Funky Frugal: Renovation tips on a budget

by Tanner Cangelosi

As I’ve recently moved to Hot Springs, I’ve come to find more fun places to shop and eat, and even better, I’ve found some friends with really big hearts. One friend I’ve met is a real world changer; her name is Katie King. She is a pastor’s wife, mom and seamstress, and with any extra time she has, she has been serving missionaries at a furlough house in Benton.

Another pastor’s wife, named Aamie, really spearheaded this endeavor of making this house a home. I got a chance to sit down with Katie and get some of her ideas and tips they used for this house.

It is called the Central Baptist Association Mission House and it is located in Benton. It primarily serves Southern Baptist missionaries who are stateside temporarily during their overseas appointments or are in transition during North American assignments. Typically International Mission Board missionaries serve three consecutive years on the field followed by a six-month furlough in the U.S.

The Mission House serves as a home-away-from-home for people giving tirelessly to serve others and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After three or four years of constant service (often in very socially and/or politically difficult situations), these families need a time of refreshment and rekindling of relationships. The home offers them a comfortable place to live — rent free — for the duration of their stateside assignments.

The three-bedroom, two-bath home has plenty of room to spread out and enjoy having family and friends over. Many of the international missionaries live in very small apartments with no real property, so having a single-family dwelling with a backyard is a welcomed change of pace for most.

There are 54 churches in the Central Baptist Association, and many congregations, women’s groups, Bible study classes and individuals have voluntarily donated to the effort to renovate the home.

“The house was fully paid for and given to the association by a very generous donor more than 10 years ago,” said Katie. “At that time, many people graciously donated used items to furnish the home. After a decade of use, however, it was time to replace several broken furniture and fixture elements. In looking into this project, Aamie Mason, wife of Associational Missionary David Mason, felt the need to further renovate in order to provide a hospitable and warm atmosphere for the missionaries.

“The vision was to create a home that would afford them a retreat-like stay so they could truly rest during their stateside assignments and actually be the ones served for a change. We felt like this was a very real way to thank them for all they do and to bless their families like they bless others.”

Katie shared her Top 5 money-saving tips for a renovation:

  1. Make a list. Prioritize the “must-do” items and “wish list” ones according to which changes will make the biggest difference.
  2. Take pictures (on your mobile device if possible). Take several pictures of each room so you don’t have to second-guess how many windows or fixtures are in a particular room, etc. When you are out shopping, also take pictures of items you buy so you don’t have to carry swatches with you or wonder if colors will match as you coordinate other items later.
  3. Work as a team. It is helpful to have one or two other people who share similar style and are brutally honest to bounce ideas off of. Your renovation buddy can help keep you on budget and provide a second opinion for decor ideas. My renovation buddy and I would text pictures to each other any time we found something on clearance at a store to get advice before purchasing.
  4. Keep receipts. Beware buying items that cannot be returned, and keep your receipts in one place. We bought and returned so many things because they looked great in the store but not so well once inside the house. Paintings, rugs and bedding can all look very different according to the amounts of artificial and natural light. What looks to be a fantastic taupe in a large store with fluorescent lights may look greenish-tan in a home with amber globes and few windows.
  5. Decorate with humility. Momma always said, “It never hurts to ask!” Be bold enough to ask for an additional discount on something that might be scratch-and-dent or end of the season. Aamie found a fantastic leather loveseat that retailed for $599. It had a cut on the back (which we knew would be against a wall in the room) so she bargained with the owner and got it for $180. Also, we needed a full size bed frame, but before purchasing one at a thrift store for $35, we posted a request on Facebook. Within half an hour we had a free one!

In the home, they changed lighting and hardware in every room except the bedrooms. The bathrooms were completely transformed. The house has all new bed linens and window treatments, which complement the two new bedroom suites and living room furniture quite nicely. “We took down all the previous art and decor and started with a clean slate to give cohesion to the place without feeling cluttered.”

Target and Kirkland’s clearance racks were the go-to stores for decor and household items. Additionally, Lowe’s and Home Depot were favorite retailers for lighting and hardware.

Among the many projects, Katie’s favorite repurposed item was in the children’s bedroom. “It had very simple, unlined window-length khaki panels. I replaced them with full-length, black-out panels to visually heighten the ceiling as well as add privacy to the street-facing bedroom,” she said. “Then I took the original panels and by turning them sideways, folding them in half and attaching them to a 1-by-4 board, we transformed them into a new valance for the master bedroom. I added a box pleat for sophistication and black cording for texture and color. In about 20 minutes and for only $5, we had a whole new look!”

The total re-do was right a
t $2,000. At full retail, however, the makeover would have cost well over $7,500.

These ladies really put their heart and soul into this house. If you are looking for somewhere to give this holiday season, this is a great cause. I hope I can give as selflessly as these sweet women.


A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, Tanner Cangelosi owns
her own business – – and has done a variety of projects, from individual home décor items to painting murals in private residences. For more information, Tanner can be reached at 501.908.1338 or [email protected].