DAY 29 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: BIG Art

Art can be tricky. The small art is so inexpensive and feels easy to buy. And so we do. Then we have 80 little shits all over our home. A collage of small arts can look and feel better if it is clumped together well to EQUAL one large art piece. This is why clumped art collages work because they feel like one big art piece. What doesn’t work is when you have something undersized on a wall that is big. The ratio is off. Furniture helps to fill in the space visually, but just having a small piece of art on it’s own on an expansive blank wall feels like the wall is swallowing it up. I find it easy to just feel this out. Does it feel awkward and lonely where this piece of art is? Then, it’s probably too small.

Today’s challenge is to place a large piece of art in your home somewhere. This could be to replace a small undersized piece or just to fill in a blank wall you never got to. Now, don’t freak out, this does not have to be expensive or cost anything at all if you happen to have something laying around. I’m not saying to go out and buy some legit artist’s piece, unless you’ve been waiting for me to give you permission to do so. All we really need is something we like looking at that fills the wall proportionally. Prepare to have fun with this challenge! Here are some ideas:

  • Buy a big canvas and throw some paint at it. This can be really fun. I did this recently with a huge ugly canvas painting I bought at Salvation Army for $5. I used leftover wall and front door paint from my Rattan Ranch Airbnb. Is it a masterpiece? Hell nah. But, it works. You can splatter paint, brush paint on, spill paint all over it, go for it.

  • Buy digital art, download and then print it at Costco, FEDEX or a local print shop. I buy digital art on Etsy or from Juniper Print Shop. Buy a big frame for it at Michael’s or IKEA. I did this at my Comfy Cactus Airbnb.

  • Have something made for you that isn’t a print or a canvas at all. Macrame and fiber art are great, can be custom sized for your wall, and can feel extra special if made especially made for you. Fringe Forty Four made this one for me and I love it in my Comfy Cactus Airbnb.

  • Use a large mirror to fill in a space. I love this when the mirrors line up in such a way to reflect more light into a room. I found this vintage MCM mirror that I have hanging in The Rattan Ranch Airbnb at Goodwill for $10!

  • Maps can make great art. The colors can be really great. If the map is small, frame it in a larger frame. This vintage map of Arizona that I have hanging at The Shack Airbnb was $5 at a yard sale. It’s delicate and flaky so i framed it so it won’t fall apart.

  • Get creative. Just about anything that you can hang on a wall can be art! I found this little rug at Goodwill for a few bucks and it found a nice home at The Rattan Ranch.

Other things I’ve hung on walls as art:

  • A rug or tapestry tacked onto a canvas to make it appear even bigger (see first photo).

  • Garden stakes (long sticks of wood) in a pattern

  • Blankets

  • Flags

  • Baskets grouped together

  • Hats grouped together

  • Signs

The more creative you can be with this, the more interesting your home. I find one of the best ways to dig up the most creative ideas is to give yourself some boundaries. After writing this post I realized that almost every one of these ideas were found in my Airbnbs, the place where I’m seriously strapped for cash. By the time I get to the art and decor, I’ve spent tons of money on the furnishings and feel like I have nothing left. Then I get creative. Give yourself a tight budget and allow your mind to wander outside the box. Have fun with it and show me what you come up with! Use #updatedontrenovatechallenge to share!

DAY 11 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Let There Be Life

I’m just going to keep writing about all the things that fire me up about houses, ok? Because this is my blog and I can rage if I want to. Ok I’m not really upset by it….just really passionate. Let’s say that. Day 11 is about that missing thing in homes. That thing that people don’t have because they are afraid of it dying.

When I look into a room and something feels a little off, it’s usually because there is a lack of life in it. A real live thing, I mean. PLANTS. I’m not suggesting you become a plant lady/man. But, if it feels a little sterile in your home without a little life other than your slobbering dog, then time to bring in some plants.

Here is where all of the people who kill plants complain, “But it’s just going to die!” and you may be right. But, what’s the harm in that? So do flowers but we still buy those at times for a little pick me up….if just for a week or so. A few dollars it will cost you. That’s the worst that can happen. Then you chuck it and try again. HOWEVER, I’m here to help you be a little more successful. If you’re a pro at this already then carry on about your business or add another plant. If you’re not, then read below about how to get just ONE plant to live under your care.

Choose An Easy Plant

The first thing to do is choose just ONE plant that you can practice on. One that is virtually murder proof. I’ll give you some options of the ones i have had good experiences with and you can go from there. My favorites are:

Snake Plant

I have these outside in pots at my house. I live in the desert with extreme temps. They survived through not enough watering in 120 degree summer heat…in a pot. I don’t know how. They are also good inside plants because they are natural air purifiers. They have a cool shape, too so winning all around. I expect this snake plant to do pretty well here at my Rattan Ranch Airbnb despite it not getting watered very often.

Pothos

I love these plants because they just love to grow and climb and have a mind of their own. I had this pothos in my house, but took it to The Shack to give the house some life. I’ve been very careful what plants go into my Airbnbs because ain’t nobody watering those unless one of my cleaning people get a wild hair. This one has not only survived, it’s thrived! It loves it here in this bathroom with all of that light by the tub. When I took it over there 4 months ago, the longest “tail” on it was not long enough to touch the tub yet. Now look at it. In my experience, the pothos needs a cup of water ever week but maybe in this situation it’s thriving off of steamy showers and baths. Who knows. When the tail gets a little too cray cray, you can give it something to follow like a string or simply give it a hook to hang from.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

I bought this tree at Home Depot about 2.5 years ago. It was half as tall. This photo was taken about 6 months ago. It is just about to touch the ceiling now. I’ll let it. I think that is badass. People say this tree is difficult to care for but I don’t find that to be the case. It’s in the middle of the room (the kitchen is to the left), but it gets sunlight from four glass patio doors to the right. Those curtains are ALWAYS open during the day - REFER TO YESTERDAY’S WINDOW CHALLENGE ON HOW TO LET LIGHT IN SO YOU CAN LIVE LIKE A HUMAN, NOT A HERMIT. If you don’t open your curtains, yes your plants will die. Simple logic. For any of the fiddle leafs I have, my watering schedule is this: when I have a bit of drinking water left over in my glass, I pitch it in. Seems to like that schedule.

Cactus

These little mofos are more interesting than expected. One good thing about cactus is that they can pretty much take the worst beating and still continue on in life. I once asked a cactus nursery owner what I should do about a cactus I have that is outside and dying, he said, “Well, it’s 120 degrees out and it’s getting a little scorched. It’ll be fine. It’ll grow a callus of sorts and then carry on stronger than ever because of it.” And sure enough that little mofo sprouted a baby. So, yeah I don’t get it.

My cactus that are inside need watering about once a month but not much. They also need sun, so somewhere near a window. See the little planter with two cactus in the photo above. Those cactus were in my Larkspur flip and never got watered. Then I brought them home (see them in the photo with the fiddle leaf), watered them once a month. Then I took them to The Shack. Very little watering there. Still going strong.

Succulents

These are supposed to be so easy, but I found them to be tricky until I learned a thing or two. The petal thingies would always fall off by the masses and I couldn’t figure out why. It’s because I was watering them too often. They too like very little water. And whatever you do, don’t water into the floret. They hate that apparently. If you water them too often, they turn translucent-ish because they are drowning.

I also had the problem where they start getting real leggy where the stem is growing long and the petal thingies (I don’t know the real names, leaves? whatever) start to get small and spaced out. That is a telltale sign that they aren’t getting enough light. Move them to a window ledge or hang them in front of one.

Buy One, Learn One

This brings me to this month’s book club book because whatever plant you choose, you’re going to want to know what to do with it if you don’t want to murder it. Don’t just wing it. Learn about it. Succeed. Then, try a new one. I find if I binge shop on plants and just wing it they just die. If I bring in a new one, one at a time and learn its intricacies, then I .am more successful.

This month’s Design Book Club book is Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants by Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff. Talk about a beautiful and super helpful book.

This book gave me that AH-HAH moment with the succulents and helped reverse all the murdering I was doing. Add to that the countless beautiful and genius ways they display their plants and I was totally sold on becoming a total plant lady. Try this book out to help you stop murdering all your plant life.

Faux Life

But, let’s say you still want some faux plants for of one reason or another. There are reasons to go fake, but don’t just take the easy way out and buy all fake. Buy them when it makes sense. Here are reasons to go fake, though:

1. Can’t Give It Enough Attention: Some plants have awesome shapes and color but are too much work to keep around in a live version. For instance, I have a faux banana tree from Target in my Rattan Ranch Airbnb. I know that a real one may not be in the cards for a vacation home because it just won’t get watered enough. It still makes the space feel alive, despite that fact that it isn’t. I still add real plants, like the pothos up on the kitchen shelf to balance out the real to fake ratio. Side note: this fiddle leaf is a good looking fake version.

2. Not enough light: Some places aren’t going to get enough light no matter what. For instance, this bathroom in The Rattan Ranch Airbnb doesn’t have a window at all. Ain’t nothing going to grow in there. I put this faux Target plant in there to brighten the place up. I can’t for the life of me find a link to this plant, but Target has all the good looking faux plants right now. Get after it.

3. Safety: If you have little ones in your home, whether in canine or human form, you may not want a real cactus stabbing them. Opt for a faux version. This one at Target is good looking.

Below are all of the resources from this post (affiliate links):

It’s time to go get started. Go bring life into your house. Or at least the illusion of life. Show me the results by tagging #updatedontrenovatechallenge!

All of the challenges can be found here.

Wanna stay at one of my Airbnbs while you’re in Phoenix or Cincinnati? Check out the options by clicking here.

DAY 8 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Throw In The (New) Towel

Recently someone asked me what towels I buy for my Airbnbs. She commented that Airbnbs always have the nicest, fluffiest towels. The answer I gave her was this, “The thing that makes Airbnb towels so fluffy and nice is that they aren’t 5 years old.”

But, yet we put up with towels that are so old and worn that if you were to walk into someone else’s house and you saw them, you’d assume they were to dry off the dog after their bath.

Now, we’re not really suffering through using these beat up old towels. I mean they are just old towels. They still dry stuff.

But, there’s something to be said about what we expect in a hotel or as a guest at an Airbnb versus what we will tolerate at home. Having my Airbnbs, especially after outfitting 4 now, has really shown me how little I expect out of my own house compared to that of a vacation rental. At a vaca rental, mine especially, I expect the paint to be touched up, repairs to be made instantly and all of the towels to be perfect fluffiness. Why don’t we expect that of our own homes? Is it too wasteful? Maybe. But, maybe there is something to be said for letting too many of these things fall by the wayside and feeling like you’re living in a poorly maintained and outfitted house. You know how people fix a bunch of things before they sell, love it, and then wonder why they hadn’t done that stuff sooner? it’s like that.

Your challenge is two part:

Towel Purge

First weed out the towels that are best for drying off a dog. Trust me some people with dogs will actually take those off your hands. I once asked the Facebook group for my condo building if anyone wanted some old towels for their dogs and someone actually asked if they could have them for after yoga. People want them. You could reserve them for dirty messes in your house by stashing one in your car and some in the laundry room. Just don’t hoard them because you feel like you could use them some day and you feel guilty about getting rid of them. Purge what is no longer necessary. Purge the ones that are scratchy and look like vomit. You’re better than that.

Buy New

If you want to buy some fluffy new towels at a good price, grab some at Target. I buy these towels or these most of the time. Today they have 10% off with code HOME. I always buy white towels. That way I can bleach them after guests get make up stains on them or whatever the heck they do. Everything is white so it can get bleached. Towels, washcloths, sheets, pillowcases and bath mats.

And while we’re at it, buy a new bath mat. You know that thing is ratty AF. I’ll be upgrading mine. And you know I’ll be getting white. I always see so many cute ones but I always go back to good old white. I replace my towels every year at the Airbnbs, I have probably not replaced my own in 4+ years. It’s time. Not only will my body like it, my bathroom will enjoy the nice visual upgrade.

The Update, Don’t Renovate list of challenges can now be found up under the Learn section at the top of my site. Click here to head to that page and see what you’ve missed!

DAY 6 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Rug It Out

If you haven’t guessed it, I’m putting some much needed emphasis on how we outfit our homes. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on ripping out rooms and replacing them when usually what would really help is some good decor.

Today’s challenge:

Find a New Rug

Rugs are actually so important to a home. They are like giant art for your floor and have to meet so many requirements. Not only do they have to look good, but they need to feel good. I’m kind of a rug junky, much the same as pillows. I hoard them. But, I do have a hard time picking out the perfect rug. And so I stopped trying to pick out the perfect rug because it doesn’t exist. Now I have a sort of system I go by which isn’t a system at all but just random thoughts I noticed I have in my head I’ve organized for you to read. Keep these things in mind when buying…

Photos of Rugs Suck

Photos of rugs are just terrible. They never show the texture very well. There are a handful of times I bought a rug in person, then looked it up to send someone a link and thought, “EW, I would’ve never bought this had I seen that photo.” The rug I have in my bedroom (pictured) is case and point. In the show room it was shown with the textural side up as I have it. It feels fluffy and soft. The way West Elm shows it online is not that cute at all, IMHO.

Other examples of fabulous in person rugs, but just meh online are the three below. The texture gets lost in them.

Every time I take a photo of a rug to post it or send it to someone, it comes out brighter and bolder than it actually is in person. I have noticed this about photos of rugs online as well so keep that in mind. It always helps to read some of the reviews to see what people see when in person.

Jute Wins Most Times

If I can’t find a rug that is going to perfect, which is usually ALWAYS, I can usually win out with a jute rug. I dig the natural fiber situation of course, but I also like that it is a neutral backdrop, it can go in almost any decor and the price is almost ALWAYS right. You can grab a nice 8x10 jute rug for under $200 and call it a day. My two go to jute rugs are this one from Amazon and this one from Wayfair. I also have this one from Pottery Barn which is priced a smidge higher but has a little interest to it (and also does not photograph well). I like that it adds a little pattern to the room and goes well with many decor styles. I had this in my bedroom once, but it’s now in my new Airbnb bedroom. It could farmhouse, cottage, beach, lake house, whatever. Same with the other jutes.

Another perk to neutral rugs is that they can move from room to room when you’re ready for a change. Sometimes the size won’t work, but more on that below...

Rug Size Is Hard

So, yeah you want it to be the right size but you can work with a rug that is not the perfect size. This is a weird section of this post because on one hand I want to tell you yes size matters. {chuckle} In most situations people buy rugs that are too small because the price is right(er). It’s easy to buy smaller because they are cheaper. But, then you have a situation where it looks like the sofa, bed or dining table are overpowering the rug. Lopsided. Heavy. More on how to make a smaller rug work later.

Tape off your floor with painter’s tape to see what would feel the best. If you need a huge rug, then read on…

Bold Rugs

I’m all for the bold rug but I cringe a bit when a room is overpowered by a huge bold crazy rug. For me I think Oh shit going to be hard to come back from that. I like to change my stuff up too often to commit to something like a that. If I do, it better be something special. And let’s face it, the special ones are usually going to cost you an arm and a leg. I tend to pick up a bunch of small colorful rugs anyway. They are just always around. So, I layer them on top of the jute rugs or neutral rugs I have on hand. That way I can have the jute rug to cover the floor and the bold special rug to lay nicely on top. If I don’t have a jute rug for underneath then I do the angled rug. Don’t knock it until you try it. It helps cover an area that would look far too naked if you hadn’t.

To find these smaller bold and sometimes vintage rugs I look around at thrift stores, estate sales (the best) and sometimes online. Usually I’m too cheap for that but some day I’ll get my KayaKilim. Some day.

Angled Rugs

Angled rugs don’t bother me one bit because I know what a certain rug looked like straight on. Sometimes it looks awkward to be so small and not covering enough area. For instance a 5x8 rug under a queen bed looks really stupid. There literally will not be any rug to step on, it will all be under the bed. But, pull it out and angle it a bit and now you have a styled rug that you can actually step on. Try it. If you still don’t like it, then you can un-angle it. No eyes or rugs will be harmed in the participation of angling rugs.

Used Rugs

I know many of you will poo poo used rugs because eww gross but get over yourself. I too was once a poo poo-er of used rugs until I decided I was too cheap and needing of rugs to be poo-poo-ing them. So, I started scooping up rugs at estate sales (fabulous for vintage and once very expensive rugs on a dime), second hand/vintage stores, Craigslist/Offer Up/Facebook Marketplace and thrift stores. I’d say my success rate with good rugs goes in that order as well. Thrift stores tend to get the shittiest rugs although I’ve found some good ones there, too. The angled rug in the photo at the top is a Craigslist score.

Now, let’s say you find a good rug but it’s dirty. In comes the good ole rentable carpet cleaner from the grocery store. If you’re too lazy for that, then drop your rug off at a cleaner or have a carpet cleaner come in. I’d rather spend $100 on cleaning a good $25 rug than spend $400-1000 on a new one. And remember some spots, holes and damage could end up under the furniture. Also, consider any of those things character. Vintage rugs with some wear is actually still pretty cool.

This giant 10x12 rag rug was purchased at Goodwill for $25 and cleaned with a rented grocery store carpet cleaner for $40.

Sell Rugs

Got a rug you are just over? Sell it! If you can buy one on Craigslist or Offer Up, you can certainly sell one. Don’t forget to use words like modern, boho, contemporary, etc. so people can find it. As you can imagine I buy, hoard, sell and trade rugs all the time. I almost always have some at 3 Vintage Chicks and a couple listed for sale. I’m a revolving door of rugs. What I’m getting at is don’t get too nervous about committing to a rug. You can always sell it.

This is what is so special about not finding the most special rug. LOL. You feel fine about having them come and go. Maybe you don’t think of this as a hobby like I do, but don’t get too upset if a rug isn’t working out. Sell it. Move on. If you are finding rugs that are pretty inexpensive, you’ll feel less obligated to keep it for the long haul. If you lose a little money on one, you’ll probably make up for it on the next one. Don’t get hung up on the few dollars lost.

Ok, that’s all I have to say about rugs. Show me your rug finds by using #updatedon’trenovatechallenge!

Miss a challenge? You can get them all here.

DAY 5 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Decorate Your Sofa

Day five we decorate our sofa! No I don’t mean we are going to color it or anything. I mean pillows of course!

Sometimes we can become comfortable with stuff we’ve had around for awhile. Comfort is good, ugly and gross are not. You may not have even noticed that your throw pillows are getting a little sad looking. Are they wonky shapes now? Are they dirty? Are they the pillows that CAME WITH THE SOFA?!? Gasp! No. This can’t be happening. Time to rectify! Believe it or not I have lots of ideas about just pillows, but first let me tell you my favorite:

Binge

One of the most fun things ever is to just go crazy binge shopping pillows. It will feel all sorts of wrong but also SO, SO RIGHT.

I give you permission.

I learned this when I started staging. Ain’t nobody have time to sit and ponder, “Should I get this pillow? Or wait a minute this one? What about this one? Should I do blue? But, oohhh what about this green one…” GAH. Shoot me now. I had to get that shit done like yesterday, but then I’d get to the house and be like, “HATE IT.” and have to go back and start all over. So, I learned to just go ape shit and grab EVERYTHING. Now, I head to Home Goods or Target (or both) and load up on all the pillows I have even the faintest love towards (and even mild confusion on it’s fugliness) and bring them all home. No thinking, just grabbing. Sometimes I’ll have 2 carts full, I kid you not. Leave one at the front, grab another. Once you have all of the pillows at your house you can mix and match and spend all night putting the look together (with a glass of wine of course). EVERY time I do this the one or two pillows I thought were shoe-ins end up going back to the store. The ones I was like “Hmmm is this pillow awesome or fugly?” end up being the big winners. Keep the tags on and take back the ones that don’t make the cut.

I offered this suggestion to one of my clients, Renee, and she took it and ran. I celebrated a little inside when she sent me this photo, followed by many more of the different styled options on her sofa. Grab some wine and enjoy this part!

Full Target Cart

I promise you you won’t spend a million dollars on this binge. BUT, in case you want to keep the budget to a minimum, here are some other helpful hints.

Pillow Inserts

I recommend feather inserts as they fluff and remold the best where as polyester fill can get lumpy and lame. Once your pillows get the lumps, it’s game over. So, whenever possible, buy a pillow that has an insert that can be reused and save dollars down the line. The covers can simply be replaced or cleaned, thus extending its lifetime. You can then swap out covers for the season or when the mood strikes. For a fuller, firmer fill, use slightly bigger inserts to pillow cover size.

Here are some options on acquiring inserts.

  1. Reuse: You may have some already! Reuse these and simply buy new covers.

  2. Previously loved: Grab an ugly pillow at a thrift store that has a removable cover, but a good insert. You may not like the cover but you can just take it off and donate it back. You’ll have an insert for only a couple bucks instead of spending $10-20. I just throw these in the wash and then the dryer. Make sure the insert fabric is in good shape physically or you may end up with feathers everywhere.

  3. New: If buying thrifted pillows isn’t your jam, you need to get a life. JK JK. Ok so you want new ones. Obviously you can grab these wherever you can find pillow covers. I like to buy mine on Amazon. Here are some that will work.

Thrift

Another budget friendly option is to buy the whole pillow at a thrift store. You never know! I’ve found so many pillows this way it’s unbelievable. I typically come home with pillows costing me $1-$3. I’ve found pillows from Target, Pier 1, Pottery Barn and West Elm at Goodwill. Check the hanging racks for pillow covers, too. Buy and throw them in the wash. If they get ruined, well then you are only out a buck or two. I also find covers with the inserts still in them. Win-win. I love thrifted pillows because you never know what gem you’re going to find. I have a pile of covers now that I swap out often BECAUSE I CAN WAH AH AH AH.

Splurge

If you’re super excited to drop some money on pillows, go ahead and splurge on a great one. My pillow landscape usually includes one pricier splurge pillow I fell in love with alongside thrifted $2 pillows. One of my favorite places to splurge on pillows are DKRenewel, Etsy and Pottery Barn.

Sew Up

Grab some fabric and sew yourself some new covers or have someone who knows how to sew whip them up. Obviously you can find fabric at lot of places, but don’t forget searching through thrift stores or estate sales for some vintage-y fun specimens.

Switch Up

If you already have pillows you like and this is old hat to you, maybe just give them a little switcharoo. Move some into the living room from the bedroom. Change the covers out for the season with some from your stash. Swap with a friend. Maybe just wash the covers you have to feel fresher after the Holidays.

Bonus

Don’t forget a new throw blanket! Do you have that pile of old blankets that are some obnoxious sports team colors or just not going to work with the new look? Grab a nice throw blanket or 4 while you’re out shopping. Home Goods and Target have good ones, but I also sometimes find these thrifted for mere dollars.

Mix

Ok so if you didn’t gather, I do all of the above on the regular. Grab your loot and line them all up in your living or family room, taking care not to get them dirty so you can return them if necessary. Start putting them all together to see which ones work well with each other. Return all the duds. Study photos from your favorite designers, Instagram accounts or on Pinterest to see the different ways people style them.

This sofa has a Target pillow, a splurge pillow, a thrifted pillow and a Home Goods blanket.

After seeing so many client’s houses over the years, one thing is for sure. Furnishings and decor can absolutely elevate or trash a home. Sometimes a nicely renovated home can look awful by the decor choices used (or lack thereof). Sometimes a home that hasn’t been renovated in decades can look awesome just because the homeowner has decorated it so nicely and keeps it well maintained. We’re going to try our best to elevate one day at a time this month so keep plugging through each challenge. I promise they will all make sense.

Show us your pillow progress! Tag your posts or stories with #updatedontrenovatechallenge so we can see all the pillow madness.

Don’t miss a day!