Design on a Dime | Ivy Terrace

1/10/2013 | Amy Tibbals
Dan Beecher

Designing any space on a budget can be a challenge, but it can also offer a delightful sense of accomplishment. Contrary to common belief, good design is not exclusive the to wealthy. Case in point, our 'Ivy Terrace project' in Central City. The COLLECTIVE's own Stacey Jo Rabiger purchased a condo and was thrilled -- after a life of renting -- to have the opportunity make the space her own.

As a 'welcome home' gift, Cody and I decided to surprise her with a condo makeover. The Ivy Terrace complex has plenty of charm and some well-cared-for grounds, but her unit lacked any real character. Those who know Stacey Jo are likely well aware of her creative and quirky personality [see her stuff at Ker-ij jewelry for proof], and we wanted the space to reflect that. We went to work with only 48 hours and $2,000 [not including labor], and we managed a total transformation.

Design on a budget is all about editing -- best to know where to push it and where to hold back. Here are some tips for maximizing limited funds:

1) Paint that lady. Paint can do wonders. It's one of the cheapest ways to give a space new life. We gave SJ's place a top-to-bottom coat, including kitchen cabinets and counter tops. Since kitchen remodels can cost a boatload, repainting cabinets that are still in good condition can give the same effect without spending a ton. The counter tops were painted with a special laminate paint [$25 at a local hardware store] in order to stretch the budget.

2) Use what you've got. Determine what existing furniture and accessories you'd like to work with in your space. In SJ's case, we had a sofa, dining table, bed, and a few random accessories. We have some super, local thrift shops with an abundance of options to compliment what you already have. Don't feel like you have to use a piece you don't love or settle just to fill the room. Design with loyalty to the space and to your needs; you can always add on with new finds later. We were pretty successful in our thrift hunt: we found an arm chair, bedroom rug, dining chairs, coffee table, and quite a few seemly accessories.

3) Go big, if you must. Local big-box stores, such as Target and Ikea, can supplement when you can't find what you need at the thrift shops [or when you need something relatively inexpensive but new]. If you style the items right, your guests will never know where they came from. Online discount retailers, such as Overstock, also have some great deals on decor. To complete the design, we tapped these resources and found a living-room rug, jewelry-studio desk, side table, bedding, and a few accessories.

4) DIY, duh. Put yourself to work. For SJ, I tracked down some discount fabrics and sewed curtains, table runners, and pillows for her living and bedroom. They added texture and warmth to the space, and we managed to save some good money. Everyone knows someone who sews...take advantage.

Try to ease out on spending too much on art. Instead, get creative:

1) Collages. Stacey Jo had a little gold mirror and an empty gold frame. I found a few other frames and mirrors at thrift stores, and with her existing pieces, created a collage on the wall for a saucy statement in the living room.

2) Collectibles. Stace had a lot of these, including her amazing rock collection. She needed a place to display them, so I found some solid wood shelves for $1 each in the 'as-is' section at Ikea. I painted them, then paired them with some inexpensive brackets and cool, wood-grained fabric to create a custom shelving unit.

3) Crafts. There was a piece of wallpaper that Stacey Jo really liked, so I framed it, creating a custom piece of art for the cost of just a frame. I also salvaged a rad table base from the 70's for free...then I made a coffee table for her by painting said base and finding an inexpensive top. Free base + can of spray paint + cheap top = $20 table. Really. She also had an old, salvaged door, which we covered in hemp string and leaned against the wall for an adorable jewelry display.

4) Clean-up. Think 'simple efforts', people. Here, we replaced the hardware on SJ's existing bedside table for a more modern look.

Our surprise makeover was, as expected, completely unexpected. Stacey Jo was blown away with the results, so I met with her in her space and asked a few questions about her experience...

Before you moved into your own space, how would you have defined what your space should be? Aesthetic? Function? Feel? Before I bought my condo, I lived in a dark basement that didn't have the space, function, or aesthetic I desired. Being a jewelry maker, my kitchen became my work space, sprawled with tools and supplies. It was no longer a functioning kitchen; I had a stressful mess welcoming me home each day. I was in need of a bright, fun space that inspired my creativity and allowed room for me to work and a place to entertain or showcase my jewelry.

How would you describe you in a few words? And does the new space match that? Fun, quirky, and eclectic. It's spot-on!

Did you think your design could have been accomplished on such a budget? The budget exceeded any of my expectations. When I think of design on that type of budget, I picture the cheap, chotchkie work on an HGTV series.

What is your favorite thing about the space? It's bright and colorful without being overly obnoxious.

What was your least favorite thing about the space when you purchased it? Whoever lived here before had awful and dated taste in paint color. They attempted to 'update' the kitchen, but only to the standards of the early90's, I guess. The makeover remedied that almost entirely. I love, love, love my home now. It's one I love to come home to, spend time in, and share with others.

In Memory of
The perfect house accessory


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