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  • Writer's pictureWendy Elizabeth

In the beginning……..The Dollar Days of Decorating


Do you remember when you got your first apartment, or the first space that you paid for all by yourself? No-one to tell you what to do, a decorating nirvana for you to fill with whatever the heck you wanted. Paint colors as limitless as the stars, and dreams as big as the Milky Way. Your head spinning with ideas…

Then, it began. The bills, the decisions and the confusion. If you were lucky, you had a few hand me downs from friends and relatives – a sofa, a coffee table and an old bed that you wish you hadn’t taken, but were too polite to give back.

It’s tough sometimes, making a place look like a home when you have limited resources and a beginners salary. Often, you are not allowed to paint the walls, and some spaces feel much smaller (and dirtier) once you carry that last box of stuff inside the front door. Regardless of your new situation, there are ways to brighten it up and make it feel like home, without spending a lot of time or money!

After ( I just drew over the exact same image to give you an idea of what I mean)

Here’s what I would do…….. Make a list (see below) of what I really needed to make my place feel like a home (quickly), then, visit all of the inexpensive chain stores (Walmart, Target, Cosco, Ikea, Warehouse etc). Quality is nice, but not always affordable the first time around; basic, functional items, in classic colors, look more expensive – save the bright colors for accessories. If I had time, I would also go to Thrift stores and garage sales looking for good, old pieces of furniture. Finally, I would ask friends and family if they have any (useful) odds and ends in their home that I could borrow for a while.

Then…… – Buy an inexpensive, colorful rug and a few pillows that don’t match my sofa. – Add art on the wall, above my sofa. About 2/3 of the width of the sofa and almost as high (no wimpy installations please). If possible, make it personal; photographs, prints, postcards, children’s art, letters, collections etc. If doing a collage, buy black, plastic frames to make it cohesive. Lay them out on the floor first to see the size etc. (A staggered, layered look is easier to hang than a grid pattern). – Find at least one side table, dresser or bookshelf with storage. I always check on the side of the road; wooden furniture is the most common item thrown away, and re-cycled. It can be painted, stained, or at the very least, cleaned up and polished. – Unpack books and photographs, stack my magazines and display all of the things that I love. – Bring in some plants. They add warmth and energy. Ask friends and family for cuttings of their favorite indoor plants, put them in a glass with some water. – Get curtains. Go to dollar discount stores and look at their curtains, blankets and single sheets. Be creative, until a more permanent solution comes along. These are also great places for inexpensive curtain rods (or, get copper/steel pipe at the hardware store for a more casual, industrial look). – If I just want the illusion of curtains, but they don’t have to be functional, I would buy a panel (cut it in half) or two, and use the tiniest of nails to (artfully) attach them to the wall, either side of the window. No-one will ever know! – I never underestimate the potential of a decorative, sturdy, storage box (a trunk, crate, ottoman etc). It can hide anything you don’t want to see, be a place for your coffee cup, hold your table lamp and display your favorite photographs.

Finally, don’t be put off by waiting for the perfect solutions, they don’t really exist. Decorating a home is a process that will constantly change with you. In the beginning, it’s about feeling settled in your home, being surrounded by what you love and maybe, “making do”…

Original photograph from

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

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