Monday, November 26, 2012

Cardboard Creations!

Cardboard boxes can be found for free nearly everywhere! Drive behind a strip mall and take a peek in their dumpsters and you will be amazed at the boxes sitting there in perfect condition just waiting for the garbage truck to haul them off and fill up the landfills.  I personally have tons of them that I broke down after my move (3 years ago) taking up space in the storage shed.

I live in a house that was built in the early 1950's.  When heating and cooling was cheap.  As a result apparently, the builders didn't see a need to insulate the walls.  My bedroom walls face north with no trees or shrubs to block the wind.  Because of this in the winter time you can put your hand a foot away from the wall and feel the cold air seeping through the sheetrock.  Makes for a very cold bedroom or a very expensive heating bill.

Then the other day I was digging through my shed looking for something and saw the boxes.  I remembered seeing a documentary on the homeless not that long ago and I remembered one of the men used cardboard boxes beneath his clothes to give him insulation.  Hmmmm......a decorating quest was born!!

I'm not a huge fan of headboards and footboards in a small bedroom.  They seem to overpower the entire room.  I would much prefer to use wall art over the bed and lots of pillows to create that sense of the headboard and I have a much loved bench that I use in place of the footboard.  Very functional and looks great at the same time.

I knew that I wanted to cover the entire wall and create a headboard at the same time so my solution?  I left the cardboard boxes flat (which gave me a double thickness) and just trimmed the edges so that every box was the same size.

Then I wrapped the front of the box in fabric and using movers tape, taped the fabric to the back side to keep it from slipping as I installed it on the wall.  I used small nails to attach the squares to the wall.  (Note:  use nails with a nailhead because if you use the headless nails they will easily slip away from the cardboard and fabric causing your square to fall off the wall) I covered the entire wall in the fabric squares.  Top to bottom taking care to keep the pattern on the fabric matching.

The final step in my creation was to tape together enough boxes to give me the width and height that I needed for my headboard.  I then wrapped  the front of the boxes in a coordinating fabric and nailed it to the wall behind my bed.

The entire project (wall and headboard) costs me nothing (as I already had the boxes, nails and fabric) and took me nearly 3 hours to complete start to finish.

Padded walls not only insulate against the outside elements but also against noise.  Below are some ideas for your cardboard project!  Remember, cardboard costs nothing so go ahead and get fancy!  Cut shapes to give yourself an unique headboard or tuft it to give it that old world feel. Go ahead and pad it to give it just that extra opulence.

Remember if you don't like it or you mess it up - go back to the shops and get more boxes!!  Also when you tire of it, it's easy to just pop the panels off the wall, and cover it with a new piece of fabric.  WAY easier than wall paper and these days much cheaper.  There are sites online that offer fabric at incredibly low prices.  I use and (my favorite)

You can't go wrong with it!
Tufting when using cardboard is so much easier than when using wood.  Simple rectangles, a bit of foam and tufting buttons are all you need.

This wall looks amazing!  Usually amazing results require amazing skills.  Not with this wall! Arrange your covered cardboard in a diamond shape to fit the area you want to cover.  Then tack simple molding along the edges to finish it off.

Don't want to tuft?  Then try this easy wall!  Tape your boxes end to end until you have the height you need, cover them individually and nail them to the wall!  Beautiful!
This project won't involve any padding, tufting or complicated cuts.  Just wrap, position and nail.
Want a more intricate design for your headboard?  Then cut the cardboard to suit your design idea, pad, wrap and nail it to the wall.  The wrapping part is more difficult and time consuming when you have curves, but it can be done!
Can anything get easier than to cover a square piece of cardboard with fabric and then nail it to the wall?
This look can easily be achieved.  If you have a large piece of fabric or maybe even a large throw or tapestry that you love, you can wrap it and nail it to your wall.  Note:  If the fabric is extremely thick and heavy, and you aren't going to nail it into the wall but rather want to just prop it up against the wall, you may have to opt for plywood rather than cardboard to prevent it from bending over time.

Now all you have to do is pick out your fabric.  Got any sheets, table cloths or even comforters/quilts that you love but rarely, if ever, use?  How about heading down to the dollar store and picking up some inexpensive kitchen towels that are colorful or decorative?  Try making the blocks smaller for those and creating a patch quilt effect?  At the big box stores you can get an incredibly large painters canvass for around $30.  There's enough of this neutral fabric to do the entire wall.  Tip:  this canvass can also be dyed to whatever color you need. However, I love its original neutral beige color.

Have a good time with it and let me know how it turns out!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

If I rent - do I renovate?

LOTS of people rent.  The reasons behind why they rent are as varied as the renters.  Some are renting until something changes in their lives (like their credit score goes up or they have saved enough money for the down payment) while others are professional renters.  They like having the flexibility of not being responsible if the hot water heater goes out or a tree falls on the roof.  They also like the fact that if they don't like their house or neighborhood - they can move as soon as the lease is up.

The question in my title is not for the professional renters.  This question was more for the folks who have moved into a rental and have no plans on living there for years and years.  A student? Someone who has just moved to town for a job?  Maybe someone who has gone through a divorce?

The answer to "If I rent - do I renovate" is pretty simple in my book.  However, it gets asked A LOT.  When I say renovate I don't mean knock down some walls and add a room - I mean doing permanent decorating.  Decorating that you can't take with you when you move.

An example of that would be painting.  You'd be surprised how many landlords are out there who don't mind if you paint - as long as YOU pay for it.  Then there's the updating on the kitchen and baths.  I don't care what the DIY shows and magazines tell you.  You don't have to rip it apart and start from scratch to update any room.  Sometimes all it takes is a new light fixture, back splash, tile accents and maybe even a new faucet you found on sale at the big box store.  None of the things I mentioned are expensive and none of them require that you hire a professional to install.  However, none of them can be taken with you when you move. Or at least not if you want a good rental reference.

The kitchen in my rental house had laminate counter tops that carried up onto the walls creating a laminate back splash.  It looks pink.  It was hard to clean and it was ugly.  Below is a picture of the before.
I spent just under $100 on stainless steel stick on tiles and in a single afternoon transformed this to this:
I continued the metal tiles all the way around the room and the difference this made is incredible! Light bounces more in the room, it feels cleaner and larger.  I am loving it!

Now the counter tops don't appear to have that pink tint to them that they had before.  The tiles were super easy to apply.  No glue, no grout and I used regular office scissors to cut them to fit.  I highly recommend them.

Many people would be aghast that a renter would pay $100 for an improvement to a rental.  I say this.  If you are going to live there (rental or not) you want to be comfortable and happy in your space.  You want to be proud of it when friends and family come to visit.  You want to walk in at the end of the day and be glad you're there.  So how much is that worth to you?  If you are in a 6 months lease - maybe you can stick it out.  but if you are going to live there for a year or more I say put some money into making it work for you.

My rule of thumb is this - not more than $300 per year on permanent decorating. That equals to just $25 per month.  Most folks spend that much on Starbucks!  You would be amazed at the amount of decorating you can do for $300!

Caution: Never ever do a permanent decorating job on a rental without clearing this with your landlord.  Put in writing exactly what you want to do to the rental and include pictures and/or samples if possible.

An e-mail works great because when the landlord responds - you have his/her response in writing too.  I've had good landlords and I've had bad landlords and trust me when I tell you that a bad landlord will swear they never gave you permission and when the time comes for your deposit - kiss it goodbye.

Now go transform some rentals!