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Posts Tagged ‘budget decorating’

word collage 3

 

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

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Reading Kim’s recent post, reminded me of my Salvation Army sofa. Bought for $30 several years ago, it is sturdy, comfortable and, oh yes, it is covered in shiny, worn gold chenille.

Far from perfect, I still can’t bring myself to get rid of it. The dog sleeps on it, jumps over it, and suffocates the cushions with his fur. My daughter often sprawls across the back, haphazardly doing gymnastics, knowing it will never creak, break or bend. It is the place I sit to drink coffee and read a book, talk to my mom on the phone, and listen to music on rainy days.

And, sometimes it makes me cringe. I know what people think – Isn’t she supposed to be some kind of Designer? Why does she have that dated, faded sofa in her living room?

I have it because I still love it; it’s hard to find sofas that will fit through my small front door, and many of the newer ones are not as comfortable as the old. I like the way it envelopes you when you need to hide from questioning teenagers (a strategically placed plant also helps), and I love that I can redesign it when I get bored.

Sometimes, I can’t take the chenille, and I search my house for a blanket or quilt to throw over the back. I pile it with cushions, frown at the tufted gold, and threaten to replace it with a newer model. I become my own annoying client, frustrated with what I own, but not wanting to buy something new.

This week, it competed with the Autumn light, and I swear the sofa almost glowed.  I became distracted by its brightness, moving it around the room and throwing different colors on it like a crazy person. Maybe I had had too much coffee, but I just needed to get it right. And I did……for now.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

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Well, vacation time is over, and my 69 year old Mum has just left. After spending three wonderful weeks together, I have concluded that either I am one of the laziest people I know, or, she is a super-human alien from another planet. Unfortunately, I have documented proof that she is not an alien, which I guess means I can be a wee bit lazy. So, on behalf of all the lazies, I thought I would offer up some design ideas that are quick and (almost) effortless:

  • If you do nothing else, make a good impression. Paint, stain, or at least, de-cobweb and clean your front entrance. Throw away any dead plants, and fix anything that is broken. If you can be bothered, add a colorful plant.
  • Remove the pillows that came with your sofa, and replace them with ones that you really like. (They don’t have to “go” or match).
  • Have some fun, and display a collection that you had forgotten about. Or, store away some things that you don’t love quite as much as you used to. Keep your collections, together, in one spot. (Plastic Trolls on a shelf will say that you are quirky and love Trolls, but scattering hundreds of them all over the house might say that you have 37 ferrets and knit sweaters out of dryer-lint).
  • Use an over-sized, real rug in the bathroom. It gives more personality to the space, and it won’t get damaged from a few wet feet.
  • Buy a lamp that is a different size and shape from one that you already have. Every home needs more light; they add instant architecture, and are, of course, practical.
  • Change the lampshades that you have. If they are plain, then buy a patterned one, and vice versa.
  • Be mindful of your furniture legs. Too many “legs” showing in a single room make it feel uncomfortable. Mix your skirted pieces with exposed legs.
  • Always have a real plant, or a bunch of flowers (twigs) in your main living area. It will make you happy, and people will assume that your house is cared for and, therefore, “decorated”.

And, finally, being lazy doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative. Forget about what you “should” do, and consider these ideas for your more traditional pieces:
– If your dining room table has begun to feel too formal, use kitchen chairs instead. (Check out bulk stores, flea-markets and garage sales for inexpensive options).
– Bring an outdoor bench inside. Use it in any room for extra seating. (Add pillows or paint, if needed).
– Hang your chandelier in your foyer, kitchen, bathroom, office or bedroom, and put something more unexpected over your dining table.
– Move your china cabinet into your living room. Accessorize it as if it was a bookshelf. (This is one of my favorite things to do). Take the doors off if you like.
– Place a bedroom dresser by the front door to store your gloves, keys and any last minute things that you might need. Or, take inspiration from the main photograph above; removing the drawer makes it far more useful (the open space could also store books or games) and it would be perfect in a large bathroom or cozy guestroom.

Thanks to Sacramento Street for the lovely photograph.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

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A friend came over for dinner last night. It had been brutally hot, and although we have air conditioning, the effects of the day had taken its toll and we were all a bit cranky and tired.  As we decided where to sit and drink our iced tea, I vetoed each room, saying it was too warm (my house is small, and in the Summer can feel like is has more windows than walls).

She absently suggested we sit in the TV room, which was cooler, and I quickly said “No”, explaining that ” I hate that room. We just watch television in it, nothing else”.

We found a cool spot to sit in, but the thought of what I had said lingered with me through morning. Did I really hate the room? And why? Was it the smallness of it, the distressed seen-better-days sofa, or something else? I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had said, and I felt guilty (yes, really) that I had such awful thoughts about one of my rooms.

Of course, the room isn’t horrible, but it no longer relates to who we are. It feels designed and comfortable, but there is not enough of our personality in it. Because the accessories (ie. board games, crafts, doll house etc)  were always geared towards children, I had deliberately diluted the furnishings to balance the volume of the chaos. But now, many of these things are not used, and the room seems lost, indifferent to who we are.

If you have one of these moments, like I did, then try and take the time to fix it. But, forget lofty, expensive makeovers, think simple and small. What can you do in an afternoon, or a few hours, that will make a difference?

This is what I plan on doing this weekend to perk up my room.

  • Remove any decorations, artwork,  CD’s, Videos and DVD’s that we don’t like or use. Store in the cellar if necessary.
  • Organize my daughters games and craft supplies. Hide as much as possible.
  • Repaint the main cabinet a different color (it is brown at the moment) and see if I can paint, revamp, remove or replace, the dated bookshelf.
  • Find a colorful throw or pillows to put on the quite tired sofa.

If you have a room that bothers you, don’t wait for the perfect moment, and don’t ignore it, just give it a little bit of love.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

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Driving around my town the other day, I noticed a lot of houses needed painting.With the price of everything going up, many people are putting home improvements to the bottom of the list. Of course, some are still doing repairs, but many are waiting until they can afford to replace the item, or get it fixed perfectly.

Right now, perfect may not be an option. Gas and groceries are taking up the main bulk of our budget, and buying new “stuff” makes us pause far more than it used to. I, also need my house painted, but knowing that I want to go beyond the traditional white, I am waiting until the Spring, because I know that the cost will be far more than normal.

However, I still want the front to look nice, in the meantime. So, armed with a small paintbrush, duct-taped to a really long stick (yes, really) I touched up the little bit where the paint had peeled off. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was just enough to hide (and protect) the wood underneath. This got me thinking, were there other short cuts that we could take, while we waited for the perfect solution?

– Peeling or chipped Paint: If you don’t think you have enough paint to touch up the front of the house, add a tiny bit of water to the can to stretch it. Or, paint a bit of the color onto a paper plate, let it dry and take it to the hardware/paint store to get it copied. Buy a sample pot (less than $5-). It might be all you need.
– Linoleum Tiles lifting up: An all purpose epoxy, or floor adhesive, will stick it down. Clean the area under the tile as best as you can. Smoosh the glue underneath (be liberal), wipe away the excess, tape down the tile with painters tape, and cover with a brick for 24 hours.  Contine reading here…

Wendy E. Wrzos www.thebluegiraffe.com Photograph courtesy of Good Housekeeping magazine.

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Beige corridors, led to beige doors, that opened unceremoniously into a beige (non air-conditioned) room. Optimistically ready for two, new students, a thin piece of cork lined the room, a plastic mirror hung from a piece of string and two curtain rods hung, crookedly, inside two small closets (without doors).
This was my first look at a College Dorm room.   
It’s August, and plenty of students are beginning to plan their time in college. Finally allowed to leave home, the promise of freedom is a teenage vacation just waiting to begin. The reality, is a full class schedule and twenty eight people sharing three bathrooms – a complex life, crammed into a generic 12 foot square room.
With costs being what they are, parents are limited in what they can provide for the college-bound. Admittedly, it takes a bit of planning, but creating a Dorm Room that reflects who they are, and functions at the same time, is not as difficult as you may think.
Rooms may vary between schools, but decorating guidelines are usually similar – minimal (or no) holes in the walls, and no paint.
Here are some items to make it fun and personal:
Eraseable, compact refigerator – share the cost with your room-mate – write notes, and store late night snacks at the same time.
Bamboo curtains – for those pesky, no-door closets.
Removable, adhesive hangers – maximum weight 5 pounds (not for mirrors or heavy breakables, but great for pictures and hanging bags, light coats etc).
Over-the-door mirror – saves time and space.
Mirrored decals – a useful, decorative, option.
Cork or fabric boards – should be used in abundance for notes, appointment cards, photos and any miscellaneous pieces of paper.
Over-the-door hooks – perfect for everything!
Desk fan – a lot of air, for a small price!

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Do you remember when you got your first apartment, or the first space that you paid for all by yourself?
No-one to tell you what to do, a decorating nirvana for you to fill with whatever the heck you wanted. Paint colors as limitless as the stars, and dreams as big as the Milky Way. Your head spinning with ideas…

Then, it began. The bills, the decisions and the confusion. If you were lucky, you had a few hand me downs from friends and relatives – a sofa, a coffee table and an old bed that you wish you hadn’t taken, but were too polite to give back.

It’s tough sometimes, making a place look like a home when you have limited resources and a beginners salary. Often, you are not allowed to paint the walls, and some spaces feel much smaller (and dirtier) once you carry that last box of stuff inside the front door.
Regardless of your new situation, there are ways to brighten it up and make it feel like home, without spending a lot of time or money!
Here’s what I would do……..
Make a list (see below) of what I really needed to make my place feel like a home (quickly), then, visit all of the inexpensive chain stores (Walmart, Target, Cosco, Ikea, Warehouse etc). Quality is nice, but not always affordable the first time around; basic, functional items, in classic colors, look more expensive – save the bright colors for accessories. If I had time, I would also go to Thrift stores and garage sales looking for good, old pieces of furniture. Finally, I would ask friends and family if they have any (useful) odds and ends in their home that I could borrow for a while.

Then……
– Buy an inexpensive, colorful rug and a few pillows that don’t match my sofa.
– Add art on the wall, above my sofa. About 2/3 of the width of the sofa and almost as high (no wimpy installations please). If possible, make it personal; photographs, prints, postcards, children’s art, letters, collections etc. If doing a collage, buy black, plastic frames to make it cohesive. Lay them out on the floor first to see the size etc. (A staggered, layered look is easier to hang than a grid pattern).
– Find at least one side table, dresser or bookshelf with storage. I always check on the side of the road; wooden furniture is the most common item thrown away, and re-cycled. It can be painted, stained, or at the very least, cleaned up and polished.
– Unpack books and photographs, stack my magazines and display all of the things that I love.
– Bring in some plants. They add warmth and energy. Ask friends and family for cuttings of their favorite indoor plants, put them in a glass with some water.
– Get curtains. Go to dollar discount stores and look at their curtains, blankets and single sheets. Be creative, until a more permanent solution comes along. These are also great places for inexpensive curtain rods (or, get copper/steel pipe at the hardware store for a more casual, industrial look).
– If I just want the illusion of curtains, but they don’t have to be functional, I would buy a panel (cut it in half) or two, and use the tiniest of nails to (artfully) attach them to the wall, either side of the window. No-one will ever know!
– I never underestimate the potential of a decorative, sturdy, storage box (a trunk, crate, ottoman etc). It can hide anything you don’t want to see, be a place for your coffee cup, hold your table lamp and display your favorite photographs.

Finally, don’t be put off by waiting for the perfect solutions, they don’t really exist. Decorating a home is a process that will constantly change with you. In the beginning, it’s about feeling settled in your home, being surrounded by what you love and maybe, “making do”…

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/                  Original photograph from www.apartmenttherapy.com

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When I first moved into my home, 20 years ago, the outlets and light switches were brown, plastic, faux wood. My walls were white. I kept them both, because that’s what you did. They came with the house, and, honestly, I thought I would electrocute myself if I removed them, so I didn’t. I didn’t like them, but I just accepted them as part of the decoration.

Now, years later, they have been painted or replaced with something that either matches or coordinates with the room that they are in. It was so easy that I couldn’t believe I ignored these important, little pieces of plastic for so long.

Sometimes we want them to be a feature, but often, most of us just want them to disappear, invisible pieces of necessity, erratically scattered all over our home. 

Make it simple –  if your room is white or cream, match that color. If you have a colorful room, consider steel, black or wood for a subtle contrast. These basic styles can be easily (and cheaply) picked up at your local hardware store. Of course, there are many decorative ones you can buy online, but be wary of creating too much of a “theme”. In your children’s bathroom a fish may look cute, palm trees in your master bedroom, maybe not so cute?

I often paint mine. Use the wall paint that you have, priming and/or sanding as needed. Just dab gently with the paint as you don’t want it going into the outlet (of course, removing the plate first would be the most sensible option, but I have done it both ways, depending on how impatient I am feeling). If you want to, add a matte polyurethane over it for durability. 

For less than a dollar let children personalize their room with their own design. As long as you can still move the switch, let them glue, paint or stick anything they want to onto the plate for a fun and useful accessory. Be creative.

A beautiful home is composed of many things, please don’t let this utilitarian piece of plastic become an unwelcome detail…

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/ Thanks to: Reprodepot Pattern Book for the illustration.

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I have papers pinned to a corner of my office wall. It started off in an organized way, but has slowly grown into a happy mix of  things that I just like to look at. My first thought was that I wanted a vision board, but that made me feel too controlled by what “should” be there. Then, I thought of a design inspiration board – again, too restricting. So, I started a “possibilities” board.  The word, to me, conjures up ideas of infinite dreams and thoughts. No limitations. 

Everyone should have a space to display wonderful, papery things. Don’t stop to analyze their significance; choose anything that you like and encourage the randomness of it all. Here are a few of the things that I have posted.

– A funny childrens book by John Lithgow called  “I am a Manatee” .

– Old picture, torn from a magazine, of men diving into a swimming pool, the Eiffel Tower casually iconic in the background.

– Email from a dear friend telling me how much I had brightened her day.

– Newspaper article about Roger Ebert; discussing his illness and how he tries to live each day with dignity and as much joy as he can.

– Photograph of the delightfully crooked Serendipity Cottage (the Inn that was featured in Nights in Rodanthe) as it begins to collapse into the sea. Just looking at it’s fragile beauty transports me to a fairytale state of mind.

– A handwritten note from my favorite designer in the entire world,  Alexandra Stoddard.

– A nighttime photograph of an old house in a field. A scene from the movie “Casablanca” is projected onto the side of it (now, that is a date I want to go on).

– A swatch of the most perfect mustard yellow that I have ever seen.

www.thebluegiraffe.com

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I have a vintage necklace with a metal Elephant on the bottom of it. As it’s quite bold I can only wear it with certain outfits. I like Elephants, but I don’t have an unusual affection for them. It was my mother-in-law’s, Anita, she passed away many years ago. After she had gone, her husband gave me some of her more unusual pieces of jewelry; he recognized that side of me before I did.  At the time I was a little unsure about being known for originality, it bothered me a bit. I preferred to blend in.

Now, I like originality; nothing makes me happier than to go into someones home, to see a collection of personal treasures that are filled with meaning for the person that lives there.

I have a friend who loves Elephants. What started off as a pair of Elephant earrings, turned into an obsession that knows no bounds. She will buy anything that has an Elephant on it, or is even remotely in the shape of an Elephant. Elephants make her happy.

When you first go into her home it is a little startling to see the old-fashioned etagere’s filled with hundreds and hundreds of these creatures. They are made of every substance imaginable; some of them exquisite and colorful, others clumsy and dark.

Initial thought is that she may be a little mad. But, she’s not. It is a collection of her beloved things, and she is not embarrassed to show them off. This is one of the things I love about her; she embraces her Elephants, and her own uniqueness. She displays them with no apologies, amassed together, in a room that is used every day.

When we display what we love, people react. It is a feeling; regardless of whether or not we love what we are looking at, we are swept up into what is important. It is a privilege to peek inside someones personal belongings, and a joy to imagine what they see.

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