11 Zero-Cost Room-Changing Ideas – Remodelista


Renovating your home can be a time-consuming and expensive process (I should know; I’ve been slowly working on my 1880s house outside Boston for years now).

But you’d be surprised by how easy it is to refresh a room with just a few simple tweaks. I was reminded of this fact a few weeks ago when I volunteered to help a friend get her house ready for a party. Ostensibly, I was on hand to make the flower arrangements, but I couldn’t resist the urge to move a few things here and there. Before I knew it, we had completely transformed the look of the place, all within a couple of hours and without buying anything new.

None of the things I did would qualify as groundbreaking design, but what a difference it made. Sometimes even the simplest design tenets bear repeating.

1. Rehang your art.

At Harbor Cottage in Maine, a silkscreen print by British artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham hovers above the objects on the cabinet so that it feels like part of a larger composition. Photograph by Justine Hand.
Above: At Harbor Cottage in Maine, a silkscreen print by British artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham hovers above the objects on the cabinet so that it feels like part of a larger composition. Photograph by Justine Hand.

One of the most common design mistakes I see is art that is hung too high. Rule number one with art, it should “relate” to the object(s) around it. I subscribe to the idea that, generally, pictures should be at eye level; you should never have to look up to view art (unless it’s hung over a tall object). My aunt Sheila, an architect, uses her windows as a guide, hanging art so the middle of the pictures hangs in line with or only slightly above the center of the windows.

Since eye levels and window heights vary, another good principle is that art should be viewed as part of a larger composition. For example: If you are hanging a single piece over a desk, it should be hover over the desk, creating a dialogue between the two pieces. If you are positioning a piece over the couch and next to a tall floor lamp, it should rest in relation to both so that it balances out the composition of the three objects.

Another picture principle: Have you ever noticed that the catchiest tunes have recognizable patterns along with periods of rest and syncopation? The same maxim applies to good design. So instead of hanging a single work of art on each wall, compose a dramatic crescendo by grouping several pieces on one wall, while at the same time creating periods of rest by leaving other walls blank.

2. Give your furniture room to breathe.

Even in a huge space like this hotel loft by Lost & Found, you can create an intimate grouping by positioning seating and side tables close together.
Above: Even in a huge space like this hotel loft by Lost & Found, you can create an intimate grouping by positioning seating and side tables close together.

As with pictures, with furniture the goal is to craft harmonious relationships within a space. Create more of a conscious grouping by pulling furniture away from walls and out of corners. You will notice a greater sense of intimacy within the space, as well as an airier quality.

3. Apply circular thinking.

An intimate grouping of furniture, plants, and lighting at the Artilleriet apartment in Sweden has a dynamic circular flow. Photograph by Johanna Bradford, courtesy of Artilleriet.
Above: An intimate grouping of furniture, plants, and lighting at the Artilleriet apartment in Sweden has a dynamic circular flow. Photograph by Johanna Bradford, courtesy of Artilleriet.

As a former dancer, I believe that all movement, or at least the energy created by motion, occurs within a series of circles, not as straight lines (kind of like the image of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man). The same can be said with design. When arranging your furniture, you can create a similar circular dynamic, not by literally placing pieces in a real orb, but by imagining that each is held in place by a kind a centrifugal force. (Note that this concept also works on the horizontal plane. Can you see how the objects in the picture below create a cyclical effect?)

4. Create visual transitions.

In Michael Verheyden&#8
Above: In Michael Verheyden’s house in Belgium, “transitional” pieces create a virtual cascade of objects, easing the eye from ceiling to floor. Photograph courtesy of Dwell Magazine.



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The Sand-Free Cottage: 8 Ways to Keep the Beach at Bay


In summer nothing beats the feel of sand between your toes. Unless, of course, you happen to be inside. Sandy floors (or worse, sheets) are the bane of every beach cottage. But, as this native Cape Codder has discovered, there are ways to keep the sand at bay.

Here are eight solutions to stop sand at the door.

Photography by Justine Hand, except where noted.

1. Set up an outdoor foot-washing station.

At Merryfield Cottage in Truro, Massachusetts, owners Steve Corkin and Dan Maddalena installed a convenient rinsing station, including hose and water-filled bucket, beside the beach path. See Tales from Truro: An Untamed Landscape Channels Thoreau’s Cape Cod.
Above: At Merryfield Cottage in Truro, Massachusetts, owners Steve Corkin and Dan Maddalena installed a convenient rinsing station, including hose and water-filled bucket, beside the beach path. See Tales from Truro: An Untamed Landscape Channels Thoreau’s Cape Cod.

A good day at the beach usually ends with a shower to remove all sand, salt, and sunscreen. But what about all those to-ings and fro-ings throughout the day? For quick rinses, create a designated outdoor station specifically for rinsing sandy feet. All you really need is a low hose or spigot—make sure little beach-goers can reach the handle. Or simply keep a large bucket of water near the door.

2. Double up on doormats.

The back door of my summer cottage features a typical Maine mat outside and a simple sea grass rug on the inside. (See Outdoors: Custom Cordage Door Mats.)
Above: The back door of my summer cottage features a typical Maine mat outside and a simple sea grass rug on the inside. (See Outdoors: Custom Cordage Door Mats.)

Despite my efforts to install a foot-wash station, some will always forget to rinse their sandy feet. Therefore my next line of defense is a series of sand-trapping doormats, on both sides of the threshold.

3. Remove all shoes before entering.

Designer Glenn Ban leaves shoes right by the door in his summer rental. See A Beach Cottage in Provincetown, Styled for Budget-Minded Summer Living. Photograph by Stephen Johnson.
Above: Designer Glenn Ban leaves shoes right by the door in his summer rental. See A Beach Cottage in Provincetown, Styled for Budget-Minded Summer Living. Photograph by Stephen Johnson.

Even with double doormats, I still encourage everyone to remove their shoes, by setting up a designated area for footwear. Ideally this area is outside the home, but still in a sheltered area—a porch is best. The hope is that a collection of shoes will subtly remind all guests that shoe removal is preferred, without your needing to nag too much.

4. Deploy sandtraps (rugs).

Natural fiber rugs, like this one in the houseboat home of Fredericks & Mae founders Gabe Cohen and Jolie Signorile, not only reflect the casual vibe of the coast but also are excellent sand traps. See Rehab Diary: The Ultimate Houseboat in NYC. Photograph by Douglas Lyle Thompson.
Above: Natural fiber rugs, like this one in the houseboat home of Fredericks & Mae founders Gabe Cohen and Jolie Signorile, not only reflect the casual vibe of the coast but also are excellent sand traps. See Rehab Diary: The Ultimate Houseboat in NYC. Photograph by Douglas Lyle Thompson.

Sand, especially when combined with sunscreen, is notoriously sticky. For those particles that make it past my outdoor sand removal gauntlet, I deploy sand-trapping floor covers, such as sisal and sea-grass rugs. Just be sure to vacuum well.

5. Keep a sand removal bucket in your car.

My car after a day at the beach.
Above: My car after a day at the beach.



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Rehab Diary: How to Paint Furniture Like an Expert


This summer, my husband and I were driving on Cape Cod, when I spied a couple of midcentury modernesque chairs outside a thrift shop. “Stop!” I yelled–we were in need of dining chairs. When I asked the owner the price, he informed me that there were four more out back. “How much for all six?” I asked. “Thirty dollars for the set,” he replied. I gave him $35. Score!

Only problem, someone had painted the chairs a pale puce green. But for $35, I was willing to put in the labor to paint them. Here’s how I did it.

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Supplies

  • Latex paint
  • Primer
  • Water-based polycrylic or finishing wax
  • Paint brush
  • Foam paint roller and pan
  • Fine and medium sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Protective floor cloth
  • Tape (if needed)

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Above: My original chairs. Actually, the color looks almost looks OK in this photo. In reality, it’s quite deadly.

Step 1: Get Your Inner Zen On/Chill Out

Sure, when deadlines loom, I’ve been known to slap on a quick coat of photo-worthy paint. The results never bear close inspection.

The key to a smooth, durable paint job is to slow down. So download those TED talks you’ve been meaning to listen to, or the audio-book version of War and Peace, and settle in. If you don’t rush it, painting can be a very zen process.

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Step 2: Sand, Sand, Sand

We all know that real estate adage: “Location, location, location.” With paint, it’s “Prep, prep, prep.” To achieve an even finish, you’ll need to do a thorough sanding job. Use a medium grit to remove old paint, stains, and debris. This process helps smooth the surface and will give your paint something to hold onto. If you’re working with a relatively a flat area, you can use an orbital sander. For something with many round parts, like my chair, you’ll have to do most of the work by hand.

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Step 3: Clean and Tape

Once you’ve sanded your piece of furniture, you’ll need to thoroughly clean off all the sawdust. Hands down, a tack cloth is best for removing particles that can negatively effect your paint job. Make sure you wipe every inch of your furniture. Be sure to repeat this process every time you sand.

If necessary, tape off any areas you will not be painting.

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Step 4: Prime

If your piece of furniture was previously painted or stained, I recommend a stain-blocking primer such as Kilz or Zinsser Bulls-Eye 1-2-3 primer. Otherwise, a regular primer will do.

Using a brush or a roller, apply a thin coat of primer to the entire surface of your piece. Let it dry overnight. Then, lightly sand and clean again. If necessary, prime again.

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Step 5: Paint

Finally, you’re ready to paint. Once again, patience is key.

For projects like a table or dresser that have a lot of flat surfaces, a roller is faster and creates in a streak-free finish. For chairs with round rungs or furniture with hard-to-reach corners, you’ll need a brush. Whichever you use (or, if you alternate between them), apply a thin coat of paint in the direction of the grain. In order to avoid drips or buildup, always go back over what you just painted with the tip of a brush, especially around edges and joints, where paint can accumulate. Allow this coat to dry overnight to ensure that the surface will have hardened enough to withstand a thorough sanding.

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Step 6: Repeat

Once your first coat is dry, sand, wipe, and paint it again with another thin coat. Repeat: paint, dry, sand, clean. To paint furniture correctly, it can take up to four or five coats.

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Step 7: Seal and Protect

Once you’ve achieved full coverage, you’ll need to protect the finish with a top coat. Using a brush, apply one or two layers of polycrylic–again, always sanding and cleaning in between. You can also use a clear finishing wax. (Avoid varnish, though, as it can yellow.)

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Above: My finished chairs ready for the table. (They look like Canvas’s Georgica Chairs, no?)

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Above: My new suite of dining chairs. Total cost? Less than $200 all in.



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