FOF Lauri Ward built her business, Use What You Have Interiors, on the theory that anyone, on any budget, can have a beautiful home using the furnishings they already own. A few months ago we put her theory to the test!
The challenge: Help FOF Marcia Robinson by making over her entire living room in three hours… with a $350 budget. Did she do it?
“Tired and uninspiring,” is how FOF Marcia Robinson described her living room when she entered our room makeover contest in January. Marcia has lived in her one-bedroom, Manhattan apartment for 25-years. Ten years ago she attempted to furnish it in one-fell-swoop with pieces she loved. “Everything went wrong,” says Marcia. “The glass came cracked on the coffee table, the wall unit was too small. It was a big hassle.” Frustrated, Marcia took to decorating the apartment piecemeal over the years. However, her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and a forced-retirement from her job at a management consulting firm, has put a hold on any recent updates to Marcia’s living room.
And as for the actual “living” that goes on in this room…there’s not much. “I spend most of my time in my bedroom where my computer is,” says Marcia. Lauri says the room’s “visual chaos,” is why Marcia might not find it relaxing. “When I look around, there’s no blank space to rest my eye,” says Lauri. “The good news,” she tells Marcia, “is that by correcting a few common design mistakes that most people make, you can update your living room without buying all new furniture. Your home should look as up-to-date as you do.”
Read on and discover the mistakes and quick fixes Lauri found for Marcia’s living room.
“You can never have two many pairs,” says Lauri, who swapped Marcia’s mismatched lamps for a pair of lamps from IKEA ($69.99 each). She also added two IKEA throw pillows ($14.99 each) to the couch. “The more pairs you put in a room, the better it looks. You need the balance.”
“The couches were set up in an L configuration with two chairs in the corner. This is probably the worst setup there is for comfortable conversation,” says Lauri. “Plus, the chairs were too far from the coffee table.”
“We took away one couch, and set up the furniture in a U-shape. Now, everyone can sit and face each other. You can put out hors d’oeurves on the coffee table and everyone can comfortably reach.”
“You collect so much stuff over a lifetime,” says Lauri. “It’s nice to have all these things, but you need to edit what you own and accessorize effectively.”
“Reevaluate what you have,” says Lauri. “Keep the pieces you love. Donate everything else to charity and get a write off.” She grouped similar accessories together to create collections and got rid of pieces that were misfits. Marcia’s plants are important to her, but the mismatched pots weren’t working. Lauri moved the plants into window boxes to conceal the pots and repositioned them under the coffee table creating an terrarium-like effect.
“People think they should hang art at eye level,” says Lauri. “There’s no such thing as eye level since we are all different heights.”
“Follow the three inch rule,” says Lauri. “Hold art up where you think it should go, then lower it three inches.” By swapping the chaotic gallery wall for one striking picture, Lauri says the viewer’s eyes can focus.
“Before, the rug was distracting and competing with the fabric on the sofa,” says Lauri. “This rug introduces a color that’s in the sofa’s fabric. When you have a patterned sofa you want to look for solids for everything else.”
Mission accomplished! The result? A living room that Marcia can live in! “Now, you can sit in here and read,” says Lauri. “You’ll finally be comfortable.” What does Marcia think? “It’s quite a change!… I like it.”
IKEA shopping list: Two “Dagny” cushions ($14.99 each), Vejen rug ($89.99), Hosto flower box ($14.99), Felicia throw ($9.99), Vilshult picture ($59.99), Two Jonsbo Barby table lamps ($59.99 each)
Grand Total: $324.92