"Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity."
That quotation is commonly attributed to Coco Chanel, and whoever did say it is correct. Luxury can be fabulous without being expensive.
Case in point: You can make the five upscale indulgences listed below for a fraction of the cost of buying them.
Enjoy these recessionary do-it-yourself luxuries:
1. Gourmet at home. The most exquisite meals to eat out are often those that have ingredients too expensive to buy or too hard to find for the average Jane. Preserved lemons, simple and cheap to make, instantly take fish, pasta, chicken and rice dishes from ordinary to restaurant-chic. The recipe: 24 lemons (Meyer lemons if possible), sea salt, bay leaves, a quart jar. Cut lemons in half, then salt them liberally. Alternate layers of lemon in the jar with bay leaves (sprinkling extra salt if necessary). Add the juice of the remaining lemons to the jar and seal. Three days later, done!
2. The perfect hostess gift. Everyone’s hosting at home these days. As a guest you never want to come empty-handed, but go-to gifts like wine or champagne can add up. A luxe budget friendly option is chocolate-dipped anything. We like pears and strawberries because they make a fab presentation, and hello, they’re chocolate. You likely have most of the ingredients in your house, except pears and strawberries, which will only set you back a few dollars. Wrap them in cellophane and ribbon and they’re ready to gift.
3. Contemporary art. How often have you trekked through a modern art museum and stopped at a million dollar piece, only to say, “I could’ve made that!” A recession is the perfect time to start walking the talk. Stretched canvasses are available at online discount art stores for less than $20 (you don’t need pro grade). Start simple with paint, either black or two colors on white canvas. Draw or splatter your favorite crazy image. The more random and chaotic, the more bonus points you get for abstractness (and now’s not the time for realistic life drawings, unless you’re gifted). If that’s too intimating, try painting the canvas a single block of your favorite color. Let dry. Hang. (Or gift.)
4. Runway-ready denim. What’s hotter than Balmain’s $2,000 spring runway destroyed jeans? Paying your rent. Get the highly coveted look for less in about two hours with minimal resources. Start with your favorite skinny jean. (Levi’s, H&M, Charlotte Russe and Forever 21 all have styles for around $50 and under.) With a box cutter, cheese grater, sandpaper or even a razor, rub the jeans where you want to distress them, going against the grain when possible. If the jeans are thicker weight, create a small hole with scissors or nail clippers before rubbing to help. For stability, you may need to insert a piece of cardboard, wood or brick so your rubbing doesn’t go through. Once you’ve created holes, toss the jeans into the washer with bleach. Voila! They’re fashionably destroyed.
5. Chic flower arrangements. A weekly floral fix can set you back $100 a week, about the starting hourly rate of a therapist. We went to florist Meredith Waga Perez, owner of New York City's Belle Fleur, for her tips on how to keep these natural pick-me-ups in your home for less.
“People are spending more time at home,” she says. “Indulging in beautiful flowers is an easy way to uplift your spirit.” She recommends trading out budget-busting bouquets for beautiful statement flowers, like a poppy, nemesis or parrot tulip. Pop a stem or two in a bud vase to create a simple, modern look. No vase? She recommends IKEA, Target or cb2 for cylinder styles for less than $10. Another option is to choose longer-lasting flowers. Waga Perez recommends calle lilies, which last a few weeks, rather than days, or an orchid plant, which can live for a month.