I’m a big fan of DIY decorating – mainly because I’m not exactly loaded in the money department. Would I hire someone else to handle all the finer details of my house if could afford it? Absolument! As it stands, though, if I want something, I can either keep wanting it or figure out how to make a reasonable approximation of that something in my extremely limited amount of free time. The good news? Once you start on the DIY decorating path, you learn some skills and the whole DIY thing gets easier. The bad news? Getting started isn’t always easy, especially if you’re stepping out onto the path with zero experience.
And that’s where tutorials fit in. Of course, if you (like me) scour blogs for DIY decorating tips, then you know that what’s out there ranges from uber fabulous to weirdly wtf. Books tend to be one step up from blogs in the DIY decorating department, if only because there are editors busting out the quality control on the step-by-step so you don’t get to Step 5 and start scratching your head.
Right now, when it comes to DIY decorating, I am digging on Crafting a Meaningful Home: 27 DIY Projects to Tell Stories, Hold Memories, and Celebrate Family Heritage.
Crafting a Meaningful Home contains 27 projects designed to tell your personal story or to share your cultural heritage (all of which can be done on a budget by the novice DIYer). All of the projects come from well-known designers, so you know you won’t just be slapping craft paper on tissue boxes when you decide to buy this book.
Of course, necessity isn’t the only reason to engage in DIY decorating and to turn what we already have into something more beautiful. Elise Boulding said: Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things. In this case, new and mass produced things.
When you have more books – or stuff – than shelves, but no square footage left for a couple of bookcases, it’s time to get creative. Where can shelves go? Over the couch, perhaps… or along the ceiling and over the door. Books and other stuff can even find a home in your rafters, if that’s the only fillable space you have available. There’s no reason that walls and corners can’t do double duty, especially when floor space is at a premium. Here are a couple of ways that other people have solved the space versus storage problem:
How amazing are these images of Detroit’s downtown captured by photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre? It seems like a ghost town or the corpse of a city – and an eerie reminder of Detroit’s glory days, since so many of the structures they photographed are were obviously magnificent in their heyday.
Like so many of the visuals that comes out of this sad city, it’s depressing. But still kind of hauntingly beautiful.
You can see these and more in Marchand and Meffre’s book Ruins of Detroit – which is the result of a five-year collaboration started in 2005.
In addition to being an obsessive reader, I’m also an obsessive book hoarder. As in, I have hundreds of books I will probably never read again, but I can’t bring myself to give them away or sell them or recycle them. Maybe it’s because my maternal grandmother has an art book collection that takes up most of her downstairs wall space in the form of tomes squeezed into full-to-bursting bookshelves. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, and I wouldn’t want to do with someone else’s book what I hope no one is doing with my book. So as you can probably imagine, our bookshelves look a little something like this (except less color coordinated):
While I implied above that book hoarding might be a family trait, it would only be on my mother’s side. My dad lets books slip into and out of his life – reading them and then passing them along – unless they are some of the few he’s happy to read again and again. The bookshelf area of his home is, as a consequence, tiny, but size doesn’t mater. And yet, I think that’s why I’m so hesitant to part with my books – even the ones that haven’t brought me much pleasure other than hastening the passage of time. I think I am afraid of someone coming into my home, seeing no bookshelves, and assuming that I don’t read much.
But even this strikes me as odd. Because the truth is that some people don’t read much for pleasure anyway, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They just enjoy other things. So why does the idea of someone pegging me for a non-reader make me feel so queasy, and furthermore prevent me from de-cluttering our right now extremely cluttered finished basement (which it should be noted is home to walls of bookshelves)? At this point in my life, I’m visiting the library for books more often than buying them, so it’s not like I’m adding to my collection. I’d wager that most of the books on those shelves have been with me since just after college. Some of them are even textbooks!
Do you, lovely readers, hold on to relatively unimportant books with a similar zeal? What’s keeping you from parting with them?
Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History Of Private Life just hit the shelves, so I’ve been reading and hearing interviews with him for days now. One of the questions that comes up most frequently is ‘why are there four tines on a fork?’ Or on most forks, anyway. Go ahead, have a look in your silverware drawer. You’re probably going to see four tines.
Early forks had two tines – the modernish European table fork came into being in the 10th Century, and was viewed as something of an unmanly Italian affectation for many, many years. But forks of many forms have been in use since the period of the Ancient Greeks, at least as serving implements. Early forks had two tines and were entirely straight (so no scooping), but forks with more tines quickly caught on because it’s easy to spear yourself instead of your food when you’re using a two-tined fork. Before four tines became the hottest tine number, there were three-tined forks and five-tined forks, and I even found one with six tines (for serving sardines)!
Pretty printed forks by Vintage Garden
Some books are just plain terrible, am I right? Which isn’t to say they didn’t get read or weren’t special to someone, but the people who cared about them once upon a time somehow got them onto your shelves and you (like many readers) just can’t bring yourself to throw away a book. You could just let them continue to sit unread on your shelf or you could do something with them. Something that involves cutting them up or drawing on them, but isn’t it better to turn an unloved book into something loved than to let it fade away into obscurity?
Here are some ideas that I am finding particularly inspiring:
DRAW, PAINT, OR PRINT ON THE PAGES: How sweet is this print from Brambleberry Lane? Pages from a vintage dictionary become the canvas for an old school image of a copper politely suggesting that a perp stop in the name of the law. Buy one for $7.50 or give DIY drawing, painting, or printing a try.
Turning a book on your bookshelf or a CD on your CD rack is fine if you’re planning to put it back within a day or so, but if you’re a slow reader or reading a giant book or the sort of person who wants to listen to the same song or album until it makes you (and everyone around you sick) then you need a solution with a little more style.
For example, these book and CD separators designed by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sasagawa. His Animal Index can be used to mark your place or to divvy up your shelves into distinct sections. It strikes me that the Animal Index is one of those little things that one could DIY without too much trouble, though I know mine wouldn’t look as polished as these.
How can you make the perfect bookcase extra perfect? Try adding some color with wallpaper or even craft paper or contact paper. Not on your books or on the top and sides of the bookcase, but rather in back, where it will frame whatever is on your bookcase, absolutely brilliantly.
This is a super DIY project if you’re dealing with a flatpack bookcase, e.g., the Ikea Billy, since you can take off the whole back and simply cover it, but it’s none too difficult when you have to put the paper on the backing directly. It just means a bit of careful measuring and cutting, and a somewhat more careful application. But, oh, so worth it! See?
Among the many books I received as a gift this Christmas, Wary Meyers’ Tossed & Found by Linda and John Meyers was a definite favorite. The husband and wife team visits places where furniture goes to die and brings that furniture back to life in awesome ways. It’s very. very cool.
So imagine my delight when I discovered that the Meyers have on their web site not only pictures of the spaces they have designed and decorated for others, but also photographs of their own home, which they call “a work in progress.”
Color, color, and more color defines this space — but it’s not overwhelming, balanced as it is by the muted couch and unusual but unobtrusive coffee table. This is just one corner of a living room that is elegant and beautiful, but also obviously made for living. It doesn’t look like a cut-out from a magazine; it looks like someone’s home.
Love the table. Love the chairs. Love the sideboard, exclamation point. Love the wallpaper. And love the way this dining room exists seamlessly between the living room and the kitchen.
And don’t even get me started! This guest room reminds me so much of a childhood spent in the house of a determined art book collector that it’s not even funny. I used to go to sleep surrounded by books upon books in a cozy room with mod furniture and eclectic artwork on the walls. Does this room’s familiarity make me love it more than I might? Just a little, but I like it plenty fine anyway.