Since this category is called “ move” I thought it would be pretty clever to write about how I decorated our house on a budget when I finally moved in (ok, less clever and more obvious).
Granted, it’s been almost 3 years since then, I even touched on it in my old blog. But, I figured it would be nice to write a post on practical decorating lessons now that I fancy myself as domestically savvy.
A disclaimer though: I’m by no means a design expert and our place does not look like it came straight from a magazine. But we had just spent on a wedding and had very little leftover to buy new stuff, let alone hire a designer. So I just had to channel whatever creative juices I imbibed from watching Nate Berkus on Oprah and hoped for the best.
Guests who have been to our house genuinely think it’s pretty cool though. Given that I unabashedly scrimped and saved while sprucing things up, I think that maybe I have enough street cred to talk about decorating on a budget.
(Another disclaimer, if you notice that I say “I” a lot, it’s because my husband really couldn’t care less. He had zero stuff when I moved in, so he was more than happy to just have furniture. He just wanted a refrigerator and a water dispenser. He was that easy to please.)
With that in mind, here are some lessons that I learned while fixing the the house:
Work with the look & feel of the house
The house that we’re living in has been “lent” to us for the duration of my husband’s term. Like other ready-made structures, it already has a certain look and feel. Our place used to be some officer’s quarters back when Subic was an American Naval base (I guess this is what HGTV would call barrack-chic); it was probably refurbished a few times, but they retained the same flooring & fixtures.
Both my husband and I lean towards a more polished & clean aesthetic. But since the house definitely doesn’t look new, forcing that style would just make the space look silly.
Given the “canvass” that we had (naks, feeling artsy), I figured that rather than changing every fixture so we could have our ideal streamlined, clean look, it would be cheaper to go for an eclectic, we-just-threw-things-together- feel instead.
Upcycling is your bestfriend
Most of the furniture that we have in the house are pretty much secondhand. Fortunately (or unfortunately; I just choose to count my blessings) I closed my nail spa before I moved to Subic. So I took everything that could be taken and used them in the house. I even upcycled our old reception counter and turned it into a breakfast (/alcohol) nook.
Some of the tables were hand- me -downs from a friend; a lot of the other decorations were gifts from other people. As a general rule I don’t refuse stuff that are given us because (I was raised by a polite mom and a hoarder dad) even if it’s not our style, a little repainting, tweaking and it comes in handy.
Also instead of buying new decorations, I usually keep mementos from life experiences (our wedding, retreats, trips) and just incorporate them around the house. Not only do they turn out to be conversation pieces, we don’t have to spend a cent. 🙂
The books that we’ve hoarded over the years have come in handy too. I use them all over to complement other furniture and the other knickknacks. Some of them are deployed in the guest bedroom so overnight visitors have something to read when they come over.
And (this is shamelessly an Asian trait), I even save jars, containers and packaging to reuse for other small items around the house.
This is pretty duh I know. But I’ve had so many booboos because of this. And these booboos actually cost us money.
Booboo # 1: When we were buying chairs for our dining table, we did not bother measuring the dining table first. My thought process: “Ooh, these chairs look nice. And they’re on sale too! Let’s buy 6!” Guess what, our dining table can only fit 4 people comfortably; 5 if we really try to squeeze ourselves in. So we ended up with 2 extra chairs we had no immediate use for.
Booboo #2: After window shopping, I figured it would be cheaper to have curtains and seat covers made rather than buying ready-made ones (Kamuning FTW!). Our seamstress looked at our stuff, gave some random figure on how much cloth we needed without bothering to measure anything. I figured though, ‘hey, she’s been doing this for years she probably has this figured out.’ We ended up with yards of zebra print that could rival any jungle safari. It’s all on storage because if I used any more of it, we would look like a brothel.
Anyway, I could go on and on because I seriously made a lot of mistakes. But just to give you the gist of it: Not measuring is a rookie mistake. Don’t be a dufus.
Dual Purpose Furniture Saves Money & Space
Disclaimer #3: My level of imagination and know-how isn’t that HGTV-sophisticated. My main focus when having furniture made is making sure it can double up us extra storage.
My kuripot sensibilities would balk at the thought of buying a lot of those fancy baskets and boxes (It’s seriously tempting, but dude, 1300 php for a box?? Must…resist…pretty…frivolities) or having more shelves installed (it seemed impractical since we just “borrowed” our house). Instead, our couches have built-in cabinets, we have a bench that doubles up as a chest etc. That way we have extra space to stash our stuff without having to spend more.
Anyway, these were the first few tips that I learned when I was fixing up the house. I still made plenty of booboos and have more lessons to share, but will save the rest for my next post. Hope you stay tuned. 🙂