Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Design on a dime

Countering the recession uglies


These days the recession seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues and the top of everyone’s minds. It’s what people are reading about in the paper on the way to work — some fearing how long those jobs will last — and what they’re talking about after work over drinks.

With this storm cloud looming it can be easy to imagine that all fun needs to stop and everything needs to be about tightening our belts and storing nuts for the financial winter. But in lean times it’s just as important that we take care of ourselves and our homes — beautiful spaces help us keep our spirits up.

The good news is it’s possible to spruce up your nest without cracking your nest egg. The cheapest way to reinvigorate your home is to work with what you’ve already got. Everyone has objects tucked into the nooks and crannies of their homes that they don’t really connect with — gifts they’ve received, items passed down from relatives or even objects bought impulsively just because they were on sale. If they don’t have meaning for you, if they don’t bring you pleasure, try editing them out of your space.

Simply rearranging and paring down your own stuff can make it seem like you’ve redecorated without spending any money at all. Not sure where to start? Need an objective eye to help you reassess? Try inviting a good friend over to help you sort the treasures from the junk.

If you’re looking for more of a change or you simply don’t have a hoard of forgotten miscellany, consider what you could add to your home to make it work better for you.

Art can make a huge impact on any space and can be purchased quite affordably from galleries and group shows around the city. Check out staples like Art Metropole or the Drake General Store or keep an eye on Xtra’s Out in the City listings for the heads up on upcoming exhibits and then get out there and shop around. You can peruse commercial galleries for free so your shopping excursions double as cheap entertainment. It’s win-win! Just remember to buy art because you love it, not because it will match your couch.

If new art is beyond your budget then hit up poster stores, vintage shops and antiques markets to find something that inspires you. For an even more recession-proof scheme look beyond what you would normally think of as art. That ratty Nirvana T-shirt you’ve had since you were 15and can’t bear to part with? It would look smashing mounted against matte black. A row of five or six shadow boxes could display your collection of ugly ’70s polyester ties as vintage textile art.

Another affordable option is to go DIY with your décor. See something you like but that’s outside of your price range? Consider how you might achieve a similar effect by assembling it yourself. From centrepieces to pillow cushions to candelabra, there are very few things that can’t be created with the clever application ingenuity and hot glue and the internet is rife with how-tos for those with the do-it-yourself spirit.

Now that you’ve spruced your home you’ll want to show it off. A full dance card and wide-ranging social life can be difficult to maintain when finances are a concern. Once you consider transport, cover charges and inflated drink prices, going out to a club event can become an expensive proposition. Consider entertaining at home, rather than venturing out. A dinner party is a fantastic way to see several friends at once and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

In need of cheap nosh options? Farmers’ markets can offer a great alternative to the average grocery store, often providing a wider selection of better quality food at more afforable prices. The St Lawrence Market’s north building bustles with local goodies every Saturday morning — go early for the best picks. Shop around and get inspired by what is available before deciding what to serve your guests.

By shopping locally — better for our environment and economy — you can host your friends and lovers for a fraction of the cost of a meal out on the town. The best part is you’ll probably get invited to their houses for dinner in return — which means one less dinners’ worth of groceries to buy down the road.