Redecorating on a Budget
Grace Shu
Mar 27, 2009

When we first started this makeover project, Kelley and I decided that we needed a budget to work with to even see if it was worth our while. After doing some research, we discovered that renting an apartment in London runs from around $600 up to $2000 (!!!) a week, and we're planning on staying for at least two weeks. With that in mind and factoring in what Kelley could afford, the max amount we decided to spend for the makeover was $550, excluding what Kelley had bought months before like the credenza and the chairs. Did we meet the budget? Tally up the expenses with us after the jump...

We started earnestly planning a few days before I arrived to San Francisco over iChat and email. Since our budget was so limited, we created a wishlist of things that we both felt the apartment needed and then ranked them in order of importance (i.e., "New Sitting Area - Curtains, New Rug to Replace Mangy One, Floor Lamp.")

From that list, we started to take a closer look at what was already in the apartment. A lot of our conversations went something like this:
Me: "What do you think of the rug?"
Kelley: "Well, I kind of hate it. I got it for cheap, and I'm tired of the beige. Everything in that area looks so blah and beige."
"OK, well, then maybe we should get a new one."
"But it's got to be affordable, right? Like $100-$150?"
"Hmm, let's look online."

To say that we did all the planning online is a bit of an understatement: We practically pre-shopped online--and exclusively at Ikea. However, all this planning really did help. Remember when Jenny mused about angry Ikea shoppers? It goes without saying that Ikea is best avoided on the weekends for that very reason; but sometimes, it can't be helped. Thanks to our diligent planning sessions, Kelley and I managed to keep the Saturday Ikea rush chaos to a minimum because we stuck vigilantly to our meticulous lists.

Here's the breakdown of costs by different areas:

The Bay Window Sitting Area

Since Kelley is a self-proclaimed black thumb ("Seriously, my apartment is like heaven's gate for plants!"), Fiona and I figured her vintage bookend of two birds perched on a branch would be a safe centerpiece for her coffee table. That way, it would spare at least one more plant from meeting its doom...

• Ofelia Curtain Set (2 x $49.99): $99.98
• Alvine Triangel Rug: $129.00
• Felicia Throw Pillow Cover (2 x $7.99): $15.98
• Barometer Floor Lamp, Nickel: $49.99
• Granat Cushions (2 x $3.99): $7.98
• Groggy Coaster Set: $5.99
• Vagen Curtain Rod Set (3 x $6.99): $20.97

Total: $329.89

* * * * *

The Radiator Corner

The floating Lack shelf above the radiator currently holds a diffuser, two Ikea vases, and another prized critter from Kelley's taxidermy collection: Mouse Nibbling on Mushroom on Moss diorama.

• Lack Shelf: $19.99
• Salong Vase (12"): $9.99
• Salong Vase (17"): $14.99
• Rustoleum High Heat Spraypaint (2 x $4.99): $9.98
• Dust Masks: $7.00

Total: $61.95

Kelley's apartment building was built in the late 20s, and a few wonderful details have remained intact; particularly this built in wall shelf with the telephone still mounted to the wall (doesn't work, sigh) and the ornate "peephole" with its beautiful little door.

Credenza / Reading Nook

• Cabinet Pulls, 7: $15.00
• Vivan Curtain Set: $9.99
• Vagen Curtain Rod Set: $6.99

Total: $31.98

* * * * *

The Kitchen

Kelley's kitchen didn't really need any work at all, except for about four layers of paint covering the vintage glass cabinet knobs. Before I arrived, Kelley had taken it upon herself to do some "prep work": scraping and cleaning the paint off the windows, removing the paint from the knobs in the kitchen and bathroom, and cleaning the bathroom hinges (more on that later). Also, Kelley used to compete professionally in horseback riding, which explains her obsession with all things equestrian...like that awesome gold horse on her fridge.

Interesting factoid about Kelley: She's allergic to wine and beer, which explains why she didn't have a single wine glass. So, when we were making our kitchen list, Kelley thoughtfully pointed out that a potential guest might like to enjoy a glass of wine, especially since a visit to Napa Valley is practically mandatory. (We also picked the kitchen mat solely on the fact that it would match the linoleum color and the design is similar to the black and white rug in the living area).

• Hessum Floor Mat: $9.99
• White Dinnerware Set (to replace the mismatched oddball dinner service): $29.99
• Svalka wine glasses: $4.99
• Svalka champagne flutes: $4.99
• Stockholm Figur Curtain Set: $29.99
• Vagen Curtain Rods (2 x $6.99): $13.98

Total: $93.93

* * * * *

The Bathroom

We had plans for the bathroom...oh yes. Lots of plans, like fashioning a sink skirt with leftover curtain fabric to hide the exposed pipes; replacing the hinges on the cabinets, sanding down the paint blobs inside the cabinet face so it would shut properly. But the fact is that we simply ran out of time and money. So what we opted to do instead is just fix up what's already there.

Like the kitchen cabinets, the antique hinges and glass cabinet knobs were covered in layers upon layers of paint. Kelley managed to pry off three of the four hinges to clean them properly, but the fourth one (last on the bottom) had rusted in and wouldn't come loose. So, she did the best she could to clean them all, and it actually turned out pretty well despite all the cursing and doubt ("Aarrrgghh! Why did I even think this was a good idea to do this? Damn these hinges! Damn them!").

* * * * *

So what was our grand total? After tabulating and tacking on the sales tax, we came in at $560.46...about $10 over budget, which isn't too terrible...We'll make up for it by cooking dinner one night in our swapped flat in London instead of going out for a curry.

All in all, this experience has been really challenging, but also a lot of fun as well. When we finally finished Kelley's apartment, the first thing she said to me was, "Great! Now what about Evan's loft?" (Actually, that was the second thing she said to me. The first thing she said was, "I think we need a drink now. Tequila?"). There's a lot of things I've learned from this project, such as "Just because it's Ikea doesn't mean it's all crap--choose wisely" and "Do your homework and plan it out" and "Wow, so this is what an owl would feel like." For those of you who are feeling discouraged or unmotivated with the decor and arrangement of your home, I hope this series of posts inspires you to get started.

A big THANK YOU to Kelley for this week-long visit into her home!

Missed the older posts? Catch up here:
Redecorating on a Budget, Part I: Rearranging the Space
Redecorating on a Budget, Part II: The Credenza DIY Project
Redecorating on a Budget, Part III: Repainting the Radiator
Redecorating on a Budget, Part IV: Making a House a Home

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