In these belt-tightening times, you may have to put your dreams of a kitchen renovation on the back burner for a while but you don't have to forgo adding the little touches that make a house homey. I scanned three different stores that sell home decor, from a high-end boutique to a bargain housewares store to my local Wal-Mart, looking for items could be duplicated with dollar store finds. Here's what I found:

Picture frames are about as basic as it comes in home decor. Dollar stores sell frames in sizes up to 8" x 10" for a buck a piece and they are pretty basic, as a rule but attractive, nevertheless. In the home decor boutique, I spied a shadowbox type frame for a 4" x 6" picture with lettering on the glass. It cost $14.99. On the other hand, you could buy the same kind of frame for $1, add a message like "Best Friends Forever" on the glass with stick-on letters for $1 a sheet and save about $12.

Glass vases are another staple of home decor that can be used to display potpourri, sea shells, candles and more, besides the usual flowers. An 8 3/4" cylinder vase from Wal-Mart costs $3.97. Compare that to the 7 1/2" cylinder vase I found at Dollar Tree Direct for only $1 or the sturdy 9" tall cylinder vase I bought at my local dollar store, Dollarama, for only $1.25. You can find a variety of attractive vases at dollar stores in varying sizes for only a buck or two, depending on where you shop.

Dollar stores sell a variety of candles, from packages of tea lights and votives to pillar candles and tapers, and they're only a buck per package or single candle. Elsewhere, you looking at paying $3.95 and up. Flameless tea light candles are being sold in packages of two for $3.49 at the housewares store I visited but I saved $1.49 by getting mine at Dollarama for $1 each. And yes, you can replace the batteries in them, when needed.

The same housewares store was selling 6" tall thin wooden candle sticks that hold tapers for $9.99 each. Mine hold pillar candles and cost only $2 each. I've also bought pretty glass candle sticks, candle plates and votive and tea light holders for $1 a piece.

River rocks and colored glass pebbles, are often added to the bottom of vases to anchor flower arrangements and for other decorative purposes. Each bag is only a buck at your local dollar store. River rocks come in bags of large or mini. At the boutique store, a bag of extra large river rocks or mini river rocks are $5 each. Wal-Mart sells bags of mini river rocks for only 94 cents each and extra large river rocks for $2.96. A bag of sea shells at Wal-Mart was $9.97 as opposed to a buck at the dollar store. The only difference between these and the ones I bought at the dollar store is that the Wal-mart package had a few colored shells added to the mix.

Potpourri can be pricey. Witness the 15 oz. bag of boutique potpourri for $22. Granted, these bags have some large pieces in them that can add greatly to a display your creating but you can save a lot of money by buying the cheaper variety and adding some larger pieces like pine cones and bits of twigs that you've collected on a nature walk. I added a couple of dried rose heads to mine. The scent of the expensive potpourri is much stronger as well, but it never lasts long anyway and you can add more scent to the buck-a-bag potpourri with refreshing oil. A 2 oz. bottle of essential oil is $2.97 at Wal-Mart. Two bottles containing 10ml each of refreshing oil are only $1 at the dollar store.

Framed mirrors and artwork. Most things in decorating are a matter of personal taste and maybe my tastes lean towards the banal, but I've found some small pieces of wall art for a buck that strike me as attractive. Some of it mimics the frame-less canvas art that has become popular. Wal-Mart's art starts at $3.66 for an 8 x 10 inch frame-less piece. Dollarama is now carrying items ranging in price from $1 to $2. One of these is a silver-framed rectangular mirror for $2. It's about 14" x 12". I like the 12" round mirrors that come with plastic frames in a variety of colors. These are only $1.50 each and are perfect for a child's room or anywhere, for that matter. Wal-Mart has a 9" round mirror with a foam frame for $7.99, made for a child's room.

Artificial flowers make an inexpensive alternative to fresh flowers and you can park them in a dark corner or a windowless bathroom to help brighten things up. Dollar stores sell them for $1 per stem or bunch. The boutique store florals may be a little more real looking but your gonna pay from $3 - $6 per stem. Wal-Mart isn't much better; each stem or bunch averages $4. Of course, it all depends on what you're looking for.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes tips and ideas for home decorating using only items from the dollar store.


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