How to give old furniture a new look

Alegre grew up in a multicultural household with parents who represented a mix of different cultures. They were always combining different flavors and styles in everything they did – in food, in traditions, and in the way they decorated the home.

“In our house, it was totally normal for us to have tacos and chow mein in the exact same meal,” she said.

Alegre’s father had a lot of big, solid Mexican furniture pieces that would last forever and that he refused to get rid of. There was one couch in particular that spanned the length of two entire walls, and over the course of 20 years, Alegre saw it go through at least five different fabrics.

“My mom’s famous saying was, ‘If it still works, why replace it?'” she said. “The funniest thing is, it’s been decades, and now I have that same couch in my home. It’s as old as I am!”

Like the couch, other pieces of furniture made their way into Alegre’s decor when her parents downsized into a smaller home. She was in her own space, and since she was a designer, she wanted it to reflect her style, not necessarily that of her parents. She didn’t want to waste perfectly good furniture, so she had to find a way to look at old things with new eyes.

“My challenge was to take old furniture that I was familiar with and make it fit into my new setting, to make it exciting and make it my own,” she said. “For example, I’d put a chair against a brightly painted wall, or put a piece of vintage fabric over an old table. Even though I had an apartment full of my parents’ old stuff, I had designed it to really reflect me.”

The appreciation Alegre learned to have for her parents’ old things started to shift her consciousness about design in its entirety. She started thinking about how she could curb consumption while creating inspiring spaces and ultimately packaged all of her ideas in an eco-friendly boutique and design studio, Green and Greener. Alegre hopes to share her philosophy and help shift our concept of Green design.

For 6 tips to make your place more of your own without relying on all things untouched, take a look at this article Alegre did for Apartment Therapy.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Eco Bites
Bite-sized, affordable and convenient ways to make small changes to affect big change.

Simple Green
At Green Living Tips, you can learn easy lifestyle changes that reduce your impact on the environment.

Do it Thrifty
A journalist/suburban mom dishes on cheap and easy ways to brighten up that place you call home.

Crafty—But Clean
At Family Fun, you can find tons of family craft projects that double as storage and organizing pieces, like a pocket wall organizer made from plain curtains!

Just Do It Yourself
Earth-friendly and wallet-conscious, ReadyMade helps you claim your corner of the world and decorate it just the way you want it.

Making your own design rules

When she was seven years old, Andrea visited an uncle in Washington, D.C, and was overcome with interior design and architecture.

Granted, at the time, she didn’t know what either of those things were, but she was captivated by them all the same.

“There was a staircase I remember that had really long treads and a really shallow rise,” she remembers. “As I walked up through it, I felt it change the whole rhythm of how I walked, and I felt myself gliding up through the space that was moving all around me.

“The idea that you could change how people walk, their rhythm, movement and perception just gripped me. It was so clear.”

After that experience, she felt compelled to start working with her hands. Her mother taught her how to sew and her father showed her how to use tools. She appreciated the craftsmanship that went into making everything from clothing to the most elegant building in the world.

While pursuing her master’s in architecture at UCLA, one of her professors challenged her to expand her architectural notions into interior spaces. To  Andrea, that was an invitation to break all the rules.

“One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you can be irreverent, and it can have really successful results,” she says. “Nowadays, I encourage my clients to do their own thing in terms of design, even if it’s weird. It can be a challenge to truly express yourself without going overboard, but that’s where I come in. I help people figure out their personal style and what elements are important to them. I show them how to restrain themselves but give them a little outlet for expression.”

Andrea’s irreverence has inspired her clients to be true to themselves and create an enviroment that speaks to them. It also landed her a spot on Bravo TV’s inaugural season of Top Design, an interior design reality competition.

Just goes to show that breaking the rules will take you places way better than jail. To add an artful edge to your quarters, check out Etsy, an online shop featuring handmade crafts from people all over the world. Talk about a personal touch.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Andrea’s Magic Touch
Feeling inspired, but don’t know where to start? Contact Andrea’s design firm to help you tap into to your design personality.

Oh, So Cute
An eclectic collection of modern daily finds for your home or office, including kitchenware, home accents and the most interesting stationary around.

Just Do It Yourself
Earth-friendly and wallet-conscious, ReadyMade helps you claim your corner of the world and decorate it just the way you want it.

The Gift Closet
Looking for crafty gift ideas? The Gift Closet is a great place to find ideas for clever gifts you can make.

Easy ideas for adding value to your home

When she was seven years old, Eden decided she wanted to have a four-poster bed. She went into the ravine behind her parents’ house, dragged some huge branches home, and duct-taped them to her bed.

Over the years she’s tackled many more complex projects, but she credits that one experience with showing her that she could do things for herself.

“It’s always worth a try,” she said. “You never know what you’ll end up with, and it means a lot more than just buying it.”

Eden’s foray into home improvement started with painting. Surprised at how much easier it was than she expected, she went on to installing new door handles in her home. Next she dabbled in electricity by adding dimmer switches.

“With every project, I grew more and more confident,” she said. “Sure, there were some scary moments, but the more I learned, the easier things got.”

One of Eden’s biggest motivations for DIY home improvement is the financial savings that come with some sweat equity. She appreciates the finer things, but she also knows the value of a dollar. By doing things from scratch or reinventing things on her own, she’s able to get what she wants and save some money.

Eden said and Craigslist are two of her favorite online spots for scouting good deals.

“I found a great old lamp on eBay for $20, but it didn’t have a lampshade,” she said. “I bought a new, modern-style lampshade and the final product was a great mix of antique and modern.”

In addition to saving money, Eden also uses DIY home improvement to add value to her home. Her advice: concentrate your efforts on projects that stay with the place even after you leave.

“Look at the bathroom, the kitchen and the closets, because what you do in there is going to stay and it’s going to get you some extra money when you go,” said Eden.

For more DIY instruction that’ll help you afford the luxury you long for, take a look at BeJane, a community where eager do-it-herselfers connect, share advice and empower one another to tackle home improvement projects—no husbands necessary.

Tough–and Girlie
Power tools for ladies? It’s true! At Tomboy Tools, you can find a full array of power tools and home remodeling tips designed with women in mind.

A Few Simple Steps
The world’s biggest DIY guidebook, Instructables has digestible directions on everything from hanging curtains to building a pizza oven.

Just Do It Yourself
Earth-friendly and wallet-conscious, ReadyMade helps you claim your corner of the world and decorate it just the way you want it.