Double-layer DIY

As I barely ever notice curtain rods, expensive ones were not high on my priority list when it came to decorating our place. Unless there’s a truly hideous decorative element at each end of the rod, I think it’s perfectly OK to purchase the cheapest ones you can find! And in many cases, you can create the look you want using super-cheap materials.

For example, I’m a big fan of the double-layer look, which consists of a heavier outer curtain with white sheers underneath. However, the double-layer rods are usually quite expensive, so I created my own.

First, we hung the white sheers using one of those ultra-inexpensive white metal rods, which you can pick up virtually anywhere.

Then, we screwed in a thicker metal rod slightly above the white one. The key here is to choose a rod with brackets that will thrust the top layer of curtains out a couple inches to cover the layer underneath.

Incredibly, the outer rods were purchased for just $6.99 each at our local Christmas Tree Shop (no, they don’t sell Christmas trees, but they do have verrrrrry interesting garden ornaments).

The result: an elegant look for a mega steal!


Design profile: Marimekko

One of the best ways to make a statement in your space is through the use of textiles. I’m a big fan of different textures, graphic prints and even solid colors. But if I had my way, I’d deck out our entire place (or a good portion of it) with Marimekko fabrics.

Marimekko is a Finnish textile and clothing design company that is known for its modern, colorful graphic prints. Various designers create the patterns, which can be bright and bold or relatively simple and subdued. The patterns are used for its line of fabrics, clothing and interior accessories. (I’d love a set of Marimekko plates! Can you imagine?)

If you’re good with a sewing machine, you could create your customized look with Marimekko textiles, which I've spotted for sale on specialty websites, at the NYC Marimekko Concept Store, and even on eBay. However, it doesn’t come cheap.

Believe it or not, you can bring a little ready-made Marimekko goodness into your home for relatively little money. I am the lucky owner of a Marimekko-print shower curtain (shown here), which I scored at C&B on clearance last year for just $22. I'm also coveting all of the following inexpensive items:

Magnets - $6, Etsy

Pillow cover - $16.95, Etsy

Shower curtain - $34.95, Crate & Barrel

60" square tablecloth - $19.95, Crate & Barrel

(Note: the neutral-colored items always seem to be a little cheaper, so be prepared to spend extra for a pop of color!)


Blogger Q&A: Sherry from This Young House

If you haven’t checked out This Young House, [UPDATE: This Young House has since been re-launched as Young House Love] do yourself a favor and read Sherry and John’s insanely cute blog about the adventures of renovating a little house in Richmond, Virginia. The couple, who are in their 20s, completely redid their entire home on a budget and have become DIY masters!

Sherry was kind enough to take part in my little “blogger Q&A” session on how to achieve a stylish look with little cash. Enjoy!

1. Which decorative accessory or element is OK to cheap out on?
Hmm, we're pretty cheap about almost everything, but some particularly great items to snag on a dime are little decorative accessories (we've found white ceramic pears for $1 at HomeGoods), pillows (they can dress up a room for under $20) and art (we're huge fans of DIYing it, and everything from house keys or corks to sea fans or black & white vacation photos can look amazingly "legit" once they're put behind glass).

2. What décor element is worth the splurge?
A good sofa and a good mattress are definitely worth a bit more dough (although gorgeous versions of both can be had for around $1,200 each, so we're not talking about 10K when we say splurge). They'll both be things that you'll have for the long haul, and when it comes to your sofa, you'll want to pick a classic shape and a neutral color, which will keep things looking crisp and current for at least a decade or two. We're huge fans of Rowe sofas (we got one for $400 less than our Pottery Barn Basic, which we're already completely over) and Room & Board sofas (they're such great pieces for the price). And as for our mattress preference, we're saving our pennies for an organic wool one and we can't wait to make the big switch.

3. When you first moved in to your house, what was the first thing you did to make your space feel like home?
The very first thing we did was rip up the gross thin carpets in the bathroom and the sunroom (ick!) to reveal amazing vintage basketweave tiles in our loo and some lovely concrete flooring in the sunroom (pictured below, which we painted a rich chocolate brown). Of course getting some soothing blues, tans, and creams on the walls along with painting all the natural wood trim a crisp white tone also helped the house feel clean, current and oh-so-ours.

4. What’s your top low-budget decorating tip?
Work with whatcha got. This is what we commonly refer to as our Tim Gunn philosophy (his "make it work" mantra really rings true). Keeping an open mind and trying to repurpose, repaint, and reinvent the things that you already have can really add style without putting you in the red. For example, we had an old CD storage box that we mounted on the wall in the bathroom. Voila! A mirrored wall shelf to hold pretty glass cups (stolen from the kitchen cabinet) full of cotton balls and q-tips. We also used inexpensive bamboo blinds to create concealed storage (pictured below) above our washer and dryer instead of buying budget-breaking custom cabinets. It's all about looking at things in a different way... and desperation paired with an empty wallet is a great motivator!

5. What are your favorite sources for low-cost decorative accessories and furniture?
Everyone who reads our blog knows that we're big Ikea, Target, JC Penney and Overstock fans. We also love virtually dropping in on CB2, West Elm, World Market, ZGallerie, and even Urban Outfitters for pieces that can be combined to create a look that appears to be a lot more expensive than the sum of its parts. And don't forget thrift stores, Craigslist and even garage sales! We have found some pretty amazing pieces by looking beyond an old peeling paint job or some terrible upholstery to see a diamond in the rough that we can transform for under $15 in an afternoon.

Thanks Sherry! If you’re looking for some design inspiration or want to learn your way around a hammer, check out her blog here.


Spatial hues: choosing a color scheme

I usually have a tough time making decisions, but when it came to choosing a color scheme for our place, I knew what I wanted: chocolate brown and light blue. I liked it so much, it also happened to become the scheme for our bedroom. I know a good thing when I see it, I suppose.

When it came to the other rooms, it got a little trickier. My momma always says that each room should flow into another. So in the kitchen, we’ve got blue, green and beige—a nice complement to the brown and blue. Upstairs, we have a green and brown scheme in the bathroom and a way-too-beige second bedroom that will be addressed soon in our upcoming spring-cleaning project.

When I walk through our home, I can see where each color picks up in each room and is carried throughout—and it wasn’t even really intentional!

Do you have a color scheme? How did you choose it?


Need. More. Art.

In two weeks, I will be embarking on a super-intensive spring-cleaning mission, which entails reorganizing and redesigning every single room in our apartment (including the basement). Naturally, I’ll do it all on a budget, and I’ll chronicle the entire “makeover” right here on this newly redesigned blog. But before I begin this massive project, I’ve been gathering ideas on what I’ll need… and I’m thinking it’s more wall art!

The project will begin with the second bedroom, which houses our well-loved iMac, a couch, and usually our ironing board and drying rack full of wet clothes. When we moved in, we hung some of our least-liked wall art in this room just so the walls weren’t totally empty. But now I’m thinking it’s time to take down those framed college diplomas (they’re nice, but not very stylish) and put up some artwork that reflects what we want the room to be—a fun place to come and relax, listen to music, peruse Google Reader and just cheeeel.

Right now, we’ve got this print from The Poster List above our couch:

I’d like to find another print to accompany this one, as it looks a little lonely. So far, I’ve come across a few contenders, both of which are gig posters (my go-to wall art):

From Insound

From The Small Stakes

The bird and phonograph-style flower in the Andrew Bird print above remind me of the print I already have. It would be kind of funny to echo that element. Hmmm... so many options!

What would you choose? Are you into posters or more traditional wall art?

Similar posts:
Affordable art: the work of Matte Stephens
Grown-up band posters
Deck the walls with framed LPs
The search for affordable art


Deal on dinnerware

For our wedding, my husband and I received 12 beautiful place settings of the Pottery Barn "Sausalito" dinnerware in Natural. Now, nearly two years later, we have thrown out several chipped plates and bowls. Not to mention, we've probably packed on a few extra pounds because the plates are abnormally large (or perhaps we are just lazy).

Either way, I was always sad when it was time to throw away yet another dish. Who wants to throw away their wedding gifts? So we are now eating our daily breakfast and dinner off an inexpensive stoneware dinnerware set from Pier 1. You get 4 place settings for just $25! Not a bad deal. It's great having normal-sized dishes that can actually fit inside our dishwasher, although I will miss our pretty PB plates. We'll bring them out on special occasions (or just when we're too lazy to wash the new ones).

Have you had to discard any of your wedding gifts?


Inferior design: Orla Kiely housewares for Target

This past weekend, the new line of Orla Kiely housewares made its way to Target stores. I, along with many other bloggers, was excited about this new line, which includes bright and boldly patterned textiles, organizers, canisters and many other items. However, I wish I had previewed this line before I excitedly wrote about it here.

That’s because I am disappointed with the quality. The coasters and certain placemats are made of material that reminds me of jigsaw puzzles; if you placed a condensation-soaked glass on the coaster, I think the sticker-like overlay would likely peel off. And while the dishtowels are pretty, they are made of cheap, coarse material that would not soak up any droplets from your wet dishes.

While it is certainly cost-efficient, I feel it is more appropriate for students moving into their first dorm room or on-campus apartment. The cloth shoe organizer, magazine holders and melamine dishes would have been perfect for college! (The full line does not appear to be on the Target web site yet, otherwise I'd link to the other items.)

I haven’t checked out the full line yet, but I am fairly sure I will be disappointed all around. That’s why, going forward, I will try to only feature products I really stand by, with quality I can attest to… because otherwise, what’s the point?


Low-cost lookalikes

I was browsing through the Pottery Barn sale yesterday and came across this white bench, which looks almost exactly like two others from JCPenney and Overstock.com. While I can't vouch for the quality of any of the benches (nor any of the products I feature here, for that matter!), the less expensive benches may be a good deal if you're not willing to pay $299 or $399 (depending on the color) for a bench. Plus, you crafty types could totally sew your own cushion and make it your own--while saving money!

Overstock.com, $114.99

JCPenney, $249.99 (comes with a wall shelf)


Hot seat of the week

How cute are these scoop-back chairs from West Elm? I could see two or four of them placed around a dining room table for a modern, hip look. The best part is they're relatively inexpensive - $99 for one, $179 for a set of two, and $349 for a set of four.


New art every day

If you dig the grown-up gig posters look, chances are you might be feeling the new book from Gig Posters entitled "Gig Posters Volume I: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century." The book includes 101 (!) perforated, ready-to-frame 11" x 14" posters, so you can change up your wall art on a whim. A cluster of three or four prints, or even just one or two on a narrow part of the wall would look stunning. Several of my favorite poster designers contributed to the book, including Strawberryluna and The Small Stakes.

The book is just $40 at Gig Posters and will be available in April 2009. What a deal!


The little things

Last night my husband and I had some friends over and showed them what you can get for the money in our city. They're thinking of moving here, and seeing as how we did plenty of apartment hunting last year, we kind of consider ourselves experts. We know which complexes have washing machines, which ones are notorious for parties, and the ones that house some major creepos. Around here, you either live in some corporate-owned apartment complexes or rent a house or apartment from independent owners. We do the latter, and I'm so glad we did.

Back in February of last year, we were on the waiting list for a top-floor place with a vaulted ceiling in a corporate-owned apartment, but none were available yet. As our previous lease was nearly up and we couldn't go month-to-month, we decided to just go for a small, one-floor apartment in the same complex that was located on the bottom floor -- meaning, practically in the basement. We had horrible feelings about it, but felt there was no place else to go.

Luckily, a gorgeous townhouse popped up downtown and we went for that instead. Our little "complex" was built and is owned by a local family and features several little details that you just can't get in the square, beige boxes that make up corporate housing. I love our spacious and airy lofts in the bedrooms, and am crazy about our shiny, real wood floors. Best of all, our bathroom and kitchen features real tiles (an upgrade from the pock-marked linoleum we endured in our last place) and the bedrooms feature carpeting that is free of curious stains.

Now we're thinking that our friends will show us up with an even better apartment, and we'll be jealous. Well, at least I'm appreciating the little things I love about this place!

Dear Internet,

Would you rather have an incredible apartment with all of the amenities you want in a not-so-nice neighborhood, or a sub-par apartment in a nice area?


Storage solutions for your jewelry

Did you ever notice that you can always find interesting things when you're not looking for them? Urban Outfitters has several cheap, super-cute jewelry boxes and hangers that I'm coveting and would probably purchase if I didn't already have a jewelry box. But I know the next time I'm seeking out some jewelry storage options, I won't be able to find anything.

So, if you're in need of a place to stash or display your baubles (isn't that word awful?), do yourself a favor and check out Urban Outfitters' selection.

Clockwise, from left:
Cherry blossom jewelry box, $36
Lace pedestal jewelry stand, $18
Feather jewelry stand, $24
Landscape trinket box, $32
Little birch jewelry stand, $24
Mini coat rack jewelry stand, $18

There's plenty more, too, so do check it out -- especially if you're a bird aficionado!

Five fun vases

Cute vases can be inexpensive and add more beauty and depth to your room. But don’t go featuring that ultra-traditional, textured-glass vase you took home as part of a free wedding centerpiece. The best way to achieve a stylish look is to choose vases in modern or classic shapes that don’t look like they’re straight of out the 80s. But you already knew that!

Clockwise from left:
notNeutral Flora vase set - $24.00, 2 Modern.com
Reiner vases - $19.95-$24.95, ZGallerie.com
vases - $1.99, IKEA
Izzy vase set - $34.95, Crate & Barrel
Carton vase - $6.95, CB2

There's so much you can do with these. Split up the "flora" vase set and put one on an end table or a bookshelf. Put an empty "Reiner" vase in the center of the dining room table for a simple, minimalistic look. Cluster the white IKEA bud vases on a mantle or shelf and give yourself bonus points if the wall behind them isn't white. The "Izzy" vase set would look ultra-cute clustered together or spread throughout the house. You can also buy just one if you're not into sets. Finally, for those looking for more whimsical decor elements, go for the cute little carton vase.

Now buy some flowers (or coerce someone into buying them for you) and you’re all set!


Fashion detour: clothes that match your decor

I just bought this shirt at Old Navy yesterday:

I'm loving the fabric, which kind of reminds me of the graphic patterns I usually see on cute throw pillows and curtains (because who doesn't want to match the drapes? Ha!). I've also got my eye on several other items with similar patterns (like these!). Now can spring get here already so I can wear them?

Homemade cream cheese

I'm on a major food kick right now. But not just any food -- I only want delicious meals made in my own kitchen! (Although I don't feel like making them.) Perhaps a week of traveling will do that to you.

So perhaps that's why I'm drooling over this recipe for homemade vegetable cream cheese over at the Homemaker's Habitat. You don't have to actually make the cream cheese part; you just grind up a bunch of fresh vegetables and dump in an already prepared tub of low-cat plain cream cheese. Can you say YUM-O?


FLOR tiles

I'd like to splurge on a new area rug for our living room. Trouble is, I'm looking for something big, cushy, and pretty--and those don't come cheap. As an alternative, I'm considering FLOR tiles.

FLOR tiles are small squares of carpet that can be clustered together to create any size area rug you wish. The best part is you can arrange the tiles this way and that to create interesting textures and patterns. They've got a great selection of designs, and you can even mix and match to achieve the look you want.

Each tile usually goes for about $11, so even a large rug is not too much of a burden on your wallet.

However, they soft and plush ones are bit more expensive and a little too plain. Perhaps I'll order a sample of each and check them out.


Coveting: Orla Kiely line at Target!

This is bad news for my wallet, but great news for anyone looking for great style on the cheap: Orla Kiely has designed a line of housewares for Target! The mugs, canisters, and table and kitchen linens are all on my list. Visit Apartment Therapy for more details.


Coveting: Jill Rosenwald ceramics

My new favorite designer is Jill Rosenwald. All of the items featured on both her personal website and Poppytalk are just incredible. The subtle stripes around the base of the lamp (above) and the beautiful pattern on the ceramic dishes (below) fit in perfectly with my design aesthetic. It's just too bad most of the prices are a bit out of my budget. Well, I can dream...


Affordable art: the work of Matte Stephens

This print by Matte Stephens has been on my mind for a while. I'm not typically into animal art prints, but I am strangely drawn to his work, which often features birds, foxes and bear monsters.

Perhaps I am drawn to his color choices? I think everything my husband and I own is brown, green or blue -- including clothes! I am also a big fan of this particular style. In any case, this print is going on my 2009 wish list. See more of Stephens' work here.