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Decorating Advice From First-Time Home Buyers

November 30 2008

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens® 

By combining yard sale finds, family artwork, and a few pieces dragged home from the dump, a young New Hampshire designer creates the perfect newlywed home. 

Junk Chic

Sarah Andersen, a jewelry and floral designer, and her husband, Peter, have taken their tiny 500-square-foot apartment on the ground level of a three-story house and turned it into a stylish home on a next-to-nothing budget.

Sarah learned from her artist parents how to scour garage sales, auctions, flea markets — even the local dump. This helped her spot a shapely table and architectural salvage pieces that convey her unique sense of style.

She also became saavy at buying, transforming, and selling objects as her taste evolved or as she grew tired of them. “I am a total product of my family,” she says. “The core of everything I’ve done is formed by my family and how they’ve taught me to look at things.”

It’s obvious this space conveys a sense of style well beyond the newlyweds’ years. Cabinets layered in peeling paint share space with iron grates, glossy pottery, and bamboo chairs that used to inhabit Sarah’s childhood bedroom.

“I don’t think I’ve spent more than $150 on anything in here,” says Sarah. “Well, maybe I paid more than that for the dry sink.”

Decorating Advice From First-Time Home Buyers

In the living room, an antique dry sink from a yard sale is accented by a topiary and a painting by Sarah’s father.  

Pale Yellow

Pale yellow walls and berber carpeting provide a neutral palette for first-home experimentation.

Grass mats define the entry and seating areas, and matching bamboo chairs are fitted with cushions slipcovered in white denim, an inexpensive fabric that is easily cleaned.

Sarah balanced the home’s sweet cottage feel with large-scale pieces that add a modern graphic element. She edits accessories and furnishings to retain a sense of simplicity.

“I like a clean look,” says Sarah. “I’m not a big color person, and I’m not into anything dark. If I like [a piece of furniture] and it’s dark, paint goes on it.” In fact, “Just paint it” is one of the family mottos. “It’s our joke,” says Sarah. “Just paint it white and it’ll look fine.”

Pieces she tires of or feels no longer fit her lifestyle are sent to her parents’ barn. A yearly yard sale there makes space for new bohemian treasures.

“I like funky, shabby looking pieces,” says Sarah, who is drawn to the well-worn look inherent in less expensive furniture.

In addition to family hand-me-downs, plants and flowers are intregal to making the Andersens’ house a home. Topiaries appeal for their color and dramatic shape.

Sarah scents the house with fresh arrangements of her favorite flowers-peonies, orange-red or pink roses, hydrangeas, and purplish-blue pincushion flowers that she had in huge bouquets at her wedding in 2003. “Flowers are like furniture to me because they become part of the room.”

Her love of flowers also carries over onto bed sheets, the duvet, and in paintings, adding to the apartment’s romantic aura. Says Peter: “The pink can get out of hand sometimes, but it’s not really a big deal with me.”

Some of Sarah’s family habits have even rubbed off on her husband. “He’s up before me to go to yard sales on Saturday morning,” says Sarah. “He never used to be that way, but he is now.”


Decorating Advice From First-Time Home Buyers

The bold use of large objects, such as the clock face and urn, add playful punctuation to the Andersens’ small apartment.