I had no idea how expensive it was to decorate an apartment, (forget about a house!), while on a budget. With our first apartment I stretched every penny until Lincoln screamed. It was a challenge but after a while it was a fun challenge. It called for a good sense of bartering, and a “thinking outside the box” mentality. It became a test to see “what can I do with this.”
Many of my items were found at discount stores, yard sales, estate sales, and even dollar stores. For those who aren’t into yard sales, the difference between a yard sale and an estate sale is as follows: A yard sale is usually a collection of items that is no longer needed by the home owner. An estate sale usually follows the death of the owner, and is selling everything in the house, and even sometimes the house itself. A moving sale is pretty self explanatory; owner feels items still have value but doesn’t want to have to pack and move it.
Saris and fabrics as curtains, and valences – When I moved into my first apartment, I loved how much light there was, but it seriously lacked privacy with big bay type of windows. Curtains in general can be pricey, especially when you are purchasing the very large kind. My mother found a number of saris at a yard sale and snatched them up for a song. I used a tension rod, sewing pins with the pearl like teardrop head, and saris to make colorful, and beautiful curtains and valences. The saris allowed light in, but were durable and heavy enough to keep out drafts. As saris are very long, since they are meant to be wrapped around a person, I was able to drape them over the tension rod, and hold them in place with the sewing pins.
When I used fabrics, the same idea applied. I found lovely fabrics at a yard sale, as well as the discount section of Joann’s Fabrics. I hung the fabric over the rod and again, held it in place with the sewing pins. Just remember to take measurements before hand to avoid coming up short on fabric. If you do come up short and don’t know what to do with your short piece, try making a basic pillow. Simply turn the fabric inside out, hand stitch or use a sewing machine to darn up all the sides, leaving a small opening that will be large enough to push in stuffing. Turn the pillow right side out, and stuff it to your heart’s content. Then, darn up the remaining opening to secure the pillow. I used my sewing machine to make the tight stitches required to hold in the stuffing, but then hand stitched a thick, fuzzy fiber that was a coordinating color to make it a bit funky.
Old ceramic milk jugs into lamps – My father was notorious for taking old jugs and after a wee bit of drilling and wiring making them into function lamps. They were always quirky and gave off a nice light. You can find instructions to do this at the following sites: home.howstuffworks.com/how-to-build-a- lamp1 . or www.instructables.com/id/Liquor-Lamp
Table runners as wall decorations – I came across two yummy table runners at a yard sale last summer. One I draped across an old steamer trunk we use as a coffee table. The other one hangs on the wall that divides the kitchen and the living room. It was too long and narrow for a picture or a floral display. The table runner matched the living room perfectly and it filled a space that had been sitting empty.
Bottles filled with goodies such as: marbles, water with a touch of food coloring, (just make sure you seal securely with wax or cork), sand and shells, dried flowers, branches and foliage, stones, ribbons, and colored glass stones, that are often found at the dollar store. Bottles can give height and be tucked into little neglected corners of a home. Bottle of various shapes can be found at many dollar stores, discount stores or yard sales.
Painting old plates – You can use an acrylic paint or ceramic paint to decorate old, plain plates. There are thousands of stencils available online. Pick a theme you like and simply Google it. I.e. bird stencil. You seal your work with a clear sealant spray, and hang from plate displays, that are usually sold at the dollar store.
Mini mosaics – Recently I’ve had a run of bad luck while cleaning the dishes, breaking a white plate and a purple glass in a week. Rather than throwing all the pieces away, I swept up the little ones and used the larger pieces on a square of scrap wood. I glued them down using E-6000 glue, filled the cracks and spaces with either caulk or grout. I wound up with a funky mosaic trivet for hot pots or bowls made out of recycled materials.
Old Trunks – I adore old trunks as they are multi functional. They can be found in yard sales, junk stores, Craigslist, thrift stores and Ebay. My most recent trunk find was actually on the side of the road, just sitting there, as though it was waiting for me. It was a huge trunk with multiple drawers on one side and a hanging rod on the other. The surface itself was in good condition, it just needed a fair amount of cleaning. There are two types of trunks: one type has the flat top and the other has a rounded top. When trunks were used for travel the working class had trunks with the flat tops. The very rich used trunks with a rounded top. The reason being, if the top was round, no other trunk could be stacked on top of it, hence the rich never had anything stacked on top of their trunks.
I use my trunks, (I have five), for various things. One is used as a coffee table with a glass top, which holds all my bed linens, another small one holds all our cds, and DVDs. The one at the foot of my bed that has various keepsakes, and the two in my art room have numerous fabrics, trims and art supplies. In the trunk that has a hanging rod, I simply place all my tall papers that I roll up, as opposed to folding them.
Dollar store finds are always fun. My favorite dollar store is The Dollar Tree, which often carries arts/crafts and flora supplies that you can find at more expensive craft stores. Some of my favorite finds include: Shadow boxes – I was actually able to find mini shadow boxes (4 inches by 6 inches), at the local Dollar Tree, which was a wonderful find, as they can be expensive. For those who aren’t familiar with shadow boxes, they are a 3d box with a glass or Plexiglas type of covering that allows you to see in, and create a 3d type of collage. I stuffed the little frames with various goodies such as dried flowers, feathers, and memorabilia from a hockey game, including the puck that hit me.
Craft stores sell larger shadow boxes from size 8″x12″ to 9″x12″ for varying prices. Your best bet is to wait for a 50% off coupon to make your purchase, or if you have an AC Moore store near you, they have the larger ones for ten dollars, which is less than most places. In the larger boxes you can place baby clothing, make a collage with old pictures/movie stubs/play bills or whatever your little heart desires. Just recently on the show Top Designer, on Bravo, one of the challenges was to make an interesting shadow box that suited the room. It wound up being tougher than the contestants realized, and yet they came out beautiful.
With imagination and a few dollars you can make your apartment homey and filled with eclectic belongings that are great as conversation starters.