Desperation is the biological parent of pure genius – that’s how the saying goes, right? However it goes (though I’m pretty sure I’m right), there were more than a handful of desperate moments while pulling my house together for shooting the reveal a few weeks ago. A lot of them were money induced moments, like “we need a big piece of art to go here, but can’t really afford a big piece of art.” But there were also a few day of shooting moments of desperation. Some solid “how do I fill this weird space of wall I’ve created?” and “I still can’t stand to look at this!” moments. All of which lead to us DIY-ing our fair share of little projects. And about a handful of those were actually pretty successful, which are the ones I’m going to share with you today. Welcome to my TED talk.
TWINE WRAP AN ELECTRICAL CORD
Let’s start with what might Emily’s favorite “hack” in my house – the twine wrapped cord on that brass sconce. I decided well after the walls were closed in this room that I wanted to put a sconce here. Closed walls and a dad with thin wearing patience meant that I was going to have to find a plug-in option and learn to live with the visible cord. I found the perfect sconce (which is sadly no longer available), but was finding it harder than I thought to deal with the slightly metallic cord dangling down the wall once it was installed. I really don’t mind cords most of the time. I had plug-in sconces on either side of our bed at our apartment. But something about the prominent area and large expanse of wall the cord hung in front of made my eyes itch.
Jump to the DAY OF THE SHOOT. I was manically flying around the room, when I had a sudden epiphany – wrap the cord. It was like an angel whispered in my ear “wrap the cord, Sara.” Velinda just happened to have a spool of hemp twine in her styling kit, so I stole it and furiously started putting my old friendship bracelet skills to practice. It took about 45 min (I had our PA Hina take over for me after I got the first few inches done), and I have to say that I’m pretty happy with the end result. Is it IDEAL? Well, it’s not behind a wall, so no. But at least it now it looks intentional. You can use this step by step to see how I did the knotting – just imagine that the strings in the middle represent the electrical cord.
SHAKE UP YOUR LAMPSHADES
This was so easy that it’s almost not a hack, but here we go anyways. I impulse bought this lampshade on Etsy several weeks before the shoot, without knowing where it would go. The DAY OF THE SHOOT (wow, I’m was really not as prepared as you’d think I should be), we needed something to go on the entry console to fill the white wall space I created by hanging art off-center. I saw the shade sitting on the prop table and wistfully said “I wish I had a base for that shade, because it would look so pretty there and actually be functional.”
Within 10 minutes Velinda had pulled up the Target app on her phone, found a few lamp base options, and sent Hina on the fastest Target run of her life. We fell in love with this marble and brass stick base, which came with a drum shade, and just… swapped the shade out. IT WAS THAT EASY. Is this even a hack? Or is it just pure insanity. The only concession I had to make was going for a smaller candelabra style bulb. And if I could order the pleated shade again, knowing where it was going, I would get a larger size because the skirt is a bit short for the leg, if you know what I mean (the shade was a little short for the lamp, and you can kinda see the bulb from under the shade).
TRY THE OLD “KNOB SWITCH OUT”
One way to make a cabinet or dresser from a big box store look a little more custom is to just switch out the knobs. I’d done this before on nightstands when I updated my childhood bedroom, and it instantly made them feel a little more high-end and unique. Originally I had big dreams about painting this Ikea piece, but I ruined the first one I bought trying. The laminated particle board is just really hard to get paint to stick to. So I decided to go an easier route, and just swap the knobs for these leather pulls I got on Etsy. They came super fast, are beautiful, and were a breeze to install (I did have to buy shorter screws than the knobs came with to install them). People ask me all the time where the cabinet is from. Success!
MAKE “THINGS” INTO ART
The best way to make an original piece of art is to make it yourself. I’ve framed matchbooks from the flea market, polaroids, small ceramics, you name it. For our dining room, Mac made this cool piece of art by gluing down tarot cards we bought from a favorite design studio on a large piece of mat board and then framing it in an Ikea poster frame. The tarot card set was $50, but the rest of the materials cost us maybe $20 max. I did something similar with polaroids in our old apartment, and could see a collection of matchbooks or ticket stubs being another amazing budget version.
GIVE VINTAGE FURNITURE A FACELIFT
One of the easiest ways to give an old piece of furniture new life is with a fresh coat of paint. And what we’ve recently decided here at EHD is that you get extra cool points if you go dark and moody with that paint choice.
A few weeks before the shoot we still needed a side table for the TV room, and I wanted something that looked stately and sophisticated, but also dark and monochrome. Alas, the furniture budget had essentially run out, and all the tables of my dreams where priced well into the hundreds. So I started looking for a piece I could turn into the piece of my dreams.
When I saw this little vintage table on Chairish I knew that a new coat of black paint was going to make it the elegant piece the room wanted. I bought it for $80 (local, so no charge for shipping), and bought one pint of Sherwin William’s semi-gloss paint in “Caviar.” All it took was an afternoon of sanding, and three coats of paint. The brass handles were original to the table. Score.
STOP FRAMING ALL YOUR ART
I love collecting vintage art (stay tuned for my favorite sources). But they often come unframed – usually they’re just thin pieces of board, canvas, or wood. And framing pieces like these can be more expensive than just going to Ikea to get a frame for a thin piece of paper art. So I just decided to stop framing all of them.
Four little bits of earthquake putty is all it takes to get these up on the wall, and because they’re so light I don’t worry about them being too heavy for the putty. This makes it super easy to move them around too, and I don’t end up putting a bunch of holes in my wall trying to get them the right height. Mixing unframed art with framed art gives gallery walls a collected look, and this is the easiest way to pop pieces of art into the backs of shelves. I even used putty to hang some ultra-light frames in my shelves – which you can peek just behind the top left corner of the framed ceramic knot piece below (whoops).
AND NOW, the moment a few of you (maybe more) have been waiting for – the part of the post where I reveal some of my favorite vintage art sources. I’ll admit, I’m extremely anxious to reveal what I’m about to reveal. Why does it make me nervous? BECAUSE I’M A HOARDER AND THE MORE PEOPLE WHO KNOW MY SOURCES, THE LESS ART THERE IS FOR ME TO HORDE. I have this fear that as soon as I share these, everyone is going to go buy everything in the shops, and the sellers are going to realize what true GOLD they have, and raise the prices, and the next time I have a hankering for a new vintage piece I’m going to regret my selfless actions. Because affordable, original art is HARD to find. But I’ve been asked so many times to dish, and at a certain point it gets really rude not to, so . . . .
Slav Art Vintage – This little $49 rock painting has been sitting in my favorites for a few months now, and I usually start my week by trying to decide whether or not to just buy it. Mac’s voice in my head always convinces me not to, so maybe one of you should? BUT, AUGH, MAYBE I SHOULD?!
Someone should also 100% buy this sweet little still life painting that’s been sitting in my favorites, it needs a home.
Wow, am I the world’s most selfless human? I THINK I MIGHT BE. I’m just kidding (no, I’m not). But there you go – all the weird yet wonderful (budget-friendly) things I did in my house to make it feel just a little more unique. Who else has tried these in their own homes? Success? Failure? And WHO bought the sweet little life from above?! If you do, please comment – I need to make sure it went somewhere loving. Thank you in advance.