Friday, January 26, 2007

Temporary Thing

My friend Cristina (yay, a reader!) lives in a basement in Michigan. No really. She's getting a PhD there, and lives in someone's basement. She has a red couch. You may not understand why this matters, but when you're 25 (Cristina, you're almost there, don't split hairs and point out that you have, like, two weeks), you put special value on bigger pieces of furniture. Because they show that you're really a grown-up (grown-ups have furniture, you see). Because you ate Ramen for two months to buy them.

Cristina said I should write about one-room, temporary living (those of you with huge, gorgeous studios don't count). So, by request, the "Decorating When You're Just Going To Have To Move Anyway" post:

First of all, get settled. Don't let the knowledge that you're going to have to move eventually get to you. If you do this, you will never unpack your boxes or buy nice sheets or put anything on the wall. You will never feel comfortable, and so you will go hang out at the coffee house and spend money we all know you shouldn't be spending. At least on coffee, anyway (on Thomas Paul plates, okay). The fact is that if you're going to be somewhere for more than a few weeks, you should give the place some style. It's your home, however temporarily.

Can you paint? If you can, do. Ignore my previous post about accent walls. One of the best ways to make a room feel more like a Capital R Room is to paint. If you can't paint, get creative. But large sheets of canvas and paint them. Or get blik wall decals.

Use mirrors. Mirrors reflect both light and physical space, which make the room appear larger. I like the frameless mirror styles that have been popular the last couple years. The beveled edge simply looks cool, but it also provides a different angle for reflected light. Pottery Barn's Eleanor set is nice. I have a few like them in my room, though I found mine for a lot less at Target.

If your landlord won't let you nail stuff up, and the thing you want to hang isn't too heavy, get mounting tape from a hardware store (or in the Home Improvement section of my beloved Target). Of course, some mounting tapes strip paint from walls, which won't make you Tenant of the Year. If it's not heavy at all, I use the removable stuff meant for 3M hooks without the hooks. I hung some small mirrors about a month ago, and they haven't come a'crashin' down yet.

Another good single-room-living technique is to create separate spaces. Don't feel that all furniture has to be against a wall. Set aside a place to read, hang out with friends, work, and sleep. My senior year of college, I put up a wall-mounted, collapsible table. It gave me a place to work, but didn't take up any room when it was down. Use room dividers, like Tord Boontje's Until Dawn curtain thingy. I seem to remember Ikea having a system for ceiling-mounted glide rails. Or something.

Of course, you can pull the ultimate I'm-renting-someone's-basement-move: Put some curtains on the wall. Pretend you have windows. If you choose the right fabric (fabric that doesn't look dumb closed), and put them in places where there certainly could be windows, I think you could avoid appearing ridiculous. Place the rods high on the wall, which makes quite the statement and also seems to add height to the room itself.

Buy stretched canvas at Michael's. You can paint it and decoupage a postcard you liked, or paint it, let that dry, put lace over the canvas, spray paint in a contrasting color, and peel off the lace.

Avoid posters (this is personal bias, I admit).

When I was living in one room, I got rid of the bed. Now, I think futons are a little too this-was-passed-down-to-me-from-my-college-
RA-when-he-moved-to-a-kibbutz, but if you can find a decent couch bed, go for it (craigslist, of course). If you only have one room to furnish, I think it's better to go living room than bedroom.

The key to the nomad lifestyle is to make things look permanent, even if you know they're being held up with mounting tape. You don't have to spend a ton of money. I always look at Domino Magazine and Pottery Barn and a million other design blogs and catalogs and magazines, find things I like, and recreate the look from stuff I find at Target or make myself. My beloved gold armchair I got from craigslist for $35. My rug is from Tuesday Morning. I get my just-like-PB hurricanes from Michaels. My kitchen is decorated with old pictures of my family. The most important thing, I'd say, is to always have an idea of the next thing you want to add, and keep your eyes open.

But what if you don't plan on staying in, say, a basement in Michigan forever? What are you going to do with all that STUFF when you move?? I say, don't cross that bridge until you come to it. You should enjoy your place. Go ahead and accumulate furniture, art, and knick knacks. Rent a truck when you move. You're talking to the girl who has schlepped her belongings to and from Ireland in order to live in a space she loved. You will rarely suffer buyer's regret when it comes to the things you really like. But I can't tell you how much you're going to wish you had bought that candlestick or picture or...whatever.


CriCri said...

as always you have proven to be teh source of all wisdom. So i'm moving (haaaa how ironic) in like 4 months and i feel liek in whatever new room i have i'm planning on staying for like 4 years (cross fingers) so my goal for next year, or resolution if you will, is to get a decorating theme. I have some cool frames already with pics of my parents in the 70's and my dad in speedos. my mom also has all these wierd mexican coconut painted heads (like 10) and i really wanted to make one wall with a reboso (english word?) on the back and then hang the coconut head on it, almost like a panel of art. what do you think? i will obviously also have my wall oh religious paraphenalia. ok so it's settled, next year when i move i will def look back at this post. also fyi, i DO in fact have a window

Casey said...

Ha, your taste is a little less....subdued than mine. Okay, here's my thought on the coconut heads. If you're going to use them, put them in either a row (not staggered) of shadow boxes (suspended in the middle of each, if possible), or in one long box. The point is, if you're going to go wacky, balance it with the traditional. Make it look like art, not just something you decided to buy while waiting for SeƱor Frog's to open.

I like religious paraphernalia. To me, the key to that stuff is to not do it half-assed. If you're going to do a wall of crosses, then DO a wall of crosses. I realize this goes something against the coconut head advice, but I think one can easily distinguish the difference between coconut monkeys and El Corazon Sagrado.