March 4, 2011

Ideas for temporary decor

Working on my office makeover got me thinking about ways to decorate a temporary space or one in which you have a lot of limitations (rentals, offices, etc.).   Here are a few ideas for transforming temporary spaces on a budget:

1. Improve your functionality.  What do you need?  More storage space?  More organization?  Better lighting?  More spots to seat people?  As you plan, be sure to incorporate ways to address these problems.  In my case, I had a lot of built-in functionality but did need to work on making the space more organized (so I added some inboxes, magazine organizers, labels, and a large calendar).  The room was also only lit with fluorescent light, so I added some lamps to warm it up a bit.

{Desk in my revamped office: I added a lamp for better reading conditions, hung a large calendar within easy reach, tucked a box on top of the filing cabinet for extra storage, and bought an inexpensive organizer set to store post-its, pens, and paper clips}

2. Try to go big.  If possible, incorporating a big element in the room goes a long way towards making your space feel like it wasn't furnished out of a suitcase.  Buy a cheap palm or other potted plant and drop it in a basket or more decorative pot.  You can get large (4- to 6-foot) plants for very good prices ($10-20 depending on where you shop).  Use big artwork (see #3).

{This is a gigantic map for $150, and it's already ready to hang -- no framing required}

3. Cover things up.  If you don't like the table that you got stuck with in a furnished space, cover it with a tablecloth or table skirt.

{In my office I had a lot of empty shelves, so I took some down, moved the rest higher to make the room feel bigger, and covered the lowest shelf with a table skirt.  Another benefit: I can store my recycling bin under the skirt to keep it out of the way.}

If you have bad windows, add some colorful curtains.

{I love the bright blue leaves on this set of curtains}

If you have a huge blank wall or a weird window that overlooks a boring view, hang something up to fill in the space.  IKEA is a good source for large pieces of artwork that are relatively inexpensive for their size.

{This New York City map poster is a little over 3 feet tall}

{This set of framed Picasso Prints is ready to hang}

Even using a cheap poster (available pretty much everywhere) can be a good option; if you mount it on a piece of foamboard, that little bit of added dimension will make it look nicer.

{These botanical prints from would look nice mounted on pieces of black foamboard to make a "frame" of sorts.  They definitely don't scream "college dorm room!!"}

In my office, I added a couple pieces of art that I already had, which brought in some color and helped cover the big vanilla walls.  I also made a set of framed book covers to bring in some more pattern and color.  This was really inexpensive: I bought 8x10 frames at Walmart, then downloaded some vintage book covers from Vintage Printable.  I scanned a few books that I owned and added them to the mix, then took the images to a local printer and had them printed there.  I think they charged something like 30 cents per print, which was a great price for the much higher quality print job.  Then I just trimmed the images to fit inside the mats and hung them in a grid.  To eliminate making a lot of nail holes in your temporary space, use 3M Command products.

{Grid of book covers in my office -- the whole project cost me less than $30}

4. Be bold.  If a space is temporary, it might be a good place to do something that you might not want to invest a lot of money in or that seems to be a bit out of your comfort zone.  For example, this bulletin board in my office uses a red/pink floral fabric that is a bit bold for me.  I really hesitated about buying it, but ultimately decided that it would be a fun way to try using something a little bit different from what I have in my own home.  And I actually really like it!

{Another simple project: paint the frame of a large bulletin board, glue or staple fabric onto the corkboard part, cover the edge of the fabric with strips of ribbon}

A temporary space is a good place to use a brighter color or bolder design than what you might select for a more permanent space.  Throw a patterned textile over your old sofa and add some bright pillows from Target or Homegoods / TJ Maxx.


{Urban Outfitters is a good source of inexpensive tapestries that can be hung on the wall, used as a light bed cover, or tucked into a sofa as an informal slipcover}

Do you have any other ideas for decorating and furnishing temporary spaces?  Please share in the comment section below!

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