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Second Life Design

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Nov 28, 2008

Buying second-hand furniture is a top-notch way to keep the budget in check, but that's not the only reason I love to re-imagine vintage finds. These old treasures often have more character, personality and quirkiness than their new counterparts.
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I found a side table for $20, a dresser for $180 and a cool chair for $40. After I'd waved my magic wand and had them all repainted and recovered, each one looked better than new. You can't find the same level of quality for these low prices and I believe every room needs a healthy mix of old and new to achieve an interesting look.

Dive In The Bargain Barrel

My scheme for this 'tween bedroom all started when I discovered a thrifty gold mine. Every fabric store has an area of bargain blowouts that can help you decorate for the equivalent of what you'd find in a kid's piggy bank. I found a glazed cotton print with bright stripes in aqua, blue, green and yellow for a whopping $1.99 a yard!

The trick to bargain fabric shopping is to choose the inexpensive fabric first, and then tailor your other choices to compliment the deal you've found. In this case I was able to find a cool batik, some bold stripes, a knit accent and a solid broadcloth all for prices under $8.99 a yard. I used the cheapo stripe for the chair (which needed seven yards to recover) and the drapes (which needed about 10 yards) and then filled in the gaps with the higher-priced fabrics (but you only need one to two yards of the accent fabrics for pillows and piping and trims, so even these higher-priced finds barely made a dent in my budget.)

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Fill In The Gaps

Be sure to make the most of the architectural features in your rooms. I installed two closets, which left an open recess in between. This created the ideal spot to install a fitted desk and some open shelves for display.

Keep in mind that you don't need to call a cabinetmaker and devise a custom solution — I found some funky metal legs for less than $13 each and a desktop for under $20. Once it was fitted to the opening it added a cool homework nook that's sure to entice young minds to stay on top of their studies. This solution isn't just for kids and easily be tailored to make a laptop desk or craft area for the grown ups!

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

When you put the brakes on spending it requires clever solutions for artwork and wall decorations. If you choose elements that are both stylish and practical it can be a fun and interactive way to brings the walls to life. Bulletin boards covered with inexpensive fabric provide a place for kids to tack up mementoes, invitations, cards, photos of teen heartthrobs, etc.

Chalkboards used to be a strictly educational tool but now you can have fun and make it a funky part of the decor thanks to chalkboard paints that are available in a rainbow range of colours from powder pink to pale yellow, sky blue and even lavender! I used painters' masking tape to create boxes on the wall and painted each one a different shade. It creates a colour blocked effect on the wall and the kids can scribble on the walls without getting into trouble! Top it off with a pair of frilly frames outfitted with mirror and the walls will come to life

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Keep Your Eye On The Prize

With my goal of hitting a home run for bargain pricing I was looking to get the look for less on every piece of furniture. Beds can be an area where the prices start to climb, but I was lucky and found a modern chic platform bed for under $250. The white lacquer finish would work with any room scheme and the clean lines were the perfect complement to the more fanciful mirrors and side table. Another advantage to a platform bed is that you don't need to buy a box spring and can put the dollars you would have spent towards more fun things for the room.

Two Is Better Than One

Why choose a single paint colour when two is twice as fun? If there's no room in the budget for decorative paint treatments, custom murals, wallpaper or other high end effects you can get a fun paint effect without spending any extra pennies. Instead of painting the entire room in a single shade I chose two similar tones of green and blue and book ended the walls. It doesn't cost any more, requires the same amount of paint, yet it adds to the youthful and fun feel of the room.