For financial reasons, my family and I recently moved in with my in-laws. We currently have two rooms of our own but can’t do anything permanent to add our touch to them (ex. painting the walls, hanging up too many pictures, moving a majority of the furniture) and we definitely can’t add much decor to the rest of the home.
So my question is, what do you recommend for a family looking to express their style when they live in someone else’s aesthetic?
In fact, I was supposed to do a home tour for Offbeat Home and I wrote to Ariel in tears that I couldn’t do it… the situation stresses me out so much, the house is always a mess, and the post would be all angsty and grumpy pants.
But don’t worry, there are options for you to totally take your spaces and put your mark on them!
Taking the Sweet Route (Adhering to the spirit of the law):
- Textiles — Temporary textures and color are a great way to inflict your character in a space. There’s the obvious: drapes, throw pillows and blankets, but try to think of other ways you can use them, too. Cover your dresser with an awesome scarf for a color pow, pile pillows in a corner for a relaxing loungey feel. Get fabric clips and those nifty 3M Command Strips on the ceiling to create room dividers. And never underestimate the power of a good area rug. Even if the room has wall to wall carpet, an area rug can add extra dimension and dictate areas within a room. Baskets and bins for storage fall into this category too.
- Accessories — With only two rooms to work with, we focus on large impact pieces to avoid clutter. A kick-ass floor lamp frees up tabletop space for sculptural art, and bowls or containers to hold little junk like keys, jewelry, stuff left in your pockets before you go to bed. If at all possible invest in good lighting, and art pieces you feel like you could live with forever. Keep in mind accessories can always be spray painted, so those mundane $2 deer figurines can easily become fuchsia and tangerine modern art for just a couple of bucks extra.
- Movable Furniture — Since big furniture pieces are out, get smaller pieces that are wicked you. Scope Craigslist and thrift stores for trunks, small chairs, end tables, and benches. These can be easily moved — I have a nasty habit of throwing them in my car for a few days if they need to be out of the way.
- Visit your dump (bear with me) with the focus on eco-friendliness. Many dumps have areas where people bring items that they don’t want, but are still too useful to throw away. Most of my favorite pieces have come from my dad’s trips to the “Still Good Shed.” Check with your municipality to see if they offer this and what the regulations are.
Take the Devious Route (Thinking outside the box / Asking for some leeway)
- Shelving — One option is a wall unit, but I would see if your in-laws would be open to letting you put up small floating shelves. The holes are very easy to fill and they might like the look. There are many DIY options for this: salvaged wood, molded plastic, MDF… and of course, you can always paint them. The shelves themselves add artistic elements, and they give you an opportunity to show off more accessories and pictures. If you have an extensive book collection, show them off with an invisible book shelf. Storage and pretty!
- Offering to increase the house’s value — We had fugly, nasty, ratty carpet in the living room. For some reason, my mother-in-law decided 12 years ago (when she had three teenage boys) that she wanted a white carpet. It barely resembled carpet anymore. I found out there were hardwood floors underneath, so my husband and I paid to have the floors professionally refinished. The hardwood floors are much more my style, and they boosted the house’s value. See if there are any small projects you could take on around the house that would benefit your in-laws.
- Offsite storage — See if your in-laws are open to having you store some of their furniture safely in a storage facility. This gives you a chance to purchase pieces that you feel represent you better, and it protects their furniture from daily use, dings and scratches. Many storage places have great deals for new clients: we rented a truck to move furniture for $32, and they gave us the first month and a half of storage free. Prices vary depending on where you live, and what size and type of storage you decide on.
For those of you living with family, what are your best tips for making the home feel like yours, while still respecting your family’s space?