Friday, September 18, 2015

Summer Projects: Making My Home More Beautiful

Let's start this post off with a huge caveat. I am NOT a professional interior decorator. I do not profess or claim any sort of talent or taste worth noting in this department. In fact, there is a side of me that likes to pretend I'm above such trivial things as worrying about paint colors and fabric swatches, although I realize this attitude is more about hiding my lack of talent and subconscious envy in this department, rather than an actual disapproval of home decorating itself. It goes without saying that, except for the purchase of furniture and items deemed necessary when we first move into a place, we have a home decor budget of approximately $0.

Then, last October I read Myquillyn Smith's (otherwise known as "The Nester") really fun home decor how-to book The Nesting Place. The book actually gave me a lot to think about how I viewed my home and the atmosphere I wanted to cultivate. I've learned several things about myself in the past year, and one of them is that I like beautiful things. This is not a bad or a trivial thing, but actually a very worthwhile and fulfilling pursuit. Smith's book helped me realize that I don't necessarily have to wait until we have that nice big dream home to start living amidst beauty. I could start now, in our small, 1,000 square foot city apartment, without much of a budget.

I didn't make any changes right off, because I had a new baby, and then I started school again, and I needed time to think about what I wanted to do anyway. But after getting my clutter cleaned up, my home was just begging to be rightly spruced up. So over the summer I set myself a to-do list of small, manageable, relatively cheap home decor projects, and I'm so pleased with the results that I can't help but share them here. Without further ado:

Make a Book Wreath

I already posted about this one here, but this was still part of the big summer to-do list. It remains the only thing on my bedroom wall right now, and it's pretty enough to make up for the lack of company.

Book Page Wreath

Reupholster a Chair

This was by far my biggest project. I definitely bit off more than I could chew here, but I choked it down somehow. I actually bought this chair more than a year ago at an estate sale for $5. My husband thought it was the ugliest chair he'd ever seen, but I saw some potential, and for just $5 I couldn't pass it up. The poor ugly thing languished in a corner of our bedroom until I finally had the time and energy to tackle it this summer.

Reupholstered Armchair
Reupholstering is not a project for the faint of heart. I had no idea how much work would be involved (it is incredibly difficult to pull out factory staples, my goodness was that a labor of endless hours!). It didn't help that I could only work on this project after the kids were in bed, meaning I didn't always have the best lighting. So this is one of those projects that looks really good from a distance, but please don't look too closely (as The Nester says, it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful, so true here).

Reupholstered Armchair After
Now, every time I look at this chair across my living room, it makes me incredibly happy. It's quite easily my favorite piece of furniture in my house, although I can't see me picking up a reupholster project willingly ever again.

Display Our Rug as a Wall Hanging

Five years ago my husband and I went on a trip to India and Nepal. The one big souvenir we brought home was a beautiful hand woven silk rug. We actually used the rug as a floor rug up until earlier this year when Baby #2 started crawling, and we invested in a cushier area rug for the living room to protect his little knees from the harsh hardwood floors around here. So our lovely silk rug was rolled up and stored in the closet, and I just thought that was too depressing. That rug didn't even deserve the floor, it needed to be displayed like the piece of art it is, so I wanted it on the wall.

Hanging Indian Silk Rug

My husband was initially skeptical about this idea, but I have a history of hanging fabric on our walls:

Displaying Baby Quilts
Like these quilts. It was just too sad to leave my mother-in-law's beautiful baby quilts folded up in the closet, and since there was nothing else on the walls in the boys' room, I figured they made the perfect decor pieces (please don't tell me I'm wrong).

Alphabet Crochet Blanket
This is the blanket we hung up on the opposite wall, crocheted by my husband's cousin and my former college roommate for my oldest son, who happens to be obsessed with the alphabet. It was just way too awesome not to display it.

Displaying the silk rug was a bit more of a logistical problem, since it's far too heavy and delicate to just tack up on the wall like I did with the other blankets. We had to do a lot of research, and rig up a system using hanging quilt clips and a curtain rod, but in the end even my husband agrees it looks really, really good.

Displaying Indian Silk Rug
This picture in no way does justice to show just how much that rug classes up our dining room. In retrospect, I probably should've moved the dead tree centerpiece for this picture. That's another decor decision that my husband was skeptical about, but after using this as our Thankful Tree last Thanksgiving, I just thought it looked too cool to throw out, and it's been on our table ever since. He's gotten used to it. Maybe it's weird, but whatever, I'm trying.

Update Our Gallery Wall

When we first moved into this apartment two years ago, we followed the requisite advice of getting pictures up on the wall as quickly as possible. We threw up a hodgepodge of family pictures in a poorly thought out gallery wall, and called it good. But after two years and a new baby, all those pictures were outdated. It was a bit pathetic that at 11 months old we still didn't have a single picture of Baby #2 displayed in our home, so it was past time for a change. I was a little more thoughtful this time about the gallery wall, decided to go with a monochromatic black, white, and silver theme, and even borrowed a page from Smith's book in throwing up a few silver platters and empty frames for the sake of interest.

Gallery wall, empty frames, platters
Like most of my other decor decisions, my husband thinks the platters and empty frames are weird. But for making do with just items I had on hand, I am very happy with the final result. (If you agree with my husband, you can keep your opinions to yourself, thank you very much).

Black, white, and red color palette
Have I ever mentioned how much I like the black, white, and red color palette? This room feels much cleaner and calmer to me now, like it's actually a peaceful place to live.

Add Some Greenery

You may have noticed from these pictures that my apartment doesn't get a lot of natural light. Practically none, really (don't be fooled by the windows pictured, we have a large tree out back that is lovely, but blocks any and all light that could possibly get in). It's super depressing, and my least favorite thing about where we live. I've been hesitant to add any live plants to my home decor because of the lack of light, but I really thought some greenery would be nice, so I finally decided to go small and simple with a couple of succulents in the tea cups on my bookshelf.

Succulent Tea Cups
I took this picture outside because all the pictures of the cups on the bookshelf were too dark (remember that no natural light thing?). I try to bring these outside a few times a week to let them soak up some rays. Considering they live in a dark cave, they've done remarkably well, but I predict I will have to regularly switch them out as they will eventually die. But succulents are fairly cheap, so it's worth it to have just this pop of green in my living room. It makes me so happy.

There are still a lot of things I wish I could change about our home decor (new bedroom furniture, new couch covers, or just plain new couches, new furniture in the boys' room, and the list could go on and on), but working with almost no budget, I'm satisfied with just the small changes I made this summer. Having these few touches of intentional design have done a lot to make our home feel beautiful. My husband the skeptic has even conceded that our home feels really, really nice now, and I've had comments from a couple different friends about how lovely our home feels. Part of it is the cleaned-up clutter, but part of it is definitely the simple design elements (everyone loves the chair and the hanging rug).

There is something to being intentional about your surroundings, about striving to create beauty and order. It feels good, and it makes me so grateful for our beautiful little home (which is particularly good, since we are throwing around the idea of staying here for two more years, and even cramming a third baby in this little two-bedroom space!)


  1. I love what you've done! The chair and tea cup succulents are my favorite pieces!

    1. Thanks Ann-Marie! The chair is my favorite too.

  2. Just for the record, I liked your apartment from the beginning, but good for you for being deliberate in decorating and just doing it! And it's a good thing you didn't wait for a big house; it is NOT easier to decorate with more space and money! I've got lots of ideas, just need courage and time to get started :) Succulents are a great idea, they are pretty hardy. I tend to kill plants, but I really really want green inside!

    1. I know, I'm terrified of trying to decorate a whole house! That may be one of the underlying reasons we're considering staying here for another year :) And yes, this decorating thing takes so much more time and commitment than I expected. These weren't even big projects (except for the chair), and it took me the whole summer!

  3. This post makes me want to go all out crafting and decorating. I love the upholstered chair. That takes some serious skills. I just buy stuff at garage sales and get a semi-decorated house. Wait, you need a whole post on your future plans- like why the wait on buying a house and how on earth you do 2 (or possibly 3!!!) babies into one bedroom. That was the bane of our existence. I look at Houston real estate and get so depressed about how cheap it is to buy a home! Are you waiting to pay off all your student loans first? Sorry to be nosey.