Welcome back class! Today we’re going to hear from one of the most talented people I know. I have talked about my friend Kathleen on my blog here, here, here, here, here and here….at least! Yes, it’s safe to say that I am a huge Grosgrain fan. (My goodness! Do I have a collection of some of the most amazing women friends, or what? Ridiculous!) Kathleen is amazing. She is not a home blogger but could be if she chose to. She is a clothing designer, seamstress, artist, photographer, and DIY master.
In addition to her blog Grosgrain, Kathleen blogs at The Tum Tum Tree where she shares some design inspiration. Impress us with your mad skills Kathleen!
I’m so excited to be here at A to Z today! I feel a little out of my element since I write mostly about sewing and crafts, but to be honest I’ve always had a passion for interior design as well so it’s nice to revisit that part of my life on A to Z! Beth is of course a fabulous designer, source of inspiration, and not to mention close friend. Her house is so amazing and I’m constantly envious of all the little (and BIG) things she has done to it.
You see, I live in a cute little house from the 1920s, but unfortunately we rent which means I can’t tear out the ugly Berber carpet, I can’t cover the ugly vinyl kitchen flooring, I can’t add classic board and batten to the walls, I can’t install recessed lighting, and I can’t go crazy with the paint. For someone who thrived on that sort of thing a few years ago, it was tough at first.
So I’ve learned how to decorate without my circular saw and instead playing with color and decor, avoiding changing as much of the structure as possible (i.e. temporary decorating). I have made some consolations. I painted the sun-room-turned-nursery (below) and now the upstairs bedroom. But it has been challenging working around some of the less attractive aspects of the house and emphasizing the good–like the wide thick moulding and trim, the large multi-framed arts and crafts windows, and the thick moulded solid wood doors.
These tips are also good for if you don’t have the funds to change big things about your home too. So technically it could be thought of as budget decorating too.
Knowing when to spend and when to save:
If you can use it in another space, splurge. If you can’t use it again, save. If the satisfaction you’ll get out of improving your space and making it more personal outweighs the the money you’ll lose in the long run, then splurge. Sometimes it’s a balance. For instance, when we first moved into our house I made my own curtains for the front windows. They looked alright when open but looked messy when drawn. In addition, they were difficult to pull shut. If it were my own home I’d splurge on custom plantation shutters. But since those can be hundreds of dollars, I compromised and eventually bought plantation blinds that were on clearance at Home Depot for only $20 and added my own woven trim to them for a comparable classic and clean look. I also loved that you could see the wide white washed moulding that was once hidden by the curtains.
Another place to splurge is on light fixtures. As long as you keep the original ones to reinstall later you can take yours with you when you leave. Our dining room had this fixture that was decent in appearance but gave off a really depressing bright light. So instead I made the fixture below using two 3′ wreath frames, wire, black wired Christmas lights, a stripped extension cord and chains. You don’t have to make your own, but it’s always nice to be creative. I replaced the fixtures in the upstairs bedroom with track lighting and a dimmer switch for a more ‘recessed’ lighting look.
More on windows:
As with the giant living room windows, I resisted buying expensive custom window coverings for the front door since I didn’t know if we’d be moving in the near future I didn’t want to waste my money buying something we’d never use again. At the same time, they needed to be covered at night. It was creepy not being able to see out in the darkness but knowing anyone could be seeing in to our lighted living room. But I didn’t like the look of curtains over the front door.
If I were my house I’d invest in stained glass windows. Since I’m not going to do that, I found glass paint which dries the way stained glass does, with a warpy yet translucent look. I created my own design, painted it onto a sheet of Plexiglas I cut myself and voila! Cool looking window covers for not a lot of $$$$. If you can find a way to get the look for less, then it’s worth spending a little money. In all, the paint and the Plexiglas cost about $20 which to me was worth not seeing ugly curtains over my front door.
When you’re designing a temporary space, color is going to be your main weapon against your limited options. Unless you want to change the color of your walls, you’ll have to work with what you have. So if you have a neutral living room you’ll want neutral colors with a splash of color somewhere (see pic at bottom of post).
If you do decide to paint the walls, you have a lot more to work with. In the pic above, I’m in the middle of designing my old craft room into an upstairs room for my two daughters. I’m not finished, but as you can see I went with black for the walls. (I know, everyone thinks I’m crazy) but I’m pairing it with a lot of white and a few other great colors to give it a sort of Orla Keily feel. When I design a room, I like to pick a main color and then add three or four more secondary colors. To me, the more colors that are tied into the theme of the room, the more lived in the house seems. Less spartan. When all the colors work together it gives the room life, a sense of home. But just be sure that they aren’t clashing. It’s a fine line at times but there is always a great in between.
Another great solution to distract from bland ivory walls is to add interesting points of focus. The first thing people see when they come into my house are the photos of my family. I bought large 20×20 frames and filled them with 11×11 closeups of the family that I had printed at Staples for around $5 a pic. Now, you may wonder, what about the nail holes? I found the exact paint color that was used and plan on puttying the holes and repainting over them when we move. Maybe that’s a little much for some people, but for me it was a matter of outweighing the satisfaction of appearance to the future effort of restoring the original walls.
Ultimately, I’ll admit I’d rather be living in our own home but I like to pride myself on the fact that I’ve worked with what I have and have done a decent job at it. I’ll admit, I still could do so many things to make the house more appealing but it’s about knowing how much effort you want to put into something that you’re ultimately going to have to abandon. I think the effort I’ve put in and the choices I’ve made are a great compromise. Hopefully, you renters out there who love to interior design can find that middle ground too! Good luck;)
Fantastic tips Kathleen! Okay class, let’s review. If you rent it’s important to know when to spend and when to save (light fixtures are good places to splurge), play up those windows with inexpensive treatment options, add pops of color to play up builder’s beige, and most importantly personalize your nest and make that baby your own! How about you? If you rent, have you implemented these tips in your space. Any to add? Talk to us!