I am SO excited to be kicking off a monthly series with Better Home & Garden’s products!!! I will be sharing some budget-friendly decorating ideas with home decor from their line exclusively sold at Walmart. Each month they give me a challenge, and August is the “10-Year-Challenge”, which was so fun because I dug back into my archives for some DIY projects from my apartment in Manhattan!
10 YEARS AGO!
Fun fact: after 7 years of having roommates in NYC, this was my first apartment by myself. And my first year after leaving my job at InStyle magazine to work full-time on I SPY DIY!
I was so excited to decorate my 350sf Manhattan apartment with home decor, and found this old, super heavy dresser at a flea market. I painted it and then bribed my friends with pizza to haul it up 5 flights of stairs to use as a TV stand! This TV wall in my apartment was my pride and joy. That is a DIY plant stand, lamp, dip-dyed art, and dresser. It’s funny to see how the fundamentals of my design have not changed too much. I love to start with a white base and layer in color. Back in the day I loved the pops of bright color, and now just pick more muted colors.
Today, I am decorating a corner in the living room of the house we renovated. It’s SO fun to see how far my DIY skills have come!
Now back to my current house! I actually have two chair options for this corner, because I found this Better Homes & Gardens Blake Lounge Chair, and it is SO GOOD and such a GREAT PRICE. I got one in Cognac and one in Black. We are always on the hunt for affordable side chairs, so I know we can find a place for both.
Also Mr. Yolo had requested a chair that was not so small and low to the ground, and this one got his stamp of approval. It’s a really great chair. It’s sturdy, the “leather” is really good, and if you have a larger room it has a good sized footprint. Two would look so good opposite a couch. The back also looks beautiful, so you could definitely float them in a room and have the back exposed. I need more of these chairs for our other houses! The question is: Which should go in the living room? The Cognac above or the Black below? Let me know in the comments!
I also went a little crazy with pillows, because The Better Homes & Gardens line has so many good ones, and they all are under $17. They are great size, include the insert, and most of them are REVERSIBLE! I am surprised because my favorite pillow is the corduroy orange pillow (named Terra Cotta Dream), which is something I would have never considered. But BH&G challenged me to pick something I wouldn’t normally get, and not only do I love it, I ordered more because they are only $10!
Vintage art is a mainstay in all of our homes!! Not only do I love thrifting vintage art, but I love the stories behind each piece. One of the questions I get most frequently is, “Where do you find such great pieces?” I’ve been curating a great collection of vintage art for some time now, but I have some helpful hints for you to start hunting down your own beauties for that gallery wall, eye-catching statement piece, or additional home decor.
Let’s get into it…
Original Art vs. Print Art
I am usually on the hunt for original oil painting or etchings… the older, the better!
Tips to help you spot original art
The surefire way to know your piece is truly an original is to look at the textures on the artwork.
Oil is sure to have a lot more texture than a print, but acrylic or watercolor can sometimes be a little harder to see with the naked eye. Search for brushstrokes, signatures, and markings on the front or back of the painting. I love googling the artist’s name to learn a bit about them. Does the canvas look aged? Check the frame to see when the framing company was in business. All of these clues can help you figure out if the art is original, and how old a piece really is. It can also help you decide how much you should really be paying for the work.
In my experience, I tend to pay around $20-$45 for a smaller sized painting and $80-$90 for something larger. But that can change depending on where you live (I am in Milwaukee!). Spend some time comparing prices at different antique stores to set your range.
Often you will find prints of art framed. It can be tricky because the art will be printed on textured paper and look original. I sometime buy these pieces for our Airbnbs because they can look really great but cost less, so I am less attached to them. Unless there was a truly beautiful frame, I would never pay more than $10 for an art print.
Guess which pieces are original art, and which are prints in my gallery wall!
Look Past an Ugly Frame or Mat
Transform the frame
If you really love a piece of art, but you despise the frame it comes in, don’t be deterred! It’s easier than you think to take off the frame and find a replacement. You can also add a little extra oomph to the frame yourself by sanding and staining, painting or using one of my favorite tools: Rub ‘n Buff!
Rub ‘n Buff is a paint that you can apply to wood, plastic or really any surface in order to create a vintage look. I love to get it in all kinds of pretty gold colors for frames. It adds more texture than a spray paint would, leaving the frame looking authentic.
In the same vein as ugly frames, don’t be afraid to do a little surgery on your art to remove the mat!! It used to be very trendy to have bold mat colors like maroon and green, but I tend to like just a simple cream color. To solve that issue, I learned how to pull out staples and nails in order to remove my gorgeous art from its horrendous mat.
Once the mat is off, you can either alter it to be what you want or find an entirely new mat. I often like to use spray paint for this. Recently, I found an old, bright-green mat in a gorgeous, oversized brass frame for $3. I took out the mat, spray painted it using Krylon Almond Spray Paint and put it back in the frame! It turned out to be a great addition to the new bathroom’s gallery wall, and an excellent way to save some money when framing digital pieces.
Another time, I bought a beautiful etching of a man that also had a green mat. I disassembled the frame, flipped the mat around to find a nice cream color and sealed the art back up. Never be scared to open up the artwork and see if there are new ways to arrange the pieces.
Sometimes a piece of art will come glued directly to the mat. Personally, I’ve never been able to salvage the art in this situation, but I have been able to use that mat for other purposes! If this is the route you’re planning to take, have some replacement art at the ready!!
Know What You’re Looking For
In my case, I usually have so many projects going on that I’m always sourcing new art, and I often will just buy any vintage pieces that I find. However, if you’re looking for a more specific project, it’s important that you know what you’re setting out for.
Use the art to create a color palette for the space
In the past, I have gone about this in two ways. I’ve centered the entire room around one piece of art, pulling colors from the piece’s palette to decorate the rest of the room. On other occasions, I’ve used the color swatch of the paint color I’m using or a photo of the rug in the room to find art that matches! I love tying rooms together this way.
Use black & white art in rooms with bold paint
Something else to think about is the amount of color in the room. If you’re opting for a bolder color on the walls, maybe you have fewer bold colors in your artwork. I love to include black and white etchings in these situations (like the bathroom below) or art with similar colors in muted tones (like the office below.) Whether they’re of cityscapes, landscapes, or people, they’re a great way to add interest to the room without detracting from the paint color.
When I was painting our bathroom a beautiful shade of eggplant, I opted for these etchings in the form of a gallery wall in order to let the color shine. They’re also perfect for a blank wall in your home where you’re not looking to start an entirely new color palette. I’m always snatching these black and white etchings up whenever I find them, because I know they’re sure to find a place in my home.
Match the art to the style of your house
I think it’s also important to be cognisant of the type of art you’re buying. Our home is called The Barnhouse, so I usually look for farm settings, barns, and landscapes. While I love beautiful paintings of the ocean or the southwest, I typically pass these up because they don’t mesh with the style of our home.
If You’re Shopping for a Gallery Wall…
What I most frequently do with all of my vintage art is gallery walls!! They’re a great way to showcase a bunch of gorgeous finds at once. But there’s a strategy behind it as well!
I like to start with just one piece of art, usually the most colorful. The color palette for the rest of my artwork will come from that one piece! All the other pieces are muted versions of that main artwork. Take a photo of the art you are basing the gallery wall off of, and use it as a reference when shopping.
It’s also important to add a little bit of interest into the gallery wall through different sizes, frames, and mats. Having different sized artwork allows you to fill in gaps while creating nice movement for the eye. I have tried to create gallery walls with only small pieces, and they have been unsuccessful. Having a mix of black, wood, and brass frames is another great way to add interest. To have one universal kind of frame stops the eye from noticing each and every individual piece. Mat sizing makes a world of difference, too. If you find a busier piece of art that you love, having a larger mat can give the work a little space to breathe and will allow the eye to rest. It’s all about maintaining intrigue.
Lastly, a gallery wall is a great place to experiment with different types of art. This is the place to include some cheaper prints from Goodwill or online. Use some of my tips for reframing and re-matting the prints to help the entire gallery wall look cohesive!!
In the end, it all depends on what you’re looking for! Finding vintage art is one of my favorite parts of decorating a home, and these tips and tricks are what have enabled me to create such beautiful spaces. I can’t wait to see what you create with the artwork in your home!!
The bathroom is Eggplant!!! And I LOVE IT!! If you have been following along on @ISPDIY IG stories, you’ve heard all about how much I dislike purple. But after seeing this picture on the Fallow & Ball website, I became obsessed with using it somewhere, and this bathroom on the landing at the Barnhouse was the winner. This is so far out of my comfort zone, and I waffled for a bit, but went for it, and am SO HAPPY. It turned out exactly how I envisioned in my head. And it just feels so darn good in this bathroom now!
The color is just so rich! This bathroom does not have a window, so a dark color might seem like strange choice. But when the sunlight from the landing shines in, it is beautiful. And the light color tile helps the smaller bathroom not feel too dark.
To be completely honest, I had run out of steam renovating the Barnhouse, so this bathroom was never really “designed.” I picked out the floor tile and the sink…and the wall tile was leftover from the kitchen, and when it was all put together I did not have a vision for how to finish it. This was originally just an open space on the second floor that I turned into a bathroom. It gets used a ton, it was just not sparking any joy…
Now it brings ALL the JOY! I walk past it a hundred times a day, because it’s at the top of the stairs next to the bedrooms and nursery. And I keep peaking in and smiling 🙂
The key to using a dark color on top and a light color on the bottom is grounding the lower half with dark decor and lightening up the top half with art. The goal was to make it feel balanced.
I can’t say that I love purple now, but I can say I love the color Brinjal (which means eggplant) by Farrow & Ball. This was my first time using their paint (not sponsored at all). I had just heard about how beautiful and saturated their colors are, and WOW! The color is so deep and stunning in person. I used 2 coats to get the true depth of color. Another plus: the paint did not have an odor, which was so nice painting in a house with a baby. For local readers, I ordered this paint through The Workroom.
The corner gallery wall was an idea that took a few tries to get right. An artist, Emily Ruth, sent me the nude drawings, which I loved for a bathroom. And I knew I wanted to mix with other neutral art. So I gathered all the etchings I had around my house. The first configuration was not right, so I slept on it. The next day I picked up some frames from Goodwill and spray painted the mat. Check my EGGPLANT highlight on @ISPYDIY for details. I moved things around, and now the scale and arrangement feels just right.
This smaller, windowless bathroom was a challenge to photograph. (I am smooshed against the back wall of the shower with a wide lens for this shot, ha!) But I hope it gives a good idea of the bathroom. The toilet is compact because the shower door swings out and needs to pass. I needed to maximize every inch of this bathroom!
The rug from The Loom House and branch from my neighbor’s Japanese Maple tied it all together!
The sink is the Bannon Sink! We took off the front metal piece, which was bolted on, so I tied a rope through the holes and hung a towel on it!