Back in November I got new flooring and painted my whole house. It was like moving to a new place because everything had to be packed up and moved out for the install. I took it as an opportunity to give my house a facelift, on the cheap of course. Here’s one of the rooms, completed.
The changes I made to my dining room are some of my favorite in the house. You see, before, the dining room was sort of a hand-me-down graveyard for furniture we just couldn’t move on from, because both Erik and I are extremely sentimental and we have a hard time parting with furniture our families have given us, even if they’re not size appropriate for a small house. Well, I had to make an executive decision and get rid of things that fell into any of the following categories:
- served as storage for things that hadn’t been accessed for the last six months
- were too large
- were ugly, and no amount of paint could make them not ugly
- made me angry every time I saw them
- reminded me of Pottery Barn/Pier 1/Cost Plus circa 1992
- weren’t quality pieces of furniture
I needed inspiration for the room, and so I decided to start with a piece of art my Grandma painted when she was young, of mums in yellow and orange (with one in a dusty plum color- love that). I decided on a mushroom-ey light gray-ish brown for the walls, which were formerly painted a color called Peanut Butter. Now, I love the Peanut Butter Color, but I wanted to create a room division between the living room and dining room, so I left the LR that color and wanted something fresh and lighter for the DR.
I picked out some fabrics for the dining room chairs that were laying around that I absolutely love, but were leftovers or memos from our old sample room so there wasn’t a lot of any one of them. Many people might disagree with putting four different fabrics on a set of dining room chairs, but I figured, why not? I kind of love it.
I have these great barstools that I bought for $25 at a model home auction, and although they wouldn’t be my first choice of style, they are really quality pieces of furniture upholstered in a Kravet fabric and they were $25, so, they stay. I wanted new dining room chairs though, and since the barstools are right across from the dining table, I wanted to keep something similar about the furniture style. I found four chairs for sale on craigslist for $35/for 4 (middle, below), that were more my taste and modern, but had the same curved back shape and wood tone. The purple vinyl had to go though, it was worn on the edges and I just wasn’t sure I could handle that much purple.
take a look at that sexy old, stained carpet. Oh, the horror.
The other reason why I bought these chairs was because they would be easy to pop off and staple new fabric to- you have no idea how many dining chairs, kids room chairs, barstools, etc. I’ve staple/re-upholstered. OMG… so many. When you’re at the low end of the totem poll at a model home install, you get the fun jobs like that. FOR ALL THE HOUSES. Anyway, I mention this because I thought it would be relatively easy, but I soon found out that these chairs were so old (I think they were in a restaurant, and the labels looked like they were manufactured in the 60’s or 70’s), that the screws are so rusted and would not unscrew the seats anymore, except the back two. So… I was able to tuck the fabric into the back, and then staple “into” the seat all the way around.
This method does not create a clean looking seat re-upholstery job, so I had to buy some trim and hot glue it around the perimeter of the seats. I don’t need anyone sitting in a chair and getting their clothing (or skin!) snagged on a staple.
I tried out a cluster of things hanging on the wall first, but then realized that I get bored with things so easily that I needed to have the option to move/add things around on a regular basis. So I picked up some simple shelves at Ikea and put them together to make one long shelf (4 shelves @ $2.50/ea, brackets 5 @ $3/ea), and then layered a bunch of our favorite photos and artwork together. Now, I think there always needs to be a place in your house where the imperfect pictures can frolic without judgment among the professionally taken well-composed photos, art, etc. This is why collage walls in a dining room, hallway, entry, or office are so popular and heartwarming, I think. The photo that was taken with direct flash of you and your brother at Christmas in 1984 is a great memory and shouldn’t be hidden just because you now know better. But on the flipside… you don’t want an area of all poorly taken pictures in *shudder* plastic collage frames, but that’s just my opinion. Also: mixing old with new photos in a focal area is always good, it tells your story.
Now, you may be thinking “well she sure is full of opinions”, and you’d be right! And of course, if you ask me to come over and give my opinion at your house I will be candid (but don’t worry, I will not express those opinions unless asked). So here’s another one: I don’t believe in impersonal art. Yes, I’m an artist, and it’s easy for me to say because I have lots and lots of it to adorn my walls. However, when I worked as a model home designer, I bought nothing BUT impersonal, stock art. Don’t think for one second it didn’t kill my soul a little bit, but I get it. Not everyone has personal art from their family or thousands to invest in a personal collection. Many people even hate art, and I find a lot of it tedious, too. But here’s my spiel anyway.
Art is supposed to be personal. It’s supposed to evoke an emotional response. It’s supposed to spark conversation.
Art is not supposed to fill negative space. It’s not supposed to be filler. It’s not supposed to be cheap (unless you find something awesome at a thrift store! There are always exceptions).
If there’s no value associated with it, you will have it out on the lawn for a garage sale in a few years when it’s dated, and there’s nothing more depressing (to me) than seeing art at a garage sale. This painting that I have from my grandma is so special and important to me, that I designed an entire room around it. It makes me think of her every time I see it, especially next to a picture of her and my grandpa on their wedding day. I look at it when I’m cooking, because I strive to be half the gourmet chef that she once was. It’s on center display at the table where I host my gourmet club that I named after her.
Another rule I live by is not cheaping out on things that are so much better when you pay a lot of money for them, as opposed to only a slight upgrade. I love me a convex mirror, and when I was in the market to buy one they were starting to be really trendy again so you saw a lot of them for sale at West Elm and Ikea, and other mass-producers. Be ye not so foolish as to buy a cheap one! I did my homework, and the cheap ones are so hideous (or at least they were five years ago), that I bought a heavy duty one from an upscale children’s decor manufacturer for $125. For a bargain hunter like me, that stung at first, but then I remembered that i will value it so much more because it’s high quality, a statement piece, and I can use it in many different rooms (I’ve used it in 3 rooms so far).
I found great striped panel drapes at Bed, Bath and Beyond in the clearance bin a few years back (I love a striped, non-shiny drape), but the problem with non-custom draperies oftentimes is the lack of lining (unless you pay over $80/panel). I was able to take some extra fabric I had and line these myself, so they are opaque when closed (you don’t want see through drapes unless they’re sheers, looks cheap), but not-shockingly I was sloppy with my sewing so the other side isn’t so pretty.
The final project I can talk about in this room is the table, which was one of those cheap Target table/chair sets that everyone had in their first apartment. It was Erik’s and would have been thrown away years ago had I not had the brilliant idea to paint it glossy black. The turned legs look so much better with glossy black paint, it actually kind of looks like a piece of nice furniture. Plus, it’s the right size for the room.
Possible take-aways from this room makeover:
- removing furniture from a cluttered room can make it functional again- even if you think you’re going to lose storage, decide whether you really need those things (I consolidated to a hallway cabinet/threw away unused items)
- painting a large room a different color (if you can avoid sloppy cut lines) can create a room division and make them feel like two different rooms
- mis-matching a table and chairs can upgrade it from “dining room set from Tarjay” to look like custom pieces, and only cost under $50
- check whether a seat cover can easily pop off if it needs to be re-upholstered! (Unless of course the price still makes it worth the extra hassle I went through)
- mix cheap with expensive, where appropriate
- mix “low quality/good memory” with “high quality-good memory” when collaging photos. Not everything has to be polished in the story of your life
- take your time when sewing and do it right! I’ve still never learned this lesson somehow.