Friday, March 08, 2013

Inexpensive Organization & Decor Ideas for a Rental

I remember back when I was in a series of rental spaces how challenging it could be to make the space feel like it was my own.  Add in a very low budget for decor and it could be almost depressing!

But let me say that my philosophy about home decor is that you can't wait until the day you are perfectly organized, or living in your dream house, or have an endless budget in order to accomplish your goal of having a happy and happily decorated home.

^^^This idea about having all our ducks in a row is pure fantasy anyway - I only know a few people who actually have fantastically organized, decorated homes that look like the one in their dreams/heads - - most of us live with an inferior version of what we can imagine.  We have to start somewhere!

And also - if you're living in a rental space and you have moved frequently or you know you're going to have to move again, it's tempting to feel that you never are settled enough or invested enough in your space to make it your own.  But don't fall into this trap!  You deserve to live in a space that makes you feel fantastic even if that space is temporary!

1.  Tip One - Clear Your Space In Order to Clear Your Head:

My first tip involves organization or dealing with space challenges.  Disclaimer!  I am not an organized person by nature and this is something I struggle with a little bit.

If your space is cluttered or full or too much stuff or if you just honestly don't have enough room to store everything you want to keep, this will totally keep you from being able to decorate the way you would like.  So that's why it's step one.  You have to deal with this problem first.

There a couple of things I highly recommend.  First of all look at your friends - who amongst your friends IS really organized?  Who has drawers and closets that you wish you had?  I have often employed or begged a friend to help me - I've even bartered for this service as in "I'll help you do your tax return but I need help cleaning out some closets".  I have actually utilized a few different people in this role over the years and it really works!  Once something is organized for me I can keep it that way pretty easily for a pretty good stretch of time (years sometimes) before it really needs attention again.  When it starts to get a little out of hand I just ask for some help again.  This might seem lazy but it's not.  It's just working smart.  Some of us aren't that spatial or talented at seeing a clear way to organize.  For other people this is practically their second nature.  Take advantage of their expertise!  I bet you're really good at something different that they are challenged by - and you can help them with something you're great at!

The second thing I recommend in terms of organizing is be patient but set a deadline.  Don't try to do it all in one weekend (depending on HOW disorganized you are - this is probably a totally unrealistic goal anyway) - but also don't be so patient with yourself or give yourself so much leeway that you end up never getting anything accomplished.  My advice would be some kind of realistic goal like a one month or 6 week time frame.  Recently I set a goal of organizing a bunch of stuff - a room or two plus a bunch of closets, drawers, etc.  My goal was 6 months, but within that 6 month time frame my mini goal has been to accomplish at least a few things each month.  I've hired someone to help me (and to be fair, she is doing the vast majority of it while I do my homework or something) and we are almost done with all the projects.  It has felt good to get this done.  The only things really left are a storage space I hardly use and my garage.

Doing this - getting organized, is going to free you up to be able to visualize your space and to figure out what it is you want to do to make it a happier space.

If you're still totally overwhelmed by this idea - because it's really that difficult and hard to know where to start - start with ONE room.  Just that one.  Totally focus on that one room - starting with organizing and ending with decor - don't worry about the rest of your space at all, just do this ONE project and it will make you feel so good when you get it all done it will bleed into wanting to get all your other rooms finished too.

2.  If you can't Paint - Wallpaper!  (but not real wallpaper!)

One of my biggest pet peeves in rental spaces is that usually or often, they won't allow you to paint.  Or if they will allow it, they want you to stick with a neutral.  This is frustrating for someone like me who really needs some color in her life.  Finally in one of the rentals I lived in I figured out the genius solution of wallpaper with fabric and starch!  If you have access to some great cheap fabric you can do the whole wall:

This is not wallpaper!  It's fabric!  You just take your strips or sheets of fabric and use a mixture of starch and water.  You use the starch and water roughly the same way you would wallpaper paste.  Smooth out the fabric on the wall and get the air bubbles out the same too.

Before it dries you will be thinking you've done it wrong and there will be lots of wrinkles and air bubbles - but they go away the more it dries.  Don't panic.  

When you are sick of the design or getting ready to move it is the fastest easiest wallpaper removal you'll ever do - just start tugging and it comes right back off easily.  I have done this with flat sheets too and just trimmed the edge on the top seam.

If you don't want to do the whole room or even one whole wall - consider doing sections or smaller parts like these:

Or another idea is to hang the fabric in a large way like this:

These look great, are super cheap, and you don't have to worry "pasting".

And if you still don't think you want to commit to a big space here are some more ideas for fabric - 

I give people ideas for inexpensive art work all the time, but sometimes people still think it is not in their budget.  Fabric stretched over canvas can be a great solution.

3.  Re-Cover or just Cover your furniture

Obviously not REAL furniture recovery - because that would be expensive.  I'm talking about faking (kind of).  I have lived with a lot of different furniture over the years - some that looked okay and some that was pretty awful.  And it's super expensive to have someone actually recover it (and I have done that when I had the budge for it, but you don't always have that).  In expensive fabric or quilts can solve this problem at least temporarily.  

I have no idea how to really recover anything - but with certain types of couches or chairs you can do a pretty good job with tucking and pinning.  Right now I have a couch that is wearing thin and I have put a quilt with some of the same colors all along the section where you sit.  Most people don't even really notice it there because it blends in.  It just looks comfy - like it's there for comfort.  I try to keep it tucked in and looking neat as much as I can.  It's a temporary fix, but it can solve a problem for a while.  At one point I lived in student housing that came with super awful green and orange furniture.  I bought cute chintz fabric and recovered every cushion.  It lasted us the three years we lived there and I think it looked pretty great considering what we had to work with!  

If you're handy at all at that sort of thing, there are lots of online tutorials to recover your own.  I've done straight back chairs and they are super easy - anyone can do those! 

Here are some good examples:

4.  Vintage and Second Hand Stores are your Friend! 

If a big part of the problem is that you don't think you can afford furniture, or items to decorate - you've got to start shopping vintage or second hand/second chance stores.  These stores are a treasure trove of cool stuff.  And it could be that you're into a shabby chic look, but also a more mid-century modern look.  There are all kinds of ways to incorporate cool stuff.  My one piece of advice here though is to go slow and stick with a room at a time.   Cool stuff I have found at vintage stores on the cheap:

$2 at a rummage sale, then I bought a $4 lampshade.  And it works fine

This was something I loved so I was willing to spend a tad more - $36

I had to have an orange phone. It sits on a table in my front room looking pretty rad.  $7

I haven't bought this yet but I found a store that carries tons of these - some pricey, but some as cheap as $50.  That's a bargain for something that would be your main piece of artwork on a wall!

And I really needed this too!  I really did.  $25

5.  More Artwork Ideas 

If you've visited the blog before or are a regular reader you've seen these before.  I did these collages - one of my favorite books, and the other of some of my favorite movies.  Then when we re-did Jordan's room last year we used the same technique to do black and whites of Paris, Rome, London, New York and Hollywood.  I love how easy they are to do and how great they can turn out.  If you're stumped for artwork I can think of a bunch of ways these could work.  You could use your instagrams, family photos, all florals, make an abstract with color blocks, or a million other ideas.  I love making these so much, I sometimes wish there were a market for doing these for other people.  I honestly have dozens of ideas for collages.

These 5 things will give you a new space that you love!  Be patient and keep at it and you'll transform your home with a little goal setting and time.

1 comment:

The Hill apartments said...

I love your ideas for the fabric! I think they're super fun to do at home without necessarily repainting the walls. I like it! As for organizing the home, I definitely agree about focusing on one room first and then maybe proceed to another when you're done.


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