Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Best Budget Decor, part 4

And now it's time for another exciting episode of everybody's favorite blog topic, Best Budget Decor! In my previous budget decor posts (from January, February, and July), I've shared bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen refreshes on budgets ranging from under $100 to around $1,000. This time, I'm changing things up by covering redesigns of some new spaces, including two laundry rooms and a basement.

But first, let's start out with something familiar: a basic bedroom redo. The homeowner, Carrie, was depressed about her blah bedroom with its "pee yellow" walls, so her five closest friends decided to team up and redecorate it as a surprise birthday gift. She conveniently went out of town just before her birthday, giving the "flash mob" of redecorators just one week to knock out the project. They started by perusing Carrie's Pinterest boards to get a sense of her style, then got to work repainting the walls, rearranging the furniture, and jointly sewing a new pintuck duvet cover for the bed. (No, I didn't know there was such a thing either until I saw the pictures, but it looks quite nice, and the blogger has thoughtfully provided a link to a complete DIY tutorial on the project, which cost them about $23 all told. Not too shabby considering that similar bedding goes for over $100 at West Elm.) They kept most of the existing furniture, but brought in a $25 orange armchair from Craigslist to provide a pop of color, along with some new curtains and an assortment of throw pillows. They also "shopped [Carrie's] bookcases" to find some colorful accessories to pull the room together. They spent $247 all told, and Carrie reports on her own blog that she was delighted with the result. (In fact, I think this project needs a tagline, like a movie: "One room. Five friends. Seven days. Two hundred and fifty dollars. One amazing transformation.")

The next three projects are all winners in the "Best Budget Redo Before and Afters 2014" at This Old House. The article doesn't give exact dollar costs for these projects, but it groups them into broad budget categories. First, in the $100-to-$500 category, we have this bathroom remodel, completed on a timeline of "less than a year." The homeowners "gutted" the room, fixtures, flooring, and all, and redid it in a style more fitting for their 90-year-old home. To stay within their small budget, they "shopped at yard sales, thrift stores, antiques shops, free piles, and our favorite store, the ReUse Center," spending only $55 on the clawfoot tub, toilet, sink, wall cabinet, and light fixture. They also did all the work themselves, from tiling the walls and floor to re-plumbing to accommodate their new vintage fixtures. The result: a fresh, crisp, black-and-white room perfectly in keeping with the home's prewar roots.

An even more dramatic bathroom remodel appears in the $500-to-$1,000 category. Unlike the first one, it's only a half bath, which makes it a little bit less impressive in terms of bang for the buck, but it certainly is a remarkable metamorphosis. The homeowners stripped the room down to bare walls and added all-new tile, a feature wall covered in distressed pine, and a fabulous DIY vanity that they made from an antique dresser with a marble top. They topped this "under $200" find with a "hammered copper miner's pan sink" and faucet that they scored for "less than half of retail." Other budget-priced materials included clearance tile and an overstock mirror. The finished space is a real statement room with a dramatic, eclectic vibe, blending the rustic look of the pine-plank wall with the traditional style of the marble-topped vanity.

The third entry from This Old House is a basement remodel. In under a year, and on a budget of under $500, the homeowner converted this dingy and dilapidated basement into a bright, open studio for his budding woodworking business (with a corner set aside for his young daughter to work on her art projects, side by side with Dad). He tore out the old acoustic tile ceiling (installed by the previous homeowner, who used the space as a music room) and exposed the ceiling beams for an open, airy feel. He also patched the cracked concrete foundation, sealed it against leaks, and repaired the crumbling lath-and-plaster walls. A fresh coat of white paint—with one accent wall in a vivid orange—and a colorful rug complete the room's rebirth as a cheery space for creating art.

And while we're on the subject of unusual spaces for a room refresh, let's take a gander at this $157 laundry room refresh, done by Kelly, the blogger who documented the redo of Carrie's bedroom above. The space she started out with was definitely unpromising, complete with yellow vinyl flooring, popcorn ceilings, haphazard shelving, and a wallpaper border of laundry hanging on a line (just "in case we ever got confused" about which room it was, as Kelly put it). Right away, she and her husband stripped away the popcorn and slapped some paint on the walls, leaving the space tidy and functional, but completely neutral in appearance. Well, she has slammed that space from neutral into high gear now.

What's really impressive about this room redo is how much Kelly improved both style and function on a minuscule budget. First, she repainted all the walls a light, creamy shade, and then she added a repeating stenciled pattern across the whole length and breadth of the back wall, creating an eye-grabbing accent feature. She also boldly went where no DIYer had gone before by deciding to paint the dated vinyl floors in wide blue and white stripes. Having added more than a dash of style to this blah space, she then turned her attention to function, replacing the single wire shelf with a wall cabinet, centered on the back wall, and two open shelves to either side. The cabinet was a $20 yard-sale find that was originally a corner cabinet, but her handy husband cut it down to size, replaced the side, and built the shelves, tying everything together with a coat of crisp white paint. They rounded out their new storage with a marked-down wall-mounted drying rack. Then Kelly put the finishing touches on the room, with pictures on the walls, accessories on the shelves, and a phenomenal dodecahedron pendant light that her "brilliant husband" made from scratch for a mere $10, saving more than $400 over the cost of the Ralph Lauren piece that inspired it. (This light was such a hit with Kelly's readers that she started offering copies of it through her site—and sold out almost immediately.)

After seeing how gorgeous and functional Kelly's space turned out, I assumed that her remodel was simply the last word on budget laundry room renovation. However, it turns out that blogger Tasha at Designer Trapped had at least a word or two of her own to add. She achieved a transformation nearly as striking as Kelly's on an even more eye-popping budget: just $71. Admittedly, she didn't have to bring in any new pieces like Kelly's cabinet and drying rack, and she was fortunate enough to have lots of leftover materials (paint, curtains, a mirror, Ardex Feather Finish) that she could use to keep her costs down. Tasha painted just about everything in the room: the walls, the cabinets, and even, like Kelly, the vinyl floor. She also hung curtains, concealed plumbing with a "creatively placed" mirror, and created some original art for the space (a shadow box full of clothespins and a set of papier-mâché letters that spell out "FLUFF AND FOLD").

Her most remarkable feat, however, was covering the laminate countertop in Ardex Feather Finish, creating the look of a concrete counter without all the hassle and heft of pouring a new one. I'd previously seen this technique used by the Young House Love bloggers on their kitchen counters, and the results looked impressive enough that I wondered whether this might be the ideal choice for redoing my own laminate countertops, which have long been a source of conflict in my ecofrugal brain: I hated the ugly surface, but I also hated the idea of scrapping the perfectly usable base just to get rid of the ugly. Now that I've seen how well the Ardex worked out for Tasha (and seen her assurance that it's a "totally doable DIY job"), I feel more confident about the idea than ever. I also like the look of the Ardex finish: it's got that slightly imperfect, artisanal feel, which I think would be a good fit with our strong-grained wood cabinets.

See how much you can learn by reading DIY blogs? It's not wasting time, it's research!
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