The other day Free and Cheap had a conversation with the garden gate about my fall mantel.

They were talking about fall mantel ideas.

Have you ever met Free or Cheap before?


They are so cute and so…..well….so irresistible.

We are BFF’s.




The conversation started with these sticks in the back yard.

Well….actually…..it all started with a barn door.

A barn door that turned into a fall mantel that inspired the spray-painted garden gate.

Which inspired the fall mantel conversation.

Between a garden gate and a whole lot of Free and Cheap.


Top Five Ways To Decorate With Free and Cheap

(1)  Find some sticks in the back yard.  

Wrap some raffia around the sticks to make a tree.

Decide that the raffia looks too free and cheap and add rope instead.



(2)  Find some old boards and paint them to look like barn wood.

Hot glue the tree to the wood.

Realize that your faux barn wood looks like whitewashed jeans from 1990.

Add some more gray paint.

Problem solved.


(3)  Decide that the tree doesn’t look like a tree at all…..it just looks like a bunch of sticks wrapped with rope.


Cut leaves out of brown paper shopping bags to create the illusion of a realistic stick rope tree.

Tea-dye the leaves.

Hot glue onto leaves onto sticks.



(4)  Decide you are kind of over your Free and Cheap mantel.

Leave and go to make sure that Survivor is taped for tonight.  Worry about Blair and that if her team loses she is totally going to be voted off.

Come back to the library and see that some of the leaves have fallen off the stick rope tree.

Go with it.

Totally embrace the falling leaves theme.

Deliberately take the leaves fall off the tree.

Continue the theme all the way down the fireplace.



(5)   Add some pumpkins and letters that spell fall.

And some dried hydrangea.

And the spray painted garden gate that started it all.


The mantel is finished.

Survivor is taped.

Life is good.


Stand back and high-five Free and Cheap…..

…..after all….you couldn’t have done it without them 🙂


PS  You all always leave the best comments.


If you if need a good laugh….please read some of the comments on this blog.

They will make your heart smile.

Here are two that made my heart laugh out lout today:

Erika said:  “Your “free and cheap”  always look more like “expensive and designer”.  I wish I could have meaningful conversations with “free and cheap” like you do.  I tried texting them last week, but they haven’t responded.  They must have been too busy working on your lovely library mantel.  Inspiring as always.”

Donnamae said: “Love the mantel, and all that you did!  I am very familiar with free and cheap, and it’s cousins…repurposed, reengineered, and inherited!  And don’t worry about Blair…I think she can hold her own! ;)”




Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Laura Laura

    Free and cheap is such a BFF, always there when you need her, never asking to borrow money, and giving you so much joy. Who could ask for more. Just loving your mantle. :) Hugs, Laura

  2. Image for Kim Kim

    Is there anything marvelous that you don't come up with? This is so ka ute. Hosting a party and speaking at the conference. You are super woman. I am riding up with one of your co hosts. See you tomorrow!!

  3. Image for tara tara

    my goodness...where in the world do you get these amazing ideas? I love your falling leaves and the words "fall." I'd love to know if you bought them or made them that way...I LOVE them! It's absolutely beautiful.

  4. Image for Sandra @Beneath this Roof, Within these Walls Sandra @Beneath this Roof, Within these Walls

    I just love it, and the falling leaves are the very best part. Free and Cheap are my very best friends, actually we are housemates. They rarely are so well-behaved at my house as they are at yours, guess they are too comfortable here to try to look perfect, as they do at your house. Kinda like a husband that only shaves if other women will be about. But they sure are looking good at your place!!!

  5. Image for shirley@housepitalitydesigns shirley@housepitalitydesigns

    Well, you may say your mantel is "Free and Cheap"..but looks like a Million Bucks!!....You are the goddess of turning "Free and Cheap" into great masterpieces!!...Beautiful mantel Kari!...love the way you made the leaves "fall"....See you soon!

  6. Image for Lynn @thevintagenest Lynn @thevintagenest

    Did I ever tell you I love sticks so much I grew a certain kind of tree just for its sticks? Hmmm....must do a post about that! Life got in the way of me attending the Raleigh conference, but I know you will be the belle of the ball. Maybe next year for me. Have a blast this weekend. My best friend aka spray paint is posted today. :) Your mantle is marvelous. Love love love the falling leaves.

  7. Image for Vee Vee

    Delightful! I simply love what you've done! (May I say why I seldom comment here though I read every time you post? Something is screwy with the commenting or with my computer. I read to the end of your post and then must return to the top of your post then I must scroll back to the bottom of the post where I will at last and finally find a comment form. I find it annoying. Is it something that you've selected in your options or is it just the way it must be? There. I've said it and now I'll regret it all day.)

  8. Image for Traci Traci

    How do you do it? I always am amazed when I swing by your blog! You take the simplest things and make them gorgeous! I LOVE the tree idea!! I will be branch gathering this afternoon! Not sure I will cut out the leaves but I have a few fake leaves already. I also have a garden gate I may be dragging in too! Wonder what hubs will say about that! Thanks for the inspiration! Traci

  9. Image for Donnamae Donnamae

    Love the mantel, and all that you did! I am very familiar with free and cheap, and it's cousins...repurposed, reengineered, and inherited! And don't worry about Blair...I think she can hold her own! ;)

  10. Image for Teresa Teresa

    I hope when you finished this, you stepped back and said..."Ta - Dah! " (in your best lyrical voice please). Inspirational as always!!

  11. Image for laurie laurie

    I love your mantel. When I do free and cheap, I'm afraid it looks free and cheap. I may have to start having conversations with my free and cheap, in hopes that they will look as pretty as yours. I also love the vignette on the little table in front of your mantel. laurie

  12. Image for Michele Michele

    Free and cheap bu t definately not EASY. Love going the distance with you in this post, so clever and adorable. I REALLY like the way you have the leaves "falling" down the fireplace - it makes a difference, is unique and I never EVER would have thought of that. But I can honestly say that about anything I read in blogs. I don't have that clever gene. Well done.

  13. Image for Betsy(@coastal-colors) Betsy(@coastal-colors)

    So cute! I love the story! Your mantel looks fabulous! You have to watch those garden gate; they'll get you in trouble! I love your free and cheap mantel!

  14. Image for Denise at Forest Manor Denise at Forest Manor

    This is all wonderful, Karianne! My favorite elements are the dried hydrangeas (I'm a serious hydrangea lover) and the falling leaves (they look so very natural). This is all artfully done; thanks for sharing. See you this weekend! Denise

  15. Image for Vee Vee

    Kari~ It almost works just as you said. I pressed comments first and it took me all the way down to the bottom of the page and I had to scroll back up to read the post and then arrived back at comments. Is that better than before? =D

  16. Image for Erika@BeBookBound Erika@BeBookBound

    Your "free and cheap" always look more like "expensive and designer". I wish I could have meaningful conversations with "free and cheap" like you do. I tried texting them last week, but they haven't responded. They must have been too busy working on your lovely library mantel. Inspiring as always.

  17. Image for Shannon Fox Shannon Fox

    I always have Free but I accidentally left Easy at my last house. My garden gate was forgotten.. and I felt funny going back to see if I could retrieve it's bent up rustiness. I didn't think they would understand? Love the mantel and the little tree :) Happy Fall!!

  18. Image for Angie Angie

    Dang. Your free and cheap looks awesome. Mine would look more like dumb and dumber. Your little minions did a great job on the leaves! And the tree is too cute. Can't wait to meet you this weekend! ~ Angie

  19. Image for Jessica Cramer Jessica Cramer

    Very nicely done! I love all the "free and cheap" comments. I love free and cheap, although I must say that free and free is my favorite way to go. I feel sorry for all the poor suckers who think they have to spend money for a great look, not so! Good luck at your conference!

  20. Image for Jill Flory Jill Flory

    Love it - as always! Free and Cheap - are they related to 'Clarence'(clearance) and 'Sally'(Sale)?? My Mom and I know Clarence and Sally reallly well and we can spot them very easily! I haven't used spray paint lately - my hubby has. I have a stack of stuff to paint but it's all holding out for Chalk and Milk instead of Spray.

  21. Image for Gee Gee

    AAAhhhh.. Free and Cheap really did wonderful for you KariAnne. I had them over and they weren't so nice to me. I will have to invite them on over again this weekend :-) I really luv the gate and 'barn wood' . Spray paint... yup. Been working on some things to share... getting excited!! Hugs, Gee

  22. Image for Katie Katie

    I'm more of a picture girl -- I tend to read the first few sentences of blog posts then just scroll through the pictures. But you... you and your writing suck me in every. darn. time! And you always seem to make me LOL, or SOL (smile out loud --- not the other SOL). You are quite gifted my friend! I loved all your mistakes (the whitewashed jeans look especially!) and I love how they all ended up making your mantle look like a breezy fall day in the country! Perfection.

  23. Image for Amy Marshall Amy Marshall

    I love your mantel! Free and cheap are good friends of mine because otherwise I have to deal with a scowling husband if I spend money. Oh, and paint...paint is my good friend too! ;)

  24. Image for sharon sharon

    I LOVE your mantel. Free and Cheap must not be giving me 100% effort. Most of their projects are "F" work. (work, not word) Now that I know what they're capable of.... Sharon

  25. Image for Jo-Anne Jo-Anne

    I would love to be friends with free and cheap and not because I am free and cheap because trust me if you asked hubby he would say I am anything but.................lol

  26. Image for Tammie Tammie

    Shaking my head....seriously??? You always amaze me with your "circle of friend"! Send them to my house PLEASE!!!! I LOVE it :)

Comments are closed.