I have always loved thrift shops, flea markets, and yard sales. Sure, high-end antique stores are great. But everything in them has already been curated, cleaned up, and marked up.
What intrigues me is finding a gem among the cast-offs and transforming it into something special and beautiful — changing its context by wanting it and appreciating it.
Over the years I have developed a pretty good eye, so that I can spot a color, a shape, a glaze; and know instantly that I’ve just found another treasure.
Usually I’ll buy it, sometimes I won’t. I’ve given many things away to family and friends. But I always take a picture.
And now I’d like to share these things with you, one day at a time.
photo: Small wooden bowls are plentiful and cheap. Most of them were originally snack bowls or part of a salad set, but they’re great for change, keys, bobby pins, jewelry on your dresser. The woods are beautiful and feel so nice to the touch. They’re mostly made of teak, walnut, or monkey pod wood.
For me, choosing wall colors is both the most enjoyable and the most tricky aspect of decorating. There are a couple of really important points to know. One is that if your room has any daylight whatsoever, the changing nature of that light throughout the day (including lamplight after dark) will drastically affect the look of any color.
Secondly, the paint chips you get in the stores are woefully inadequate for all but the initial choice that makes that color a contender in the first place. Paint looks VERY different from that little chip once it’s on an eight foot wall.
Fortunately, many stores (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sherwin Williams) have inexpensive samples ($3 - $5) that they will custom mix for you, and they give you enough paint to cover a large practice board (4 for $3 at Lowe’s).
So try this:
1. Go to one or more paint stores, feast your eyes on all those beautiful paint swatches, grab a bunch that appeal to you and take them home.
2. Play with the swatches. Hold them up to stuff in your apartment, both things that take up a lot of visual space (bedspread, rug, curtains) and things whose colors you already love (your dishes, a favorite sweater, a picture on the wall) and see how the colors interact with each other. You might be surprised by how easy it will be to eliminate some colors, and how others really pop or just seem right. Don’t forget to check them out at different times of the day.
3. Narrow it down to about four colors and buy the sample pots, and apply each one to its own practice board.
4. Tape the practice boards to your wall and live with them for a day or two, looking at them at different times in daylight and lamplight.
5. Take the plunge and choose one.
Oh, and one more thing: if the color looks “iffy” when you start to paint, don’t worry. It usually looks much better once it’s dry!
This is from a post last year, and I still use this method.
I did my first paint job about eight years ago. Before that, I considered painting a room to be an expensive undertaking, and the idea of doing it myself was intimidating. When I finally painted a room myself I was amazed at how easy it was, once I mastered a few simple tricks.
Since then, I paint everywhere I go. There is no easier, more effective, or more efficient way to enhance a space.
The obvious discussion about paint is normally regarding color. But there’s another, equally important aspect, and that’s the finish. All brands have at least three finishes, based on the shininess of the paint once it dries. The names can vary among brands, but they basically go from “flat” to “eggshell,” to “semi-gloss.” Each one has its place, but I favor a flat finish in pretty much any situation except a kitchen or bathroom (where the scrub-ability of semi-gloss is more appropriate).
The Williamsburg apartment started out with white semi-gloss on every wall and every ceiling. If you look back at this picture, you can see how incredibly reflective those walls were. There is nothing intimate, or charming, or inviting about super-shiny walls, in my opinion. They give a room an institutional look.
You can see the difference for yourself on the two walls in the above picture. The one on the left is so shiny that you can see the reflection of the ladder’s rungs. The one on the right has been painted a soft silver color with a flat finish. If you look at the long diagonal shadow that runs across each, you can see that the shadow on the glossy wall is harsh and strongly defined, while the one on the right is softer and more diffuse.
Next up: one of my favorite words in the English language.
I spent about a week and a half fixing up this Williamsburg railroad apartment while it was still vacant. This was a fun project, and a perfect example of how a rental apartment can be significantly upgraded with elbow grease and not too much money.
It really is no different from what many people do when they buy a place: find the cheapest place in the nicest location possible, and fix it up themselves. In that case they are building “sweat equity” by increasing the value of their home, and of course increasing their enjoyment of the place as well.
With a rental, you aren’t building equity, but you’ll feel pretty good every month when you write that rent check, knowing what a nice place you have for the money.
For the past week I have been entirely devoted to fixing up my clients’ (Jake and Robin) new Williamsburg apartment in time for tomorrow’s move in. Looking forward to sharing what I’ve done here; I’ll start posting pics over the weekend. Meanwhile, this is their outstanding back yard, that didn’t need my touch at all.