our front room, in progress

September 17, 2010

In some of my spare time lately, I’ve been slowly working on bringing the front room of our house together. Since we’re crunched for cash right now, I’ve had to be creative and it’s been challenging but fun. I love this room, and I’m happy to see it coming together. It’s not even close to being finished, but you can finally see what it could look like, and I want to share it with you in the middle of its transformation.

I wish I still had the pictures of the full room when we moved in, hideous window treatments & all, but here’s something to remind you that it was BRIGHT RED.

Here is the bookshelf wall now:

I chose a calm, neutral color for the walls (Glidden’s water chestnut) which I plan to carry through most of the house. We also had to paint the trim crisp white (it was cream-ish) and the bookshelves too. I’m still in the process of organizing the books and setting up the shelves – they’re still cluttered and messy right now.

For the space in between the shelves, I found this desk at my parents’ house that they weren’t using.

It needed to be painted, and I am obviously not finished. In fact, it just has a coat of primer on it right now, and I put the whole project on hold when I realized I had no idea how to reach into the depths of those little holes. What do you think: spray paint? Long-handled foam brushes? Anyway, once the desk is fully painted I’m excited to set it up as a little writing station. I also need something for the wall, and this chair is one that I’ve had since I was a kid. I’d love to redo it and use it here.

Here is the beautiful piano that was my grandmother’s. I wish I knew how to play it, but I can only punch out a few chords. The corner behind the piano needs something, but I’m not sure what yet. One difficulty of this room is that there is no light in it. There is a switch, but it doesn’t control anything. I’m wondering if I can figure out how to hook it up to a lamp.

The curtains are from IKEA. I had a hard time at first figuring out what to do about the windows since there are two right next to each other with curved arches, but now I realize that I just need to get a prettier curtain rod and it’ll be fine. But should I look for a white one, or a deep brown to go with the piano?

Here’s a close-up of the babushka dolls I’m displaying on the piano. I brought them back with me when I visited Russia, and I love them.

Don’t you just love those window sills? Yeah, my dog has basically eaten them away, and I have no idea how to fix it other than hiring someone. Also, here you can see that the curtains are way too long, but instead of hemming them I kind of pooled them at the bottom. I actually like the look, and I’m thinking of leaving them this way.

This is the last corner and the one I’ve been working on the most. Remember that I am working on a minuscule budget here. I’ve been dreaming of turning this into a reading corner, but that required a place to sit. I couldn’t afford to buy a new chair, so I turned to Craigslist. I found one there that I liked, but after looking on Google satellite and seeing that we’d have to pick it up in a very scary part of town, we backed out. Then when I was at my parents’ house picking up the desk my mom pointed out this chair that she had.

At first I thought that I’d like to reupholster it, but that costs as much as buying a new one, and now that it’s in place I’m kind of digging it. I think it works, and it’s comfortable, too. The greatest thing about this chair is its sentimental value. When my mom was 29 she sat on her mother’s lap in this chair and they reconciled after years of differences. When I took it she told me that every time I sit in it I should know that she is hugging me. (I’m tearing up just thinking about it!)

The art collage is a work in progress, as you can see by the fact that two frames are empty and there is a lot of wall space still to fill. I bought all these frames at a resale shop for about $5 total and spray painted them white. Two of them are filled with pages from magazines, one is a postcard, one is a printed picture of me on the beach in Hawaii, and the last is the one I got most creative with.

I’ve had an Australian pen pal for almost 15 years. I went back through some of the letters from when we were kids, peeled off the stamps, and arranged them on white scrapbook paper. I love it because it’s simple, the stamps are interesting and colorful, and best of all it has a personal story.

Well, that’s basically the whole room as it stands today! Obviously I still have a lot to do before it’s “finished”, but I think it’s coming along nicely. I didn’t think it would be possible for me to have a nice looking room without spending hardly any money, but all it takes is a little creativity.

Now please, please, please, give me your opinions, ideas, and advice! I know there’s still a lot to do, and I could use some encouragement and inspiration. Decorating is not my strong suit, but I’m learning!

Posted in: home

Comments on our front room, in progress

  1. 1

    From Tabaitha:

    I love it! Such creative ideas on a budget. As far as the desk goes, I would recommend spray paint. It’s much easier than the foam brushes and luckily it’s space that isn’t always going to be visible. Great finds and I love the story about the chair.

  2. 2

    From Rae:

    I have no ideas, or advice, but I think it looks like you are doing a great job! And I like your inclusion of the babushka dolls and story about your mother and grandmother as they give a feeling for how this is home for you.

  3. 3

    From steph anne:

    Awesome – I love it! It does feel good when you accomplish a lot with the house and still managed to save money in the process by reusing & re-purposing.

  4. 4

    From Marlena:

    The trim isnt hard….you can buy it at lowe’s w those exact grooves and have them cut to size…then nail it down (you could possibly use wood glue as well but the hard part would be holding it down while the glue dried). You use paintable putty to put over the nail marks…sand & paint white. Not expensive or complicated! Carl is Bob Vila lol I think he would be proud to know I paid attention.

  5. 5

    From kapachino:

    Um, I think you need to come over and walk me through this step by step! New projects are so intimidating to me. :)

  6. 6

    From David, The Rainmaker:

    My piano!

  7. 7

    From kapachino:

    I think you’re gonna have to fight me for it!

  8. 8

    From dadman:

    I loved the use of stamps. I have a collection that my Dad started and I worked on when I was a child. Very creative. Must be from your Mom’s side. I’m sure I can fix those windowsills for you, just need to find some time. If you’re not in a hurry I’ll get it done for you. (cheap)


  9. 9

    From kapachino:

    Dad, I’m definitely interested in the help and am not in a hurry! Thank you!!

  10. 10

    From Melissa Heim:

    Hi Kat! For the back of those compartments in the desk, it would be so cute to find a fun patterned fabric or wallpaper for kind of a splash of color! Just a thought :-)

  11. 11

    From kapachino:

    Hey Melissa! That is such a wonderful idea – I think I’m definitely going to do that! Not only will it be super cute but it will cut down on the awkward painting. Thanks! :)

  12. 12

    From becca:

    Looks great! I think that you should make either a few paper lantern lights from some transparent paper or some gauzy fabric and hang three of them above/behind the piano. Something interesting to look at and it would add a soft, romantic light to the room. You can buy lamp kits for pretty cheap.

  13. 13

    From kapachino:

    That sounds gorgeous, but kind of intimidating for me. I need you here to constantly inspire me!

  14. 14

    From Amber:

    This is great. Despite your self-doubting, you clearly have a good eye and sense of scale.

    I’m assuming the desk will end up white to echo the shelves? If I were you I might spraypaint the desk’s little cubbies with an unexpected color — probably a royal blue to play off the curtains. Just mask it off carefully and be prepared to slap one more layer of primer on the rest to cover escaped aerosolized droplets.

    The framed stamps are a stroke of genius. I think a vintage-looking (read: thrifted) standing lamp behind that cream chair (and maybe a tiny side table) would help with the cozy, reading corner feel.

  15. 15

    From kapachino:

    Thanks so much for the encouragement! I love the idea of doing something different with the cubbies of the desk. You’re right that it’s going to be white, and I think I’ll definitely do some wallpaper or a different color inside.

    I’m already on the lookout for a lamp and a small side table to go next to the chair. I’ve known all along that I want those for my reading corner!

  16. 16

    From Lisa (Loewen):

    If you change your mind about the chair pattern, a cheap way of recovering it is to use a flat sheet and pin it on the the chair. Use the creases and crevices that are in the chair now to stuff the sheet in (you might have to make some cuts to get it flat). They also make slip covers if you can find the right dimensions, but a flat sheet is cheaper.

    You’ve done a great job! I always love a nice white trim in a room. So classy!

  17. 17

    From Ashley:

    I love when you post about your house. It looks great and I love the built in.

  18. 18

    From kapachino:

    Aww, thank you! I love the bones of my house but it’s taking me forever to turn it into what I want. The bookshelves aren’t actually built in but they look like it – the former owners let us keep them and I’m so grateful!

  19. 19

    From Uncle David:

    Hi Niece,
    My only advice is to buy original art that you love and will look at every day and know that it is the only one in the world and it’s yours. Start small and look locally, educate your eye for a while and then go get ’em. You won’t regret it.

  20. 20

    From Nora:

    Firstly, I love where you are going with this room. It looks amazing! I want to come over and enjoy a cup of tea with you :) Maybe a piece of tyopgraphy art on the wall that the desk faces? Something from Etsy perhaps! I think a nice faux tree of some sort would like nice behind the piano or some really neat light (Target has some that aren’t too crazy expensive, and I bet you can find them on Craigslist too!).

    I love that chair as well and how sweet that your mom said she’s hugging you when you sit in. What a sweetheart.

    Anyway, all in all: love the room!

  21. 21

    From LG:

    Ahhh this room looks so nice!!! I love the little desk and the chair you got. NICE WORK! I like the drapes on the floor too.

    I am completely inept when it comes to decorating, but was able to make one Ikea bookshelf of ours look nice by organizing all of our books by colour. Now each shelf has a colour and it looks so cool, especially with a few nicknacks on each shelf that match the color theme. We also interrupted the books with photographs and stacked some horizontally. For me, organizing this shelf was a major design feat. :0)

    I think someone else suggested putting fabric or scraps of wallpaper on the backs of some of the bookshelves – that would be nice too.

    My only other suggestion is to take out design magazines from your library if you can. I’m helpless on my own but feel like I can copy stuff if I see it in a magazine!

  22. 22

    From san:

    You did a great (!) job! I totally love the grand piano… I wish I had a) space for one and b) my piano from home.

  23. 23

    From Becca:

    What about a lamp or sconce behind the chair? A picture behind the desk? Decorative pillows for the chairs and bench?

    I love how every piece has meaning!

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