The temperatures are getting colder in the West — time to move back inside, after spending a lot of time out on the deck and in the garden. But wait: is this drab, overstuffed house the place I want to spend a long winter in?
We don’t have a lot of extra funds to spend on redecorating right now. What I do have is a certain amount of money, my local thrift store and whatever the neighbors generously choose to leave out on trash day. I’ve got work to do.
Clean And Put Away What’s Important
Papers should be filed, even if that means a basket for the year’s itemized deductions. Newspapers and junk mail: in the trash. (Those extra newspapers can also be rolled and used as starters, if you’ve got a fireplace.) Books and videos put back, clothes folded, and summer clothing stored for the season. (Try a long box or drawers underneath your bed, or even a box in the back of your closet.) Aim for as many clear surfaces as you can.
Get Rid Of What Isn’t Important
Haven’t read those books in years? They should go to a library or other group that can make good use of them. (And give you a tax deduction, as well.) Check the more unusual or rare ones — they might actually sell for quite a bit on Amazon. On to your schotzkes…do you actually like that vase, or are you just keeping it until you figure it out? Tell it a fond goodby, along with your mom’s frog collection (keep a few, not all), those extra pots and pans, and that ugly rug you’ve barely tolerated. Wipe off the area, then spread your remaining possessions around a bit. Looks better already, doesn’t it…
What’s Been Left Out For The Garbage Man?
Our neighbors are everyday working people, but they regularly put out astonishing things during trash day. Antique chairs, little bookcases, flowers and planters, even a quilt folded on top of the trash can have been personally snatched up by yours truly over the years. Chairs and sawhorses can be repainted and upholstered to form a desk set, like this duo — rescued from the street. Amy Daniewicz used paint, fabric and a few IKEA bookcases, along with some plants, for a fresh new look. (Notice what just using the color yellow did for her space.)
Total cost: $200. (See how she did it here.)
Which brings up another issue:
Make The Best Use Of Color And Light
Bright colors ‘pop’ against a clean white background; darker shades can give a room a cozier, more intimate feel. Use lamps not only for light for reading, work and play — but let them make interesting shadows on the wall from your plants, furniture and other items. (You may have to move the uplights around a bit to get the best effect, but it will be worth it.) Clean windows are important, but so are filmy curtains for maximum light — or heavier ones (like Amy’s) that can be closed for privacy. Keep your furniture legs thin for a ‘spacier’ look — or use one heavier, darker piece to anchor the room and give it stability. (One or two: good. More, and it looks like elephants jostling for space.)
Paint Is Your Frugal Friend
Rip out that disgusting carpet, and clean the flooring underneath. If it’s not good enough to get by with until you can tile or re-floor, paint it with front porch enamel. Meredith at Like Merchant Ships did this with her son’s bedroom floor, until she could come up with something better. Here’s how she did it.
If you’re renting, you still can cover up that disgusting floor with a large rug, or a painted canvas floorcloth. Thrift shops and Craigslist are good places to look for still-usable rugs. (I’ve also found some nice furnishings at Habitat for Humanity’s “ReStore” locations. They often sell paint, too — which is how our garage doors acquired a whole new look for less than $10.)
Or make your own flooring, using 1x 6s, like the Shabby Chi Cottage did. Looks like this:
Whatever your taste, a little money, elbow grease and a lot of imagination can work wonders.