Thursday, 20 November 2008

Frugal decorating

Posted by: Paul Gardener
A posse ad esse (From possibility to reality)

OK, let's state the obvious here. I'm a guy. I may like a lot of things that are regularly considered "woman's" work - gardening, cooking, canning...etc etc - but the plain facts are that I'm guy through and through and to be honest I decorate like a guy. So keep in mind, the decorating I refer to in this entry was done by my wonderfully tasteful wife. I am merely the blunt instrument to make things turn out the way she sees them in her mind. That said, last night as we worked together on a project for our family room, it made me think to myself that this project really illustrated well the way we do a lot of the decorating around our place and that would fit in well with the topics of this blog. Frugal Decorating.

You see A~, that's my wife for those of you who may not read my personal blog regularly, has good taste and decorates very well. She often gets compliments from friends and neighbors or is asked to help someone else with a room or two at their own house. The thing is, the way she decorates really doesn't work for helping others, at least not directly. She'll regularly see something at a store, or in a magazine that she really likes the look of but refuses to run out and just buy the stuff she sees. (Bless her!!) Instead, she keeps that idea in mind, or talks to me about it, and we often find a way to make it happen either for much less, or sometimes even for free. Last nights project was one of the latter occasions. This is it hanging above out love seat in the family room.
We just call it the stick picture for now, but we're both really happy with it. It's something that she thinks she saw in a magazine, but honestly can't remember. A couple of weekends ago we were down in Salt Lake City and she saw some bundles of sticks for sale for $15.00 and wanted to pick them up so that we could make this for ourselves. I knew of a place near our house where the city had trimmed some tall brush and left it sit all summer on the side of the road, so suggested that instead. When I saw the city cut and stack the sticks, I knew I'd be able to do something with them, I just wasn't sure what. That's really one of the first habits to build for yourself if you are really serious about being frugal, to see things not necessarily as they are but as they could be.
After heading out and collecting a good selection of the branches, we figured out how we'd build the frame and rounded up the tools. A plain wood saw, some pruning shears and some natural fiber twine were the basics, but I also used a small air stapler (not pictured) to attach the branches to each other. Tools are investments around our house and have paid for themselves many times over.
The project was a simple thing. Staple the pieces together, bind the corners with the twine, prune off the ends of the twigs to fit the frame and hang on wall. A~'s happy, I'm happy and our pocketbook is all the better for it!

As I thought about this post, I realized how much of our home has been furnished or decorated with this kind of frugal, re-use mentality; our family room for example. I thought I'd run down a few things. The "stick picture" is of course the latest addition, but a lot of this room came to us via non-commercial means. The pictures on the wall are ones that we took up in the mountains and placed in thrift store frames that we spray painted, the table on the right was a garage sale find and the coffee table, even though it matches perfectly with the shelves and hutch, was picked up at the local landfill. Yep, the DUMP. Ours has a drop off area for useful items, and I picked it up there while dropping off some other stuff.
Here's a couple of pictures of our front room (below). It's got a lot of interesting frugal options in it as well.

The small table was a garage sale find that has been repainted a couple of times and used for different purposes over the years, The lamp was new once, but has been re-used and re-worked into so many "decorating schemes" that it's taken on a life of it's own. That's another great way to make the most of things. Just because they don't seem like the right piece for a particular room, doesn't mean they can't be made to work in another. Finally, the pillow and blanket are things that I'm really proud of her for. She wanted a matching throw for this room, but wanted it cheap and just the way she pictured in her mind, so she knitted it herself. The pillow is a knock off that she made of an IKEA pillow she saw and loved, but that was in color. She looked the picture of it up online, modified it a little to suit her needs and created a pattern, and then cross-stitched it herself.
This table is something that we picked up for $10.00 at a thrift store about 5 years ago. It was actually a full size kitchen table that we had in another room serving as a computer desk for a couple of years. Last year, it was taken apart, remodeled and turned into the runner table (is that what their called?) that you see here. Even the custom sized painting on the wall was a frugal creation. I built the frame stretched some canvas and painted it for A~ last winter.

My point here isn't to try and show off our decorations, but rather to showcase the idea that good design and decorating don't have to stretch a budget and certainly don't need to cost a fortune. If you keep your eyes out for solid items, reusable items or good designs, with a little creativity and some paint, a lot can be done. Some things will work out well, some things won't. Those that don't can be re-purposed again and tried another way. Look at the things that are being wasted all around us, and make it a game to try to figure out at least one other thing that it could be used for. Pretty soon, you won't be able to not do it.
Good luck.