Shoestring Decorating - How a Seattle Couple Saves Money on Home Furnishings

This guest post was written by my friend Stuart Grinnell. He and his wife live in Seattle and have found creative ways to furnish their home. Stuart is a professional photographer and that artistic creativity has given him a great eye for seeing potential in shoestring furnishings. Take some time to visit Stuart's website Stuart Grinnell Photography.

Shoestring Furnishings for your home
By Stuart Grinnell

As a young married couple, my wife and I are always looking for ways to save money. One such way is avoiding the cost of new furniture. With a little time and elbow grease (and a tiny bit of flexibility), it is possible to furnish your home with used pieces that do not compromise style or assault the senses.

Broaden your search

Time to start your search. Thrift stores are usually picked over, but are always worth checking out. Craigslist is a great resource, but always take someone with you. Garage and estate sales can be gold mines if you arrive early enough. Be sure to barter a little with the seller. Start of a little below what you would like to pay, but not so low as to insult them. They are usually just looking to get rid of the furniture, and are most likely willing to drop in price. If you do not find anything your first few forays, keep looking! Your patience will eventually pay off.

Look deep

Part of the key to finding usable pieces that will fit your home is looking beyond the current state of the furniture. This applies to most everything, save upholstery, which is very difficult to modify or restore unless you are a professional. That being said, sometimes all and old armchair needs is a good cleaning and a unique throw pillow to jazz it up. Ugly stains or pealing paint on wood can be easily changed. Don't waste time with laminated particle board that often makes up entertainment centers and cheap desks, as there isn't a whole lot you can do with it. Be open to repurposing furniture from it's original intended use, i.e. an old stool can be used as an end table or night stand.

Grease your elbows

Once you have found a piece that is worth working on, it's time to decide what changes need to be made. A good place to start is color. Are you going to be repainting or staining? Try and choose colors that could potentially fit into another space or theme as wells as something you won't get sick of after a few months. I suggest water based paints, as they are easier thin down, as well as clean up.

If you are going to be simply repainting, be sure to gently scrape off any loose material, then sand lightly with a 220 or finer grit sand paper. If you want a really clean look, I suggest using a chemical stripper to remove everything. The pieces in our home are more vintage looking, so I don't usually fully remove the previous coating. For the clean look, use a primer before painting and light sanding after the primer dries. We shabby chic most of our pieces, so a primer isn't necessary. Invest in a good paint brush if you plan on doing multiple projects. Give the piece a good coat and allow to dry. If you want a unique shabby chic look, one method is to layer on different colors of paint, then sand and distress to bring through the other colors below. I usually just do a few coats of one color, sand and distress it, then give it a good layer of protection with a satin polycrylic finish.

For staining, you will want to be sure to remove everything down to the bare wood. Chemical strippers as mentioned before are good for this. Be sure to always follow the guidelines for safety, cleanup and disposal on all of the products you use. Like before, a good stain brush makes a world of difference, so invest a little and really take your time when applying the stain.

With metal items like file cabinets, the process is similar. If there is any rust, be sure to sand it out as best you can, then coat the entire thing with an aerosol rust stopping primer. Sand again lightly, then apply two or more coats of your choice in spray paint. If you want it to look really new, give it a final coat or two in a glossy finish. The spray paints cost a bit more than your wood paints, but are still cheaper than buying new. Don't forget to wipe clean any sanded debris during any of these projects, as it will come back to haunt you later if you do not!


Be sure to have fun while searching and restoring! After all, your saving money, and that makes everyone smile. Happy hunting!
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1 comment:

momof3girls said...

what great tips! thanks