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  • Writer's pictureWendy Elizabeth

Design your own Details

My sister alters her clothes herself; if a top is too long, she will cut it, if pants are too big, she will adjust them, and if she doesn’t like the buttons, she will sew on new ones. This seems normal to her, but when she first suggested I manipulate a shirt to suit my shape, I was a little scared. I thought you bought them, and wore them. Not being a seamstress, it never occurred to me to change them myself, and a tailor seemed like a luxury that you kept for special occasions.

So, last week, as I painted matte black nail polish over a bright silver buckle on my belt, I realized that what she was doing, what she had taught me, was what I actually do all the time with my work. We tweak it. We work with what we have, and we make it fit (creatively, of course).

It got me thinking about all of the things in our homes that we can tweak ourselves. Not big DIY projects, but small adjustments that make a difference, and make our homes a bit more personal. One of the things I get told quite often, is that clients don’t want their house to look like everyone elses; they cringe when they show me the generic print that came from the wall of a popular retail store, but they bought it because they liked it, and it fit the space. (What they didn’t like was that their neighbors also had the same print, the same size, with the same frame).

As someone who once painted her entire sofa with coffee (to create an antique finish, of course), I thought I would share with you a few easy things that are not as drastic as painting your sofa, but will still make a significant impact to normal (generic) everyday items.

– Knobs, hooks and other hardware: If shiny metal, consider using sandpaper to make them less new, and buff them with dark stain to age them. Try nail polish remover to remove some of the coating, and let them age naturally. If you want metal to look more modern, try high quality colored nail polishes (the colors are far more interesting and varied than metal paint. Plus, the brush is perfect for small surfaces). For wood hardware, stain, paint, polyurethane or distress, depending on your style. Decide the look you what you want, then make it happen.

– Generic paintings and photographs. Change out the frame with something unexpected. If it is a fancy painting, get a simple frame, and vice versa. Buy an extra large mat (or several in different sizes) and create a big frame around a tiny picture. If it is an inexpensive print, try altering it a little with random paint splatters, a light wash of another color, or a little bit of crackle paint. Be unpredictable.

– Lampshades: Add buttons, felt polka dots, or upholstery trim with a hot glue gun. I have even painted them before, and although it works, it does alter the light that it gives off, so be careful if it is a task light. Have fun with this, and treat it as an inexpensive accessory.

– Appliances: Buy replacement knobs, and drip plans in different colors/metals. than it came with (usually on-line, and very inexpensive). Appliance paint I haven’t used, so will leave that up to you (I know one person who had a terrible time with it, and a few others who had great success with it).

Whatever you do, never assume that what you have is what you have to live with; like clothes, many things can be adjusted to suit you and your style. A generic budget doesn’t have to mean that your home is limited and boring, it just requires a little bit of creativity. But, I wouldn’t advise painting your sofa with coffee – it took ages to dry, I never got rid of the stale coffee smell, and, well, I admit, it was just kind of weird….

For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to:

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