Frugality: Paint Thine Walls

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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: There’s nothing a can of white paint can’t fix. I love white walls, and I’ve fervently written about them, that’s for certain. While there isn’t a foolproof recipe for how a minimalist home shall look, I’ve found that having a clean canvas sure helps me. Any decor is left in the details – minuscule additions that help with frugality, but also, accounts for frequent mood swings. To me, white walls are the basis of a fresh, clean home. In order to avoid sounding redundant, let’s jump right to the topic of this post which is, if you’ve got a hankering to turn your walls white, I would suggest painting thine own.

In our house, there was one room that hasn’t been painted white. Our bathroom, the smallest, most closed off space in the loft, has always been a charcoal gray. It made the space feel cramped, dark, and dingy. All emotions you don’t want in the room that’s meant to be restorative. It didn’t help that there were no windows to let light in. We decided to (finally) paint it to match the rest of the home.

I did consider hiring a painter to do the job in order to save us time and effort, but I am so glad I didn’t. The total cost of the project was $90. We went to Sherman Williams to match the Egret White walls that we already had in a semi-gloss finish. We also bought a single paint roller, some foam, and a few brushes. We had the paper to lay on the ground and blue painters tape already sitting in the garage. My parents brought over the extension rod for the roller and a ladder. It was a whole birthday affair. Having a painter do the job would have probably run us another $300+.

The amount of time it took was 6 hours – including taping the edges, painting the corners, and applying two coats of paint. Mike and I did the majority of the taping the night before. We also prepped by painting the trimmings. My mom and dad swung by the next day and did the majority of the painting. It took them about two and a half hours, while leisurely conversing and taking breaks. It definitely is no more than a two person job. It was a situation of having too many chefs in the kitchen, so Mike and I were pretty much kicked out left to cheer on the sidelines. To be fair, my parents were professionals. Having moved ten times before high school and growing up with a mom who was very into design, I would say that they’ve had their fair share of practice. It may take a newcomer another hour to figure things out.

Regardless, it was surprisingly very easy to do. We had enough time to clean up, put the bathroom together, and have a lovely dinner and cake.

I think that for a room or two, painting thine walls isn’t bad advice. It saves you a decent amount of money, and it’s a fun event when you invite others to join. All you have to do is play live music on the speakers and call it a party.

Now that the bathroom is finally white, there’s more to be considered. For today, it’s enough of a miracle, but I’ve definitely got a wishlist going…

Reupholstering A Couch

I would say that the first rule to outfitting a home is knowing thyself. And when it came to finding a couch suitable for our living space, I had to know myself very well before pulling the trigger. Reason being, well, I prefer things to be aesthetic and beautiful, but I also expect them to be affordable. Not cheap, by any means, but not a grand gesture either. There were so many considerations with buying a couch including finding a sustainable option that I could live with, finding a couch that wouldn’t break the bank, finding one that elevates the space aesthetically, and lastly, finding one that would be functional enough for large gatherings in a small space.

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The first couch I ever fell in love with was the iconic Cloud sectional at Restoration Hardware, but I could not find it in me to be agreeable with the price point which approached $10,000. Then, it got worse when the second couch we fell in love with was a Timothy Oulton leather sloucher that neared $14,000. Both of them exuded class and style but also reeked of a money drain.

So, I dragged my feet for years on buying a couch for our home. I alternated between bemoaning my lack of a cloud and praising our hand-me-down pleather sleeper of six years. We considered more frugal options but kept landing on the fact that they felt cheap in the material sense. Some days, I felt more at peace with my decision. Other days, I was a wreck.

One afternoon three days into our marriage, a year and a half into our first home, I came across a YouTube video of a re-upholstery of a couch. After a few astute observations, I came to the realization that a majority of couches on Instagram are nothing more than the iconic couch from Ikea named Soderhamn. World renowned as the most versatile couch, I found it had potential especially after learning that a handful of couch cover options made the couch transformable into a Restoration Hardware look-alike.

An already fairly priced option, I decided that we could be more frugal (what’s more frugal than an Ikea couch?) while also being sustainable if I could find the couch for sale on Craigslist, used and unwanted. Being a fairly popular and mass-produced couch, I found that it was not difficult to do. In fact, there were three decent options close to my home. After finding a fairly new and well-taken-care-of Soderhman not more than 10 miles away, I decided to pull the trigger.

We bought a three-seater and ottoman in a color apart from ideal for $350 (originally $599) with the plans of extending the foundation into a sectional that can seat 6 people. In order to do that, we decided to buy an arm-less seat to add to one end of the sectional. We could have waited to find one on Craigslist at a bargain price but due to an eagerness which could only result from waiting for years for a viable couch option, we decided to go ahead and purchase the arm-less seat new at a local Ikea for $229. We chose the same color to match the already existing used couch so that we could live with it until we were able to remake the fabric. We removed the existing arm rest on used couch and tacked it on to the new arm-less chair that we just bought, transforming the previously 6-foot couch into 9-feet long. Below, you see the original fabric of the Ikea couch – a dark blue cotton.

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Enter the re-upholstery project. As I mentioned in the introductory comments of this post, making a house a home requires a knowing about oneself. And although a DIY sort of re-upholstery project would have been the most frugal option and possibly the most sustainable option, I also knew that it was not the right one for me. Apart from possibly hacking off a finger during the renovation, I was not eager to start a feud with my husband who will likely be dragged into this project of “mine”. Plus, after watching the video on Youtube, I was enamored with the ease of having a well fitted sheet sent to my door and using zippers as an easy way for me to “reupholster” the couch. Call me spoiled, but the price was well worth the effort and time saved, both of which are arguably more valuable resources.

I went through a lot of options but landed on Bemz after noticing that they had a recycled fabric available. I spent hours perusing the available colors (and there are many!) and sent five complimentary swatches to my home. After much debate, we decided on a Silver Grey linen fabric instead, for the sole reason that it felt better to the touch. As much as I liked the idea of ordering an up-cycled fabric, I just could not negate the fact that the feel of the linen supersedes the desire to be as ethical as possible. I suppose this is what it means to be human.

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Bemz also provides couch remodeling enthusiasts with alternative leg options. It has the legs 14 cm and 18 cm in height in a variety of colors and shapes. We opted for the shorter of the two which happens to be the original height of the Soderhamn because, as you can probably tell from the Cloud and the Sloucher, I prefer low-lying couches. I  primarily wanted to change the silver legs to a wooden variety that made the couch look more Scandanavianly mid-century modern and less, shall I say it, cheap.

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You can also choose to have a loose-fitted cover that acts as a floor-length gown for your sofa, but we opted for the traditional style with the legs exposed so that our Roomba can sweep undisturbed underneath the couch. That decision boiled down to practicality and my preference for spotless cement floors. After all this consideration, we were finally ready to order.

I waited patiently until a 20% off sale email landed in my Inbox. For those who can’t wait, first-time buyers do get a 10% off code after an email subscription. Happy to say, ordering was a breeze. It took about 2-3 weeks for the cushions to be custom-made, but once shipped, took only two days and a weekend to arrive at our front door.

When it arrived, I couldn’t wait to put them on. I begrudgingly followed my husband’s wishes to wash them before trying them on, and since they were linen, we chose to air dry them to avoid chances of shrinkage. Which meant I had to wait until the next afternoon to put on the new covers. I woke up early, scarfed down breakfast, pulled out my roommate’s steamer and lovingly worked at straightening out a majority of the wrinkles and creases. In the afternoon, we tackled our project.

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Between the both of us, the project which involved a 3-seater sofa, a sectional chair, and an ottoman took 2 hours. This was after I mistakenly confused the ottoman base cover for the single chair cover and we have to disassemble the arms and back one more time to swap the two. Which proves the point that we made the right choice in not doing a DIY version of this endeavor. Surprisingly, we finished unscathed, with our relationship still intact.

The couch looks just as good as the Restoration Hardware Cloud Sofa, and feels fantastic too! You can’t even tell it’s an Ikea couch. The fabric from Bemz really dressed up its appearance but also softened up the cushions. The wooden legs really elevated the look as well. I am so glad we choose to swap those out, too.

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The one gripe I have with Bemz covers, though, is the packaging it came in. All couch covers came in big plastic bags and the legs came in bubble wrap. I wish they would ship it with less plastic. Its partial saving grace was that the plastic is made of 50% recycled material and is recyclable itself. I would still have preferred paper wrap, though.

Overall, we saved a LOT of money. Below, I write a breakdown of our spending.

3 seat Soderhamn Sectional + Ottoman used from Craigslist – $350
Arm-less Soderhamn Section new from Ikea – $229
Bemz Covers + Legs – $668

GRAND TOTAL = $1,247.00

That is 13% the cost of a Restoration Hardware couch!  More affordable couches of similar design found on websites such as Article lie in the $1900 range. Mid-range couches such as that of West Elm lie in the $2k-3k range. So yes, I am VERY very happy with the financial savings!

And the best part is that these covers are replaceable and washable, a factor unignorable by two cat parents. We have a second set in the form of the original blue grey covers from Ikea as well, for back-up. In all honesty, the OG covers grew on me and we are considering it as an alternative for the moodier winter months.

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It’s wonderful that down the road, “getting a new couch” simply means “getting a new couch cover”. The flexibility that Bemz offers allows for a long-term sustainable option. They have many fabrics including velvet, cotton, and linen, all in differing colors. They have styles that cover the legs and styles that don’t. Even the leg options are versatile in shape and color. Lastly, Bemz also makes covers for other types of Ikea couches, thus increasing the range of probability. The number of combinations are endless so I have no doubt that people can find a vibe and feel that works for them.

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How about you? Any couch hacks of late?

If you are interested in learning about how to reupholster a couch DIY style, check out this blogger’s advice on the matter. For more Bemz inspo, check them out here.

 

Play Pretend: Living Room Remodel

The timing of finding a sustainable couch option earlier this month and the sudden transformation of said couch into a work space has caused me to infatuate about an entirely brand new living room. Part of the plan for finding a used Ikea Soderhamn sectional on Craigslist was to revamp what we found to be a sustainable option into something that was aesthetically pleasing as well. After ordering a Bemz linen cover in silver grey and natural wood legs, which I felt would give it a Scandinavian mid-century modern vibe, I started to wonder about what other improvements in the room I could do.

Hence, large bits of my free time have been sullied into scrolling social media for inspiration as I fall down a digital rabbit hole on my way to remodel wonderland. And while I sit here pining away at wood based decor, ethically-sourced rugs, and modern cat furniture (yes, we went down that rabbit hole as well), I can’t get myself to pull any triggers. Because on the flip-side, I am also itching at the thought of paying down my student loans aggressively. At 0% interest rate, it would behoove us to pinch pennies and funnel what we can into a metaphorical envelope for the day when we return back to working-like-normal. At which time we would pay all of the money we’ve saved to dramatically decrease my student loan debt before the interest rate returns back to normal again on the last day of September.

So as I sit on my “new” couch awaiting its pretty covers, I do nothing else but daydream of Saharan hues and of buying my financial freedom instead of a new room. The couch has been, for years, the only thing this room needed. Having practiced making-do, I don’t exactly lament the lack of a remodel. If anything, it’s been quite a stressor considering all the possibilities. Rather, I perceive it as an opportunity to appreciate our newest addition to its fullest, without any distractions. I find that adding too much can detract from what you already own. If I rode this wave and bought a side table in the form of a stump, artwork in the form of pillows, and a rug for the cat to scratch, well, I’d sit here put-putting around worrying about spending enough time and attention on those things without being able to just sit on the couch. Whether that be reading a book, watching a movie, writing this blog or doing nothing, the new things would rob me of a simple enjoyment. So I’ll choose to do nothing.

In this journey, I’ve found that making a house a home is a process of learning who you are. After years of gate-keeping, I have found that this is, in fact, who I am.

But a girl can still day-dream of a desert-themed living space. As an ode to what I’ve been up to:

+ A neutral rug as a haven from cold cement floors.
+ Art in the form of pillows.
+ Tree tables for ceramic vessels.
+ A rattan chair to remind me of home.
+ Comforting touches for aforementioned tables and chair.
+ Space for a Feline.