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I call the wall in my dining room “the galleria” — a self-deprecating description mocking myself more than anything. The galleria is a collection of beautiful photographs taken by people I know. Instead of decorating my home with mass-produced artwork, I wanted to display one image each from photographer friends I admired. I always offer to pay for a print; most just gave me the photograph for free (and I humbly thank them). When newcomers to my humble abode stop in front of this wall, taken in by each image and wanting to know more about the person behind the lens, I am pleased to brag on my friends.

Art can be pricey and, much like prom when you show up wearing the same dress as someone else, my heart sinks a little when I see the same stuff I spent my hard-earned dollars on at someone else’s house. So here are some affordable and creative ways I’ve spruced up my walls:

Friends and Family: If I see a photo or design I admire, I ask my friend if I can buy a print. Also, I’ve tracked down historic family photos and, in a pinch, even made photocopies of a black and white photo because, truthfully, once it’s in the frame, no one can tell the difference.

Posters: I have posters from a music festival my friend started, another friend’s art show, and one band poster I just thought was awesome, all hanging in the powder room. I’ve also snagged posters from events like Boulder Startup Week. Ask if it’s OK to have one; don’t steal.

Found Objects: At a friend’s garage sale, I discovered an A-shaped wooden thing. Turns out it was my friend’s grandfather’s boot pull… which now hangs in my home. To me, it signifies my daughter’s first initial and, in a small way, pays homage to the hardworking rancher who distressed the wood in a way that Pottery Barn could never recreate.

Kid Art: Pretty obvious if you have kids. Hang the good stuff somewhere prominent (not the fridge). If you don’t have a kiddo readily available to you, call your Mom and sift through your childhood scribbles. Tip: Clipboards are a great way to hang small and light drawings and photos — and it’s easy to switch stuff out often if you’re fickle (like me).

Geography: I scored a $5 1965 USGS map of The Everglades from a Longmont thrift store years ago. It’s giant and one day I will frame it and give it its proper due. Also, groups of old globes seem to be really big on the mommy blogs. In fact, groupings of any similar things seem to have a big punch. Except for porcelain figurines. They’re just creepy.

Album covers: My ex-husband had a thing for hilariously bad and awkward album covers from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, displaying them above our kitchen cabinets — a great way to appreciate that wacky album art in a time of electronic downloads.

Fabric: Once I scored an adorable vintage dress for my daughter. She refused to wear it. I put it on a dainty hanger and hung it on her bedroom wall, where we both now admire its colors. Try quilts, flags, vintage cloth, old T-shirts you just can’t part with, whatever.

What’s the cool way you decorate on the cheap? I’d love to hear the thing you love to brag about. Follow me @melsidwell on Twitter.

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