Some of my favorite articles in decorating magazines are the “comparison shop” pieces. This is the type of article where designers collect the most expensive furniture, fabrics and artifacts, use it in a lavish layout—and then try to duplicate the “look” with a comparatively lower-priced alternative on the opposite page. Nine times out of ten, the alternative is not only stylish, less expensive and less pretentious, but the results are often better. Yes, it would be nice to live on a designer budget, but what rewards are gained by being able to simulate the same panache with a little more work and a lot less capital outlay.
I order home decorating magazines that are out of my league financially: Veranda, Southern Accents and Architectural Digest. I tear out pages, create wish-lists and glean the best ideas, (thank heaven there’s no copyright on ideas!) I can honestly say that with a little imagination, some faux paint work and sewing, most any upscale look can be recreated without breaking the bank. And that’s the challenge!
While celebrities and superstars are doling out their dough for a signature style, we ragamuffin cousins can counterfeit most ideas ourselves and the results are often highly rewarding. Why pay hundreds of dollars for a precious Horchow pot when you can find a very good substitute at Hobby Lobby? One particular shelving item I coveted in the Hold Everything catalog—a professional bakery-type chrome unit—is on sale at Sam’s Club for one-third the price.
Crafters and faux painters have known this secret of credit-free creation for a long time. Find and study the best technique and then perfect your own knockoff. Marble too expensive? You can sponge, layer, feather and stipple for the same look with the aid of a few quarts of paint, some good brushes, a feather and patience enough to wait between coats. Combing through paint and glaze simulates strié, fingers and a rocking tool can make paint look like malachite or Birdseye maple. And now there are kits with crackle which can make the newest furniture look aged, Old World and timeless. Likewise, cans of sprays and spackle can fabricate pretend granite or age a plaster bust that Caesar would be proud of. My fireplace mantel is faux stone.
In time, certain designer looks resurface just as tie-dye and hippie boots seem to keep making the rounds. For a long time, mosaic was a hot item. But what is mosaic? Bits and pieces of broken glass, china and plates, recycled. The wise crafter simply lays out a pattern, smoothes out some paste and grout, and you have your own personal mosaic
That precious footstool you’d kill for, or the pillow you have to have might send your credit card reeling, but a trip to Fabrics 4 Less and a sturdy plywood base or a foam bolster form can make the precious less priceless. Welcome to the world of fakes.
So if you see me poking through the aisles in a discount store, hey, I’m just looking for the gems.