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Friday, August 5, 2011

Home--A Beautiful (Economical) Canvas

In my last blog I promised to share some ideas with you on how to make changes to your home, apartment or even cubicle to make it more inviting, inspiring and productive.    I'm drawing on some of my earlier posts ( A Stack of Old Suitcases, Piles,Piles, Piles and A Space to Laugh) so for my loyal followers (all 12 of you!)  you'll find some repeated ideas.  Hey, at least I'm consistent!
If you feel your space is currently uninspiring, assess what small changes you might make.  Small changes can mean BIG impact. 

PAINT    Take the photo below as an example of small change with big impact.   When I bought my house I did so knowing that the first room I would paint would be my bedroom.  The previous owner told me of her painstaking ceiling venture using four different colored paints, but in addition to the very strong wall color it was WAY too much for me.   Though it looks like I'm painting it white, in fact its a creamy neutral--the whole room calmed down and I was able to really see the space and its possibilities.  Far too often paint is the solution but many people can't look beyond the walls to really see the space--this is a great tip when buying a house--which, by the way, after yesterday's market crash you should seriously consider!

FURNITURE   You know that one piece in that one room that you really don't like but you can't afford to replace?   Have you ever thought about painting it or sprucing it up?  One example of a quick change on an old chair would be to paint the wooden legs a bold color--you won't notice the faded upholstery so much!
Let's say you don't want to paint it because its an antique or its a family piece one of your siblings might want someday.  Do you have a quilt you could drape over it?  Fresh pillows to accent it?  For tables or buffets, could you use a little bit of velcro and fabric and skirt it?  Do you have a piece of glass that goes on top of it?  What about putting fabric underneath and the glass back on over that?   What about an eye-catching floral arrangement or mirror on top to detract from what you don't like?  Or a spruced up lamp shade on a table nearby that would pull the focus?  Use what you have, think about old things in new ways and if you have to buy something to complete the look think about inexpensive yet bold colors or sizes.
If you do decide to paint your old piece of furniture, prep the surface--a light sanding followed by a gentle wipe of tack cloth, primer, and a bold or muted color could take that old piece of furniture to a whole new place.   I like using gesso and a disposable foam brush for a really smooth finish without any brush strokes. And I always recommend some sort of sealer--varnish, polyurethane, or lacquer so your hard work will last for years.  
Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose!  A stack of old suitcases or wooden crates as a side table, your old Red Flyer as a plant stand, and an old feed bucket as a magazine corral--think of your old things in new ways. 
TEXTILES    Pillows, drapes, tablecloths, rugs, towels, bed linens--these can really change a whole room without ever picking up a paintbrush.  Discount stores, overstock websites, dollar stores, and thrift stores carry lots of these items often very reasonably priced.   While I would never buy bed linens at Goodwill (they probably don't even sell them there, actually) I would buy a set of drapes there.  I'd wash the heck out of them, press them and probably embellish them too.    I bought an inexpensive pair of curtains at Target (see picture below) but they were too long.  So i cut the excess off and sewed it to the top of the panel for a two-tiered look and everyone asks me where I got my curtains!
In this same photo you'll see glass vases from the dollar store (yep, 1 dollar each) in which I've put some fake snow (also from the dollar store) and some salt cedar sticks ($5) that I spray painted silver.   The three large jars were $4 each at Christmas and were filled with peanuts--I gave the peanuts away and kept the jars--I don't even think you could buy a jar like it for $4!  Total cost for my curtains and window decorations:  $40.00   House Beautiful hasn't called me yet but I know their dying to come to my house for a photo shoot :)
 Other ideas for textiles:
  • Buy an inexpensive neutral short pile rug and stencil a decorative edge or design on it with fabric paint for a custom look with colors that match your decor.
  • Get fabric from the discount section of a fabric store and simply tie a bow around your old pillows--no sewing required.
  • Use a good fabric glue and gross grain ribbon and put a decorative trim around clearance bin pillow cases.
  • Make your own monogram towels with a stencil and some pliable fabric paint (use a thin coat).
  • Spruce up tired bedding with a new bed skirt--its not a big commitment of money (I've definitely seen these at Goodwill).
  • Have some nice sheets but they have stains or have yellowed?   Dye them in the washing machine.  I love Dylan Cold Fix Dyes!  Rit Dyes are readily available in grocery stores and they even make a whitening dye to spruce up your whites--you could do a whole load including your tidy (tighty?) whities!

  • I'm a fan of neutral solid colored furniture and walls and using pattern or bold colors for my textiles and accessories.  This is becuase I'm am easily bored and like to change things up frequently.  What are you like--do you find something and love it equally as much 20 years later?   You could probably be bolder in your furniture fabric & wall color choices.  
  •  Find out how you feel around various colors.   I love green but don't like how it makes me feel when its on all four walls so any shade of green for me is not a wall color option but I'd definitely commit to green curtains.   You have to find what feels right for you.  I really suggest visiting a large furniture showroom where they have a bedroom suite or a living room set up in a particular color family.  Reside there for a few minutes and see how you feel in that color.   It may seem silly but I think our creativity and moods are greatly affected by color and light.  If you have a dark room, think about bolder wall and textile colors. 
  • The color choice for walls is important as it will be the backdrop against which everything else falls.  Consider your light sources both day and night and consider a test patch on a wall that you can view in both daylight and lamplight.   I painted my kitchen three times because I loved the paint in the day time but hated how it made the space feel at night. I strongly recommend a big test patch on the wall and living with it for a few days and nights.
  • If your current wall color is too bold for a space in which you want to relax, you can tone it down. Try a white wash.  Thin (with glaze or water, depending on which type of paint you're using) a neutral paint color and with a sponge, rag or a flat floor mop in hand, drag, rag or swirl on a white wash coat over the bold paint for a semi transparent toned down look.  You'll see some of the color through the white wash but it will be greatly toned down.  If you've never white washed try behind a door first, not in the middle of the room!
  • If your bedding no longer suits your taste or color preferences but its still working for you otherwise, get a duvet cover (or make your own out of sheets!)
  • Dye your curtains a new color.   Overdyeing is an absolutely fabulous way to breath new life into old textiles.
  • Art--if you want to add life to a very drab or neutral space get a large canvas at a discount art supply warehouse or several small ones and wrap with a bold inexpensive fabric or simplycut and place fabric into standard frames. Or use an overhead project to project simple images (like a tree, birdhouse or repeated patter) onto canvas and paint.  No art school degree needed!  
  • Replace your lamp shades--I always see lampshades on the clearance end caps--grab the red or turquoise one for an instant pop of color.
  • Candles, flowers and tablecloths can also make a dramatic color statement--again, check those clearance bins or better yet that one closet you haven't gotten to the back of in years--you might be able to shop in your own house!  Wrap a bow around a vase or a pillar candle (push it down low or remove if you're going to light it!
One reason we fail to make changes and live unsatisfactorily in our homes or offices is because of clutter and piles.   We feel overwhelmed and drained looking at it but we don't know where to start so we walk around it, scootch it to the side, put a blanket over it, or whatever else we have to do to avoid it.  Let me encourage you to just tackle it--put it on your calendar and just do it.  If its a big job you can either bite the bullet and devote the day to it (my recommendation) or do it in small batches.
  •  Here's why I recommend tackling any job in one day---momentum.  If you stopped midway after an exhausting few hours would you go back to it?  Probably not. 
  • So, first things first--sort things into like piles  (all the books here, all the shoes there, all the papers over yonder).  Make areas:  Donate, Yard Sale (only have this pile if you will really follow-through and have one!),  Others (things you're going to give to specific people),  Store (as in it needs to go in long-term storage in the garage or attic) and then piles for particular rooms such as Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement, etc
  •  As you sort this way throw the obvious garbage but don't make a lot of decisions about purging just yet.  Why?   Isn't it the case that you throw a shoe because you don't know where the other one is only to find the other shoe at some point in the organizing?  Purge last.  Here's another reason to wait.  We often buy something we need when we can't find the one we have.   You might have 12 flashlights after you've sorted everything--then its easy to see that you don't need 12 and then you can purge.  If you purge as you go you'll really fail to see the large picture of what you have, how you got there and what you need to get rid of!
  • After purging you must find a home for everything.  In kindergarten classrooms everything "lives" someplace.  Crayons and floor mats and books all have their space.  We need to employ the same practice at home.  Why do you have piles?  Because you don't know where the things should live.  Maybe its an odd random thing that doesn't go with anything else so it remains on the buffet for 6 months.   Random things need a home too so make sure that when you're organizing you leave room for the new things that will come in and the odd things that can't be put into a  particular category.   Think bins, buckets, baskets, shelves--you need some system in place.  It doesn't have to be gorgeous, it has to function.  I had a stupid cardboard shoe box lid I covered in fabric to corral papers in my first apartment.  I used that thing for a few years because it was functional and colorful even though it was sort of tacky and flimsy.  
  • If you're organization ends up really not being attractive you'll find a curtain or blanket can mask a storage area nicely--function first--especially if you have a real clutter problem.  Find a space where everything is going to live.  If you don't have enough room for everything to live comfortably with room to grow, you have TOO MUCH STUFF!   Its going to be ok--you can let go of some stuff--I'll be your personal cheerleader.   I am the poster child of letting things go--my family thinks I'm nuts because I let go of things very freely at my annual yard sale--just let it go, pocket it the money and think of the clutter free space you'll have!   You can do it!
  •  Let me know if I can help you in any way in your quest to beautify and organize your space!  And remember, its not so much about having a perfect home or office (I don't) but its about having a space in which you can function well, feel energized and inspired and welcome others--you can do this inexpensively and creatively--I believe in you!

Have a creative day!