Monday, February 7, 2011

Decorate Your Place On The Cheap

Moving Day is Your Friend - when graduating students move out into the real world, one of the first things they do is dump their furniture. Usually it ends up out on the curb, and in most places, if it's on the curb, it's fair game. The end of the semester is time to grab your friend with the pickup truck and go furniture shopping. Make sure you get out early so you can catch the best pieces before the other scavengers get to them. And you want to get them before they get rained on.

Paint Covers a Multitude of Sins - OK, so you've got that sturdy monster of a desk back to your apartment and up three flights of stairs. Get out the sandpaper and paint. Shallow scratches in wood can be sanded out with a little elbow grease (or leave them in for a little character, you're gonna dump this when you graduate so it doesn't have to look professionally restored.) Now paint it. Stencil it for a little cool factor. Study space. This works for most of your large wooden bulky type furniture, like chests of drawers, coffee tables, barstools, etc.

For couches and easychairs - be careful with these. You may not smell the stale beer reek till you've got it back in your apartment. Anything with upholstery should be checked very carefully before you scavenge it. But, should you get lucky enough to find a serviceable piece. If the fabric looks a little iffy, that can be covered by making a trip to Wal-Mart and checking out the $1 a yard fabric section. No sewing necessary, just tuck it in real good.

Lamps are easy to make or rewire, just make sure you read up on how so you don't electrocute yourself.

There is nothing shameful about shopping at Goodwill. Say it with me - there is nothing shameful about shopping at Goodwill. Besides, your money is going to a good cause. There is usually a selection of interesting and very cheap furniture there, and it will be in better shape than the stuff on the curb. You can get dishes and kitchen appliances here, too. Just make sure you scrub them good before you use them.

You may also want to watch for surplus sales. If your university just bought a bunch of new stuff for the dorms, they will be getting rid of the old stuff.

Milk crates are good. They can be stacked for shelves. Use four of them under a piece of plywood for a coffee table. They are just the right size for records if you are into retro non-digital music storage. Put one by the door for muddy shoes and umbrellas.

Use your imagination. College is supposed to be fun as well as educational, and no one will expect you to furnish from an Ikea catalog. Second hand furniture is a great chance to experiment and create your own style. If it's free, or nearly free, you don't have to worry about ruining it, or outgrowing the funky design you painted on it... in four years it will be someone else's found treasure.

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