A Mighty Fine Dining Room for Under $2,500

Thanks to the internet and technology, there is no doubt that today we have greater access to a wider variety of budget friendly furniture. I truly believe it's now easier than ever to furnish your home at a lower price point and still make it look wonderfully curated and unique. Everyone likes a good deal, raise your hand if you don't. The challenge is to make sure that your wallet-friendly purchases don't look budget, am I right? This dining room is a perfect example of how to make smart choices and create an entire room for a relatively small amount of money. Here we go! 

This client recently moved into a new home with her significant other. They were combining their respective furniture and personal items for the rest of the home but decided to start fresh with the dining room. Below is the before. 

Generally, I'm not a huge fan of dining room sets that are counter-height. It often feels awkward, a bit too far from the ground to allow guests to linger at the table after dinner for conversation. As you can also see, the dining room space is actually quite large but it wasn't really being optimized for entertaining. I was consulting and purchasing for other areas in the home. but this was the one room that we were starting completely fresh. With a fairly tight budget, I knew I had to be cognizant of price points without compromising on aesthetics or quality. 

Below is the design plan. 

Table  ($449)/ Dining Chair  ($119)/ Rug  ($150)/ Buffet  ($1,099)

Table ($449)/Dining Chair ($119)/Rug ($150)/Buffet ($1,099)

We ended up purchasing the bookcase and accent chair for the living room.  Everything else on the board we purchased for the dining room, as reflected in the after photos below.  

The majority of the money went towards the buffet, which was one of the pieces for which I wanted to focus on quality. To reflect the beautiful natural light from the skylight, I chose this affordable glass dining table. The glass table alongside the mirror creates the most awesome halo of light for this room. And for color, we chose this flat weave rug with lovely movement and texture. 

Boom! So bright and beautiful. I know some of you may be thinking, a dining room for under $2,500 still sounds a bit steep. And It's true that I can definitely whip up a dining room design plan for under $1k or even less than $750. But keep in mind that there is a fine line between saving money in the near term versus saving money overall. You may end up needing to replace cheaper but less well-made pieces every couple of years, resulting in a recurring expense over time. On the other hand, you may pay more for a higher-quality piece, but that could be a one-time expense for an item that you can take with you to each new home over a longer period of time. 

Just remember to make smart choices.  If necessary, invest in one single piece and fill out the rest with more affordable choices until you replenish your furniture budget.  Bookmark furniture for most of us is a necessary fact of life. If you're thinking about redoing a room on a budget, know that it's possible to do so and still make it your own! 

Looking Lovely in La La Land. Part Deux.

If you have been following for a while, you may remember I finished Looking Lovely in La La Land (Part 1) almost a year ago. Thrilled with the final product, the clients kept me on to start work on the bedrooms and the guest bathroom. I was happy to oblige. 

What is the big takeaway from this project? Bringing character into any space can be done even if you're on a budget and even if your home isn't blessed with the many architectural details we often lust after. This home was built in the 1970's ranch style, complete with popcorn ceilings. The bedrooms are white boxes that were dying for some personality. 

Let's start with the guest room. Here are some before photos sent by my clients. 


As you can see, the guest room was being used as an office. It was also a catch-all for leftover furniture throughout the rest of the house. In a smaller space, there was a ton of furniture in here. But I could see the potential. We removed the blue carpet for something more neutral and also removed the popcorn ceiling. 

Photo by Clara Jung

Photo by Clara Jung

The clients are considering renting out this room periodically so I kept that in mind when drafting the design concept for this room. I absolutely adore this tomato soup colored headboard. Everything else in the room is soft and serene, I wanted to put something in this room that made it memorable and fun so guests would want to return!  After the removal of the popcorn ceiling we painted it a very light blue to add another subtle but distinctive touch. 

There is a petite workspace that is functional and inviting. Since the window has a less-than-optimal driveway view, I installed this vibrant cactus print as an alternative. Also, because we had to squeeze in a work area and a queen size bed, there was little room left for a nightstand. It's true, a nightstand isn't a need to have item but it's definitely nice to have. This "nightstand" may only hold a glass of water and/or your phone but gets the job done. 

And for any guests who are lucky to stay in this room, also have the continued good luck to have the use of a renovated guest bath. Below is the before. 

A pretty drastic transformation. The clients really miss their seashell shaped sink . . . nope, that's not even remotely true. The freshly-painted blue walls capture the essence of what every bathroom should be, a serene and clean environment. We painted which made the biggest impact but we also replaced the vanity, lighting and fixtures which only helped. 

Moving on to the Sailor Moon room.  


If you can look closely you can see at least three Sailor moon posters strewn throughout the walls. Many a girl growing up in the 90's can appreciate the power of Sailor Moon. And although I was sad to bring these posters down, they had seen better days.  This room was now going to be a game room for the hubby. A retreat for him to play board and video games with his friends. 

Playful and colorful, this room strikes the right tone for some long game nights with perhaps a finger of whiskey. Creating a design that was very "man cave" yet appealing to everyone was my primary focus. Do you spy the homage to some classic video games?  When I found those I was over the moon. These prints are simultaneously artistic and encapsulate the entire theme and purpose of the room. 

Last but certainly not least the master bedroom. Here are some before photos. 

There were some challenges to this space. The biggest one being the burgundy colored carpet. The clients had just installed it so weren't replacing it but coming up with a design scheme that downplayed the redness in the carpet took some creative thinking. Below is the Cinderella like makeover. 

Master Bedroom.jpg
Photo by Clara Jung

Photo by Clara Jung

Like all the other rooms in this project, this master bedroom was also a straightforward blank box with no details that immediately jumped out. To bring in character and charm, we used wallpaper with a subtle shimmer to bring in that bit of oomph every room needs. 

The natural jute rug breaks up that burgundy carpet a bit, softening it so it's not terribly obvious or dominant. The blue bedframe juxtaposed to the gold wallpaper is a classic color combination. The simple mid-century nightstands contribute to this sophisticated and curated feel.

When you're confronted with a room that has very little to say in terms of its architecture, take that as an opportunity to be a bit more adventurous than you normally would. Spin it, there are no historical details holding you back, it's literally a blank canvas and like some things in life, the bolder the better. 

Photography by Jen Sosa unless otherwise noted.

A Secret Closet Garden

When I first walk into a consult, I never judge my clients' homes. They are busy with work and family, it's understandable that things get busy and their home isn't perfect all the time. I however do judge my home constantly. Since it's my profession, it's important for me to keep it presentable at all time if at all possible. I'm just glad we can hide some things behind closed doors. For example, my closet has been an eyesore for a while. Proof below. 

No styling, no prep, this is what it used to look like. We live in an older home and actual closet space in the master bedroom is non-existent. This closet butts up against the eaves of our roof which means expansion is out of the question. And one of the few times in my life where I'm glad that I'm vertically challenged. Anyone taller than me would never be able to use this as a closet. 

As you can see the closet is technically "finished" but rather drab and seemingly dirty although I promise you it's not. I briefly considered hiring a closet professional to come and help me but then I regained my sanity and realized we have a laundry list of more important items to focus on. So what to do? Armed with $200 I decided I could make it look and feel better. Ready? 

I decided wallpaper was the way to go, the biggest impact for relatively low cost. And I chose this one by Hygge and West during a recent sale. I love the pattern, it's feminine without being overtly so. And it's just so darn cheerful and happy. It looks even better on the walls!  

First step, I cleaned out my closet and donated/removed anything I haven't worn this past year. I actually clean out my closet every 4 to 5 months. I'm not a capsule wardrobe type of girl but I do keep my closet fairly edited. 

I moved the dresser horizontally to make this tiny closet feel roomier. I had a leftover round mirror from another project and reused it here. This mirror is perfect for when I apply makeup, lotions and potions. 

The old shoe rack was no longer working for me. Since I retired my pumps, I definitely have more flat shoes which didn't grip well to the shoe rack. I also wanted a more built-in look without the cost. It's amazing how many of life's problems can be solved by a trip to Target. Hyperbole, I know but somehow true. This shoe storage unit from Target is white and fits in with the dresser fairly seamlessly. 

Not all of my clothes fit into this one dresser. I'm a minimalist but not a monk. Below is how I store my hanging clothes. 

This closet actually runs the entire length of the house and there is another entrance to it from the guest room. So a fixed closet rod was out of the question since there is no immediate wall to the left. The garment rack is the only practical way to store my hanging clothes. I wheel it forward when I need something from the rack and wheel it back when I need some shoes or an item from the dresser.  In an ideal world I would prefer a walk-in closet a la Carrie's closet in Sex in the City. Alas, this is real life. And this setup works for me for now, especially with the small updates. 

Every morning when I open up my closet doors to get ready for the day, it's an absolute pleasure to have this bright and cheery closet greet me and set me in the right mood. It's just a closet and perhaps one wouldn't normally invest some time in such a small space but like in most of my work, I'm a big believer that every detail matters. Our spaces are a vessel for not only the life we currently inhabit but also a means to create the life we wish to have. And this closet to me says there are many more fabulous and exciting things to come!