June 24, 2013

Early Stages of Decorating: Part 4 - Shopping smart

Well, the bad news is that today is the end of the road for our Early Stages of Decorating series, (following loosely with the Getting Started section of Domino: The Book of Decorating - I highly recommend this book!) The good news is that this is my favorite stage - shopping! If you're new or need a refresher, here are the previous posts: Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. This series is primarily for those who are at the very beginning of decorating their home, or interested in refreshing their space.

Last week was about assessing the realistic function of your space and ended with a rather mundane, (but necessary), job - list everything you have in your space and place each item into one of four groups: keep, give away, change, or sell. It is good to comb through your things and rid yourself of what simply won't work for either the functionality of the space or with your style. I would also recommend taking down all art and those smaller decorative objects and just stash them away, (temporarily), so that you can look at your space as a blank canvas. Now you have some decisions to make.

What is your space missing that is holding you back from enjoying it and using it to it's fullest extent? Here are some critical question ideas to get the ball rolling: Are you short on seating in a room where you tend to pile in for movies? Is there limited surface space for placing drinks? Is that area rug too small for the arrangement of the seating? Is the lighting failing to set the proper mood? Does your eye wander aimlessly around the space because there's no focal point? Be critical of your space so you can prioritize your needs.

Budget: This next step is really important: Set a budget! I'll tell you why, (in my opinion): I think setting a budget is just as important to prevent you from over spending as it is for pointless under spending. I completely understand if you think I am crazy right now, but hear me out. If you don't know what you actually have to spend and you just settle on finding things as cheap as possible, you may end up with a redecorated space that is no better than it was before. I am all about being thrifty and doing things myself when it comes to our home, but there also needs to be a style standard. Point in case: When we moved into our home and I got it all decorated, I prided myself on how little I spent. So much of it was DIY projects I had done and odds and ends found on the sides of the road or dusty corners of thrift stores. Any little idea that popped into my head I executed without much thought or direction because most of the time, these projects cost nothing or close to it. The whole house started to look like one big craft project and I was missing an element of elegance and sophistication. I was more focused on not spending money than trying to achieve a home that would truly meet our functional needs and style point of view. In that sense, I wasted money. $10 here, $15 there, on used pieces that were just okay, is a waste of money. Know what you have to spend, know what your biggest needs are, then divide your budget accordingly.

Research: It's difficult to divide your budget if you don't know what's out there. If your list of needs includes window treatments, floor coverings, new furniture, reupholstering, lighting, etc - you can't just divide your budget equally among each need. Research your ideal window treatment, your favorite floor coverings, the most functional pieces of furniture, optimal lighting - then break down your budget accordingly. If your favorite light fixture zaps 50% of your budget, then perhaps you need to dig a bit further and find a similar style that won't cost you such a chunk of your budget.
For example...

Your ideal light fixture:
$269 - $319 @ Restoration Hardware 

Your comparable runner-up:
$45 @ Lowes

It pays to research. 

You don't have to set your style on the back burner if what you really want is unaffordable for you right now. It just takes patience and diligence. 

Also, do not be afraid to buy used. One of the most frequent questions that I get emailed each week is where did we get our living room sofa and chairs. It's one of my favorite stories: We researched our ideal living room seating and agreed on the IKEA Ektorp sofa and Jennylund chairs. Since we were not in a position to buy new, I got on Craigslist ever day, every few hours it seemed, to search "Ikea Ektorp". Within a month we accumulated exactly what we wanted, from different sellers, for a fraction of what the pieces would have cost new. Then we drove to Ikea and bought brand new slipcovers for our 'new' used pieces. By buying used we saved $400, not including what we saved in tax. What a thrill!

So bottom line as we wrap this thing up: Know your budget. Spend wisely.

With that, best of luck to those of you who are decorating a new space or redecorating a tired one! And speaking of tired spaces, we have begun some pretty major revamps for a couple spaces that you've rarely seen on this blog - our kitchen and our basement. After almost 3 years in our home, it's about time that we put forth some effort into those rooms. Can't wait for some fun before and afters to share!


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