Design Crew

Posted on Sat, 1 Sep 2012 by midcenturyjo

Got a problem? Need some help? Just standing there shaking your head? Don’t know what to do? You’re not alone. Send us a link to photos of your design quandary and let the Desire to Inspire design crew help you…. that’s you lot… the readers! This week’s problem is from Kylie.

Help me I can’t take it anymore! I hate my kitchen and the family room is just BLAH. We live in a rental and I can’t paint the walls or damage the kitchen in any way (the landlord’s words not mine). The furniture is all hand me downs and the room is where the two older kids do their homework while I get dinner ready. We like to keep an eye on their computer activity as well. My youngest uses it as a playroom. I don’t have much money to spend. I really need your help. I want something light and bright and beachy. Can I do beachy in a room like this?

Amalia says:

Hi, you can achieve quite a lot on a small budget with all this great advice!

A Hamptons style beach look – Blue and white broad horizontal sripe rug under a white wood wash coffee table or wrought iron table with glass top. Add some neat piles of coffee table books with a wicker serving tray diplaying large shells, blue and white china, an artifact from an exotic part of the world and a white orchid or leafy greenery.

Art – find some beach themed art, tear pages out of a good quality magazine and create a gallery wall with cheap, uniform frames or better still paint an abstract on a large blank canvas in coastal colours – pale blues, greys, sunset pinks, sandy beiges and whites. You needn't use oil paints, acrylics finished with a gloss varnish does the same job!

Add some palms near the windows in neutral clay or seagrass pots.

Cover your sofa in a neutral linen-blend fabric and add an array of luxury, beachy cushions in neutral stripes and texture whites – add a chunky knit throw.

Add some clear and coloured, vintage, blue and green glass bottles and vases in the kithen (find them at your local thrift store). Avoid kitchy nautical accessories like life savers, compass, boats etc. Shells are as far as I'd go. If you live by the coast or on your next trip to the beach collect some driftwood and once dry, create some rustic frames for a mirror or photo with a glue gun, or buy a glass bowl and display your souvenirs – pebbles, shells, feathers and driftwood.

And finally, change the curtains to a lighter fabric with black wrought iron style rods.

I think beachy will work really well with the apartment without changing the paint or kitchen!
Suggestions: (Low budget) for clean ocean breeze look.
*Paint the wood furniture you already got white
*Use a sand beige cover on the sofa
*Sisal rug
*Sheer white curtains, linen
*Rope for tying the curtains back
*Old barrel or driftwood small coffee table
*Wicker baskets for storage
*Wicker chairs as office chairs (like the ones at Ikea)
*Ocean maps from your area, sea birds or fish fact posters or photos from your family on the beach (black/white or sepia) on the walls.
*Silver details, like on picture frames
*Beach blue childrens furniture
*Beach blue fabric for bar chairs and sofa cushions
I would not change the kitchen much, just soften it a bit, perhaps with
*Details like fish refrigerator magnets, sea grass place mats and wicker basket for fruits. A wicker basket on top of refrigerator for stuff.
*Bring in some beach blue accessories like canisters, baking bowls etc.
*A white wooden magazine collector for bills and magazines to hang on the wall beneath the clock.

Oh, and pebbles!

Helen says:

Hi, This room looks very much like my living room before I remodeled it. I know why you have those curtains up–is it because you are kind of close to your neighbors and you need privacy? This is why I had curtains up and closed all the time, but it made me feel clausterphobic. What I did was get white curtains that let light in but still gave me privacy.

I got a pair from Ikea like these:
Cheap and did the trick. During the day we opened the curtains because people couldn't look in in broad day light and at night closed them but they still added a nice soft white feel to the room.

The other thing I noticed about your room was that the "office" area is scattered throughout the room. We had the same problem. So create a section of the room where the desks will go and try to divide it from the rest of the room with the couch or a room divider or something. Once we did that there was a natural flow to the room that made it easier for us to clean and navigate and decorate and easier for guests to figure out where to sit and hang out.

Third, the kitchen is decent but there is a lack of flow in it. Specifically there is a big gap of space between the cabinets and the refrigerator. Add something like these free standing shelves:

But don't put clutter on them. You can food stuffs and kitchen ware on them if they are neatly organized and nice to look at in either baskets or see through containers. Plants on the shelves would also be nice.

Like everyone else says, a rug would be nice too. Use this to define the living area vs. the office area. I chose a nice "morroccan" style one from World Market. I find WM to be much cheaper than West Elm but with similar styles. Also if you sign up for their online club, you can get an extra 10% off their stuff.

Finally, sometimes what helps the most is not deciding what to buy but what colors to focus on. Everyone tells you to cover your sofa, but with what? and in what color? I found the easiest way to update my living room was to start with a color palette I would stick to–once you have your color palette, then you know what color to get everything. And everything pretty much falls into place. I started by looking at the different colors in my room and I found a vase that I really liked the color of, in the light of the room (important that this color looks good in the room), then go to Benjamin and figure out what this color is or what it's close to. The Web site will then give you its complementary colors. You can use the complementary colors to be the colors of one of the walls, the color of the boxes/baskets you can get, the color of the pillows in the room, etc…Once you have a uniform set of colors running through your room it will be easier for the eye to travel through it and it will seem more "together" and pretty.

Good luck!

Budgie says:

Kylie, you are in Australia aren't you….just guessing from the power outlets, the plaster cornices and and a few other clues….for a rental, that kitchen is AWESOME! Learn to love it – the bones are really good for you to work with and the veneer on the cabinets has a nice tone. I agree with one of the other posts, start with a nice big rug, get rid of the office furniture, plastic tubs and try and get some cleaner-lined furniture in there. And some pot plants. But I understand, all landlords in Australia give you NO leeway to do anything substantial. Most of the time you can't even hang pictures up……

oregonbird says:

With a landlord that controlling and inflexible, the first thing to do is admit that your deposit is gone, baby, gone. Then you won't worry when you put a pinhole in his precious walls.

Living area — start with the curtains. New double mechanism, the landlord won't object to being gifted with an upgrade. Alternate panels of blue and green semi-sheers, with a lightweight, textured sand-colored curtain in front — you should be able to find something 2nd hand. Dump all the little pictures, and ebay or 2nd hand an *oversize* beach scene. If you want to switch things around a bit, consider setting up a cozy seating arrangement in the corner, with a bright striped rug, canvas couch cover and large, patterned cushions.

Just a suggestion — if you really need extra storage space, consider getting a captain's or daybed for the corner, and set it up with cushions and coverings to be a family-friendly seating area. A glass or white taller-than-ordinary coffee table would replace the children's table, give the little one more room to spread out her toys, and help anchor the space as a living room. It's a bit different, but a very stylish problem solver. Plus, kids grow out of those little tables so quickly — a taller table and a couple of slightly taller, wooden children's chairs will keep the area useful for play for years longer than the plastic.

Go with an Ikea plank-style or glass desktop on sawhorses; depending on your family's habits, you might consider bringing a table-sized desktop out to where the loveseat is and making the table into an open, multi-task zone with free-style seating (nothing matches, each chair is a wonder ;-). You need wood/colored glass-based, much more evocative mood/task lighting in the living area. It shouldn't be difficult to arrange for an old-fashioned, squat lamp in the middle of the new work table — you'll need to set up a power strip, which isn't difficult at all, hiding the cord under a neutral rug under the table.

There is a 'dead zone' under the sink area — that would be a good place to put up-classed toy storage, wicker baskets in a frame would work — I've found that an antique-style lowboy chest of drawers can hold every hand toy, barbie and set of crayons/legos that a family really needs. All other storage in ONE spot — again, go with an old-style piece of furniture for that beachy, cast-off feel, a hutch or a rough-cut armoire. 2nd hand rocks.

Hand a beach picture behind your cooktop — use as much of the space as possible. Maybe put blue and green LED or christmas-style light ropes into the top of the cabinets, for off-set lighting, and put a few unusual, large colored glass thingies up for the shadows. The main thing is, keep to one or two beach colors, and ruthlessly remove all others. Lose the clock (you have ten other objects telling you the time!) and find something large and textural… a nautical flag or a kite with it's long tail artistically looped about, perhaps? for the wall above the counter. The sleekness of the kitchen is really very nice, don't try to change it so much as emphasize it with a few spare, nautical color touches. Declutter, you'll feel better!

I don't think anyone, ever, has sent us a picture of a re-do. /sob! sob!/ But I live in demented hope — please, send us a piccy when you're done?

oregonbird says:

You know, the TGIF post right in front of this one? Well worth looking at for beach-style ideas!

Nadeeni says:


You are in a rental, with no money to decorate. What you need to do is save your money to buy a house or your own apartment and you can do what you want. You are already strapped for cash, why would you want to spend it on a place that is temporary?

If anything clean up and organize. That will save you a lot of money and put your mind at ease.

Broke people have the most demanding requests.

Lisa says:

Lots of good ideas. Mine would be:
Leave the curtains and the walls as is. But if you can swing a rug, maybe a flat, indoor/outdoor type, that would help a lot.
Either find a new sofa (Ikea?) or cover that one maybe with one of those stretchy, washable covers.
Rearrange the furniture by trial and error to find better placements. Paint some a fun color that goes with a color scheme you like, or even black.
An inexpensive shelving unit or tall cupboard, something with height would be good.
Maybe change out the clock on the wall for a large framed graphic poster. Or even a mirror.
Find something to go between the fridge and stove area (shelving or a cart on wheels?) Or maybe move fridge next to stove unit and do something on the other side of it. (No photo to go by.)
And clear off the fridge top and bottom. Maybe display one child's artwork a month on front or something.
Check out thrift stores, trash pick, etc. to find fun stuff to hack, like frames, etc. Look at magazines and on line to see what other people have done.
Have fun!

Nadja says:

Your kitchen would be far more tolerable if you just swap the existing stools for something sleeker and more modern (white or silver tolix?) Also, change the timber blinds to white ones, get rid of the clutter on the fridge and put a lovely big bowl of green apples on the bench or a huge vase of green palm fronds etc. It won't cost you a fortune.

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