Lifestyles of the Destitute and Obscure

dazzling and interesting on a shoestring

Thrifty home decorating with a splash of the unusual

After moving in, buying new beds, getting a few hand-me-down furniture items and trying to settle into our new apartment, the ship came in with the household possessions that had been in storage for the last three years.  And so, our new possessions met our old ones and thus blended into what is now known as our home.

The majority of what was in storage was the accumulation of years of hunting down fashion items when I had multiple jobs, no kids and thus, more disposable income—though still not much.  The household items are proof of the love and generosity of our family and friends who spoiled us with a deluge of beautiful, quality items at our wedding.  Take my silverware, for instance—a pattern chosen for it simple durability and sturdy in your hand.  It feels like a legacy when you eat with it. Or the fact that Wusthof knives and Le Creuset pots are only a part of my kitchen because they were gifts.

We combined a whole lotta bargain hunting and thriftiness with bits of minor splurge here and there.  I found a super fancy pink duvet and sheet set at a garage sale for $10, plus the expense to have it dry-cleaned. I splurged on the rug in the bathroom, because I can’t get a real, live cat yet, and because it’s just kind of quirky.  It would, however, be ridiculous and terribly uncreative if I chose (or could afford) to decorate my entire house with the uber-trends of Urban Outfitters.  I’m not too cool for school, just too old.
The couch and chairs were craigslist and estate sale finds, respectively, and miraculously look like a matched set.  We paid less than $150 for all three, thanks to a little wheeling and dealing and cold, hard cash.

The desk was my grandfather’s, and held in storage by my parents for a couple years.  It’s outfitted with a power strip and filing clip that my handy Grandpa put there for his convenience.  To honor that, the black and white photograph he took of my grandma (his wife of nearly 60 years) takes its customary place atop the attached bookshelf.
The enormous painting that graces an otherwise undecoratable wall is from yet another estate sale and cost us the bargain-basement price of $100.  It is an original artwork by a lesser known Mexican artist, Mario Joel, and while we couldn’t come up with anything when we Googled him, the painting adds a bright, unusual and slightly haunting element to the house.

It goes well with the smattering of New Zealand Maori artwork that hangs around the rest of the house.

While it is not common to find large, original artworks for such prices as the Mayan work here, fun and funky framed pictures are easy to come across at thrift stores and add a charming and quirky element to kitchens and bathrooms.


As further study in contrasts, our TV is an ultra-modern, high-tech version atop a bargain of mid-century Swedish design—a console with double sliding doors and just the right shade to blend in with the set of ‘Mad Men’.   My husband used his best craigslist ‘prowl and stalk’ techniques for this one.  He accidentally stumbled across the large blue-painted bookshelf that sits opposite the painting, but he was smart enough to snatch it up when he found it—just one of the reasons I married him.

Very little of our household furnishings are new, save the beds and the gifts, but I like it that way.  Everything has a history—well-known, like my grandparents’ desk and dining room table—or more mysterious like the Aztec/Mayan painting.  It is, however, recycling at its most basic and most necessary.  I may never own a brand-new couch, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that this one matches our chairs and is graced by a handmade afghan and a beaded Hawaiian tropic throw pillow.
Style is what you make it, and what you can afford, but most importantly it is what defines your home as belonging to you—even if you’re a renter.  Know what you like, know where to find it, and know when something finds you.  I love the way my house is decorated, because it cannot be replicated by anyone else, and it looks and feels like me and my family—aka, a home.

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