Yes, yes, you can do it for less than an arm and a leg. Budget rooms are possible in every part of the house — if you have an open mind.
It’s essential to be open-minded, because people frequently say that a certain product “looks like it should be in the kitchen” or that “it belongs in the bathroom” when it could be perfectly at home in the parlor.
The product may well have been designed for another purpose or another room. Big deal. If it looks right and works where you use it, who cares where it was “meant” to be used?
I’ve used wire baskets, originally made for in-out mail, on shelves in bedrooms instead of bureaus for storing clothes. I’ve used army-surplus metal footlockers, painted in bright colors, for night tables. Clothes lockers have become closets. And blueprint files work as coffee tables.
I’ve used hammocks as overnight guest beds, inverted umbrellas as ornaments for unwanted ceiling lights, garden umbrellas over indoor tables and yellow blinking warning lights from construction sites as pop sculpture.
After all, some of today’s fanciest furnishings were originally intended for other uses. Typical examples are the refectory table in a formal dining room, originally made for a humble French kitchen, or the graceful armoire in the living room, originally destined to hold clothes or linens in a bedroom or hall, or the shoji hinged screens at our windows, designed to be walls in a Japanese home.
In a bedroom I recently designed for a teen-ager, I used a variety of these alternative odds and ends. The bed was a wide chaise left over from a former modular living-room arrangement. Decked out in its white canvas contour covers, it makes even the smallest space into a proper sitting room. Take off the bed and pillow covers and it’s ready for sleeping.
The “bureau” is actually two sets of coated wire utility baskets designed for kitchen use. Each two-basket unit comes with detachable casters and costs about $30. Four of these in glossy white make a fine “chest of drawers” for $120.
The folding screen adds height to the room and gives its owner a bit of much-needed privacy when the hall door is open. Its three panels are in white canvas similar to the bed cover, and are attached to natural varnished-wood frames. This screen was originally bought to make an instant “foyer” at the front door of the owner’s previous home. It cost $60 and made an easy move into their new bedroom.
The off-center single window is covered with an inexpensive, white paper pleated shade, which looks elegant and crisp against the apricot color of the walls. The floor is covered in apricot carpet originally meant for a bathroom. Four kits of this do-it-yourself carpet easily cover the floors of this small room.
Even the art is inexpensive. A Chinese “ancestor” kimono made of paper, and still used for ceremonies today, costs $50 and covers most of the only open wall in the room. It complements the subdued color scheme with its brilliant hues in this elegant but inexpensive space.