House Tours: Modern Vintage Style

Dressed in colorful, funky graphics and smart retail buys, this Brooklyn apartment brims with stylish strategies for the cash-strapped dweller.

Keep a Lid on It

To live is to accumulate: books, papers, knick-knacks...and all of it has to go somewhere. But so far, "cluttered confusion" isn't a recognized decorating style. The tres chic solution, as demonstrated by this vintage-filled yet modern living room? A wicker suitcase and leather boxes that stand in as coffee and side tables while stylishly stashing treasures.

An Open Frame of Mind

A backsplash of pillows atop a dark leather bench keeps the profile in the living room low and sleek. It also gives plenty of entertaining options: When tossed on the floor, the plush pieces create instant extra seating. An added bonus: You can bring in new pillows to easily change the room's look without pricey reupholstering fees.

Light Dining

Just a few feet from the living room, the dining room is clean and simply adorned, allowing the wood grain of the table, chairs, and nearby chest to become the decoration. Simple window treatments and a paper hanging lamp let sunlight stream in and brighten the room, uninhibited by bulky drapes or a heavy chandelier.

Design Smart

Think function first when shopping for furniture; often a piece can be repurposed to fit your storage needs, such as this dresser serving as a sideboard. Use it to support an impromptu bar when entertaining and take advantage of its handy drawers to stash table linens.

Flower Stars

Instead of spending lots of dough on lots of flowers to fill one large vase, create striking and inexpensive centerpieces by filling a cluster of small vases with a few stems of flowers. The colored-glass vases are flea market finds that glow in the sunlight.

Reading Right

Commandeer any extra space for a room customized to your favorite activities, like this small extra bedroom that's been morphed into a reading room and maxed out on storage by installing floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on three walls. The insides of the shelves are painted dove gray, but you could use double-sided tape to adhere funky gift wrap or wallpaper to the insides for more pattern.

Travel Guide

A mini suitcase stuffed with colorful maps serves as a bookend in the travel section of the bookcase. Instead of just storing the books side by side, try stacking some horizontally and propping open others. It gives the bookshelf a styled look that invites title browsing.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Leftover accessories become an instant collection when displayed together. This group of a large mirror with several smaller mirrors reflects sunlight and candlelight, lightening the chocolate brown wall by day and making it feel cozier at night. The cream-painted weather vane was a $5 find, separated and mounted on the wall for a fresh take on an old standby.

Feature Attraction

Painting just one wall avoids awkward transitions around the corners in an open area and creates an instant focal point. This "less is more" paint philosophy also caters to sheer laziness: painting one wall takes less than half the time of painting four, plus you're free to use more daring colors (four walls of bubblegum pink scream, "Barbie!" but one wall is just right).

High-Top Work

Need a work space? Here, an orange stool pairs with a rescued kitchen island for an instant desk. Plastic buckets hold pens, scissors, and other desk items aloft, leaving the desktop free of clutter. The yellow chair, complete with vintage Victorian stickers, was a flea market discovery. A large bookshelf along the same wall provides neat cubbies for an extensive collection of comic books and magazines.

Conversation Piece

You have a sense of humor, and so should your home. A whimsical saying hung on the wall sums up the homeowner's love for talking and for not taking life too seriously. The old green school chair was unearthed at a flea market and the navy sofa doubles as a pullout bed, enabling the family room to serve as a guest retreat.

Connect the Dots

Use small finds from your travels to keep your decor fresh and unpredictable, such as these graphic pillows from Singapore. The retro-hip coffee table was an Internet find but the look could be easily replicated by tracing circles onto colored contact paper and sticking them to an inexpensive white plastic table.

Playing Footsies

With no headboard or footboard to lend presence, two large canvas tote bags cap off the end of the bed. One is light, the other dark to keep laundry neatly organized. And yes, a red bedroom is bold, but it's a good choice if you want a style statement by day and a cozy haven by night.

Mix and Match

The smart shopper frequents local thrift stores for furniture that is both affordable and preloved, but also doesn't discriminate against the big-box stores. Take the modern edge off "Everyman" purchases by mixing new pieces with vintage-style accessories. In the bedroom, a quirky teapot lamp adds personality to the standard two-drawer nightstand. (Personalize that, too, by switching out run-of-the-mill knobs for glam glass knobs, found at your local hardware store.)

Corner Study

A lust-worthy wheat-color wing chair was originally priced sky-high, but patience paid off when the store had a half-price sale on floor models and the homeowner secured it for her bedroom. An embroidered-top tray table makes a suitable sidekick. For more noteworthy storage, an old crate boosted by a red stool holds record albums in vintage style.

Petite Designs

A child-size desk and stool from a secondhand store stand in as an unexpected vanity. This funky, curvy, already-painted mirror, also found at a secondhand store, holds ticket stubs, pictures of friends, and postcards.

Dressed to Impress

The bedroom closet is lined with a graphic 1950s floral motif. A small, contained space, like a closet, is the perfect place to indulge your love of girly wallpaper - it's less expensive than papering an entire room, and it's like a little treat each time you look inside.

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