Over the past couple of weekends I have given my house a make-under. I have stripped it of its winter weariness and dressed it in fine new summer clothes. My motto is lighten up, and it feels good. I did it all for under $500.
It’s ironic that when we lived in Florida I was determined that our home wouldn’t look “too Florida,” that it embraced our northern roots. And now that we’ve returned north, I find myself turning to the natural elements of sea and sand, light and water. All the things that make the East End such a special place to live.
We are lucky to have found an affordable annual rental with a spectacular view of a wide creek, which is framed by a nine-foot picture window. It’s all the artwork the living room needs, really the star of the show. In addition, there’s a working fireplace, which makes for a confusion of focal points, but who’s complaining? We decided to set the sofa facing the view and put the dining area by the fireplace; it’s nearer to the kitchen, so it makes sense.
I began my make-under by pulling up the heavy wool rugs and replacing them with black-bordered straw Sisals ($59.95 each for a 5′ x 7′ at Home Goods). Instantly the room was lighter and brighter and the hardwood floors showed to much better advantage. Next I removed the landlord’s heavy drapes and replaced them with lightweight white sheers that will blow in the breeze when we open the louvred windows. (Note: Jacklyn Smith’s 84″ panels – $19.95 each at K-Mart – are too skimpy for conventional ceiling heights. They remind you of a guy whose pants are too short. Instead of running the curtain rods through the channels sewn into the fabric, I hung the sheers from old-school café clips in burnished chrome. This added a full two inches to the length – problem solved.)
My big splurge was all new throw pillows for our couch. And what a couch it is! It’s a long low royal blue ultra-suede curvy sectional. I like to think of it as very Halston, very retro. But actually it’s very odd and very specific. I removed the heavy crewelwork pillows in modern artwork motifs (a Miro here, a Picasso there), and invested in five cotton throw pillows at Fisher Sag Harbor’s March 20%-off sale ($31-$36 each). Why five? Well, as I said, it’s a long couch, and the pros on HGTV tell you always to work accessories in odd numbers. Jennifer at Fisher’s helped me select blue ticking stripes and blue and white batiks in 18″ and 20″ squares. I already had two blue-and-white shell motif pillows from the William Sonoma Outlet ($18 each), so the overall effect was “more is more,” but refreshing nonetheless.
Lastly, I tackled the china cabinet/wall unit. Remember my goal was to lighten up. I bought it at Bloomingdale’s in the ’80s, and it’s a little bit Studio 54, backed with mirror and topped with those lights that shine down through the glass shelves. But, when I removed all the CHINA from the china cabinet, I could actually see the mirrored backs and, lo and behold, they bounced light from the water view all over the room. I now use it only for a few pieces of strategically placed crystal through which I can see the room reflected. It opens up the entire space.
On a roll, I removed all the books and accessories from the bookshelves and set them on the dining table. Then I parsed only the best pieces for display and put the others away for a rainy day. I did the same with our framed artwork, choosing the lighter framed drawings and casual pieces, and putting the heavier ones in the garage for the summer. I replaced the bar tray with a wicker version and switched the wastebaskets for straw models. And yes, I succumbed to the ubiquitous crystal bowl of shells on the coffee table. Couldn’t help it, we have collected the shells together over time. And we will add to the bowl.
All in all, I am very happy with the results of my make-under. And knowing it’s not permanent – that it’s just a summer outfit I can pack away after Labor Day – makes it all the more enjoyable.
Can’t wait for the patter of little barefoot visitors soon!