Being Frugal,  Make Your Life Gezellig,  Minimalist Living

So, here’s the thing…

I’m good at lots of things.

I can identify nearly any actor just by their voice. I can bake bread without a fuss. I am a stain-removal savant. I’ve fixed the internal working of the toilet tank on more than one occasion. I’ve even revived goldfish won at a street fair from the brink of death.

I am not, however, good at interior decorating.

A big part of this is my inherent cheapness; I have a very hard time justifying spending our money on decorative throw pillows and dust ruffles when we could use that money for something like, oh, I don’t know, food or rent. Even if I had no thought for the cost of things, I would still have almost no idea how to put things together and arrange a space in a way I like.

It doesn’t help that I’ve got incredibly little patience for design magazines or blogs, particularly when “small space” living entails apartments that are at least twice the size of my own, that are then remodeled by an architect and filled with $25K of cabinetry and furniture. (That’s right; I’m looking at you, dwell magazine. You can suck it.)

So, I’ve got decor ineptitude, congenital frugality, and some virulent anti-consumerist feelings about design resources. This is how I end up with an apartment that’s not exactly spartan, but relatively modest and simple — and with a perpetual feeling of the room being half-finished.

I want this apartment to feel DONE, like we really live here, seriously, for good this time, no joke… and I don’t really know how to do that. I don’t even know where to start to know how to do that.

Ideas? Suggestions for books/magazines/blogs that won’t sent me into fits of smash-the-capitalist-state rage?


  • Valerie Loveland

    I am no help in this department–I have the same problem. Our condo is a mix of old lady (my husband’s taste) and a million piles of books and poetry drafts everywhere (my problem).

  • Cheryl

    When I was trying to decide what to do with my powder room, I watched a bunch of episodes of an HGTV show called “Room by Room.” The show’s not on anymore, bu they did room makeovers that were not predicated on having an architect come in and gut everything, or claiming to be low-budget but keeping the budget “low” by relying on having an eye for what to buy at flea markets and somehow stumbling on the perfect thing.

    It’s not focused on small spaces, and I suspect their aesthetic is a little too midwestern frumpy for you. But still, here is the hosts’ site.

  • Kirsten Slade

    Hmmm. I share the Dwell hatred – mostly because of the SUV ads sandwiched in between all their “green living’ bullshit.

    It certainly doesn’t take money – one of the most comfortable, chic homes I’ve ever spent time in belonged to my BFF back in DC – no one could make a mish mash of hand-me-downs, IKEA “as is” wins, and items retrieved from the dumpster look as good as she does. I know, because I’ve totally tried (and failed) to emulate her style.

    I say work with what you’ve got. Spartan is way better than “a bunch of carefully placed expensive doodads clothed in a month’s worth of dust”. I like Apartment Therapy – I know a LOT of the stuff on there is expensive or put together by a designer, but there is also a lot of eclectic DIY kind of stuff as well. I’d love to see what responses you get to this, as we’re also moving at the end of the month and I need more “on a budget” inspiration.

  • Eugene

    Our place is tiny as hell also. I’m not sure if this’ll help but we went with the technology solution and created a virtual mock-up of our place. I’m not positive but in the end I believe I used this site:

  • Beth

    My pal Angelo (whose blog you should check out: ) recommended the Domino decorating book and I really like it. A wide range of rooms and styles, with just enough “how” to be helpful. I hope to be in NYC in the fall, and usually stay with my cousins in Brooklyn, so if you’re still in need of a spruce then, I’ll be happy to swing by and help. But if you’re allowed to paint, I vote for painting, to start. Color changes everything.