Budget Besters: The Little Black Dress of Chairs

image-3 image-2 image-1Budget Besters: The Little Black Dress of Chairs

image-4image-5I was in Marshalls today looking for a shoe organizer for my entryway closet. [At some point, I’ll get to actually cleaning out that catch-all.] I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did notice a fabulous selection of perfectly sized chairs for your elegant (if compact) living space or office, perhaps. These, the equivalent of the LBD in your closet, are so versatile I almost couldn’t imagine a house that wouldn’t benefit from the addition of one or a pair (matched or not!).

The top four were all priced at $99, and the whimsical high-back and the armchair both came in at $199. Nice, Marshalls!

Sure, you could argue that these are too boring or too neutral, but again, for those of us with tight purse strings, neutrals are where it’s at.

Let’s imagine for a minute a pink throw tossed over the arm of that Alice-in-Wonderland-in-her-Thirties chair next to a front entryway with some playful sketch framed nearby. Or with a small footstool next to a petit fireplace. Oh.em.gee. So much fun.

I only wish I had room for one of these (or hadn’t just bought a new back porch table.. that’s it for me for the next six months!). If there’s a need in your home and a Marshalls in your area, I say check it out immediately and see what the selection is. Great finds don’t usually last long, so get while the getting is good!

(Marshalls in no way endorsed or funded this little praise, though if they wanted to I wouldn’t turn them down. Are you listening, Marshalls? I promise I’ll reinvest.)

What are you envisioning? Do you have an LBD chair or other neutral piece you love? Share in the comments below!


Beautiful Moments: Artists in our midst

This painting was done by my grandmother’s cousin. I inherited it when she died last September. I love that I have this amazing family heirloom that helps me remember my grandmother and takes my bedroom to a new level of classy.photo

Getting excited about friends’ and family’s talents is fun and often fruitful–you never know when your carpenter uncle or quilting BFF will gift you will something precious that you can cherish in your home and pass down to your own kids or grandkids. Appreciating the creativity and effort of your loved one’s project makes it all the more valuable, even if you didn’t pay a penny for it!

The same goes with your own talents! Do you sketch? Paint? Frame? Don’t save it all for yourself. Share your talents with the friends and family who will appreciate it and watch the beauty multiply.

What gems have you gotten from friends and family? Or, alternatively, what have you made for your friends and family? Comment below!

If you’ve got it, flaunt it. [Bookshelves for color]

Welcome to the first Flaunt it! post, a series that will look at ways to pull together and revamp things you already own into elegant design elements. Because if you’ve already got it, why shouldn’t you flaunt it?

I know I’m not the only one in the small space/small budget category who lives among white walls [see my post on neutrals here]. Neutrals aren’t a bad thing, especially for folks like me who like to play around with design but don’t have a ton of money to do it. Adding pops of color is easy because I can literally choose any color I want  as my accent color. And the best news? I already own colorful things. Lots and lots of colorful things.

You probably already have the colorful home accessories you need to spice up a neutral palette.

naked bookshelf

When punching up a neutral room, start by shopping in the rest of your home. I’m a student– a life-long student. And so I have books. Books are really pretty, and a mahagony room with a leather reading chair is like, gorgeous, but it’s not my life right now. Right now, my life is this faux finish MDF pre-boxed bookshelf in my neutral living room.

If you’re designing on the cheap (and again, I’m talking about really on the cheap), a book case is a great place to start. The furniture itself is relatively inexpensive, and you can opt for the prefab DIY version like I did and still have a pretty room. And if you have books, then you already have design elements that are ready to show off. It’s not overly creative of me to think of displaying them arranged by color. This picture first showed up in Elle Decoration in August 2011.


In a room like mine, big pops of color (read: a shelf worth) will bring some coherence to what can otherwise look busy or boring. By starting with what you already have and arranging it with a bit of flare, you can creat an organized introduction for color into your space. Arrange the heaviest colors like blacks on the bottom, and put the ones you want to get the most attention at eye level.

As I’ve done here, you can also add knick knacks to help fill in gaps or create more interest in coordinating colors. On the next Budget Besters, we’ll talk about tips to help coordinate colorful accessories on the cheap. Until then, what’s your take?

How have you added flare to your bookcases? What other fun tips do you have to organize with style out in the open?photophoto

Sometimes, beautiful moments are free.

I took this picture in May in Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Spain. It reminds me that beauty isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t have to have a brand name.  I love all of it.

Where do you find beauty? What does perfect look like in your eyes?

Make the Best of the Budget: Going Neutral

For renters, neutral is a normal place to be. Often, we are offered neutral walls, neutral floors/white carpet, and varying levels of permitted customizability. I’ve lived in places that let me change anything, even flooring, and I’ve lived in places with ‘no nails’ policies, making spicing up the place a challenge. Even when we’re permitted to make changes, we have to consider cost, time, and the length of time we plan to be in a space, as well as move-out contingencies, and so on.

Neutrals can be super classy and elegant, but they can also be… well, boring. And while sometimes neutral is thrust upon us, for those of us working with low incomes or simply low budgets, neutral is also a place we need to embrace. If you’re like me, you can’t afford to go buy a new couch and a new chair and a new rug and a new ottoman all at once [Even just typing that made my hands sweat a little]. We are collectors. Continue reading

Tight Quarters & Pinching Pennies

Nearly ten years ago, I moved out of my parent’s big, well-designed home that was made for entertaining. It had gorgeous hardwood, perfectly coordinated colors and accessories, an open floor plan and several thousand square feet.  There were two living rooms, two dining rooms, a game room, and an in-ground pool with a huge deck. Since then, I’ve lived in rentals and shared rooms. I’ve also been in college and graduate school for this same amout of time. This means two things: 1) I’ve got some experience in small spaces and 2) I’m all about budget design.

Which brings me to my next point. While I absolutely love home design magazines and HGTV, I can’t get on board with what I usually see called budget design. Like the budget choice is to buy an old couch for three hundred dollars at an antique store and then spend another $800 to have it reupholstered in imported Italian linen with contrasting piping. We’re talking about relative budgets here. When compared with a custom sofa the one from the most illustrious designers, of course this is a massive discount. But when you look at my monthly income, I can afford the old couch with no updates. But that’s not pretty. And I want pretty.

I don’t have to live in an ugly, cramped space, just because I’m low on funds and square footage.

So that’s what this blog is about: ideas and inspiration for those of us who have an actual budget, not a TV one; for those of us who live, by necessity or choice, in smaller spaces. Let’s get innovative.

What’s your story? Are you in tight quarters and penny pinching mode like me?