Creative Resourcefulness At Home

by Lauren Chorpening

One of the things I value most about Design*Sponge is the focus on real people and their homes. It’s easy to see a beautiful picture of a house and make assumptions about the family’s budget, values, luck, etc. but sharing the personal stories and journey make room for creative inspiration. It changes the elements of a house from aspirational to approachable. Design*Sponge taught me early on that a home and budget are what we make them and that waiting to win the lottery before we can love our homes’ interiors isn’t the only way.

Something to love about this age of blogs, YouTube tutorials, and library books delivered to any device is that there’s always information to find to support the resourceful creative. If the desire is there to reupholster a couch found on the side of the road with discounted upholstery fabric, a rented staple gun, a sewing machine and a 20 year old instructional book, it can be done (first hand experience right here). It’s true that most everything will cost something but money isn’t the only thing to spend. The final product can be beautiful, impressive and cost effective at the same time. That nagging voice on Instagram and design blogs to have the newest, best, prettiest pieces can be quieted when our values shift from getting the lifestyle we’d like to making the lifestyle we’d like. Being resourceful isn’t always glamorous, but it does create independence from the need of approval and staying on-trend.

Images Above: (Top) Mallory and David’s home is no stranger to refinished Craigslist finds. The living room sectional frame is a Danish Modern piece that they found secondhand and had cushions made to fit them. (Bottom) It was tricky for Jane to find floor tiles for her new dining room extension that matched the original kitchen tiles. After searching all around the UK, she found the matching reclaimed tiles. They were covered in concrete so the process was tedious but worth it to see the cohesive, original flooring in place.

A few months ago my husband, Austin, and I were talking about our round coffee table. It was a Craigslist find and it had been in decent condition. After 2 years of owning it, Austin was interested in trying to coat the top with concrete. After some research, supplies and an open evening, we got to work. The next morning it was evident this was not going to be a long-lasting application. The sides of the concrete were already cracking. We chipped it off and started back at square one, this time with the coffee table looking a little traumatized from the project. This last week I mentioned to him that it was maybe time to invest in a new coffee table. We had tried and failed–time to move on. Austin’s mind went into problem-solving mode. The base of our coffee table is solid wood, modern and very pretty. We made a trip to the Habitat for Humanity Restore and found a 2- x 3-foot piece of stone countertop finished on all sides. Austin cut the top of our coffee table off with a hack saw, added adhesive pads and set the new surface on top of the base. The concrete was messy, somewhat pricey and just didn’t work the way we expected. This second idea was almost mess-free other than some sawdust, easy and took about 5 minutes total. It makes our living room look cleaner, more welcoming and more pulled together. I was so grateful for that first “mistake” and the five minutes it took to come up with an even better solution that cost a fraction of the price of a new stone top  coffee table.

Creative resourcefulness is a skill worth cultivating for any budget, design style and lifestyle. It doesn’t have to look like DIYing or thrifting everything. It can mean rearranging the layout is the way to go or that a side hustle’s profits are saved for those pricey pieces. Even editing things out can make an incredible impact on the existing furniture and arrangement in a home. Home is what we make it. Instead of waiting for it to come together, we can work towards the potential we see in small ways and big ways. –Lauren

Image Above: Vicki and Travis Taylor found this amazing marble tabletop on Craigslist. They enlisted Vicki’s brother to create a modern coffee table base for this piece.

Here are a few things to remember when staying savvy and resourceful at home:

  1. Done is Better than Perfect: Finding inspiration online is good and bad. It’s good because it encourages us to expand our view on what our home could be, but it can be bad if we become discontent until our home meets our new standard of perfection. Whether cleaning or decorating, focus on the next thing that will make the biggest impact visually. If that’s the only thing that gets done, it’s still a big improvement and gives a sense of fulfillment.
  2. Your Point of View is Yours: Interior Design can feel like a giant contest of who stays in front of trends better than others. If people are moving away from a style that you’re still loving, own it. Stop feeling the need to justify choices and designs that work in your home.
  3. Embrace the Creative Practice and Process: Working on something, anything, can spark ideas for other creative pursuits. When we use our brains in a way out of the ordinary, it expands our thinking in other areas. Who knows what problems you’ll solve by working on something completely unrelated.

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  • What a well written piece. I am so encouraged to push through the fog of the latest trend on instagram and get my hands dirty searching or DIY-ing something new (to us). Love designsponge for the variety of pieces you guys give us! Thank you!

  • Many of the things in my home that make me the happiest are the things I made from scratch or found second-hand and ‘monkeyed’ with to make it just right. A $5 1940’s chrome chair reupholstered with a pair of thrift store black denim jeans and accessorized with a pillow made from a cotton bag from the Bauhaus Museum in Berlin. That’s me.

    This article was perfect timing — Just seconds before I opened up D*S* this morning, I was thinking “does looking at these interior design websites inspire me or make my home feel inadequate?” My answer was “inspire.” Many of the homes featured are way beyond my means, but on the other hand, many of those aren’t my style anyway. So I glance through them to see what piques my interest, always with the thought of how I could make it myself, make it mine. And, even though I’ve always been fairly creative when it comes to designing things for myself, I’ve found many great ideas from these design websites I may not have come up with on my own.

  • I love this piece !

    I find that I needed design blogs to find my own voice. I learned by emulating, but I couldn’t create out of nothing; I’d rather look online for rooms, houses, things I liked and tried to copy them (not literally, that’s when my personality started to express itself). To some extend, I still work like that, but with the years has come more confidence in what I like and don’t like. I dropped most of the blogs I was following because they felt generic and lacked personality (still following this one with great pleasure !!).

    I believe there’s a middle ground between “buying everything new, even when you can fix what you have” and “DIY everything but the kitchen sink”. Some things are worth DIY-ing, hidden gems that require love and care, or 5-minutes fixes like you described. On the other hand, sometimes, it’s just not worth it. Also, I have a very personal definition of “homemade”: “made in a home, but not mine”. I’d much rather pay a gifted, trained, talented person to build/make/sew/draw/etc something for me than fumble through some failed DIY or buy generic crap that’s not even worth the 2$ I put in it. The pieces I bought through Etsy and similar places are quality, and require no resourcefulness from me as they last and last and last ! Being lazy, I like that.

    • I appreciate this sentiment about focusing on things that are handmade, even if not handmade by you! It’s true that going out and buying everything new doesn’t work for all people/for all things. But the “can-do DIY attitude!” isn’t for everyone either, and that’s okay.

  • That’s the one thing that I admire about people who design their homes for themselves and not someone else. Live in the luxury of your own taste and design and build your own creations. That’s what makes a home a home. Everyone’s taste is different and that is what makes custom pieces unique.

  • Oh gosh, just absolutely LOVE this.

    THIS x100! “Design*Sponge taught me early on that a home and budget are what we make them and that waiting to win the lottery before we can love our homes’ interiors isn’t the only way”

    I always love how Design Sponge feels so very approachable and real world. Not a glossy magazine with endless budget – but an example of how real people with style and creativity create homes with purpose. Bravo to you design sponge! I’ve been following along since 2008 during my days at SCAD and you are always one of my favorites. You have grown with the times and remained true to your vision – not an easy task.

    This house is gorgeous!

  • I’m an industrious thrifter by nature, so I just love this concept of creative resourcefulness. May it inspire all to continue cultivating a beautiful and intentional home and create from the heart. 💖

  • Thank you for this. After being bombarded with online perfection every day, a gentle, encouraging nudge back to reality is much appreciated.

  • I’m in the process of a huge renovation – yes the Ivy was growing INSIDE the house. When you have to choose/source everything from scratch it can feel exciting to overwhelming in equal measure. I’ve found that the internet has become both friend and foe. I can be inspired and excited by the extraordinary wealth of ideas that we have access to now. It has also made me feel anxious. Decision making becomes challenging. This week I found myself longing for the days when you just when to a shop and bought a light fitting because in reality it was actually quicker. I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent on line. So I have resolved to dive in, make decisions and keep things in perspective. Your article has definitely supported this view. Thank you.

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