Monday, March 16, 2009

Frugal Decor: Bang! Bang! You're Decorated

Spending a fortune on a mini interior makeover these days is a definite no-no. So when Allison Hemming, the Big Gun at The Hired Guns called on me to glam up her personal office space in her business's glamourous new digs with less than $130, I put on my lucky thrifting cap and called upon my pal, decorator Mark Ciolli of Carl and Co. to help me assess the situation.  I had less than 24 hours to pull the whole thing together, so a call to Mark was No. 1 on my list. 

When we got there, her office was void of personality yet filled with stuff. A cheap, rickety bookshelf sat on one wall and had to stay there since the new cabinet it'll replace hadn't arrived yet. "Get a whole bunch of bodega candles, organize those shelves and be sure to leave empty space for balance," Mark quipped. "And then a tree in the corner....that'll make all the difference."

Thankfully, I didn't have to run out and buy the tree, which sits happily in the corner.  Instead, Allison tapped into one of her in-house floral connections. But I got the candles ($40) easy enough and lined them across the cabinet, but it still looked naked. So off to Housing Works next door I jetted to see what I might spy on display. There in the corner were three framed prints ($50 for all) that looked like they had been curated just for me.

Since Allison's office could be a reality show in itself, the needlepoint Greek theatre masks seemed appropriate, especially when paired with an African print that mimicked the same shape and color story. 

On the same trip, I found a silver plate teapot ($11) and a fabulous Frenchy of California leather bag ($15), both that spoke to Allison's eclectic personality: a glamorous super nanny who overseas a cast of media characters. I also rummaged through my own goods for display: a
 miniature lamp I have had for years, a stack of old cigarette paper rolls that I salvaged from a closed-down paper plant in Rijeka, Croatia, a pair of Versace pillows I picked up one year at the Milan runway, and a funny set of books on world religions that I found at an LA garage sale.

The piece de resistance was something Allison already owned: a set of Star Trek plates that she was determined to display prominently on her wall. As her associate, Mr. Perkins and I scurried around to get everything in order, Allison announced that we had 45 minutes until the guest arrived. 

I had planned to measure out the perfect proportions for the plates to hang on the wall, but there was no time and I started pounding nails into the wall as evenly as I could without a level. Surprisingly, they look fairly uniform and seemingly, no one (but I) has noted  the difference. (I'm certain Mr. Perkins can tell!)

The jet set plates (right) now hover above the two chairs and table (above), adding a dash of intergallactic elegance to Allison's office.

Living Frugally, Always Fabulously,

The Elegant Thrifter

In May, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders.

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