If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed a lot of furniture and accessories coming and going. You may watch that and think something like, “Well, of course she can do that! She’s an antiques dealer and a blogger and all of that is a part of her business, but what am I supposed to do?”
Yes, the fact that I buy and sell things as a part of my business makes it much easier to try out new pieces of furniture in my home. The fact that I am a blogger and get a lot of things for free or discounted in exchange for advertising does give me a lot more options, but I’ve been playing this same home decorating game for almost 15 years. Long before I did this professionally, before I traded for cool stuff from great companies and before I had the buying power to make a huge pile at the antique store counter…this is how I decorated my home. And you can, too. Here’s how.
ONE – Work with what you have
This is one of the best ways to save money and fall in love with your stuff all over again. Try moving things around, using them in unconventional ways. It doesn’t cost any money to rearrange the furniture, pull something out of storage, hang something on the wall, or turn something on it’s side. I said this yesterday, but give it a try even if it seems a little nutty. A stack of crates can become a bookshelf or end table. A trunk can become a coffee table. A rug can become art for the wall. A bedsheet or tablecloth can become curtains. The blog world is full of amazing, creative ideas.
My three favorite ways to work with what I have are… 1.) Rearrange it, 2.) Paint it, 3.) Slipcover it. Does your room feel crowded, busy, uninteresting, uninspired? Rearrange it. Like the function and shape of the furniture, but hate the finish? Paint it. Are all of your upholstered pieces mismatched thrift store finds? Slipcover them to coordinate.
So, even during the seasons of life when I had to calculate everything that went in my cart at the grocery store, we didn’t have cable or internet, and I unplugged any electronic device that wasn’t in use, I could still decorate just by using, reusing and reinventing what I had.
TWO – Keep your eyes and options open
I am always on the lookout for things…on the curb, at yard sales, thrift stores, auctions, free stuff, clearance racks, whatever. I don’t design a room in specifics, but generalities, so I can work with what I find or what’s given to me. A whole world of options are open to you when you look for the potential in things and are flexible in your approach. This can sometimes get you into trouble, though, when you’re too flexible and you end up with a house full of freebies and cheap stuff that you feel mediocre about. You can keep your options open and still be a little picky or move onto number FOUR and look for ways to trade up.
THREE – Don’t be afraid to let something go
Getting rid of the things you don’t like is one of the best first steps to falling in love with your space again. If you walk into a room and the first thing you see is the hideous-beast-of-a-bachelor-pad-entertainment-center and it makes you want to throw in the towel on the rest of the room, maybe it’s time to sell that bad boy and make room for something that is equally functional, but looks a lot better. Now, if that is your husband’s favorite thing in the house, some compromises are in order and usually a happy medium can be found.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to let go of things that are just clutter as well. Having to baby-proof my house was one of the best things to happen to my decor. That 3-4 year period when we had crawlers, mouthers, droolers, pullers and grabbers helped me strip away all of the things I had put just to fill a space. Taking pictures of my space for the blog also helped me see the things that were just there because I’ve always had them out. I didn’t really care about them or like them, but they were my accessories, so I had them out. Isn’t that what you do? I stripped it all away and made three piles…1.) What I love. 2.) What I want to get rid of. 3.) What I want to keep, but I don’t want to have displayed all the time. The things in third category, I pack up and put in the attic or basement. If I don’t even think about them for a few months or years, I get rid of them or sell them unless they are a family heirloom.
I will say, though, I’ve even taken a different approach to family heirlooms. I think sometimes we keep things out of obligation, just because they are “family heirlooms” aunt so-and-so owned it, but I never really knew her and I think that thing is so ugly. Why keep it then? Give it to another family member who will love it or who doesn’t mind being the keeper of useless things no one really wants. I keep family heirlooms when they are part of the history of a family (like letters, pictures, handmade items, etc.), if I have a connection with the person who owned them and/or if I really love them and they fit the style of my house. I used to feel like I had to keep every little thing, but I came to the realization that I didn’t. I have a few pieces from my family and my husband’s family that are really special to me and not having a bunch of stuff out of obligation makes me love them even more.
All of this to say, if you don’t love it or need it, let it go. It’s very liberating!!
FOUR – Look for opportunities to “trade up”
This is how I’ve been able to decorate most of my house. I buy something that is a good deal, fix it up, use it for a while and then sell it for a profit and replace it with something I like even better. Before I had a business, I would sell things on eBay, Craigslist and at yard sales in order to buy other things I really wanted. I’ve bought sofas, sets of dishes, wood flooring, dining sets, paints, fabric and more that way. Before I had a business. I realized I was good at it, which is a part of why my business transitioned from a decorative painting and mural business to an antiques/refurbished furniture business.
As you may have noticed in my house, I trade up a lot. And trading up doesn’t always mean I’m getting something more expensive. It means I’m getting something I like better.
FIVE – Don’t try to get more with your money, but what you really love with your money.
One of the pitfalls of being a bargain shopper is that you want to get the most you can for every little penny. That can be a good thing, but that can also mean that you end up with a bunch of bargains you don’t really love. Sometimes getting more for your money means getting one thing that is absolutely perfect for your home instead of ten little things that are just okay. I do think there are also places to splurge and buy nice and new. For me that is a family room sofa and a master bedroom bed. Just about every other piece of furniture in my house was bought used. Those are two pieces of furniture that need to be comfortable and functional and, in my opinion, are worth a splurge, if you can. You can still look for sales and coupons and outlet deals and sometimes you get lucky and find the perfect thing on Craigslist, but I looked for a bed frame for about 10 years and finally broke down and bought the one I really loved on sale at Restoration Hardware. And I LOVE it. Worth every penny. Of course, I sold other things, so I could buy it!
So, I hope this post gives you some ideas of how you can create a home you love on a realistic budget and fall in love with it again or for the first time. Here are a few more ideas…
Barter - You may not have a blog in order to use advertising as a trade, but you probably have other skills or desirable stuff. I’ve traded roller blades for a sewing machine, a bag of chicken for a vacuum, babysitting for a piece of furniture, cleaning out a barn in exchange for some of the goodies found. Be creative and you can probably get a lot of good stuff in trade.
Swap- I did this a few years ago with Karen, the Graphics Fairy. We had a Junque Swap and invited other women to bring their “nice junk” and we drafted pieces we liked. It was so fun and I got a birdcage I still have in my house today. I also painted and sold a desk I acquired and used that money to buy something else.
Don’t be shy – A lot of people have given me stuff for free, just because they know I like furniture, decorating and antiques. My aunt Karen gave me rolls and rolls of fabrics, my aunt Susan has given me tons of furniture, my Opa gave me a bunch of stuff out of his attic before he passed away, and friends have offered me pieces they are purging from their homes. Those freebies have been such a blessing to me and I pass free stuff along to other people as well. I just listen for needs, wants or people who I know will put something to good use. It’s a fun way to acquire and get rid of things.
Now, don’t neglect your turkeys and start upheaving your house! Just write down ideas and then you can you get to them after the holidays…