I get a lot of emails from readers asking questions, so I’m starting a new series called “Dear Miss Cote de Texas.” No promises, but if I get some questions that I feel others can benefit from the answer, I will post them. Anonymously, of course.
So, today, our first Reader Question asks:
Thanks to your blog, I've been keeping myself quite happy until now. This most recent blog on Pamela Pierce really got to me. I utterly hate my house now. I have two large love seats. Everything is custom. The fabric is also on the window in the kitchen and it's a print. It's got a reddish color in it and one wall in there is that reddish color. I hate it. I NEVER should have done that. It has to go NOW! I want everything light. What am I going to do? Where do I begin? The walls? The slipcovers? The skirt for the dining room table? I have to find a fabric. I'm not in a great financial position. I'm not working. I retired early because of a disability. I never planned to stop working in my 50's! I also never expected to be looking at beautiful pictures of Southern homes the way I do. Who knew? Let me know what you think. Here's what I think:
All I want to do is fix this house. It is making me miserable. I know you understand but I'm sure you never would have been in this situation because your house is so gorgeous (snort!!!) I used to love my bedroom but now I'm sick of that too. Everything needs to be changed. My bedroom set is beautiful but I'm so tired of it.
If you can, please tell me anything you can that might give me a starting point, like a nice color to paint or what kind of linen would be good for slip covers or how much fabric might I need for two love seats (the basic type) with two cushions on the seat and two cushions on the back and rolled arms, very comfortable by the way. They are perfect for slip covers. I wish you were available as a consulting decorator. That's not possible, is it? How much do you charge? Talk about a dream come true .... I cannot wait to make the change. Thank you, Joni, for enriching my life in the way that you have.
OK, so I didn’t REALLY need to add how much I’ve enriched her life!!! It actually sounds like I have driven her crazy. And poor Pam Pierce – so many people love her work!!! I can totally relate, I’m her biggest fan. This reader’s email is one that I’ve received from quite a few readers, so I thought I might tackle her question first:
What do you do when you have a house full of furniture and fabrics that you no longer like? And especially, what do you do when you don’t have a big budget to work with? The budget here is key. If you are stuck in a houseful of reds and blues and yellows and you want a lighter, more up to date look – AND you have a large budget: hire a decorator! The decorator will steer you in the right direction. He/she will stop you from making costly errors. The decorator will have more sources and more experience in dealing with total makeovers. If you can afford a designer – you should go that route.
If your budget doesn’t allow for a decorator, there are several steps you can take to turn your house from one with dated colors and fabrics to one with a new look that should take you into the next decade.
Pamela Pierce Design, Photography by Peter Vitale
First, study pictures of what you like. As simple as this sounds, and as often as it is repeated, it really is a good exercise. Go on Pinterest and collect images of looks you like, rooms that appeal to you, and colors that move you. Once you have amassed a collection of pictures – look at them together and try to ascertain a pattern. Are the walls all gray or white? Or are the walls painted a bright color or wallpapered? This should get you started on what look you really want for your house.
Pam Pierce Designs
For this particular question, the reader is implying she definitely is interested in a lighter look. She names Pam Pierce, so I’m assuming she likes the “Houston look” – linen slipcovers, seagrass, white walls, and Swedish and French antiques. But how do you move from dark colors, reds and blues, to white - on a budget?
How do you get from this look to this look without breaking the bank:
The first thing I would do if I wanted to change everything, on a budget, is paint. This way – you could live with what you have now, but the new, light walls would set the background for changes to come. Paint over those red walls in the dining room, the dark taupe or brown walls in the family room. Choose a warm gray as opposed to a blue gray, a warm white, or a light celadon or blue. Do what Munger did here – paint the bookshelves a darker color to highlight your books. I love the repetition of color and shapes in these bookshelves. You could get a similar look by going to places like Home Source and Pier I – look for large, white items with interesting, but simple, shapes.
Here a few of my favorite Pratt and Lambert colors:
With new paint, editing, and a sea of white slips with simple curtain panels, this room could be completely updated.
After the walls are painted – remove all accessories that bring out the wrong color. Take away the red plates, books, and lacquered trays that went so well with the older décor. Remove the smallest of the smalls. Today’s look means bigger, yet fewer accessories laying about.
While most high end Houston designers use French olive jars, large and small, their price is out of the reach of many.
Instead, substitute white ironstone in place of the antique olive jars. Ironstone, vintage and antique, is very price friendly. Buy a set of white ironstone plates to hang on the walls instead of paintings. Try EBay for a great price.
Ballard Designs has a collection of these four shapes by Suzanne Kasler. Two or four sets would fill out a double bookcase, when mixed with books.
Once the walls are painted and the small and colorful accessories are removed, take down small and large oil paintings that don’t match the décor you are after. It’s better to have blank walls than paintings that don’t quite seem right. Try your hand at making herbariums, like these shown here, or search for a reasonable Louis Philippe antique mirror. These mirrors are quite reasonable compared to other antique ones – and they look wonderful behind a sofa or atop a console.
Ginger Barber Design
With the backdrop cleaned up and edited, I would next replace the rugs you have with seagrass. If the budget doesn’t allow for custom cut seagrass, buy the largest one that will fit your room on the internet or through a catalogue. Striped rugs are an alternative. Consider layering a zebra or cowhide rug atop the seagrass. Ikea has cowhides for extra cheap. Or try buying a zebra rug on EBay. I did – and it was a great price.
Ginger Barber Design
Once your walls are painted, your accessories and paintings are edited, your seagrass is laid, start thinking about replacing the furniture. Today’s reader says she has two custom love seats that are high quality that she wants to slipcover. The problem with slipcovering is that it is NOT cheap! First, your old fabric has to be removed and then the sofa is reupholstered in muslin, and THEN, the slipcover must be made. You can always buy inexpensive linen to keep down costs, but if I were you – I would sell my sofas, and buy one or two sofas from Ikea in white. You can later always buy a nicer slipcover for the sofa in Belgian linen from Bemz. If your budget is not so limited, then think about remaking your sofas with new cushions and slipcovers. You don’t have to have white slips – you can have linen colored slips made or even light blue or aqua.
My daughter’s first college apartment – with her Ikea sofa. She added the chair and the chaise and the ottoman. All these pieces were around $1,000. Amazing. And they look great. We added dark brown linen pillows from Restoration Hardware and a large sunburst mirror from Wisteria.
Now that you have white or linen colored sofas and chairs – think about your other furniture. Cover a dated console with a slipcover, add several large accessories on top.
or use as a bar, as seen below. I found these pictures on www.Joyus.com.
Dated end tables or coffee tables can be sold and baskets can be used in their place.
Shop at stores like World Market for a rare bargain, like this cute chaise for $449.
Or this coffee table, a copy of a popular design for only $199.00
Martha Stewart has a Swedish line through Home Decorators. These chairs are only $169.00.
This darling chair from Home Decorators – is only $199.00.
Add a light fixture at some point during the redecorating. After discontinuing their great lantern, Pottery Barn just introduced this new, wonderful one – for just $399. The size is nice and big enough for a family room. Beautiful.
Don’t forget about the Kooboo chairs, which are a great way to add texture to a room. I’d rather have a few Kooboo chairs in a room than an outdated chair with bad upholstery. Buy a round table with a skirt from Ballard Designs. This would be much cheaper than replacing it with a new table. The bad news though is World Market and Pottery Barn are no longer selling the Kooboo chairs. Why? So stupid. I know World Market was selling them like crazy. They are still available from wholesale companies and on the internet. If you find a source, let us know. Hopefully World Market will refresh their supplies for the summer??
Consider this settee, only $449 from World Market, instead of chairs around a dining table. Or this would be great as accent seating in the family room or entry hall.
Ballard skirted tables come in all sizes and there are a myriad of fabrics, including ikats and burlaps. This is a great alternative for the dining room, especially if your table is dated.
Consider painting Grandma’s dining room furniture. I painted this reddish brown suite of furniture for a client and it came out beautifully. It’s worth painting rather than replacing especially if your furniture is well made. Shop around – some tradesman will repaint furniture for next to nothing.
Finally, these steps, taken one by one, as budget permits, should bring your room up to date, and within budget. I think if you make the changes in the order I listed, the changes will be subtle, yet effective. By the time you get the slips on your sofa, you should be well on your way. Hope this helps answer your question!!
If you have a question for Cote de Texas, consider asking it. If I can answer it – you might see your answer here.
Posted by Joni Webb