Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nursery for Next-to-Nothing

My favorite room in the house is definitely Graham's nursery. When I found out I was pregnant (well, after I sent my husband out to buy 14 more pregnancy tests --"Make sure they're the most EXPENSIVE ones at the store!"--and after the hiccupping and crying jag--"I mean, I wanted to have a baby, but on my terrrrrmmmmms!"), I became obsessed with the idea of furnishing and decorating the nursery. I made dorky little diagrams of furniture placement (which is pretty ridiculous, as there are only so many ways you can position things in a 10 x 9 room). I lusted after all the chic baby furniture I spied on Ohdeedoh and Babble. I coveted a sleek Oeuf crib with Dwell bedding. And then I realized that if I bought these things, we would no longer be able to pay our mortgage, and we would all have to live on the streets, huddled under our overturned Oeuf crib, with only our Dwell bumpers for warmth.

Lucky for me, there's so much cute baby stuff out there for any budget! Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of ugly business, too. But I figured out what we needed, decided there were plenty of things we could do without, and adapted lots of things we already owned. The result is (well, I think) pretty dang cute.

I was lucky to receive a beautiful crib as a gift from my aunt. She had me register for one, so I tried to choose one from Target with basic lines that would convert to a larger bed down the road. Once I found out I was having a boy, I found some bedding I loved from Target (heck, now Target even has its own line of super-cute Dwell bedding), and figured out the rest of the room from there. I loved the Splash bedding from MiGi. I think it's cute without being too cutesy, and modern without being cold.

I had some Behr paint matched to the blue of the bedding. Although we had a spanking new crib, we had no other nursery furniture. We found a comfortable and sturdy Dutalier glider-rocker and ottoman on Craigslist ($65!), but it was oak, with a less-than-cute country blue cushion. I slathered it in white paint and recovered (okay, my mom recovered) the cushions in a lime microfiber ($9 per yard). I took inventory of our basement full of castoff junk and decided to use Seth's childhood maple chest of drawers, the tall brown Target bookcase from our former office (now the nursery), and a short bookcase that had been our kitchen microwave stand.

Seth's childhood dresser, above, got a fresh coat of paint and some chrome handles ($3 apiece at Home Depot). The shelves above the dresser are from Target's home office section, and are in the exact spot they were in when the room was our office. They just look a lot sweeter with Graham's toys on them. See, laziness works sometimes. That's our old kitchen microwave stand, cleaned and outfitted with a changing pad and some canvas bins from, where else, Target. The brown rug is wonderful--it's made of recycled t-shirts and is from Wal-Mart.

I used my leftover green and white paint for some fishy art on the walls that I tried to match to the fish in the bedding. I thought it was ridiculous to spend $20 per letter to put Graham's name over the bed, but I found a woman on eBay who sells them for under $5 per letter, plus she lets you pick your paint and ribbon color!

I think the room is so restful and sweet, which is nice since I spend so much time in there. And Graham seems pretty pleased with it, too.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More Cheap Tricks

So, the dining room. To put things in perspective, you should see what we started with.

This isn't the best picture--it doesn't show you the entire room--but you get the gist, right? Please note the Pathway of Filth that leads through the avocado shag into the kitchen, and the swanky pull-down light fixture that was coated in years of grease and dust.

Okay then.

Like the living room, the dining room also went through a transitional period, during which I liked very dark, saturated colors, and also during which I had no furniture. The result was a very traditional cave/dining room with deep red walls, my mom's old uber-traditional dining furniture (which I was not allowed to paint), and some very dramatic gold fabric (with tassles! Oh, my!) twisted up over the window. The fabric was intended for curtians, but I was too lazy to make them. We did manage to put a chandelier and some crown molding up.

The red was okay, and I especially liked it in the fall and over the holiday season, but it could feel oppressive in my tiny, tiny house. It really didn't feel very "me," either. The table, even with no leaves in, was too big for a room that we have to walk through constantly, and the chairs were too bulky. Over time, the dining room has evolved into what I think is something that's brighter, crisper, and much more reflective of who we are.

The walls are now a crisp apple/pear green (Sherwin Williams "Parakeet"). The curtains are from Target, and I was thrilled at their quality: thick fabric, nice lining, available in the long length that I need for my tall windows. We found the Spencer pedestal table at Crate and Barrel a couple years ago (I think it pops up in the online outlet store from time to time now), clearanced out because it was a floor model. We had the white chairs leftover from our years as renters, when we actually had an eat-in kitchen.

I craved a different light fixture, maybe something with a drum shade, but just taking the mumsy silk shades of the chandelier has placated me for now.

The above picture shows some of our baby clutter (high chair, exersaucer), but I included it for the shot of the buffet (flea market, $150) and the sunburst mirrors that I ordered from Pottery Barn Kids, thanks to a hot tip from Holly at Decor8. I think I may paint the mirrors black.

I'd had my china and crystal and whathaveyou on a big white bookshelf that Seth's grandfather made him years ago, but when Graham started crawling, we realized what a bad idea that was. I scoured Craigslist for something with doors on it, but all I could find were massive, overpriced (and sometimes hideous) china hutches. Then, a few weeks ago, I found this simple cabinet:

I loved its scale and its cute legs. The picture didn't tell me much about the quality of the wood. I decided if it turned out to be nice (visions of Heywood Wakfefield danced in my head), I would use it as-is, and if not, I would paint it.

Alas, it was not Heywood Wakefield blonde maple; it was wood from the Ikea Tree. So I went through forty-seven cans of spray paint and ended up with something I'm quite happy with.

I still need to touch up the paint a bit, and I'd like to add some more exciting hardware (Anthropologie's clearance bins are calling my name), but I'm pleased. I love the Craigslist.

From the last picture, you can kind of see into my kitchen, which isn't quite camera-ready (and not just because of the giant playpen blocking the door). Hopefully, after over a year of painfully slow DIY renovations, it will be done very soon and I can show it off here.

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Cheap and Cheerful

Inspired by Holly's post over at Decor8 asking, "How do you decorate your home on a budget?", I decided to dredge up my stagnant, never-quite-got-off-the-ground blog to document some of my, um, "design" projects. The husband and I have modest jobs, and especially since I've had a baby and switched to working part-time, everything I do is on a budget. Well, more of a pittance than a budget, but I like a challenge.

So, I'll start with my living room. A word of warning: I'm a horrible photographer, and many of these pictures are taken with a flash because it was nighttime. You'll have to trust me that the room is actually very sunny, when the sun is actually out. Okay then.

For reference, here is what the room looked like when we bought the house a few years ago:



Nice, right? We (optimistically) saw it as a blank slate. The room has gone through a few incarnations since those photos, including a sort of Friends-esque period of overstuffed furniture, murky paint choices, and clunky armoires. Think late-90s Pottery Barn meets poverty. Poverty Barn? That look was okay, but last year I decided I needed more streamlined furniture and a sunnier, cheerier color. So here it is, in its current state:

I painted the walls a pale, yellowy cream color (Ralph Lauren "Victoriana"). (I really need to touch up most of the white woodwork, but we'll see when that happens.) I drug two knockoff LeCorbusier LC2 chairs out of the basement, where they had languished since our home office became Graham's nursery. These chairs were a crazy steal--when I worked part-time at a women's clothing store right out of college, our store was remodeled, and the employees had a chance to buy the furniture. These were our "husband" chairs, where bored men sat while their ladies shopped. I paid a whopping FIFTY DOLLARS apiece for them, and they've held up great.

Our "coffee table" is a leather ottoman that I got on clearance at SteinMart (kind of like Marshall's or TJ Maxx) that used to be at the foot of our bed. This is much safer (I think) than a hard-edged table, since we have a 9 month-old toddling around now. Plus we can use it for extra seating in a pinch. The sofa, from Macy's Corona line, was the only big purchase we made for the room. I made throw pillows out of some Waverly fabric remnants (fifty cents apiece at my favorite fabric store). I kept the old window shades, which are from Pier 1 and made of woven hemp and paper. In the winter, I hang velvet curtains over them, which adds a cozy, layered look and has the added bonus of keeping us from freezing to death. I put a couple of sturdy floor cushions from Ross in an otherwise useless corner as a make-shift bed for our doggies, as a bribe to keep them off the new couch.

The vintage 1950s floor lamp is my favorite yard sale find ever. It set me back a cool $40.

The wall where the TV lives looked so bare after I got rid of the hulking armoire. I craved some lighting and cheerful artwork, but those things cost money. I had two matching Target gourd lamps in different rooms in my house, so I put them together atop two skinny Target Hudson bookcases to flank my skimpy TV stand. The flatscreen TV takes up less space, which is nice, but it left a huge void on the wall. I ripped pages out of a Cavallini bird calendar ($10 on an after-Christmas sale at Barnes and Noble) and put them in pre-matted frames from JoAnn ($8 each after those handy 40% off coupons from the Sunday paper).

The fireplace wall is still unfinished. I have considered painting the mantel and mirror black or turquoise--I feel like there's just too much white going on here--and take that dingy, dated brass surround off of the fireplace, but I did want to share a couple of lucky, budget-friendly finds. The gigantic mirror was a hand-me-down from a friend who decided it wasn't "modern" enough for her. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it looked like it was made especially for my mantelpiece.

The alcove to the right of the fireplace was a real problem spot. I get hung up on symmetry (or lack thereof), so I wasn't crazy about the random, DIY brown shelves on brass brackets that were there when we bought the house. I wanted something that would sort of mirror the coat closet on the left side of the fireplace. When I spotted the Ikea Alve desk and hutch in a Real Simple feature a few years ago, I thought it could work. I was thrilled to find the measurements were almost perfect. I drove to Atlanta, found the Alve pieces, and painted them to match our woodwork. We found the small, armless banker's chair at a yard sale for $25. Its small scale is perfect for the tiny space. Finally, I find some flowers from my own scrubby "garden" (if you can call my weedy front yard that) in an old glass milk bottle to be the epitome of cheap, cheerful decor.

(Update: we had to move the little rolling banker's chair to the basement after Graham started climbing on it--and falling off of it), so we replaced it with one of our dining room chairs. We also found a great turquoise rolling storage bin at World Market, which works great for our files since that secretary is effectively our home office. And I still haven't painted the mantel or mirror. I guess the white has grown on me!)

That was fun! Next up: my parrot-green dining room and my super-cheap kitchen remodel (AKA, an ode to Ikea and Target).
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