Tuesday, September 25, 2007

SHELTER: Study in Do-It-Yourself Décor

Snapshotradio's pictures on Flickr caught my eye over a year ago. This picture, of her sunny blue dining room, in particular. The sense of light is amazing. Going through her other pictures, I noticed that her personal taste and love of color was visible in every corner and vignette. So many of the things that caught my eye turned out to be projects that she had done herself.

Since then, she and her husband have changed apartments and all of those details and projects came with them. Instead of buying all new things for the new place, furniture and objects were reused or revamped. Below is a pretty comprehensive account of the different projects that she and her husband have taken on to make wherever they live into a home.

What was your biggest influence in choosing your current décor?

My biggest influence in my current décor, or any décor, is nature. Our flat is very open, has many big windows with simple window treatments overlooking these old and beautiful trees. We also live near a body of water, which makes a lovely view. I’ve tried to make our space feel very organic, like an extension of the natural world outside our windows.

What specific difficulties did you have when decorating your space?

There are probably a few things I could say here. For instance, because it’s a rental there is only so much I’m allowed/or want to do with the space. I don’t really want to (nor have the means to) invest a lot financially because I know we won’t be here forever. My goal was to create a comfortable and inexpensive space that reflected the overall location and feel of the flat, while at the same time incorporating my own style. Because we’re still moving around a lot, for the more expensive pieces (i.e. larger pieces of furniture) I want to make sure that whatever I buy at the time will transition well to any space. That’s sometimes hard to do, what works for one space may not work for another. I think I’m getting better about purchasing more versatile and timeless pieces that reflect my style. I find that the lack of investment that comes with renting makes me feel a little freer to experiment and be creative.

What has been the most expensive change you have made to your space?

We recently purchased a new sofa. I had been trying forever to find a second-hand sofa I liked, but wasn’t having any luck. So we found a futon-like sofa from Urban Outfitters. I love the mid-century look of the sofa.


What has been the least expensive, yet most influential change you have made to your space?

It’s a tie between our window treatments (bought at Restore – a Habitat for Humanity home store) and painting a few of our rooms. When we moved in the entire flat was painted various shades of yellow (and one deep red room). I like yellow but we decided to take a few rooms and make them a little softer – this let a lot of light in and really gave the space a more open feeling.

Have you done any of the décor yourself (DIY)?

Why yes I have… One of my absolute favorite things to do is buy second-hand or find things on the side of the street and fix them up. If I had it my way I would make everything myself: furniture, textiles, etc! Unfortunately, I don’t have those skills just yet, so when I find something already out there that I can play around with and make my own, I do that!

What exactly did you do?

A lot! For instance, I put together a side-table with a paint-chip mosaic top. I spotted the idea in an issue of Readymade magazine. I picked up a ton of paint-chip samples from Home Depot, trimmed the edges, and used double-sided tape to stick them to the surface of the IKEA side table. I purchased the glass top from a local glass dealer. I used this same idea for another side table in our current apartment. We purchased a small table from Pier 1, and I found the plain already glass topped surface a little bland. To remedy this, I cut out a square of Pop Ink paper and laid it on the bare surface to create a brighter more appealing tabletop.


I love to use paint to transform pieces including store bought or found furniture, and home accessories such as teak bowls, candlestick holders, and picture frames.

Painted furniture remakes include a birch IKEA sideboard we purchased on sale. We repainted it with white milk paint and replaced the IKEA knobs with mismatched knobs from Anthropologie. Milk paint
* has been used for a few pieces in addition to the IKEA sideboard.


I used Marigold milk paint to revamp an old bookshelf given to my husband from his great aunt. Milk paint in Slate was also used on a plant stand we found on the side of the road, as well as the wood trim on an IKEA chalkboard.



White spray paint is one of my favorite things to have around the house. The white mirror hanging above the sideboard was an awful gold color. So I spray-painted it matte white. The white candlestick holder sitting atop the sideboard was another awful gold project, also spray painted white. My inspiration for the candlestick came from Jonathan Adler’s designs. White spray paint was also used to transform a drab chair I purchased at a thrift store, as well as a small side table, which had been thrown out by our neighbors.



My latest spray-paint projects are the six small 4x4 thrifted mirrors hanging above our appliances in the kitchen. I used blue and white spray paint, along with pearly white nail polish (it was handy at the time), around the wood trim of the mirrors.

More wall accessories include a section of wall dedicated to various fabrics displayed in embroidery hoops. The swatch portrait idea is courtesy of the Purl Bee and can be found here.

I’ve used fabric to cover a canvas or two. I’ve also used it in the more conventional way – to reupholster. I found a vintage Costco stool at a local Goodwill and recovered the seat with Mexican oilcloth purchased at a garage sale.

I’ve made several pillows. The two floral pillows on our sofa were made from the fabric of a thrifted dress**.In addition, I’ve made a few curtains. One set of curtains, which currently hang in my husband’s office, was originally a bed cover from Urban Outfitters. I simply cut it in half and hemmed the edges to create a pair of curtains. My husband built a day bed-bench for my office. He also built and painted a plant stand. We make a pretty good team together.


What changes have you made that make you feel the most proud?

I feel most proud of giving new life to second-hand or throw away pieces. It may sound a little naïve, but sometimes I get a little overwhelmed when I think of all the “stuff” out there in the world. So much stuff or junk out there has real potential to be turned in to something useful and beautiful again. It is a satisfying feeling to take something that most people might throw out or never bring into their home in the first place, and turned it in to something that looks good and makes our living space better.

If you received $1,000 that you could only spend on your home, what would you do with the money?

A part of me wants to say I would use it to buy something off my “neat things” wists list. Another part of me wants to say I would use it as a flea market fund. But I’m also wondering if purchasing fabric, paints, and other supplies for DIY home stuff counts as home use only. If so – maybe I would set a little aside for a bit of all of the above!

What do you plan to do next in your space?

I'm planning to repaint my office/sewing room (probably a shade of white). I'm also going to put up some prints of ocean plant life that I found on the Internet and placed on foam core board, (which is an inexpensive alternative to framing). I would also like to add one more piece of furniture - a bench. I've been scouring thrift stores and yard sales for an affordable bench I like, but haven't had any luck yet - so my husband and I may just go ahead and build a simple bench. Finally, I'm sure I will continue with various sewing projects for our living space; such as wall organizers, pillows, tea towels, oven mitts and pot holders to name a few.



What kind of homes do you most admire or lust after?

I most admire homes with character, and homes that really reflect a person’s individual style, and not simply the trends of the moment.

How different is your grown-up style from the place in which you grew up?

My childhood home was on a hill in the country – surrounded by open sky and small ponds. My parents designed the home. My mom is a huge fan of antiquing and DIY. She also loves to garden, so we had gorgeous landscaping. She’s always put a lot of her own personal style into her living space, and really made our home feel comfortable. I think I’ve been influenced a lot by my mom’s approach to design, my childhood home, and the surrounding land where I grew up. At the same time, I feel like my “grown-up style” is somewhat more modern, a little less country, and a lot more influenced by urban living and small spaces.

Do you think your décor matches your personal style and do you think it represents who you are?

My personal [style] is tremendously economical, somewhat fanciful, and most of all comfortable. I would say my [home] does indeed match my personal style in these aspects. I do think these things represent who I am in the sense that I am laid back yet organized and tidy, a spendthrift, and always getting lost in my imagination. I also consider my style to reflect who I am and where I am at this moment in my life.

* Milk paint is a chemically free green alternative to latex or oil paint. In a cool coincidence, the same company she used features my friend Andy Buck's studio furniture on their site.
** She used the top part of the dress to make a shirt.

3 comments:

design for mankind. said...

Great post!

Love your blog; mind if I add you to my blogroll?

Abbey said...

I love this interview! Thanks, Abbey

Anonymous said...

I'm not a designer, so I've just bought this fabulous pottery barn sofa...It looks really lovely at my place...