Renovation & Design

CONNIE OLIVER: Decorate on a dime

Twenty bucks says you can do a lot with $20

In this loft, a soft, buttery yellow was used to complement the reddish tones in the wood panelling.
Black accents can punch up a decor.
A small closet was transformed into a dedicated shoe and accessory closet.
This old table, above, was given new life as a lamp stand.

A few months ago, I decided to update our loft bedroom to create a lovely guest suite. The room had become a storage area and dumping ground over the years, so it was time to reclaim the space.

The loft suite is large, with a large dormer that includes a one-piece bathroom. Originally, the loft was a granny or student suite, complete with a small kitchen (in the dormer) and a separate dormer space for the toilet. Large windows on three sides of the loft make it a sunny, airy room. Angled ceilings give the space character and charm and the original wood panelling on the bottom half of the walls fits the style of the home. The space has good bones, it just needed a facelift. Built-in drawers alleviate the need for dressers, which frees up the floor space. The original built-in closet was not sufficient for clothing but I had big plans for the storage issues.

First things first. When you're decorating a space you need to take stock of what you have to work with. I hadn't updated this space for years so I had to remove all of the dated wallpaper that was in the large hallway leading into the bedroom. This hallway is almost a room unto itself, so I decided to give it a slightly different treatment than the actual bedroom area. I decided to wallpaper the space again, so I needed to find some wallpaper. All of the angled walls and ceilings needed a fresh coat of paint. I decided on a soft, buttery yellow to compliment the reddish tones in the wood panelling.

Shopping smart

So with the beginnings of a shopping list in hand, I headed off in search of yellow paint and wallpaper. Because this was going to be a guest room, I wasn't about to spend top dollar on any supplies. My first stop was at a local Salvation Army Thrift Store. I shop at thrift stores often and remembered seeing gallons of new paint awhile back so I decided to take a closer look. The paint is called Boomerang paint and is made from unused, recycled paint that would otherwise end up in the landfill. I loved the concept and the price (under $20 a gallon) and they had a lovely, soft yellow that would work perfectly for my project. I picked up a couple of gallons of paint. My purchase not only saved me money, it helped the planet and the community. You can't ask for more than that out of a twenty-dollar bill!

On another visit to a different thrift store, I found two rolls of wallpaper I thought could work for the large hallway. The pattern was a bit dated, but soft and in the right colour palette so I picked up the wallpaper, which cost $3 in total.

Finding inspiration

I had the basis of the room concept in mind, but along the way was looking for inspiration for the accessories and overall design of the finished space. On another thrift-store adventure, my husband found a lovely watercolour print of Paris, which had the right colour tones for the space, so we purchased it for under $5, and Paris would become my understated theme for the guest room. Now, I had a solid plan.

Once I hung the wallpaper in the spacious hallway, I found the pattern just a little too busy. Keeping my Paris theme in mind, I decided to whitewash the wallpaper with thinned-down white paint to soften the pattern. It now has a French impressionist Claude Monet feel to it, which fits perfectly with my theme. Not bad for three dollars worth of wallpaper.

The entire bedroom space, including the dormers, got a couple of coats of the yellow paint. I decided to keep the paint colour the same throughout the main area of the loft to create a feeling of flow and spaciousness. Using different colours in the small dormer would have chopped up the space visually. I waffled a bit on whether or not to paint the flat ceiling area yellow or to leave it white. Because the yellow is a light colour, I painted the ceiling yellow to further support the visual flow. (Note: If you were using a dark colour on the angled walls, you'd want to paint the ceiling white so as not to create a cave-like feeling.)

Use what you have

I needed an accent table for the sitting area of the bedroom, so I took stock of what I had on hand. Searching through the attic, I happened upon an old, wooden smoking stand that had seen better days. I decided to repurpose it into an accent table. I removed the top portion and was left with a small, round accent table that I painted black. In my Paris theme, I wanted a bit of glam in the space and was looking for ways to add mirrored surfaces. I decided to try to find a round mirror that would fit on top of this small table. As luck would have it, I found a lovely, round mirror with an ornately carved frame at a thrift store for $4. I painted it black and put it on top of the table and it's now a lovely occasional piece that reflects the lamplight in the evening. (The lamp came from a thrift store as well and was $4.99)


The windows got a fresh coat of white paint. I found a great fabric remnant for $3 at a thrift store that was long enough to cover two large windows. The fabric was cream-coloured damask and looks wonderful on the windows. I found a single curtain panel on another thrift-store trip that had braided rope tabs and trim. It worked perfectly on the window in the dormer and was only $1.75.


I wasn't about to install new light fixtures in the space but wanted to create a little drama with the lighting. I found a drum shade at a thrift store for $1 and covered it with a paisley fabric remnant I found on the same trip. In the bathroom, I used a wooden container I found at the thrift store, inverted and painted it to create a really unique look, especially when the light is on.

I made an orbital light fixture out of string over a balloon using a papier m¢ch© mix. It's a very unique look and cost almost nothing to make.

On another thrift-store adventure, I found a great half-moon wall shelf I installed in the Monet-inspired hallway. I had a lovely, ornate oval mirror (a thrift-store find from years ago) I painted white and hung above the shelf.

I was inspired by a retro-patterned fabric remnant I found to create a new headboard, which gives the space an updated look. I just used a heavy cardboard box, some batting and hot glue to create a new headboard.

Black as an accent

Because I chose a soft colour palette and neutral fabrics for the windows I decided to punch up the decor with black accents. Two geometrical panels from the dollar store make a statement on the feature wall. A black curtain rod and rings look great with the plain curtains. The accent table, drum shade and table lamp all got a touch of black.

I turned the small clothes closet into a dedicated shoe and accessory closet to house all of our shoes and my purses. I lined the closet with a polka-dot wallpaper (thrift store) then created shoe-storage compartments out of decorative storage boxes. I found some cute porcelain cabinet pulls at the thrift store and installed them for hanging small handbags. I decorated the inside of the doors with photos of shoes and purses mounted on foam core.

Other deals I got at local thrift stores you won't see here are brushed steel door pulls for the shoe closet (under $5) and a new carpet remnant I used to cover the treads of the stairs leading up to the loft suite ($10).

The entire loft looks revitalized and I am thrilled about the deals and treasures I found along the way. It was a lot of work but well worth it in the end.


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