Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Decorating without furniture

After our furniture-store-browsing experience of this weekend, both Torsten and I are feeling a bit frustrated about not being able to afford any of the stuff we want to decorate the house. I went back over the list we made at Room & Board, and if we bought everything on that list, we would spend $13,000 (before tax). Awesome. Because we TOTALLY have that kind of money lying around.

I am extra frustrated because of the stupid $10,000 we spent on my surgery. If it weren't for the surgery, we could have spent that money to buy a huge chunk of furniture. Not that we would have, because we didn't actually HAVE the $10,000 and are instead paying down the debt we took on to pay for the surgery. But we could have taken the money we're using to pay down the debt and used that to buy the furniture. Or a hot tub and some of the furniture. Or build up our savings a bit more and THEN bought some furniture. And instead we're pouring every extra cent into paying off a debt that my insurance company should have prevented me from ever taking on. And I am annoyed about that.

The furniture that we'd like to buy includes two shelving units for the living room, one shelving unit for the dining room, one shelving unit for the family room, a dining room table, eight dining room chairs, a coffee table, a dresser, and two nightstands. To buy all that, in the high-quality pieces that we want, would cost $13,000. Which means that to buy everything ELSE we'd need to fully furnish the house--an entertainment center, another coffee table, some end tables, a bed frame, dresser, and nightstand for the guest room, some shelves for our offices, and eventually, nursery furniture--will cost another many thousands of dollars.

Furniture IS really expensive, but that doesn't really bother me because it lasts forever. I mean, every piece of furniture my parents own, other than couches, has either been in their house since before I was born or has been added or replaced only once during my lifetime. When you divide the price over the number of years of use, it becomes very reasonable. And I have no problem investing more in higher-quality pieces that look nicer, feel nicer, are better built, and last longer. I would happily spend every penny of the higher price for that stuff. If only I HAD the pennies to spend.

Anyway, in the meantime I'm trying to focus on the affordable stuff I can do to the house. Namely, decorating with stuff we already have. We actually have a plethora of lovely vases, pitchers, etc., that would do very nicely displayed artistically around the house to add some color and points of interest. Except that we have no shelves or tables to display them on. The shelves they were displayed on in our apartment didn't fit right in the living room, so we put them in the basement. So all our nice things are crammed onto the mantel over the fireplace, which looks terrible and tacky. But we have nowhere else to put them until we get some freaking shelves.

And most of the art that we had hung in our apartment was on the cheap side, cute stuff that we had picked up here and there, stuff that's fine for a bedroom or an office but not for displaying front and center in a formal living room, you know? So, I can do some upstairs decorating but not really any downstairs.

But one thing I am thinking about doing is creating a wall of framed photos in the family room. I am pretty religious about printing photos and organizing them in albums, and framing the ones I love. I collect frames wherever I find them--if I see a nice frame and it's not too expensive, I'll buy it, knowing I'll fill it someday. And we just ordered a bunch of wedding prints and I bought frames for them at Target, where they are remarkably cute and inexpensive.

But here's the thing. I asked for frame wall opinions on Twitter, and everyone who responded seemed to think it was a great idea. But the thing I'm wondering about is whether our frames are too... diverse for a wall. Every frame is different. A lot of them are similar, in that they are variations on black and white with a mat, and some are silver.

But some are brighter than that, with primary colors or mother of pearl or some sort of pattern. And I love them. And I thought they looked nice displayed on a shelf all together in our apartment. But will it be shocking and overwhelming to put so many different frames all together on one wall? I have never done this before and I'm not exactly a decorating guru, so I need your opinions here.

Also, any thoughts on how I could try it out, just to see? Because I thought of just hanging them all and then, if it looked terrible, taking them down. But then there would be 30 or 40 holes in our wall, and it would be impossible to cover them all, and it would look terrible. So is there some other way for me to do a trial run to see how it would look without ruining our newly painted wall?

42 comments:

  1. Furniture suggestion...you may have already considered this, but you can get some beautiful stuff on craigslist.com as long as you have the patience and willingness to go pick-up...good luck I am in a similar boat!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Also, for the pictures use paper cutouts of the shapes and sizes you want and place them on the wall you can change it if you dont like it

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think a wall of different frames would look pretty cool. If you are are uncertain, maybe you could select the frames that are similar and then buy a few extra to supplement. Then, you can use the colorful/different ones in another display. This might be helpful: http://pancakesandfrenchfries.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-to-hang-wall-of-pictures.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. Re: the frames, this is what I did. I arranged them on the floor in a pattern that I thought I would like on the wall, and when I found a combination that I liked, I took a picture of it so I would remember how to hang the frames. Spreading all the frames out on the floor helped me see which ones looked good together and how the different colors and sizes fit together. I switched them around a few times to figure out how they worked best. It worked for me!

    ReplyDelete
  5. craigslist, yard and estate sales for furniture

    yard sales are also great for frames

    good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My furniture theory is opposite - I don't WANT mine to last 30 years, so I buy (most of it) cheaper. Ikea, Pier One... I had to come to this theory in a roundabout way (i.e., I wasn't sold on it in the beginning), but now I realize I'll never get anything new if it lasts forever!

    and I like to re-decorate BEST. To freshen up, you know? :) Good luck figuring it out.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Go to the container store (there are like 5 within 20 miles of you) and get some command hooks, which are the snazzy ones you can stick on the wall with included adhesive and they come off easily without harming your paint/wallpaper. then you can hang pictures, easily re-arrange, and take it all down w/o holes in the walls at any time!

    yeah, i'm a geek. what?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was going to suggest something similar to what Kate said - you could even get some cardboard or a piece of plywood and paint it the color of your wall so that you have a better idea of what the colors will look like against the wall. I don't have any suggestions on the rest of your decorating conundrums, though, because I am a TERRIBLE decorator. It took Ryan and I a full year to get anything hung on our walls, and we just took someone else's suggestion of furniture placement.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have the same idea, about picture frames on the wall. And I think it would work with diverse frames if you also diversified the size. I was going to start with some 8x10s in the middle and kind of go in a whorl outward from that with all my smaller, cute but very different frames. I think it will look okay. But I haven't started the project yet, because I think it's going to take some trial and error. Meanwhile, our living room wall is entirely blank and boring.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My mother has a giant wall of pictures in wildly different frames on one of her walls. I'm not sure if it's ugly or not, but it's been up for 20+ years and nobody has said anything.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I once did a frame wall and did the same thing as Kate and sorted them on the floor first.

    My mother also had the trick of hanging frames on PINS to temporarily look at the effect before putting in the permanent nail. Tricky, but it usually worked. Pin holes are not as noticeable.

    I'm all about cheap furniture "to get by" until I can afford better. You'd actually be surprised at some of the nice stuff you can get from your local swap sheets/craig's list if you are really committed to looking (and have means to move it). My mother changes her furniture all the time and hasn't bought brand new since I was a kid! (I used to get all her "cast-offs" until I moved out of state. Gosh, why did I do that?)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Seconding the paper cutouts... but what I've done is use the paper cutouts after laying all my frames out on the floor. It's easy to shift things about and get them just right on the floor, then transfer the paper cutouts to the wall where you can tweak to get them *just* right.

    Decorating can be so frustrating, but picture walls are one of my favorite things. I think it will look great!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Like other people have suggested, I think you should lay them out on the floor to get your arrangement right first. Then if some of them look out of place you can switch them out for different ones. Will you take photos so we can see?

    ReplyDelete
  14. To find furniture you could look on Craigslist, Ebay, or even at a normal furniture store. Room and Board is expensive. Why not try stores like Slumberland, HOM furniture, (or something similar) HomeGoods or even Ikea? I have a 2000 square foot house that I completely furnished (with quality stuff) for about $5000.00.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I hear you on the whole money-goes-here-instead-of-HERE issue. Right now, we have a nasty plumbing issue that we can't solve by ourselves and must call in a professional.

    ReplyDelete
  16. When my mom redid the living room she decided to do a picture wall. It drove me crazy because I thought allthe frames should match and well, they dont. Somehow it all goes together though and I love it. I was just thinking of writing a blog post about it actually. Good timing!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I arranged them on the floor and took a picture. I had all black frames with white mats and I love the way it looks, but I would PREFER to have a million different frames in every size. My house has this FEEL that's sort of cold and modern and stainless and we'd already gone so far down that route I felt compelled to be matchy matchy. SIGH.

    And I'm kind of with elee on the furniture. We've been here 4 years and all our stuff is new since the college years and mostly nice quality, BUT THAT MEANS I CAN'T CHANGE IT UP! I keep thinking: next house! I'll HAVE to get something new then!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Decorating IS expensive most of the time. I hear that. I'm still adding in things a year and a half later and I only live in an apartment.

    I think different frames on one wall can look good if they are placed correctly and the rest of the house decor lends itself to that kind of style. One way to try it out without making holes is to cut butcher paper in the size of each frame and tape up the configuration. That way you can move it around and see what works.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I agree with everyone else about Craigslist and garage sales. I love owning quality furniture for less, and I love the stories they come with. I also agree with others that changing it up sometimes is fun, and while I can do that with my $300 microfiber sofa from Big Lots, I wouldn't do that with a $3000 sofa. I'm also trying really hard to not be my parents with their clearly 1980's furniture. Also, try some great charity that helps those in need. The pieces might need some work, but sanding/painting/staining to get exactly what you want can be really rewarding.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hmm. Do you have photoshop? You could snap (and crop) pictures of each frame, then arrange them on a background the same color as your wall and see if you like it.

    Or, I would arrange them on the floor and see how you like them. You have dark hardwood floors, yes? Maybe put a blanket on the floor, similar in color, or at least tone, as the wall, then set the pictures on that.

    I STINK at this. So, I would ACTUALLY advise you to IGNORE this comment. Hee!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Lay them out on the floor in the arrangement.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love the look of all kinds of crazy mis-matched frames. I have a wall with tons of different frames, and tons of different artwork and pictures in them. Some people might not like that look, but I think it's much more fun than perfectly matched frames that are hung evenly on the wall. Hello, BORING.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Estate sales have aaaaamazing and high-quality stuff if you're willing to search for it. Denver's a big area so it might be worth it to look around. I think the idea of mapping out everything on the floor before you hang it is a really good idea. Could you take a picture of the arrangement on the floor and then one of the blank wall and superimpose one on top of the other? Just an idea...

    ReplyDelete
  24. I think Kate and Artemesia's ideas are good for the frames. I usually set things like that up in photoshop.

    It's so frustating how long it takes to acquire all the furniture you want! We have lived in our home for 4 years and are still working on it ;)

    ReplyDelete
  25. I agree with all the floor comments. I absolutely love the idea of a lot of different frames. I have something like that in my bedroom, but it is not with pictures, it's with prints.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I hear ya on the furniture. We are about to have THREE children, none of whom will have a dresser. Sounds borderline... neglectful?

    But it's not. I WISH we had a nicely furnished house, but I realize that our quality of life is entirely independent of furniture.

    It's not everybody's thing, but estate sales are a great way to get nice stuff cheaper. I got my own dresser & Cal's big boy bed at one, along with a bookshelf. All for $100 TOTAL. Awesome. But you can't get hung up on matching stuff if you take that route. I come from a big family where we did a lot of "making do," so it doesn't bother me as much. But it drives my husband a little crazy; he wants the nice stuff, the new stuff, the matching stuff. Maybe someday...

    ReplyDelete
  27. We've done really well with craigslist.

    ReplyDelete
  28. When I bought my first condo, Room and Board was one of the first places I went. And walked away disappointed at how expensive everything is, but also with a head full of ideas. I found local shops that carried similar products. That's where I wound up buying my furniture. For a fraction of the R&B price. Start scouting out the smaller spots in Denver and you'll hopefully begin to find what you're looking for.

    Also? You plan to stay in that house for a while. It doesn't have to be perfectly decorated within the first few months. You can add a piece or two here and there when you can afford it. And you'll see how quickly you'll fill that house.

    Finally? Sweets and I have made a habit of buying one nice piece of art a year. It's amazing how quickly we have already amassed some great pieces. And that photo wall? All that matters is that you and Torsten like it. It's your house after all.

    ReplyDelete
  29. My only idea to figure out the layout of the wall is to use painters tape to make boxes the same size as the frames and then you will at least know how it's going to look and fill the space but that doesn't really help you colur wise. I think just leaving the black, white and silver together would look awesome though.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I love picture walls if they're done thoughtfully. And mixing frame colors/styles is fine, I think, as long as all the frames are cool. I echo the trying them on the floor first idea, if you're unsure of placement.

    I'm 46 years old and I STILL don't have what I'd consider "grown-up" furniture. On the plus side, I don't panic when the animals make a mess on it. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  31. People are offloading a lot of luxury goods on the obvious suspects-Craigslist, Ebay etc..

    I understand the drive to furnish a nice place (and a likely permanent home) but everytime I think about buying a wortwhile piece I sock it away for emergencies/retirement because I am scared sh*tless about cc debt/stuff like that.

    My parents didn't decorate their house nicely until my sister and I were in med and law school respectively (so not only after we moved out, but long after we moved out) and only because the people whose home they bought when they lateralsized (moved out of their non-garage house to a house with a garage) wanted to sell it furniture included and the wife was an interior decorater. So I have no problem living with gnarly IKEA-cum-mix-and-match furniture because we never had a cute, matched house when I was growing up.

    And honestly-a goodly portion of the stuff I've bought from IKEA (which can be cute, if you are okay with a modern look) has lasted years and years and years. My sister and I went to the same school for undergrad-she inherited my apartment furniture after I left and got another 3 years worth of use out of it. I think that their particle board must be made of indestructible space alien.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Health or furniture? I think you made the right choice, but I can totally understand your frustration at not having that money to do something else with.

    I'm currently in the process of redecorating my apartment, and I've been using craigslist.org and yard sales. You can get some pretty awesome deals.

    ReplyDelete
  33. We want high-quality, expensive furniture, too---but we want something to sit on and put books on while we're waiting. So what we've done is gather an assortment of low/medium-quality, inexpensive or free furniture to tide us over, and then we replace it as we can. So, like, we had my parents' old recliner and loveseat and bureau, and we still have the bureau but we've replaced the recliner and the loveseat. And we'd like some awesome all-wood bookshelves, but right now we have the kind that go on sale for $35 at Target. Those hold the books okay while we're waiting.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Oh, also! I've been REALLY HAPPY to have older furniture we want to replace, for two reasons:

    1) Kids really take their toll on furniture. And this way, when one of them barfed on the loveseat and another one of them broke the springs (and it was a high-quality loveseat, just ugly and used), I just thought, "Meh, we want to replace it anyway," rather than "OMG THE LOVESEAT WE SCRIMPED AND SAVED FOR!!!!"

    2) We've had a lot of furniture where owning the cheap stuff instructed us about what we wanted or didn't want in the expensive stuff. Like, we thought we'd want Feature A, but when we had cheap furniture with Feature A, we realized Feature A was NO GOOD and what we needed instead was Feature B. It was really nice to discover that with the $50 (new but slightly water damaged) bureau rather than with a $900 bureau.

    ReplyDelete
  35. well think about it this way... you'll be skinnier, and therefore be able to buy smaller furniture, which is cheaper.

    Wow, i'm a lot of help.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Put the frames on the floor and play with different layouts to see if they fit together.

    ReplyDelete
  37. You should do what makes you happy as far as the frames go. Personally, I like stuff like that to all be the same color because I find it peaceful. So a can of spray paint can be your friend if you go the monochromatic look.

    I hear you about quality furniture - I went into a Room and Board a few weeks ago and lusted after practically everything in there. But for accessories and stuff I will want to change all the time, I will go for the less expensive route. You can get some great looking, not-cheap-but-not-expensive stuff at Crate and Barrel, CB2, West Elm, etc.

    As for shelving, I love floating shelves, which are more flexible and less expensive. I have 6 cube-shaped floating shelves that I got at CB2 ($15 each), that I hung in a grid in my dining room. I put one vase on each shelf, and I can change it seasonally. At Christmas I put large pinecones or candles, at Thanksgiving I put gourds. The dining room is one of my favorite places to decorate seasonally and the cubes work great.

    One thing I would suggest is to get a 4' level and a 1' level. They come in handy when hanging pictures. Also - if you have a huge picture that always looks crooked, put two nails two or three inches apart (and level) and it will always be straight.

    Post pics of whatever you decide!

    PS - did you get all those recipes I emailed you?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Spacify offers good collection of Office Funiture in a modern style.

    ReplyDelete
  39. We have this in our house -- a wall of family photos with mismatched frames. I tried to stick with a theme -- all the frames are black or a reddish coloured wood. Some have mats in a cream or white colour, some don't.

    I'm really happy with the result. I like the mismatched nature of it -- I think it makes it more interesting and allowed me to highlight some extra special photos by putting them in a brighter or bigger frame.

    One thing I would recommend is making a template of paper before hanging them, and putting it on the wall, to make sure you like the overall size and shape of the set. Good Luck!

    ReplyDelete
  40. When I was deciding how to arrange a wall of mismatched frames, I laid them all out on my bed (you might need to use the floor) and pondered the arrangement before I committed to anything.

    You might want to consider a few different layouts, photograph them, and look at the options every so often for a few days, to decide if one especially appeals to you over time.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Life would be so much easier if I could just move all of my things into Room and Board.

    LOVE the idea of a frame wall, particularly one that's not too matchy/matchy.

    ReplyDelete