I tell ya, there's nothing like moving to bring out one's creativity. As accustomed to living in small spaces as Mitch and I have become, we've picked up a few dirt-cheap tricks to help "tie a room together" or whatever. Here are a few of my favorites:
1--Milk Crates are the apartment dweller's friend. They're endlessly versitile--you can build bookshelves, bedside tables (stack one or two, open side facing out, and voila!), regular tables (stack 'em 2 high for the legs, put a nice sheet of plywood over top and perhaps a tablecloth, as well); you can use them to organize a closet, store stuff, or even pack 'em full when it's time to move again; they make excellent cheap shelving. I nabbed a whole stack from the gas station I worked at our first married year, and they've travelled with us since--ask around at grocery stores, gas stations, any local dairies, maybe...I using one right now as a desk chair (however un-ergonomic it may be).
2--The Partition. Our last place was studio, shaped (as the landlord himself said) like a tunnel. About three months into the stay we thought a bit of privacy might be nice--you know, divide the living room from the bedroom--and so we headed on down to one of Bellingham's best non-profits, the ReStore. At the ReStore, they salvage used building materials and re-sell 'em to creative homeowners/remodelers/poor college kids trying to fix up their apartment. We found four hollow-core doors ($2/ea.), and six used hinges ($1/ea.)--grand total=$14+tax. Mitch fixed the hinges to the doors, so they zigged-zagged (can you see it? I wish I could draw you a picture) and stood up on their own, like one of those fancified dividing walls you pay $60 for a Crate & Barrel. Then we painted the whole shebang with some leftover sky blue paint (which, of course, we found on the "as is" shelf at Fred Meyer). Ta da! Instant bedroom!
3--The Coaster Solution. Upon moving into our new apartment, we came to the disheartening realization that all of our living room furniture is, well, rather nice. The cedar hopechest my mom & stepdad gave me for high school graduation, the dry sink that Mom passed down to me when she downsized and moved into a smaller house...Previously, we'd only had thriftstore endtables and milkcrates, so it came as a bit of a shock when we realized that we might actually have to protect these wood surfaces, and buy some...coasters. Is this the first sign of middle age, we wondered? The desire to use coasters, and placemats? Next will we be shopping for doilies?
Well, we figured, if we're gonna get coasters, we're gonna do it our way. Here are two ideas we had, neither of which we've acted on yet:
The Bathroom Tile coaster. Back to the ReStore we go, and into the whole corner they've devoted to salvaged tiles. Floor tiles, shower tiles, counter tiles, you name it. $.20/ea. Hot dog. Pick out some spiffy colors (different shapes and textures!), put some little felt stickers on the bottom, and you got yerself a full set of coasters for less than $2.
The Bar coaster. This one is still thriftier. I have a habit of pocketing cool coasters from bars that I like, and I'm gonna keep doing it until we have enough to use for coasters. Right now we have two--one from the Temple Bar, and one from Le Chat Noir (but I can't find that one, so we only have one in circulation at the moment). Ah, well. This suggestion really shows my inner cheapskate.
So, thus ends my first enstallment of "Crafty Coyotes." Next up is Cinderblock Bookshelves, because I have too many books and not enough books shelves. Until next time...