Insider Decorating Tip #1

I have never been officially educated in the art of decorating.  I am not a trained professional interior designer.  But, like I mention in my bio, I learned alot about putting together a home from my mother.  She really does have an eye for decorative design and she passed down some of that design instinct to me.  As my husband and I have moved from house to house over the 10 years of our marriage, I have had lots of time to practice also.  Along the way, I have learned some “Insider” tips that the real professionals use and know, and I would like to share some of them with you.

My first insider tip is : Never, ever, ever buy furnishings in a set.  It may seem like the easiest thing is to go to “Big Box Furniture Store” and buy their couch/loveseat/coffee table/side table combo, but what you make up for in ease  you majorly lose in interest.

Think about it–when you see those pictures of bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms on TV commercials that are priced by the whole set, do those pictures ever look really enticing?  Those rooms are dull, dull, dull.  Variety, contrast, and complementation is what makes a room look interesting.

Take a look at these two professionally decorated rooms, and notice how nothing in the room officially matches.

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photo courtesy CusatoCottages.com

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Photo courtesy of bhg.com

The chairs differ from the couch, and sometimes from one another, the side tables differ from the coffee tables, the lamps are different, pillows are different, etc.  But don’t these rooms look stunning?  If you want to furnish your home like a professional decorator, never buy the set!

In my own home, the room that is most “finished” is my living room.  It is a hodge podge of colors, textures, and wood grains, but they all come together to complement one another.

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Now I know my living room doesn’t look quite as nice as those two pictures above, but it’s not too bad!  And, it was done for very little money, all things considered.  My two biggest expenses in the room are the Pottery Barn rug (which was purchased with a gift card off Ebay), and my sofa (purchased almost 10 years ago for less than $600). Everything else came from Craigslist, flea markets, antique stores, or were hand-me-downs.

My two leather chairs were Craigslist finds.  I purchased them from an older gentlemen and they were like new.  I paid $200 for both of them. When we moved into this house, I needed a side table to set between them, so I pulled one of my favorite pieces from my bedroom, the super shabby white cabinet.

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Totally doesn’t “match”, but it works.  The wood underneath the distressed white complements the leather well.

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You also need to feel free to experiment with various wood tones within a room.  Not everything has to be a dark stained mahogany.  Different wood colors add visual interest, and unless you go from super light to super dark, they almost always compliment one another.

My entertainment center was a hand-me-down gift from some former ministry supporters. It is a really nice Hooker piece, so it will stay with us for awhile.

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The darker honey stain though isn’t exactly the same as the console table I inherited from my grandmother.

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And neither of them perfectly match my floors.  But together, their tones play together well.

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I also have used some non-traditional things as furniture in this space, like two old suitcases.  Stacked on top of one another, they are a small side table and hold my books and  magazines.

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It has taken me years to collect and put together these things, and my room will continue to evolve as I find more unique furnishings.  So, decorating without the set requires some patience . . . but it will pay off!  Your space will look much more professional and much more interesting.  Look for things you like, and for things that complement one another, but don’t match.   Your room will develop over time, and each piece will have its own story and own value to the room.

So, if you have a bedroom set, dining room set, or living room set, I want you to go pick your least favorite piece and list it on Craigslist TODAY!  Then enjoy the hunt for something unique to replace it.  Have fun!

Linking up to Furniture Feature Friday

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36th Avenue Link Party

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Glitter Glue and Paint

Unbound Book Stack How-to

I have written before about how I love to decorate with old books.  Sometimes I love the distressed hues of the covers, but other times the books are in really bad shape, or the covers are not very attractive.  In those cases, I rip off the covers and binding and make these great book bundles.

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I first saw these books bundles in a Ballard Designs catalog, and then I saw some stacked in a basket in a Pottery Barn catalog.  Ballard Designs actually used to sell them, but for an astronomical price, and I thought, “gee, I could make those!”

So here is a quick how-to guide on how to make your own book bundle.

First, gather your materials.

DSC04229You need at least two old books to make a bundle, plus some sort of twine and scissors.

Next, begin removing the covers and binding from your books.  Some come off easily, and others not so easily.  But really the more ripped and shabby the spines get the better.

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Sometimes the glue on the spine is still pretty strong, and you wind up with this:

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That does not make for a pretty bundle, so keep working on pulling off as much of that glue as you can.

Now, a quick note for those book lovers out there who are cringing at the idea of me ripping apart books . . . Always give your old books a good once over and make sure you don’t have any valuables in there.  I usually look for old textbooks, because those typically are of no value and I can rip them up with a clear conscience.  Keep an eye out for authors that sound familiar to you.  In this stack of books I got for $5 at a garage sale, I spotted one that caught my eye:

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I looked it up online and turns out it was a rare vintage copy, worth about $80.  So, that one stays intact.

After you have ripped the covers off all of your books, start separating each book into about 1 in. sections.

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Once you have a bunch of these sections, start stacking. I look for sections that are similar in width and stack them alternating with spine and page edge facing out.

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I also try to reserve for the top of the bundle one section that is a title page, or has something particularly interesting on it, like this inside cover that a young lady doodled on many moons ago.  It adds more visual interest to your bundle.

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Once your books are stacked 4-5 sections high, tie them up with the twine of your choosing.  I double wrap the twine around mine, again, just to add more visual interest.

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And your done! Here is my finished stack–4 book bundles from the stack of 8 books I started with (minus the valuable one!)

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I love the spots of glue and strings all sticking out–they add texture to each bundle.

Use them to decorate on bookshelves, table tops, or group a whole bunch in a basket by your fireplace.

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Here they are piled in an enamel basin in my shop (along with a GIANT lightbulb!).  They all sold within a week! Time to find more old books.

Try making some for yourself!

Linking up to:

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My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
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The DIY'ers

Vintage Child’s Room Decor

I’ve posted before about how I love to decorate with old books.  I have a special place in my heart though for old children’s books especially.  I love the bright, but muted with time, colors and old-timey pictures.  Over the weekend I stopped in at an estate sale that had tons of old children’s books for sale.  I picked through the box and pulled out a few of my favorites.

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Adding those to two bedtime storybooks I already had, I now have a nice little collection for sale in my space.  I think The Shoe Book may be my favorite.  I wonder if it originally had laces?

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I love the Paper Doll book too. I remember playing with paper dolls when  I was a little girl.

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And lastly, I was excited to find a Mother Goose book in the pile. Check out the laced-up binding.

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These would be great displayed on a shelf in a child’s nursery or even bigger kid room.  Or, you could easily take out single pages and frame several of them in a row.  And of course you can use them for their original purpose and read them to your children too!

A simple, low-cost way to add a unique touch to your child’s space.

Other People’s Memories

In my space right now at Antique Company Mall I have a stock of old photos and family film reels from the 1950’s.  I realize that some people may think it’s strange to use somebody else’s family memories to decorate with, but I really enjoy these little glimpses into other people’s pasts.  I love wondering about who these people were and the lives they lived.

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I stumbled across this set of film reels a few months ago at McKinney Trade Days.  I thought they were so unique and I loved that they were all still labeled.  One reads, “Paul’s Baptism, 1957”, and another is “Trip to Maine, 1954” with our friend Paul listed again plus lots of other names.

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I don’t have a media room, but if I did these would be prominently displayed in there!  I think they are so rich with character and great for the imagination—who was Paul and how did he like Maine?

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I also love this picture, maybe a family reunion?  And don’t you love the book behind it?  It’s just waiting for the perfect home.

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A few weeks ago I went to an estate sale that had boxes full of loose family photos.  Here are just a few that I snagged.  I’m actually kicking myself for not getting the whole box!  They were all about to be lost in the trash and I decided to help find them a new home.

Where in your space can you add some history with other people’s memories?