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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
144 pages
Apr 2006
Harvest House Publishers

Designing Your Home on a Budget

by Emilie Barnes & Yoli Brogger

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Love What You Have

Treasure Hunting in Your Own Home

WHEN YOU DECORATE, you’re not starting from scratch.

Few of us begin our decorating adventure with bare walls and an unlimited budget. In fact, many of us begin with cluttered rooms, limited funds, or both. Most of us have furniture or accessories of some kind—whether it’s an “early married” accumulation, a college-apartment legacy, a “kid years” collection, or a “matched set” from 30 years ago.

The right angle for approaching a difficult problem is the “try angle.”

Wherever you’re starting—that’s the place to start! The key to affordable decorating is creative seeing: learning to see new possibilities in your old stuff, beautiful uses for your ordinary stuff, and easy transformations for stuff you like but don’t know what to do with.

What’s probably the single most important key for home decorating on a budget? “Love what you have” and be willing to try different combinations, colors, fabrics, and style.

Loving what you have is a decision; it’s a choice. It’s very close to learning to love and accept yourself—a critical step in personal wholeness. It’s also a positive decorating attitude that can transform your home and your life. We’ve often said, “If you don’t know what you have, you won’t be happy with what you have.”

We’ve both come to realize over the years that people really don’t recognize what treasures they have. So before you go out shopping for furniture and accessories, try a little attitude adjustment. Try going on a treasure hunt in your own home.

Start by clearing the center of a room, putting down a blanket, and sitting on it. Then empty out the cupboards, especially the ones where you store away the things you don’t use. Put all that junk on the blanket. Pick up one thing at a time and ask yourself: Am I drawn to this item? Does it have sentimental or emotional value to me? Do I find this beautiful or interesting? Is there some way I can use it creatively to decorate my home?

If the answer is “no” to all those questions, then that object may be ready for the garbage, the charity box, or the garage sale.

But if any of your answers is “yes,” the next questions are simply how-to ones—and that’s where “creative seeing” comes in.

Say, for example, you have a couple of pieces of Depression glassware that you kept from your grandmother’s house, even though you really didn’t think it fit your house. Maybe one could hold a bouquet of flowers or a votive candle in the bathroom—or perhaps the various pieces could be stationed around a bedroom as a motif. A stray cup and saucer could be filled with potpourri and perched atop a stack of old books next to an old pair of eyeglasses. Your little beaded evening bags could be arranged above a door or framed in a shadow box.


What’s the difference between a house and a home? We hear people interchange these two words all the time. But those of us who are fortunate to live in a home know the difference. “Home” is not simply four walls with a roof overhead. It’s not just a structure in an upscale neighborhood (in fact many homes are found in the poorer neighborhoods of a city). It doesn’t have to have a certain architectural style or construction (many are just plain homes—nothing fancy). Home is a state of mind, built with more than bricks and mortar. Home is always built with a lot of love. The collective size of the hearts of the people inside is more important than the size of the building.

Most of us have acquired a sizable collection of baskets. Such a collection could look wonderful hanging from a ceiling (Emilie does this in her dining room), gathered atop a sideboard (Yoli does this), clustered under a library table, or hung from a wall in the garage. Large baskets can serve as magazine racks, hold onions in a dark corner, or even gather dirty clothes. Smaller ones can hold flatware, fruit, napkins, or correspondence. Baskets of all sizes have great decorating possibilities. Garage sales are an inexpensive source for these decorator items.                                    

Eyes that look are common
Eyes that see are rare


Once you’ve gotten used to thinking “Do I like?” and “Can I use?” your treasure hunt can extend to the other rooms. Look for items that can be put to use in other ways or transformed with paint, glue, or other simple tools. Look for interesting items that could be framed or simply displayed on a wall as they are. Consider new ways to use tassels, hooks, drawer pulls, even costume jewelry. And be alert for collections you didn’t know you had—like items that could make a statement if displayed as a group.

You might be surprised what close-to-home treasures you find!

And then, once you’ve examined your own hidden treasure, you can begin to roam farther afield. (But that’s a different chapter!)


Bright Ideas

The Art of Creative Seeing

All it takes is a bit of ingenuity to discover wonderful decorating possibilities in your familiar old possessions (or somebody else’s old stuff). Here are some ideas for loving what you have:

    •       A glassed-in bookcase can hold knickknacks in the bathroom.

    •       Old furniture can be painted, refinished, or covered. Paint a piece satin black, and you’ll be amazed at the transformation.

    •       An old sideboard can store sweaters in a bedroom.

    •       Tassels, ribbons, buttons, old jewelry can decorate almost anything.

    •       Rusty TV trays can be painted, decoupaged, or painted black with a little gold detail.

    •       A lingerie chest can store tapes and CDs.

    •       Baskets can be painted, threaded with ribbon, raffia, or used as is.

    •       A magazine rack or old wastebasket can keep sheet music close at hand.

    •       A rusty mailbox can be scraped and painted or decoupaged. A single chair can become a bedside table or a sofa table.

    •       Cardboard boxes can be covered with fabric and used for storage.

    •       A child’s wagon can become a planter.

    •       A footstool or ottoman can be painted, padded, draped.

    •       Garden furniture can serve as house furniture.

    •       House furniture can serve as garden furniture.

    •       A moth-eaten chair can be slipcovered or reupholstered.

    •       Drawers from a broken desk can serve as trays or organizers.

    •       Small drawers can hold plants or spice jars.

    •       Old clothes can become pillows, place mats, even curtains.

    •       Tea towels or tablecloths can become curtains or valances and cushions.

    •       Almost anything can become a lamp—including an old lamp!

    •       A cracked pitcher or teapot can serve as a planter.

    •       An odd plate, bowl, or tray can decorate a wall or hold a planter.

    •       A tray can become a table top or an ottoman.

    •       A crystal salt-shaker can hold a miniature bouquet on a nightstand or be a powder shaker.

    •       A stepladder can hold shelves or display family photos and collections.

    •       A collection of flowerpots can hold candles or potpourri.

    •       Fabric remnants can be pieced together as patchwork.

    •       An old tea pot can be rewired and made into a period lamp.

    •       Use old garden tools to decorate a patio setting that reflects a warm, early-American feel.

    •       Use decorative tea towels to line the shelves in your refrigerator and to line the bottom of your vegetable and meat drawers.

    •       Take old family photos and make a framed collage for your family room, hallway, or children’s room.

    •       An old iron patio chair with its cushion removed can become a planter and hold a large pot.

    •       An old iron bed could be put in the garden to be planted as a “flower bed.”