Monday, July 30, 2012

houzz - improved?

As I may have mentioned, I'm a big fan of houzz. Where else can you find dozens (maybe hundreds) of images of professional-quality design that help you answer those unanswerable questions - How do I arrange living room furniture around three doors? How many different colors can I paint my kitchen cabinets and not look crazy? How small a bathroom can I make look cute instead of claustrophobic? Should I paint my living room walls purple?  

(The answer to all of these questions is "yes," by the way.)

In addition to searchable photo files, which you can assemble into your own "ideabooks," houzz offers illustrated articles by a group of approved writers, talking about everything from what to do with brass hardware to how to lay out garden beds to fascinating drapery ideas. I saw this ideabook the other day, on decorating a dining room. I think the stuff she found is cute, and I like the idea. But I think it could be a little more bargain-priced, and I thought I might be able to help with that...

She started with a nice sideboard in a happy color:

But it's $800.  This one from Amazon has even more vibrant color, and is $199:

Granted, that's not cheap, but it's quite a savings, and this piece has a lot of style. (The distressing is a little aggressive for my taste, but I guess that's what the kids are doing these days.)   Alternatively, if we're going to spend a couple hundred dollars, why not buy a real antique?  This beauty (complete with velvet-lined silverware drawer; please ignore the stereo components) is $100 on the DC-area craigslist:

Then she found this harvest dining table:

While it's not what I chose for my dining room, I really do love this style. But it can be had for less than the $1995 Williams-Sonoma is charging. For example, this expandable table from World Market is $699:

That's still a lot for a dining room table, I grant you - more than I was willing to spend. I think if you want a retail item, you pay retail (and maybe wait for a sale). But if you are a bargain shopper who is willing to do a bit of work, and think broadly about your requirements, there are always options.  Obviously, I love craigslist, and for this post I've stuck to just my local craigslist (to be fair about what's available).  And this little number is $100 and 68" long:

The article then suggests a set of "timeless dining chairs." These babies, in white, are $475 each:

I agree that this has a sort of vintage-gone-modern quality to it. But that seems like a lot for chairs, to me. I think I'd go for this Tolix-style number. They're $99 apiece at World Market:

(Overstock has a similar item - without the distressed finish - at $200 for four, or $180 for four in white.) If the industrial look is not your thing, you could go for these French bistro-inspired pieces (which have a bit of timelessness to them, I think), for $260/pair, also at World Market:

Next, we have a $999 bar cart:

I know this early-twentieth-century style cart has come back in in a big way. It doesn't really appeal to me (perhaps because I don't drink or serve liquor).  If you want one, of course, the thing to do is find a REAL vintage one. Way better conversation piece. And did I mention the price?  But this actually retro piece is $95 on craigslist:

Then the article throws in a few tabletop items. Now these I like!

Of course at $90 a glass I think they're a little dear. (I wouldn't want to be a guest and break something worth that much!) These have a slightly different look, but I think they're quite elegant too, and they're rather more reasonable, at $20 per flute:

Next we have a $329 hanging set of pillar candles:

I think this is really lovely (this idea it even figures into a photo I had saved). But again, $329 seems like a lot. On Amazon, I found this wrought iron candelabra for real taper candles. It's Amish-made, which means exceptional craftsmanship, and at $19, you could buy two!

Our friendly ideabook then suggested this rug (in the blue, I believe):

It's a nice rug. But in the 7x9 size, Ballard Designs will charge you $699 for it - and it's just woven cotton! Personally, I'd go for something with a lot more color - as well as less white and more pattern, since it will inevitably be home to many crumbs. If you like the modern, this one from Overstock is hand-hooked wool, a bit bigger than 7x9, and $333:

If you'd prefer a synthetic for the dining room and want to go for the color, this one is yet larger and just $213:

Just a few days ago, Overstock had a version of this (the "overdyed" look) in purple. I've also seen it in fuchsia, turquoise, and chartreuse, which I think would be excellent. Worth checking back!
Next the ideabook has plates that I'm going to ignore, because I don't like them. We all have plates already. And then it has this, from West Elm:

I have seen this item before. I think it is stunning. At $99 it is more than I will spend on a trinket, because it's not something my dining room needs. But at that price, it is reasonable as a splurge. There's no point in a budget option - if you love it, buy it. The end.

So next the ideabook has placemats, which I also do not like. I'm generally not big on placemats. For casual table-covering (i.e., not a tablecloth), I'd go for a runner instead, and I really love sari-print. Maybe something like this, from Saffron Marigold:

Or this:

They're both $35-$55, depending on the size. Given that the suggested placemats are $23.80 apiece, seating 8 would run you $190.40 - a lot more than a really pretty runner! OK, next we have a $249 wall mirror in "natural wood":

Ikea used to have that great big leaning mirror for $99. I can't find it on their website now. I think that would be a nicer alternative. World Market also has a fancypants 46" mirror for $100:

But if you want a mirror to lean on the mantle or hang on the wall, I would go antique. Like so:

Thank you, again, craigslist. That 38" wide piece is just $40. (I think it's upside-down, though.)  Next up: lamp.

I love lamp
. It's very pretty. It's $335. This $47 one from Target is pretty darn similar:

Well, you also have to buy a lampshade.  So, a couple more dollars.  That brings us to the $499 dining bench:

It's a nice bench. But we can do better. For $100 on craigslist, you can have this super-fantastic item:

If you want the modern shape, World Market has this one for $200:

And Ikea sells this nice solid-wood bistro-style bench for just $70:

Now we move on to one of my favorite subjects: wallpaper. The ideabook offers a printed grasscloth that's quite handsome:

It's also so expensive the designer doesn't even post the prices on his website. That's bad. I have a few suggestions, from my favorite (family-owned) wallpaper distributor, Eades Wallpaper. First, I think the room still needs more color. So I like this (budget!) option, at just $23/roll:

A word of caution - this might not be the paper to choose with the red rug and the red buffet, unless there are also several other strong colors in the room. It would look like Christmas all the time. If we wanted to go really fancy with the paper (but still nowhere near as pricey as the ideabook suggests), there's this option, with metallic gold details, for $38/roll:

Depending on the scale of the dining room and how the wallpaper samples looked when I got them home, I might go with just one wall in the paper, and color-match the paint for the other walls to the paper's background. Alternatively (as I did in my dining room), one could paper everything above the chair rail, and paint below.
I think everyone's already good on plates and flatware, so I'll skip those. The next suggestion in the ideabook is $34/panel curtains from West Elm:

I can't complain about the price. They're nice-looking, too.  I'd also consider Ikea's gray linen, or the green velvet.  (These are fun too.  But we'll have to concentrate carefully to get all our colors to match!) 

And finally, the ideabook suggests Ikat napkins:

I like Ikat and those are very pretty.  But personally, I prefer white cloth napkins so they can be bleached. Plus they wouldn't clash with my table runners!
OK, I'm done with my little internet decorating treasure hunt. Anyone else want to play?


  1. Okay, how much would I have to pay you to come redecorate my house? And seriously, when is hgtv gonna realize what a smash hit you show would be? Love this post!

  2. "Barren woman with no design education redecorates with principal inspiration of rage." Hmm...may be too long for one of HGTV's titles.

    Hebrews: send pictures. Of your rooms, and also rooms that you want them to look like. And maybe some room dimensions. We shall shop the internet together!