Do-It-Yourself Bungalow

After a long search for a house with the magic combo of spaciousness, charm, and a good floor plan, this couple took a leap of faith and took matters into their own hands.

Family Room

When they first purchased this 1920s bungalow, the homeowners envisioned a place where their vintage-modern aesthetic would feel right at home. Creating that look meant digging in without second-guessing. They began peeling wallpaper but eventually painted over it to speed the overhaul.

They claimed niches for their favorite accessories; hung shelves and funky light fixtures; and nailed up paneling, molding, and beaded board (including the wainscoting and coffered ceiling in this space) -- doing it all, room by room, before they lost their nerve. Why so fast? They wanted to have company and couldn't abide the decor they'd inherited. First lesson of DIY Decorating Overhaul: Go with your gut, because if you stall too long, you'll lose momentum.

Make Your Own Art

If you can't find artwork that fits your style or your budget, make your own. These high-impact pieces? A framed construction paper collage and vintage wallpaper samples. The coral? Spray-painted sea sponges.

Fan Fabulous

Bored with a ho-hum shade, the homeowners reinvented the ceiling fan light fixture by replacing the glass globe with a drum-style shade.


Like what you see in this story? As of 2006, the items featured in this story were available from these manufacturers.

Sofa - Arhaus; 866-427-4287; Rug, throw - Williams-Sonoma Home; Wicker cubes - Wal-Mart; 800-925-6278; (product line varies). Wicker chair, bamboo window shades, lamp on side table - Pier 1 Imports; 800-245-4595; Green pillow - CB2; 800-606-6252; Palm leaf pillow - West Elm; 866-428-6468; Lamp on radiator, large clear vase - IKEA; in the United States: 877-345-4532; in Canada: 888-932-4532; End table, tray on wicker cube - Pottery Barn; 800-922-5507; (product line varies). Coral-pattern brown pillow - Z Gallerie; 800-358-8288; Raffia cushions with orange border - Williams-Sonoma Home; Red bowl on cube - Target; 800-800-8800; (product line varies). Black-and-white geometric pillow on chair - Hold Everything; 888-922-4117; Coral wall paint Quite Coral - The Sherwin-Williams Co.; 800-474-3794; White wall paint Hailstorm Gray - The Valspar Corp., sold through Lowe's; 888-313-5569;

These homeowners adhere to a philosophy they call design empowerment -- meaning, to borrow a familiar slogan, "just do it." If a room needs a splash of color, grab a few art canvases and slap some paint on them or create an abstract collage from colorful paper. Frame it, and it's original artwork.

His philosophy applies to hanging artwork, arranging accessories, and placing furniture. Do it when inspiration strikes, even if it isn't perfect. You can always go back and change it.

Nod to Nostalgia

The liquor cart is a throwback to the cocktail hour aesthetic of the 1940s and 1950s. The artwork is homemade paint-splatter canvases.

Shape Up

When accessorizing the dining room shelf, the homeowners assembled flat, curvy, narrow, and wide shapes. Also try blending matte, shiny, and rustic finishes for textural interest. Mismatched hardback books become accents with this trick: Turn the jackets inside out.

Finders, Keepers

This old plywood sign, from a nearby manufacturing plant, was a basement find. It not only pulls in the coral hue from the adjacent sunroom, it's also a great dinner conversation piece.


Like what you see in this story? As of 2006, the items featured in this story were available from these manufacturers.

Liquor cart, black candlesticks on shelf - West Elm; 866-428-6468; Goblets - Macy's; West Coast: 800-622-9748; East Coast: 800-456-2297; Dining table and bench - Crate & Barrel; 800-996-9960; (product line varies). Chairs, striped glasses on liquor cart - Hold Everything; 888-922-4117; Shelf - IKEA; in the United States: 877-345-4532; in Canada: 888-932-4532; Tripod floor lamp - Williams-Sonoma Home; Light fixture - Pottery Barn; 800-922-5507; (product line varies). Dark wall paint Kilz - manufactured by Masterchem Industries, Inc.; 866-774-6371; Light wall paint Diverse Beige - The Sherwin-Williams Co.; 800-474-3794;

Design empowerment also means not being afraid to incorporate pieces at varying price points with different looks. Forget the perfection of furniture showrooms and start layering the fabulous wares you find as you come across them, whether they're from discount retailers or a high-end boutique.

In a living room reading corner, for example, the homeowners started with a piece of distressed tin snatched from someone's garbage. Then they reupholstered a hand-me-down chair and set it beside nesting tables from Target, which hold a pricier lamp from Williams-Sonoma Home.

Radiate Style

Radiators can be charming. Use their ledges for display. The curtains are made from men's suiting fabric.

Make an Entrance

The home lacked a formal foyer, so a focal point was created with a lamp, mirror, table, and art objects opposite the front door.

Diverse Materials

Covering the chimney wall in grass cloth introduces texture to the living room.


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