.99.

3. A clock that makes a statement doubles as wall decor. This cute bird-emblazoned one from Urban Outfitters is a steal at $16.

4. I do think that a genuine Eames chair is absolutely worth the money–especially a vintage fiberglass one–but while you’re saving up, whet your appetite with these convincing replicas from Overstock. At $126 for a pair, they won’t put a big dent in your savings.

5. In a perfect world we’d all have an Eero Saarinen tulip table (I have a particular soft spot for his work since I’m from St. Louis, home of his Gateway Arch). Since this isn’t a perfect world, several companies have tried to soften the blow. Help fill the void with CB2’s Odyssey table, $199.

6. To add a little texture to your gleaming white table, Urban Outfitters offers these sweet doily placemats for only $3 each (or $6 for a pair, as shown here). They’re easy to clean so you can keep them out every day.

7. Vintage brass is everywhere (just check your local thrift store or Goodwill, seriously) and, properly cleaned, can add a bit of old glamour to your minimalist space. This ewer, from Etsy, is a nice size for a table and won’t break the bank at $11.99.

8. Fresh flowers will always, without fail, make your space look more beautiful and intentional. To get the most bang for your buck, choose big, fluffy blooms. Baby’s breath on its own or densely-packed carnations are surprisingly beautiful, but while they’re in season, I love peonies. Check garden shops and farmer’s markets nearby–just make sure to check them for ants before you bring them inside! At our local market, a bunch of pink peonies runs about $7.

9. Another common denizen of thrift stores, a little animal statue can add kitsch and humor to your space. This one, from Urban Outfitters, is actually a bank, so you can corral loose change in plain sight. George the Terrier, $18.

10. A nice neutral rug with a bold modern pattern can tie all the elements together and make the nook feel more like a miniature “room.” It’s best not to spend too much on a rug for an area with the potential for dropped food. This one from Urban Outfitters fits the bill at just $39 for a 3×5 rug (shown here in grey).

TOTAL: $496.97

Not too shabby, hmm? What do you think? By keeping the bones the same (the table, lamp, and chairs), you could easily swap out the decorative elements for something more masculine, modern, kitschy, bold, or soft–it’s a versatile look, which is part of the reason it works so well on a budget. Have you scored any great deals lately? Tell us about it!

Tall, somewhat-awkward twentysomething design addict exhibits magpie-like hoarding tendencies and an uncanny ability to say precisely the wrong thing in uncomfortable situations. Enjoys laziness, food, animals that aren’t food, rearranging furniture while husband is out of the house/sleeping, attempting to garden for about 6 weeks at the beginning of every summer, purchasing own weight in design magazines, revamping Goodwill clothes/furniture, the French word for “grapefruit,” appallingly bad movies, indie music, CB2, spelling n’ grammar, books where people fall in love and then something terrible happens and it looks like they won’t ever see each other again but then wait! everything turns out okay, Pepsi One, watching other people play interesting video games, Scrabble, midnight baking, fall, canceled television shows (see: Arrested Development, Pushing Daisies), DIY blogs, Harry Potter, rainy days in the summer, trenchcoats, every color except Pepto-Bismol pink, vintage chairs, Wikipedia-hopping.

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