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 . . . .
Soviet Oil Paintings – This absolutely stunning landscape is only $64, and someone should buy it immediately.
Art Nostalige – I’m really into this large boat painting, and it’s only $135.
Rebstuff2 – This Victorian watercolor is STUNNING and I spent about 10 minutes staring at it wondering if I should buy it or link it up. Especially at only $13.
Valyril Craftsman Shop – These aren’t vintage, but I do own two of these little oil paintings myself. I almost bought this $60 one for the TV room, but choose a more horizontal one instead.
Ukrainian Fine Art – I love everything about the colors in this $49 vintage landscape, but I’m also super drawn to this bright portrait (Caitlin, you should get this for your apartment!).
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.
What size lampshade did you buy?
Seconding this question. LOVE your house!
I got the 15″ one, but it’s really too short for the lamp base. I would go larger!
Thank you! I had this same question, absolutely love the pairing of the Target lamp and this Etsy shade. Did you mean you have the 15cm (smallest) shade? Do you think the next size up would work, or even bigger? Thanks for sharing all these details, your home is so beautiful!
Hi, loved everything about this house! Thanks so much for sharing your tips and sources! Would you mind telling us about the two pieces of art on top of the entry console?
Those are vintage pencil sketches I bought at the Rose Bowl!
Sara, love this post! If you still wanted to tackle painting the ikea piece years ago Jenny Komenda gave up the secret! https://juniperhome.com/2013/10/how-to-paint-and-even-wallpaper-ikea.html/ – also, if you don’t spray the final color on and instead use a foam roller I suggest adding Flood Floetrol paint additive which helps eliminate streaks and brush marks.
Good to know! Thanks Molly xx
And the other tip to painting those Hemnes furniture pieces is — don’t get the white one! The brown and grey finishes are made of solid pine while the white ones are fiberboard. Double-check the materials in case this ever changes, but also don’t assume that all colors are the same materials. I have one of these shoe storage pieces waiting to be painted and installed on my back porch. I think i bought the grey finish but I knew I’d be painting, just not sure exactly what color yet.
Ha! Most of those paintings have sold already 🙂
Thank you for the lovely tips and sources <3
There’s a weird, black bar at the end of the first paragraph, with the words “see more” over the text. Oopsie! Tought you’d want to know.
My fav is the twine-wrapped cord! Yeah!
O no! The same thing happened to Veronica over the weekend. Do you mind sharing what device you are reading the post from? Then I can have our tech guy look into it xx
Mine was doing it too. An add with only the black bar and see more visible over an early paragraph. (On a phone)
On the latest Samsung tablet.
I don’t usually have issues with anything!
I love these ideas. They give me hope. Also, I think we need to hear more about Velinda’s magical styling kit. Does every stylist have one? What do we put in them besides twine?
YES! It’s a styling kit, and most stylists will have one. It has everything – twine, glue, zip ties, floral foam, hammer, hanging kit, earthquake tack, etc.
I love this! I’m definitely going to be shopping Etsy for Soviet era vintage paintings from now on. 🙂
I have a great post idea: many of us are styling vignettes to use as backgrounds for Zoom conferences, or interview videos we have to make for work. I’d love a piece on setting up good looking videos. I could share this link with my colleagues who continue to need lots of coaching on the topic.
omg – I love this idea. I have been LOVING watching the news just because I’m obsessed with peeking into all these people’s houses as they shoot interviews from home 🙂 I’ll bring this up in our next meeting!
Great post and tips. I love vintage art, and the idea of mixing unframed art with framed art is brilliant.
Anna From Italy
This is wonderful, thank you for the post! Pleeeasse tell me where you bought your lamp on your barcart. It’s so adorable.
It’s two different vintage components that I put together. I got shade on Etsy, and the base at the Rose Bowl!
First, these resources are GOLD. THANK YOU.
(Work will suddenly be detoured to looking for small vintage paintings. Oops).
Get something good! Save me from myself.
Love your place! Especially the contrasting moods. I’m discovering by focusing on mood I focus on the neutrals and incorporate my husbands love for rustic elements without sacrificing by hopes for a simpler look.
That sounds awsome!
Just curious if you had to pay customs fees on the vintage art pieces and if they were held at local customs office for payment/pickup?
Nope! Some of them have higher shipping fees, but I feel that I’m often still paying less than I would at a nice antique store, the Rose Bowl, or someplace like Round Top.
Holy crap- I never knew there was such a thing as earthquake putty! Genius! But I’ve been buying so much during this quarantine that my husband is ready to lock me in a room with no credit card or computer. But I will get some of that! Well, anyway- I heard it as necessity is the mother of invention! All the things you did are great!
It’s a necessity in California, haha
No kidding! I’m always having to re-stock my supply.
I understand. I live in WA so you’d think we’d know about it, too!
Wonderful tips and I always love looking at your house! You, Mac, and Velinda did a great job.
Thanks for your (always) sweet words!
I love your house- so pretty! Thank you for the art sources. I had not heard of them previously and really enjoyed them. I bought two pieces from one already- though not the ones you mentioned. Can hardly wait to receive them.
So many great ideas, love how your space mixes traditional with modern so well! Funnily enough I just watched this reveal on YouTube a couple days ago! Also, could you share about the sofa in your TV room? I think this is in my shopping cart…is it the color prussian blue?
It’s from Article and it’s Pacific Blue. We love it.
Thanks– love the cord wrapping idea! And I just purchased a couple of paintings from your Etsy suggested sellers. You’re the best!
Love how your hat, coat & purse look like live still life art on your wall, they are just perfect fits next to the 2 art pieces that are off center above the IKEA chest with the leather pulls.
This is so personal to me, but I also love how the Ukrainian & Soviet Art both have an Impressionist feel to them, because that is my favorite art!! Thanks for divulging your secret sources & for all the DIY hacks, especially the twine cord-ingenious-don’t you think some of the best brain-storms come from desperation, lol, but I think they come because you have this brain that’s been cataloging design ideas forever & they finally pop! Great post!
Gah thank you so much Christy!
shopgoodwill.com is an auction site for Goodwill. I’ve scored a few original art pieces there before. But I will say I’ve noticed since this coronavirus stuff hit they understandably haven’t has as much stuff listed
Hi Sara! I just stumbled across your post in my Google feed and I’m so excited that I did! I also love DIY-ing with my lavish tastes and broke girl budget – the struggle is real!! I can’t wait to try your cord wrap hack and see what else you continue to do! Thanks for providing inspiration during this crazy reality we’re all living. P.S. you’re humor is refreshing- love it!
Thanks Katie xx
Never heard of that before, thanks!
sara, beautiful beautiful home. so inspired! i love your barcart! do you mind sharing where you purchased it from?
The knotted cord is the best hack I have seen! Going to try this on my very cool but grimy pull cord light switches :). I had a teacher who said there were no mistakes just design features and I think this applies that theory beautifully!
Hi Sara! I LOVE those brass sconces. Can you share the source for them?!
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Thank you for all of the great art in your post! You sent me on a two hour journey through all of the cool art shops on Etsy. I haven’t been able to stop smiling through this adventure and I’ve got a bunch of art that I don’t need but absolutely want in my cart.