A big part of my starting over at mid-life adventure has been remodeling my new (old) house. In fact, it’s become a metaphor for my life; doing one small thing at a time, one step at a time – until I’ve created something new, something beautiful. What’s challenging though, is doing it all on a serious budget. I don’t mean the kind of budget that’s thrown around on home renovation shows on T.V.
I like to watch home improvement shows to get inspiration. My favorite networks are Home and Garden Television (HGTV) and the Do It Yourself (DIY) channel. But there’s something that really annoys me. It’s that word: budget. I realize that everyone has a different idea of what decorating or remodeling on a budget means. Afterall, we each have differing levels of financial resources within our reach.
But when I hear someone say they only have $100,000 for a room remodel, I think, What? I could remodel my whole house for that! Heck, I’d probably have money left over to vacation in Tahiti! I guess I’m frugal at heart, but it just seems like a huge waste of money to me. If I had that much money, I’d have such a boring life. Where’s the challenge in a $100,000 remodel? Remodeling on a budget is way more fun!
So, as my sights turned to my bedroom, I knew it would be a challenge to do get the look and feel I wanted without spending beyond my means.
When I moved into my house, I decided to live in it for a while before making changes. I wanted to see what really bugged me, and what spoke to me. I suppose it’s not surprising that my bedroom is one of the areas I just had to change. It’s a fairly small room. It was painted a dark color that was a cross between dark pink and musty orange. It was different. Not terrible but not great.
Slowly I began to realize that grease-looking stains were beginning to show through and well…it just felt dirty to me. That was it. It moved to the top of the list.
Painting a room has a big impact for even the smallest of budgets.
First, I had to choose a paint color. I haven’t painted a room in years. And back in the day, I chose my paint color by going down to the store, looking at paint cans, and choosing one. Usually, it was white or off-white. But in my new house, and my new life, I’m bringing color in. I’m fighting against my neutral palette brain that is oh-so-safe. I really had no idea how many shades of white there are now. I decided on a few things.;
1. I would use a semi-gloss.
2. I wanted something light.
3. I wanted a tinge of color.
4. I wanted the overall look of my room to be light and airy.
So, off to the paint store I went. After picking out several options, I went home and put the card swatch on the wall with tape. When I’d chosen paint for the outside of my house a few months earlier, I’d paid an interior designer to help me. Best $100 I ever spent! One thing I learned from her is to put two or three colors up at a time and take down the one you hate.
I did this and eventually, over the course of a couple of weeks, I got it down to three colors. Then I utelized a step I’d never done before; I bought a small can of the mixed paint and put it on the wall. My budget-brain always skips this step. Afterall, it’s an extra expense. But in the long-run, it can help you avoid making a costly mistake too.
When I painted the three sample colors on the wall, much to my surprise, they all had a bit of purple in them. I hadn’t consciously chosen lavendar, but none-the-less, that’s what I was drawn to. Instead of questioning myself and going back to neutral, I let myself stick with what I had been drawn to.
I left the colors on the walls for a few days. I looked at them in different light, at different times of day, with the shades drawn and with them wide open. And finally, I made my choice.
I painted the room myself. In fact, I didn’t even want help. This felt empowering to me. It took parts of two days to finish. And when I was done, I stood back, amazed that the room looked so much lighter now. Without the dark color to weigh it down, the walls just seemed to open up and draw the outside in.
With the foundation of the room set, I went about looking for furnishings. I’d bought a bed already. I picked up a refinished and painted dresser at a vintage store. The curtains were ones my sister gave me several years ago. I shopped at places like Big Lots and T.J. Maxx – getting a mirror, shelf, and candles. I brought a bedside table in from the living room, and a secondhand basket I’d used for blankets in the past, was repurposed to keep all my books and magazines from cluttering up the side table.
Since it is a small room, having a traditional headboard was out of the question. So, I looked on Pinterest and found a solution. I ordered tins that are traditionally made for ceilings, and made a headboard out of them by simply using double-sided tape to tape them to the wall, then added a curtain-effect curtain on the wall to finish it off.
And then there was the window seat. Most of my rooms have them, but it’s unlikely I’d ever use it as a seat. Plus, I also wanted something to break up the view from outside, instead of being able to look directly in. What did I have a lot of? Why, books of course. Keeping with the colors of the comforter I’d gotten on sale at Macy’s, I went around the house and gathered books with those colors in them. It was fun, and amazing that I could do something with the books other than just file them on a shelf. I loved the look, and topped it off with a vase of real-looking flowers. My bedroom is a work-in-progress. But I’m quite happy with how it is turning out. I stayed within a very small budget.
Decorating on a budget can be a challenge. But that’s also what makes it fun.
I’ve taken several of those home design tests, like the Better Homes and Gardens, What’s Your Decorating Personality test. My style always comes up a mix of cottage style and eclectic. And to me, that’s what makes a home. The things in our homes are gathered over time. Some are carefully placed; a painting on a wall. Others without thought; seashells in a bowl. Some things match and others don’t.
Every piece tells a story, and that’s exactly what creating a home is all about.
My bedroom re-design is done. Well, it’s mostly done anyway. I’m sure I’ll change and tweak things as I go along. What I’m most proud of is that I put it all together myself. I created something from nothing. Just like my mid-life restart. One small thing at a time, becomes two small things and three and four. Eventually, it all adds up to something beautiful and uniquely me.
When I glance at my bedroom during the day, I smile. When I lay down to read a book, or to rest, it has the feel I’d hoped for. It feels cozy, feminine and soft. And when I open my eyes in the morning, I’m reminded that yes, I can do this. I can create the life I want – whether it’s my house, my writing, or my personal life. I can do anything. So can you!
Starting Over at Mid-life
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Karen Alaniz is a writer, published author and a home renovation expert now that she’s remodeled an old farmhouse on her own. She strives to help women who are scared it may be too late to start over after a certain age and she encourages empty-nest women to invent a new, prosperous and full life–just like she has done.