Decorating Odd Corners

I had two problems facing me in my new home: one, lack of space for my books, and two, an odd little gap between the living and dining area that looked pretty bleak.

That space might not have seemed so empty if it weren’t for the electrical outlet that became the inadvertent focal point of the area, and the lack of any sort of buffet in the dining room.With my current budget and home needs, I don’t see a buffet arriving in the foreseeable future.

Living Room wo bookcase
Blah, empty, wasted space

That space was bothering me. Then I remembered a little bookcase I had downstairs, one I’d bought on clearance several months ago from Pier One. It had been such a good price I couldn’t imagine they had any left, but it seemed so perfect for that blank spot. It looked like I was going to have to choose between moving the bookcase and finding something new for downstairs, or looking for another option for upstairs.

Lo and behold, Pier One had at least one left. However, it wasn’t available for delivery to my area. Again, I was discouraged. The right size, the right price, and a bookcase, to boot! Then I remembered I’d be visiting my mom soon, so I checked, and sure enough, I was able to have it delivered at no cost to the Pier One store near my mom.

It fit just perfectly into my car (once I took the back seats down). My return load also included a couple dozen books I’d sent my mom over the months (she reads books like I eat candy), the very books I’d known I’d be getting back and was worried about storing.

bookcase 2
The smallest change can make the biggest difference!

Bookcases are great additions to many an odd corner or space, and they’re easy to find at the right price. Check out thrift shops, discount stores and the clearance sections of your favorite stores, or build your own! One of the cutest ideas I’ve seen in a decorating magazine lately was two workbenches nailed together, one on top of the other, and painted red.

Note: those adorable elephant bookends are also from Pier One. They actually aren’t the best bookends — the trunks get in the way — but a few small, and in this case, quite old, books fit perfectly! And Pier One had nothing to do with this post. I simply happen to have done some shopping there lately!


A Simple Change

Far be it from me to give home decorating advice. There are plenty of experts out there, as well as people like my mom, who know exactly what they’re doing and can work miracles with MacGyver-like skills for interior design. I can put a room together, and it’s comfortable, but my mom has a sense for what works like no one else I know. I didn’t inherit that skill.

rose-knobsStill, I’ve been working on a couple of projects lately, and two simple changes have updated portions of my home so dramatically I can’t wait to go into those rooms. What did I do? Paint — and update cabinet knobs.

The reality for many of us is we’re forced to work with elements we can’t afford to change — in my case, I can’t renovate the incredibly outdated bathroom. First, I’m renting, and second, even if I owned this home, it’s expensive. So allow me to present some ideas you won’t find in a decorating magazine, since few of them would ever allow some of this to be seen in print as part of the updated work.

When I first moved into my new townhome, my landlord and I both looked at the bathrooms with great dismay (downstairs full bath, upstairs half). They have that faux marble gold-sparkle countertop, and there isn’t much I can do about that. I hear there’s some sort of epoxy you can apply, but that takes considerable skill and patience. I have neither for that job.

The cabinets were probably last painted when the home was built, more than 30 years ago. White. Worn, dirty white. The hardware was also likely original to the home, therefore, pretty dated. I had no plans to write this blog post when I started or I would have taken “before” pictures, but if your bathroom has the same problem, no pictures are necessary. You know what I’m talking about.

upstairs-bathroom
These rose cabinet knobs are from Pier One, and the rest can be found at Hobby Lobby.

So I took it upon myself to do something I’ve rarely done before. I painted the cabinets. I chose an attractive taupe color, but let me say right here: Get samples. What looks like the perfect taupe at Home Depot ends up pink on the cabinets, or possibly an ill green.  I saw both.

I surprised myself by picking out some white ceramic rose-shaped cabinet knobs. I’m not typically that girly in my decorating, but these are classy, and as it turns out, I had some coordinating rose “accessories” I’m trying out in there. It looks kind of nice.

downstairs-bathroom2
You can see the outdated toilet, counter top and floor — but the paint job, as well as the accessories (which you can’t see here), have really updated it!

I was fortunate that my landlord had replaced the faucets with some attractive brushed-nickle pieces, and I almost chose a grey to play up that feature, but for me, the taupe worked better. In the downstairs bathroom my shower curtain is a vintage travel-postcard design in grey and taupe, and I have brushed-nickle accessories that do coordinate with the faucets. The walls are painted a light, fun blue, so I got dark, smoky blue towels to play off of that as well as add an anchor color to the room. And just last night I found vintage travel-postcard cabinet knobs that coordinate perfectly with the shower curtain. Yippee!

armoireNow, you’d really have to see a before shot of this armoire to fully appreciate just how bad it was. Not only was the finishing job horrid, but the cats liked to climb up the side so they could survey the room from on high. That resulted in deep scratches all along the side, and I debated even keeping this piece. But I need it.

armoire-knobAgain, I chose a taupe, and I’m loving the result. And look at those cabinet knobs!!!!! Since I painted the interior a sort of dusty blue, that blue edging on the knobs helps make these perfect. This armoire is currently my “linen closet.”

green-knob-3-drawer-dresser
This three-drawer dresser serves as my TV stand — outdated colors or not, it works well just as it is!

This last piece I finished some twenty years ago, which likely makes the dark green stain outdated. But I’m not in the mood to paint it, nor do I have any idea what color I would choose. Still, these knobs do a fair job of updating the little three-drawer dresser. What’s kind of funny is the tan color in the knobs  works with those spots where the dresser is scratched down to the raw wood — that same tan color.

So if you’re looking for a simple update to some outdated furniture, or bathroom cabinets, paint and new hardware will do wonders. Try it! And it’s remarkably inexpensive as well.

I used three different shades of taupe in my painting: the upstairs bathroom was “Perfect Greige” by Sherwin-Williams, the downstairs bathroom (full bath) was “Perfect Taupe” by Behr, and for the armoire, I chose “Rustic Taupe” by Behr.

I’ll Take a Gnome, Please, but I’ll Wait on the Flamingo

It’s so much fun decorating my new place. Since I live in an area replete with similar townhouses, I’ve had the opportunity to see how some of my neighbors have fixed up their homes, and it’s given me some great ideas.

to-the-right
My neighbors to the right.

One area I haven’t touched yet is the front of the home. You don’t have to go far to see the variety of opportunities for beautifying the facade of the buildings. They range from tasteful to tacky, conservative to wacky, and my neighbors on either side of me are great examples of the range of these options.

I do plan to add a planter  or two of flowers out front, and for Christmas no doubt I’ll find something to tack on the front door. This may be the perfect time to pull out that latch-hook door hanging that says “Noel.” I made it in high school, I think, or shortly thereafter. It does, admittedly, veer to the campy side, but hey, it’s Christmas. And compared to what they’re likely to do next door (to the left), it’s downright classy.

There are four units in each building, and the buildings are in various stages of upkeep. One group of my neighbors recently painted their building a charming springy-green, and each door is now a different color, rich shades of red and blue and other colors I don’t remember. It looks wonderful. From seeing this outside view of their homes, I believe they are good neighbors.

to-the-left
My neighbors to the left.

I’m not big on gnomes, but even so, the doorsteps down the block that hold two or three of them are welcoming. Even the pink flamingo sends out a happy greeting. I suspect the latter may reveal a bit of the owner’s sense of humor.

I love that such a large group of homes — and there are dozens of these townhouses nearby — offers such an opportunity to display the owner’s (or in my case, renter’s) personality and hospitality.  It makes coming home every night a delight.



Facade

 

For What It’s Worth

I’ve spent a lot of time lately “window shopping” on the Internet, looking for those perfect accessories for the finishing touches in my new place. My budget is limited, although I’m not cheap. I recognize some items have more than simply low-level utilitarian value. They just may be that special touch that turns your bathroom from ordinary to…fab.

The most challenging piece so far has been a toothbrush holder. I’ve looked everywhere, from Walmart to Wayfair, and explored different options, including a cute mug or the glass jar that once held fiery hot salsa. I haven’t hit on the solution yet.

In my explorations, however, I’ve found some wow-factor options. Not “wow” in the design or style, but heavens, the price. I thought $20 was a bit pricey, but I understood it.  Especially when I found I was drawn to so many holders in that price range. If you want your bathroom to look nice, you may need to shell out more than $2.97. So be it.

expensive
Pricey, this one. Very pricey.

But I was aghast to discover the number of options for toothbrush holders — the thing you store your toothbrush in — that cost more than $300. You’d think for that price they’d be self-cleaning or silver-plated, or both. Not so. One such treasure is pictured in this first photo. The specifications only tell me it is about four inches tall, has a chrome finish and weighs one pound, so I don’t know what sets it apart, although a pound is pretty heavy for something this small.

It retails for $359.99. That’s a sale price, by the way.

reasonable
Under $25. 

I took a quick look and discovered another holder, quite similar, on the same shopping site for a mere $22.99.  It weighs about five ounces and is also about four inches tall. The finish wasn’t specified, nor was anything else.

Now you may have a preference for one over the other, but I know of few people who would find the first toothbrush holder — I emphasize, a toothbrush holder, and just think how grody those things can get — is worth 15 times more than the second one.

Is it possible to have more money than you reasonably know what to do with?  Well, yes. You’ve likely heard the term “new money,” almost always spoken in a disparaging manner (that’s the only way I know how to pronounce it) and I imagine that’s one group who wouldn’t hesitate to pay twice the value of monthly food stamp benefits for one person on a toothbrush holder.

Years ago I worked for a man who would have charged up the Visa for virtually any amount if you told him it was how people in Europe spend their money on a toothbrush holder. (Just to be clear, it’s not.) Or if the label read “Ralph Lauren,” he’d pay whatever the asking price might have been. Of course he’d gone through bankruptcy three or four times before hitting 40.

Decorating a home costs money, no doubt about it. Some of us, particularly those on a tight budget, need to rely on creativity, clearance prices, patience and the cast-offs of generous friends with good taste when fixing up a room. We all might be guilty from time to time of spending more than an item is worth to our house, and there’s a point where that’s okay.

But if your toothbrush holder cost you more than my car payment…or even my car insurance payment…or just the cost of gas this month…I don’t know what to say.

 

A Little Less Class, A Little More Kitsch

While my hand is healing, I’m re-publishing some favorite posts you may not have seen before. Here’s a piece from June, 2015:

If we’re lucky our homes will never look precisely decorated, because along the way we’ll accumulate campy pieces of kitsch,  treasured objects that speak to our hearts, and we’ll have to display them.

Ah, FranciscoFor me, it was an ashtray given as a joke by some family member, probably my mom or brother. It had a black plastic base with a hand-painted metal flamenco dancer screwed into the middle. Joke was on them. I loved it.

I don’t smoke, and guests in my home aren’t allowed to either, so instead I loaded it with red cinnamon candy and proudly set it on my coffee table.

No one, but no one, saw the beauty in Francisco the Fleet-Footed Flamenco Dancer that I did. It was frequently suggested I replace him with something a bit, shall we say, classier. I really didn’t see how Francisco fell short. (Okay, I did, but love is kind.)

Then I got a roommate. She was appalled, and went as far as trying to enlist my mother’s help to “get rid of that thing.” Mom warned her it was useless. Thus began a minor battle between my roommate and me.

“People will think it’s okay to smoke,” she’d say.

“That’s why there’s candy in there.” I’d reply.

“The colors aren’t right in this room,” she’d try later, standing in the living room as I walked down the hall.

“It’s so small, it’s an accent piece, it doesn’t matter,” I called back.

I never feared for Francisco’s safety, however, until I came home one day while she was on a business trip. He lay on his side on the coffee table, completely twisted off the base.

“Ooooh NOOOOO!” I cried. She forever denied it, but all the evidence said that woman had hired a damn assassin to do her dirty work while she was away.

I immediately called my friend Bud and asked if he could solder the pieces together. Within hours, Francisco sat upright in his proper place again. But I was resigned to the fact he needed a new home, somewhere safer in the apartment.

My kitschy little ashtray went into a box and stayed there for I don’t know how many years. He resurfaced every time I moved, but never made it onto the coffee table again. Eventually he disappeared.

I miss Francisco. Everything in my living room now is so…classy. It could use a little lesser art.

Image credit: (shadow image) © adrenalinapura – DollarPhotoClub.com

my oasis of chaos

In my doll-sized apartment, one of the first things you see is my coffee table. Therefore, I strive to make sure it reflects me, the real me.

incredibly messy real me coffee table sm
This is a fictionalized depiction of what my coffee table would look like if it reflected the real me. FICTIONALIZED.

Well, if that were true, this is what it would look like on a good day. (Note the January 26, 1986 issue of People magazine: Sexiest Man Alive 1986 — Mark Harmon. Every few years I come across that magazine and think, I need to throw this thing away. But, how can I? WHAT IF I MEET MARK HARMON A WEEK AFTER I THROW IT OUT and miss my greatest chance ever for a celebrity autograph? Like I’d be carrying it in my purse if I did meet him when he traveled here to Arkansas [I hear it]. So it stays.)

Fortunately I have enough sense to decorate to a higher standard than my muddled mind. I won’t bother to show you a picture of that (the decorating, that is), since A) everyone’s taste is different and what I think is So Classy you might think is So Garage Sale and B) as you can see, the available photography isn’t going to do it justice anyway.

people magazine 012686 sm
Sure, I could put this on my coffee table, but nobody would be allowed to touch it.

Still, I do want that table to make a quality statement. So sometimes I put out a really cool book of photography my dad gave me, or other times I’ll trade that out for my favorite childhood picture books (I saw that done in a decorating book once and it looked good there, but never quite translates in my living room). Mostly I leave room for any magazines or books I might be reading, but I leave the esoteric ones most visible.

My copy of “Why Men Love Bitches” is in a basket under the table, buried beneath a couple of phone books. It always remains out of sight, but rarely out of  mind.

When it comes right down to it, I could really overthink this thing. Like I said before, my apartment is tiny. Everything needs to serve a purpose. While some of that purpose is ambiance, more of it is practical.

So maybe a little oasis of chaos would work.

a little less class, a little more kitsch

If we’re lucky our homes will never look precisely decorated, because along the way we’ll accumulate campy pieces of kitsch,  treasured objects that speak to our hearts, and we’ll have to display them.

Ah, FranciscoFor me, it was an ashtray given as a joke by some family member, probably my mom or brother. It had a black plastic base with a hand-painted metal flamenco dancer screwed into the middle. Joke was on them. I loved it.

I don’t smoke, and guests in my home aren’t allowed to either, so instead I loaded it with red cinnamon candy and proudly set it on my coffee table.

No one, but no one, saw the beauty in Francisco the Fleet-Footed Flamenco Dancer that I did. It was frequently suggested I replace him with something a bit, shall we say, classier. I really didn’t see how Francisco fell short. (Okay, I did, but love is kind.)

Then I got a roommate. She was appalled, and went as far as trying to enlist my mother’s help to “get rid of that thing.” Mom warned her it was useless. Thus began a minor battle between my roommate and me.

“People will think it’s okay to smoke,” she’d say.

“That’s why there’s candy in there.” I’d reply.

“The colors aren’t right in this room,” she’d try later, standing in the living room as I walked down the hall.

“It’s so small, it’s an accent piece, it doesn’t matter,” I called back.

I never feared for Francisco’s safety, however, until I came home one day while she was on a business trip. He lay on his side on the coffee table, completely twisted off the base.

“Ooooh NOOOOO!” I cried. She forever denied it, but all the evidence said that woman had hired a damn assassin to do her dirty work while she was away.

I immediately called my friend Bud and asked if he could solder the pieces together. Within hours, Francisco sat upright in his proper place again. But I was resigned to the fact he needed a new home, at best somewhere safer in the apartment.

My kitschy little ashtray went into a box and stayed there for I don’t know how many years. He resurfaced every time I moved, but never made it onto the coffee table again. Eventually he disappeared.

I miss Francisco. Everything in my living room now is so…classy. It could use a little lesser art.


Image credit: (shadow image) © adrenalinapura – DollarPhotoClub.com