The ultimate budget decorating

February 1, 2012

My name is Terri, and I’m a serial redecorator.

I admit it, and I’m not ashamed. Because as vices go, I don’t think this is a bad one. Unless, of course, you are my husband.

On many days he can be found schlepping large pieces of furniture around our house, rehanging heavy mirrors and shelves or patiently holding a piece of fabric against a wall or chair so I can stand back for a better perspective.

We’ve been at this for so long that when he sees me staring at a piece of furniture or a blank wall space in a certain way, he will first sigh, then put down whatever he’s reading and ask, “What are we moving now?”

As annoying as I may sound, there is a practical method to my madness: I am getting my decorating fix without spending a lot of money. Sometimes I can update the look of an entire room without spending any money at all.

When I have the urge to redecorate, the first thing I do is take a good look around my house. Then I start moving things around.

For example, when I recently wanted a change in our bedroom, I sat in the room and started thinking. Then, I measured the length of the wall my dresser stood against and the length of an old white desk we had sitting in the basement. It was a perfect fit. I pared down my clothing so I no longer needed the dresser, moved it into the guest room and put the desk in its place.

Huge change. No cost. Redecorating need fulfilled.

I swap pillows, lamps, mirrors and accessories from room to room, rearrange vignettes on coffee tables, mantels and buffets or pull in chairs or occasional tables from other spaces. Sometimes I’ll replace one large piece of art with several smaller pieces; other times I’ll just leave the walls bare.

The thing is, when a piece of furniture or accessory sits in the same place for too long, it’s easy to stop noticing it. This is especially tragic if it’s an object that has special meaning. Once an item is relocated it can be rediscovered and enjoyed all over again.

A Swedish-style chest of drawers that sits in the entry of my home has also spent time in our living room, guest room, bedroom and dining room. In the living room, it stored table linens and candles. In the guest room it was where we placed the TV. It served as a side table and extra storage for books and clothes in our bedroom, and kept serving pieces handy and functioned as a bar in the dining room. Now, in the entry, it’s where we drop keys and keep hats, gloves and scarves.

With each location the chest looked new again and it made the rooms feel new and improved.

Eddie Ross, the well-known design blogger and interior stylist, is a master at transforming spaces using whatever happens to be on hand. I asked him what he does in his own home when he wants a change. “Whenever I’m doing housework or cleaning, I’m also reworking items around the house,” Ross says.

He likes to swap lamps and lampshades, mix and match bedding from different rooms and change the color of the tapers in his candlesticks seasonally (black in the winter, light green in the spring, pale blue in the summer, taupe-gray in the fall). During the summer, he flips his oriental and kilim rugs to their flatter, subtler sides. He’ll flip them back to the warmer, plusher sides in the winter.

For a change of scenery in the kitchen, he’ll fill big bowls with vibrant-colored fruit or pull out his wooden spoons, rolling pins and whisks, stick them in a large, ironstone pitcher and set it out on the counter (I’m totally doing this tonight). He once took a small bureau, placed an Ikea butcher block on top and used it as an island.

“I left the bureau white,” he says, “but I could have also painted it a great color.”

Another of Ross’s favorite redecorating tricks: using paint. Painting a single object, piece of furniture or bookshelf (even just the interior back of a shelf) is a simple project that can have a colossal impact, he says.

His transformation of a dusty and dark brown secretary (the kind of vintage storage piece many of us have in our homes) is a longtime favorite of design-blog readers, including me. With white paint and about $25 worth of mirror, Ross turned an old-fashioned storage cabinet into a chic statement piece.

“Painting it made it new again,” he says. “It now feels fresh and not so dated or traditional.”

Painting furniture I am very familiar with. But fashioning a bureau to create a kitchen island? Intriguing. And not something I considered for my trusty chest of drawers.

It looks like I may have a project for the weekend. “Oh, honey . . .”

Related content

^Chat Thursday at 11 a.m. Eddie Ross joins staff writers Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for our weekly online Q&A . Submit questions.

Get organized in 20 minutes

January column: Finding the ideal planner

8Pinterest For decorating inspiration, follow Terri and Jura: pinterest.com/terrisapienza and pinterest.com/jurak.

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