One Room Challenge Week 3: How to Lighten a Room with a Limited Budget

Whoa! We now see the big difference one change can make! This change even made us remove a costly idea from our One Room Challenge makeover plan, and we’ll save a lot of money because we don’t think we need that idea now.

What’s the change?

Before & After Wallpaper Removal

I could not get the bright “blown out over-exposed photo” look in this room before. Even with a big 4’ by 9’ window. The walls sucked up the light and refused to share much light with us! I knew removing the wallpaper would make a difference. But I was surprised by how much difference.

Once upon a time, I liked the dark coziness that wrapped you in a warm bear hug. But now I need lightness and happiness in here to lift my spirits. And, if we sell our house sooner than later, I think lighter rooms are better. Thus the need for “Operation Lighten & Brighten” during this One Room Challenge.

The One Room Challenge is a six-week timeframe when 20 featured designers and 200+ guest participants make over a room. We all share our progress each week.

See my Week 1 post for the moodboard and design plan.

See my Week 2 “procrastination post” when I took too many breaks from removing wallpaper and instead pinned coffee table ideas on Pinterest. Just keepin’ it honest.

If you want to lighten up rooms in your home, and you’re on a limited budget, here are ideas to get the biggest impact, listed in order of potential impact …

Biggest Changes

Lighten the Walls

If you have a room that feels too dark, look at your walls as a first step.

Even if your walls have a color that you don’t think is dark, maybe it’s more of a “medium” color, the color can still make a room feel darker. Walls are an enormous surface area in most rooms, unless you have many big windows. Painting walls lighter will give you the biggest impact for your money.

You saw above the difference of removing a “medium” golden color wallpaper in our family room. Here you can see the true darkness of the wallpaper – the difference between the paper and the bare drywall beneath it:

Big Difference Between Wallpaper and White

Right now, the walls are bare drywall, as I await an order of Pure & Original Fresco lime paint. It’s coming over from Europe! I will paint the walls a much lighter warm cream/golden color. I want to keep the warmth of the previous wallpaper, just lighter.

The color doesn’t have to be white to make a bright room. You can use many light colors. Imagine the lightest colors on a paint strip, like these Sherwin-Williams colors:

Sherwin Williams Paint Colors

You can also look at the Light Reflectance Value (LRV) number of a paint. You might not have heard of this number before, but it’s so useful. This number measures how much light a paint color will reflect. Numbers range from 1 to 100 with 1 being the darkest, 100 the lightest.

You can find LRV numbers on the backs of paint chips and on paint manufacturer websites. Look for numbers that are 50 or more; 65+ gets pretty bright. 100 is pure white.

I assumed that your ceilings are white, as the majority of ceilings are. But if they are not, all the info above applies to ceiling paint color as well.

Add More Lightbulbs

Literally, lights are needed to light a room! Light paint with high LRV numbers can still look dark and dingy if there aren’t enough lightbulbs in the room. Especially in the corners, where paint on walls and ceilings will turn dark gray if there isn’t enough light in the corners.

Use a mix of table lamps, floor lamps, wall sconces, chandeliers to distribute lots of light throughout a room.

This tip doesn’t have to be a budget-buster. You can find lighting on sale. You can find inexpensive lamps, wall sconces and chandeliers at thrift stores, eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Don’t worry about the finish. Instead, look at the shape and size. You can always paint a lamp. Yes, even metal! Prime it and/or use a chalk or clay paint. DIY blogs are full of tutorial posts showing how to transform shiny brass lamps and chandeliers with a few coats of paint. You can make a farmhouse look, French antique look, boho look, mid century modern. All with paint. If a thrift store lamp lacks a shade, you can get shades at stores like Target, HomeGoods, Hobby Lobby.

Lighten Dark Wood Furniture and Built-Ins

If you have large dark surfaces like a dark armoire, entertainment center or bookshelves, consider lightening them.

First, I know that people in favor of painting furniture and people not in favor of painting furniture are like Republicans and Democrats when debating our positions. My position is, your house is your house. Your things are your things. What you do is your business. I would only advise to not paint valuable, truly collectible pieces of furniture. Those are investments that rise in value. Most furniture is not that. I think the line in the sand is, will the furniture sell for far more than its original cost today, as it is, unpainted? If not, paint it if you want to.

I will paint these oak shelves with Fusion Mineral Paint in Cathedral Taupe color. See a sample board in the lower left corner here:

Painting These Oak Shelves

Fusion Mineral Paint

Both these Fusion colors look okay with the warmer colors and golds in this room. The choice was a toss-up between Algonquin and Cathedral Taupe. Cathedral Taupe is lighter so I chose that. After all this work, I don’t want shelves that feel too dark!

I’ve already tested the Fusion Mineral Paint with a topcoat of Modern Masters Dead Flat Varnish, and I have a General Finishes flat varnish. That seems to make a tough enough surface to withstand moving the stuff on the shelves occasionally so I can dust. I don’t know about scraping heavy books across the shelves — as you can see we don’t keep books in this room. We have shelves in an office for books.

You can also explore paints that are recommended for kitchen cabinets. Those paints, such as Benjamin Moore Advance and Sherwin-Williams ProClassic, will be durable and super-tough because of the heavy use and wear that kitchen cabinets get.

Your cost for this includes a cleaner like TSP and deglosser to improve paint adhesion, sandpaper, tannin-blocking primer and paint. That is far less than buying new quality furniture.

Lighten a Dark Fireplace

Most fireplaces have enough visual punch in a room, that changing the surface can change how you feel in the room. You can lighten a dark brick fireplace in several ways, some more expensive than others:

  • Whitewash the brick with watered down paint
  • Cover with stone veneer
  • Cover with tile
  • Cover with drywall and paint

We plan to “beige-wash” or “gray-wash” the fireplace. White will be too stark in this room.

Dark Brick Fireplace

I resisted the whitewashed brick idea for the longest time. I’m still not sure. If I don’t like it, it can always be covered with stone, tile or drywall in the future.

Finally, Lighten the Floor

Now that we’ve covered all the other major surfaces, let’s get down to the floor business. I listed this last in “impact” because I think even when floors are dark, if vertical surfaces in a room are all light, the room will still be okay. Usually much of the floor area is covered by things like area rugs and furniture.

If your floors are dark, whatever their material (carpet, wood, laminate, tile, etc.), flooring is not cheap to change. We’ve chosen to replace carpeting in this room instead of extending the hardwood in here.

Carpet Samples

Putting hardwood in here would unleash an expensive domino effect across the whole first floor of our house, to make all hardwood floors match. If I’m paying money, it will not be for honey oak stain! But we don’t want to change all hardwood color right now.

If you have a very limited budget, the one option I can think of to lighten your floors is this: go to sites like and eSaleRugs. Watch for clearance and sales where you can get rugs 50% up to 75% and 80% off. With free shipping. You can find a large selection of styles and colors during these sales. You are sure to find something you like. You can get large rugs. We recently got several rugs on sale that are 8’ x 10’ for less than $250.

No, you won’t get the top quality wool vintage rugs imported from Morocco for these prices. But here’s the thing. We have a valuable 100% vintage silk rug and it is sometimes out on the floor. But then cat poop or cat vomit happens nearby – thankfully never on that rug – and we freak out and we roll up the rug and put it in a closet.

Have you ever heard the saying “don’t wear jewelry that you can’t afford to lose.” Well I say “don’t use rugs that you can’t afford to get pooped on.” Kids, dogs, cats, intoxicated adults, adults who paint without protecting the carpet (ummmmm been there done that), we can all be tough on carpets. It’s okay to get a cheap rug if you worry about these things.

Look for a rug with these qualities:

  • Lighter color – you can put an area rug on top of wall-to-wall carpeting to lighten it up
  • Pattern and color variation, enough to hide spills and messes – rugs with consistent even color will show off the stains
  • Large enough size – see advice for choosing the right rug size

Smaller Changes

Remove Dark Useless Things Overhead

Look above you and see if there are big, heavy, solid, dark things higher up on walls that don’t need to be there. There was a big dark oak shelf installed about 7 feet up on the wall, above the fireplace.

Remove Things Overhead to Lighten a Room

This shelf drew the eye too much to a useless spot, and it also FELT like a big heavy thing looming over our heads. We never displayed anything on it, so what was the point of it? Once we removed the shelf, the light from the sconces also seems brighter. That light is not getting blocked by a dark shelf. You’d be surprised how that little change made a difference in light.

Use Furniture with Light “Visual Weight”

What is “visual weight?” Probably best to show you. See these two coffee tables from last week’s epic procrastination post:

Visual Weight of Furniture

Sources: Pier 1, Wayfair

I don’t know what they actually weigh, it’s possible they could weigh nearly the same. The solid coffee table has a much heavier “visual feel” to it than the glass-topped table that’s open. Your eye gets drawn to the solid table, but your eye goes through the open glass table. If you want a lighter brighter room, choose tables with glass or light color tops, that are open so you can see through them, that have thinner light legs.

I am probably not going to follow that advice myself, because I got an idea for a DIY table that you’ll see soon. Still, the table I’m making will be open in the middle, which is an improvement over the Chinese chest that’s currently sitting in the middle of our room. The chest is solid and dark and has a lot of “visual weight.” We will likely move this Chinese chest to a corner by the window and it might hold stereo equipment.

Throw a Throw, and Throw Pillows

If you have light color sofas and chairs, great. If you don’t, don’t worry! You don’t need to replace them or even slipcover them. Getting a slipcover to fit well seems like a pain in the butt, and custom slipcovers can cost.

If your furniture is dark, drape a lighter throw or blanket over it. Put lighter pillows on it. Here’s a dark brown leather sofa in our living room. It came with dark brown velvet pillows. I replaced those pillows with lighter and more colorful pillows. That lessened the dark brown a bit:

Lighten a Dark Sofa with Pillows

My One Room Challenge makeover room has a black leather sofa and dark red chairs. I’ll lighten up the black sofa with a throw and pillows. I’m not too worried about it. Why? See below …

Beware of Boring Beige

After all the advice above, now I might just confuse everyone. Generally, unless you are an interior designer who is skilled at achieving a certain effect, you don’t want everything in your room to be light, white, beige. This will make your room have all the personality of a piece of Wonderbread.

Nooooo … bread is better when it’s handmade and textured, with some fruity jam on the bread, or dipped in deep golden olive oil with basil leaves.

Rooms need a variety of colors. I LOVE the combo of black, red and gold. So I’m keeping the black, red and gold in this room – all of it – and I’m just lightening up the big surfaces around the furniture and décor. That is enough to make this room a big mood-lifter instead of a heavy weight.

One Room Challenge Progress

Or, lack of progress …


  • Removed wallpaper
  • Got Pure & Original lime paint sample colors for wall color, tested sample boards
  • Ordered lime paint
  • Got carpet sample colors; didn’t like
  • Ordered more carpet sample colors; still don’t love
  • Made decision to definitely do carpet; need color we like
  • Got Fusion Mineral Paint sample colors for oak shelf unit, tested sample boards
  • Received Fusion Mineral Paint; tested sealers/varnishes
  • Found source for custom wood grilles to install over radiant heat


  • Get quotes from roofing contractors to install skylights; schedule job (canceled this idea – room should be bright enough without skylights)
  • Replace some radiant heat baseboards
  • Wash walls, repair some spots and prep for painting
  • Prime and paint the walls
  • Empty oak shelf unit, wash, light sand and prep for painting
  • Paint the shelves
  • Order wood grilles
  • Install wood grilles (decided not to do this now)
  • Fix trim under window
  • Remove broken Hunter-Douglas blinds from window
  • Whitewash the fireplace (or more like gray-wash or beige-wash)
  • Schedule carpet installation
  • Fix cracked areas in ceiling paint
  • Finish sewing curtain for window in garage door
  • Find canvas art for fireplace mantel
  • Frame fabric pieces from a vintage kimono and kuba cloth

Oh boy. We have a lot to do. Didn’t get much done during Week 3, except we decided things we are not doing! That’s not enough action. Week 4 is catch-up week. We have out-of-town guests coming to stay with us this weekend, so we were getting the house ready for them during much of our free time during Week 3.


One Room Challenge Spring 2008

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One Room Challenge Week 2: Coffee Table Dreams

What’s more fun than steaming and scraping wallpaper off the walls of a 24′ by 13′ room?

Well, nearly everything is more fun than that. I’d rather take a grad school statistics class again. I’d even go to the dentist. I survived wallpaper removal by dreaming about DIY coffee table ideas while steaming and scraping.

Dreaming up ideas is part of the fun of the One Room Challenge. And right now, 20 featured designers and about 200 guest participants (folks like me!) are making their design-dreamy ideas come true during this six-week challenge to makeover a room. I am doing “Operation Lighten & Brighten” on our family room, to take this space from dark and dreary, to hopeful and happy. See lists at the bottom of this post to see what we’re doing. Visit the Week 1 post to see the overall vision and moodboard.

But first, coffee tables. 

Bwa ha ha. See what I did there. That needs to be a poster, for those of us who love to decorate.

I pinned an obscene number of coffee tables on the Pinterest board where I collect ideas for this makeover. The Pinterest board helped me easily see the elements of coffee tables that I liked. After a late-night pinning spree, some clear groups popped up on the board. If you use Pinterest, I’d suggest that looking for the patterns and themes in the things you pin is a great way to discover your style.

Brace yourself for a bunch of coffee table pictures …

Links below include affiliate links.

Organic Shapes

Mushroom shaped, kidney bean shaped, soft curves and interesting geometrics caught my eye. Because they’re different than the usual. I love “different.”

Coffee Tables Organic Shapes

Sources: Arteriors, 1stdibs, 1stdibs, Overstock, 1stdibs

Sooooooo … one of the tables shown above is almost $19,000! Another is almost $38,000! So I’ve been on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace looking for affordable tables, preferably older tables that are good quality, low price. I found this one on FB Marketplace, only $50. Wouldn’t it be perfect if I painted it with a metallic texture and patina (more on that below).

Kidney Bean Table

So the lesson here: Look at the expensive things to learn from them and discover what you like. When you see something you like and it’s beyond your budget, watch online secondhand markets. You might find the perfect piece at the perfect price. Looking at a $38,000 table opened my eyes to seeing this $50 table.

Metallic Texture & Patina

I am loving coffee tables in bronze and dark antique brass, but also tarnished silver and burnished gold, with textures and mottled patina. Oxidation. Etching. You’ll see metallic texture + organic shapes here! Two loves in one!

Metallic Texture and Patina Coffee Tables

Sources: 1st dibs, Furniture Favourites, Moroccan Bazaar, Luxurease, Max and Russ, Pier 1

My favorite of all? Those comma shaped tables. They also make me think of paisleys. They’re on sale, but still $8,000. But you know what? I can paint a look like that. Yes! What about paisley-shaped coffee tables with raised stenciling for texture …

Big Paintable Surfaces

I love to DIY and I’m seeking something that I can paint and/or build, a surface I can change. The broad surfaces on these tables make me salivate, thinking of how you could add metallic texture and patina! I wouldn’t DARE do that on the first one though — it is collectible and pricey. But it gets the ideas going.

Broad Surfaces Coffee Tables

Sources: 1stdibs, Wisteria, Macy’s

A coffee table is the only new piece of furniture I’ll get for this room. This makeover will lighten up the walls, oak shelves, floor, ceiling, and fireplace.

I’m changing the surfaces of the room instead of the stuff in the room.

For many years, an old Chinese chest has been in the “coffee table spot” in this room. But it’s more like a display. The top of it is covered with decorative things. I don’t want to set glasses of liquid on it and things that could damage it!

So we have nowhere to set mugs, wine glasses, small plates of food, laptops, books, etc. We wind up scooting things over on the bookshelves and setting mugs there. I set mugs on the floor and sometimes I kick them over. I set a plate of food on the floor and hope I don’t step on the food! We need a FUNCTIONAL horizontal surface. It’s not a want — it’s a true need here.

Thus, all the coffee table inspiration.

Idea Most Likely to Happen

Right now, today, as I write — because ideas can always change! — I most likely will paint the underside of a glass coffee table. I’ve already done this on another table in this room:

Verre Eglomise Table

You can find my tutorial showing how to paint underneath glass at Paint+Pattern.

If I paint a glass coffee table, I can get a few things that I really like in the moodboards above. Using metallic paints, I can create a rich, mottled, burnished bronzey surface. I can paint my own patina. Maybe I’ll try mixing metallic paints with the Krylon Looking Glass paint that makes a mercury glass look. Maybe I’ll add stenciled patterns.

There are a lot of potential tables to paint like this. Even when you choose a look you like, there are many options online at different price points. Here are some tables I’m looking at, to paint the glass:

Glass Coffee Tables

Sources: West Elm table at Chairish, Home Depot, Amazon, Bonanza, Wayfair, Hayneedle

To be honest though, after looking at all the bold and unique coffee tables I shared first, these daintier gold ones make me feel … deflated? Disappointed? Not sure of the words, but not super excited about the possibilities. I think you just have to imagine the table with a dramatic painted top?

You know what idea DOES make me super excited about the possibilities? Those comma/paisley shaped tables. How can I make that??? I can cut the top shape. But how to make the sides? Is there a flexible material that would make stable sides? Other than metal? I am sure I could find someone to cut metal and solder it into paisley tables, but … time … money … maybe file that idea for the future …

It’s getting late in the One Room Challenge game to play with more and more ideas. It’s time to get stuff done!

One Room Challenge Task List

You might think six weeks is a long time to makeover a room. Not when you have a long list of stuff to do. Here’s what we got done, but there’s still enough to do that I worry about whether we’ll finish within the next four weeks:


  • Removed wallpaper
  • Got Pure & Original lime paint sample colors for wall color, tested sample boards
  • Got carpet sample colors; didn’t like; ordered more sample colors
  • Got Fusion Mineral Paint sample colors for oak shelf unit, tested sample boards
  • Ordered Fusion Mineral Paint
  • Found source for custom wood grilles to install over radiant heat


  • Get quotes from roofing contractors to install skylights; schedule job
  • Replace some radiant heat baseboards
  • Order lime paint
  • Wash walls, repair some spots and prep for painting
  • Prime and paint the walls
  • Empty oak shelf unit, wash, light sand and prep for painting
  • Paint the shelves
  • Order wood grilles
  • Install wood grilles
  • Fix trim under window
  • Remove broken Hunter-Douglas blinds from window*
  • Whitewash the fireplace (or more like gray-wash or beige-wash)
  • Decide whether to do hardwood floor – carpet quotes are costly enough that hardwood might make sense for the value it adds
  • Choose carpet or hardwood
  • Schedule carpet or hardwood installation
  • Fix cracked areas in ceiling paint
  • Finish sewing curtain for window in garage door
  • Find canvas art for fireplace mantel
  • Frame fabric pieces from a vintage kimono and kuba cloth

There’s a few things here that threaten our ability to get this done within 4 weeks. We’ll see. The paint that I set my heart on for the walls has to come from Europe in a boat!! I didn’t know that. I’m not changing my paint plan — I really want to use this paint. And, we did procrastinate with contacting roofing contractors and making final decisions on flooring.

*  Our Siamese cat chewed strings on the window blinds 12 years ago when she was a baby. The blinds haven’t worked since then. For all those years they’ve been kept closed with a piece of jute string tied around them!! Some things in this room are long overdue!

One Room Challenge Spring 2008

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One Room Challenge Week 1: Operation Lighten & Brighten our Family Room

My family room smells like wet paper. This is a good thing.


Yes! It’s because we’re back for more One Room Challenge excitement, and the work started this week. We are updating our family room. Even on the sunniest summer day, it’s a really dark room. Look at this photo I shot while writing this post:

Dark Room Before One Room Challenge Makeover

This is how dark this room is, even on a sunny day. Now, I know many bloggers including me will overexpose photos and boost brightness in Photoshop to make a photographed room look much brighter than it is in real life. In reality, many rooms you see on Pinterest are darker than you think. Believe me, this room is so dark, no amount of Photoshop will make it feel light and happy! We’ve lived with this for 14 years. It’s time to lighten this space up!

The timing of our plans coincided with the Spring 2018 One Room Challenge (ORC), which is hosted twice a year by Calling It Home. The ORC is a challenge when bloggers makeover a room in six weeks. I hope over the coming weeks to give you ideas to brighten a room, if you have the same problem in your home.

Here’s the vision:

One Room Challenge Spring 2018 Moodboard

And here’s a video to show you the room and our plans:

I had insomnia, I was tired during this video — will have more energy in future videos. When I’m showing you the shelves, you can’t even see, it’s so dark!

Twenty bloggers are Featured Designers in the One Room Challenge, and 200+ bloggers like me join in as Guest Participants. Visit these links over the next six weeks until May 10 when Pinterest-worthy pictures are revealed!

Meanwhile I’ll post my progress here at Nomadic Decorator blog, and you’ll surely get some DIY tutorials to lighten up your own home.

See what we decide to do

There are a few issues with this project:

  • I’m very uncertain about whitewashing the brick fireplace. Will I chicken out?
  • Little picky details like dark metal parts on wood shelves. These dark metal strips will show up when the shelves are painted light! I don’t think painting the metal will be durable enough. Ugh, how to solve this problem?
  • Budget constraints. Accepting that you can’t always have what you want. Things like hardwood vs. carpet. Stone on fireplace vs. whitewashing. What will we do?

Follow along to see what happens during this round of the ORC! Get email notices so you don’t miss a post!

Why does this room smell like wet paper?

Oh, I almost forgot! I’ve already started removing wallpaper. This is a 13′ x 25′ room. But with big windows, big fireplace, big shelf unit, a few doors and a big opening to the kitchen, there isn’t too much wall to deal with. Still, removing wallpaper is a pain in the butt. I’m using the Wagner 715 steamer (affiliate link). I’ll write more about this steamer and maybe film a video. It makes removing wallpaper SO EASY! So the wet paper smell is good — it means the steamer is working well!


One Room Challenge Spring 2008


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One Room Challenge: Inspiring Creative Studio Reveal

Wow. It’s unbelievable that I made it to today, to the reveal! I was “thisclose” to dropping out of the One Room Challenge when the original room I was working on — our basement — flooded. At first, I couldn’t see beyond that big basement space. My greedy craft supply-hoarding self wanted that space for a studio. But, if I wanted a studio at all, I needed to find a different room. So I pivoted halfway through the ORC and turned our guest room into a temporary creative studio. See links to the previous weeks’ drama here.

Let’s get right to the photos, because I know that’s why you’re here! I’ve filled the space with many things that creatively inspire me: patterns, textiles, travel mementos, favorite design books and magazines. I appreciate things from cultures and countries around the world, and this room’s style reflects that.

Enjoy …

Daybed Sari Ceiling Canopy

Daybed and Sari Ceiling Canopy


I painted this rug with stencils (all sources are provided at the end of the post) and I admit I had hesitations about the color. It’s mostly brown, with some streaks of color. But I wondered if I should be more colorful. When I was honest with myself and motivations for adding more color, it seemed like I wanted to do that for better photos, or because blue is popular and is great for social media and Pinterest pins. But, I know the effect I wanted to achieve in this room was a neutral background with lots of pattern. So I decided to stick with the plan.

Stenciled Rug

Collage of Studio Patterns and Decor

Pillows Pattern Mix

I probably shouldn’t call this a “daybed” because it is a futon. There are a few ideas here that show how to dress up a futon. First, I draped a thick upholstery fabric over the futon. You can even sew a new futon cover from a really nice thick upholstery, but for now I just draped it over. Then smother it with pillows! Really smother it! I sewed these pillow covers with nice high quality down/feather inserts. It’s luxurious feeling. I’m finding my cats are nestling in these pillows every day, and I’m not getting any chance to sit on this. I had to keep the door closed before taking photos, to keep them off so this looks nice for photos.

Pillows on Futon

This is where I can curl up with a coffee and flip through my favorite design books and magazines, and dream up ideas for future projects.

Velvet Pillow

Pillow Mix on Daybed

Terra Cotta Wall Corner

All walls in this room were this deep terra cotta color. While the color felt like a warm hug and made me dream of Mediterranean holidays, it was also very dark. It wasn’t a good color for studio walls. It was time for a change. So I painted nearly all the walls with a light “old wall” effect. But I couldn’t let this terra cotta color go completely!

Terra Cotta Corner of Creative Studio

Here is more detail in the antique print of Indian patterns, from 1873. Surprise, it even includes the deep terra cotta color that I adore.

Indian Prints from 1873

Terra Cotta Wall and Hundi Lanterns

The textiles draped over the ladder are a mix of Japanese kimono fabrics, a silk jacquard from India, and silk Bursa from Turkey. This is my space to inspire new creativity, and few things inspire me more than a mix of fabrics from around the world.

Global Textiles

I was really into graphic design and fonts early in my career, back in the ’90s. I saved this direct mail piece, and after all this time, this is nearly bonafide vintage:

What Is Good Design

Succulents in Ceramic Planter

Can you believe these succulents are not real? It’s true. I found them at Jo-Ann. They carry several different types of faux succulents and these were the most realistic. They have a dusty fuzz where nature would put it. They have little bits underneath like where old leaves fell off or got cut off. Textured stems. All the real details.

Faux Succulent Detail

Faux Succulents

One more shot here, because I love combos of texture + pattern. The pattern in the ceramic planter, plus the Kuba cloth peeking out, these inspire me to think outside the box and mix things together.

Pattern and Texture

Craft Tables

Before I reveal the craft space, a few words about the portable tables and chairs. I know they will never be on a top 10 decorating list, but they suit some needs, so please don’t judge! I tried to make them blend in visually by painting them all the same color. The tables were a deep forest green! I already owned the tables and chairs, and one of my goals with this makeover was to use things that were sitting un-used around the house. The tables and chairs were the perfect solution for two important functional needs of this room:

  • Portability. They can easily be folded up and moved to storage when we have guests or when I want room to work on the floor. My heart would love a rustic wood table with lots of character, but that would be heavier and much more difficult to break down and move when needed.
  • Flexibility. I have four folding tables. There are only two tables in the room now for photography purposes. But two, three or four tables can work in many configurations in this room, depending on what I’m doing and whether I need to accommodate family or friends working in here too. I can make a big block of tables. I can make rows. I can make a big U-shape. I can pull the tables close to the daybed and sit there. I value the flexibility.

Craft Tables

The table looks a little messy, but I styled it like “real life” as if I were working here.

Stenciled Rug in Creative Studio

To describe where this is in the room, the daybed I shared above is immediately to the right. I can sit on the comfy daybed and work at these tables. And as you see in a peek here, my fabulous teal blue Indian-Moroccan closet nook is to the left.

I have loaded this little table space and the wall above with patterns and textures that are inspiring to me.

Textures and Script

Creative Studio Table Top Stuff

My blog is called Nomadic Decorator because I surround myself with things found during travels, like these old riad keys I found deep in the souks in the Marrakech medina:

Marrakech Riad Keys


Stenciled Lamp Shade

Paints n Things

These are pretty embellished cards I found during a trip to India:

Embellished Cards From India

Things on my moodboard:

Creative Studio Moodboard

Miniature Indian paintings found during a trip to India:

Miniature Indian Paintings

Jewelry and a Painting

I am currently painting papers with acrylics so they look like old walls, as background papers for collage and layering. I am obsessed with ochres and sienna colors, and pinks and salmons of cities like Marrakech and Jaipur. And I am obsessed with niches, arches, doors. And jali — the decorative patterned screens you will see on windows in Northern India, and North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. The screens cooled the rooms, but they also screened women from being seen. I am playing with all of these things right now, and concepts about women, communication, reaching for and being withheld from our dreams and overcoming that. Ahhh but those are stories for another day! I am working them out through paper and paint.

Papers like Old Walls

Gelli Printed Papers

I am loving the painters drop cloth that I used to cover the tables. It makes a nice neutral surface. When the cloth gets too messed up with paints, glues, coffee and red wine stains, etc., I can pop out the tabletop and re-cover it with fresh drop cloth.

Creative Studio

The folding chairs are vintage Samsonite. I remember growing up with them in the 70s — we sat on these chairs for the “kid’s table” at Christmas! The price tags were still on them. One was $8 and the other was $9. I gave them a coat of paint, and re-covered the cushions with silk. I already had this silk. I had stenciled it to make Fortuny-style pillows, then after awhile the zipper broke. So I cut the pillow apart and re-used the silk for chair cushions.

Here you can see the sometimes crazy mix of patterns in this room. This is why I used neutral colors. I think you can get away with more patterns when the colors are similar. The patterns inspire my eye, but the neutral background doesn’t distract me while I’m making new creative things. It’s a good balance.

Though, there’s always an exception, isn’t there? Like this next spot, which I installed in this room in 2014. I can see it out of the corner of my eye while I’m working at the table, and it’s just enough color to get me daydreaming about new ideas …

Indian Moroccan Nook

Indian Moroccan Nook

I posted tutorials online previously, showing how to paint a front of a nook like this, and how to stencil on fabrics. Those tutorials are linked in the source list below.

This shows you the crazy pattern mix here! It is very much like Morocco and India and their exuberant mixes of patterns and color.

Moroccan Nook

That little stool is a stepstool. Because the cushion is up pretty high, and I needed a little boost to get up onto the cushion easily.

Pattern Mix

Oops. Now that I’m typing right here, I see my toes got in that picture! All these patterns were painted very easily with stencils. So you can do this too! I’ve shared links in the source list below to the stencils, or to tutorial posts with project supply lists.

Textile Collage

Moroccan Closet Nook

The curtain is a sari. I was surfing on Etsy one day and noticed this sari had a lot of the colors in the nook. I thought the hard edges of the closet door frame needed softening, and the sari helps do that. The sari is hanging from a rod and it can be pulled over to nearly close off the whole nook, or it can be draped and tied back with tassels.

Sari Curtain

Sharp-eyed folks will notice that this lantern is not in the photos above:

Moroccan Pierced Metal Lantern

Our electrician didn’t have an available appointment until today, the day of the ORC reveals! And this post was already live by the time he got here. This nook is finally complete now that the walls are patterned too, with an iconic Moroccan souvenir. I found this lantern in Marrakech. And if you are lucky enough to go to Morocco, get a lantern like this — bring it back in your luggage. A slimmer oval or lozenge-shaped lantern like this fits in a suitcase, no problem.

DIY Projects

I did many DIY projects in this room. I will share tutorials here in future weeks, like how to:

  • Mix lots of patterns together
  • Stencil a rug AND paint it with a broom!
  • Choose a lampshade for stenciling and stencil it
  • Make little stands for displaying collectibles
  • Paint big round trays with tribal medallions
  • Make a sari ceiling canopy over a bed
  • Rejuvenate old folding chairs with paint and new seat cushions
  • Dress up plain ol’ folding tables with paint and painters drop cloths, great for crafts and painting

If you’d like to get notice of those tutorial posts, join my email list!

I already posted about how I painted the walls to look like old walls.


I said in Week 1 that I was working on a tight budget and would be transparent about costs. My project ideas changed a lot, because I had to change rooms. I wound up not doing ideas like a faux brick wall.

Despite everything in this room, I bought very little. I already owned nearly everything. I even used paints that I already owned. The only things I bought specifically for this makeover were:

  • An ivory pillow on the daybed
  • Lampshade
  • Carved wooden storage and basket on the craft table
  • Hooks for sari curtain
  • Museum quality glass for frames
  • Mats for frames
  • Dowels for printing block stands
  • Quart of BJ Maritime White that I wound up not even needing

Seriously I think that is it. I spent about $200. The glass was the most expensive thing!

I still remember where I got most things, even though most were purchased  years ago. Here is a source list …

Source List

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of compensation at no cost to you if you purchase after clicking the link. I post affiliate links when I have purchased from the company or used the product, and I can confidently share the company or product. For more info, see my Disclosures & Policies.

My sources are an eclectic bunch! Some things new, some things old, some things gifted, something stolen (does it count as stolen when you just didn’t give it back to your parents?). Things found everywhere, from easy one-click Amazon Prime to digging deep in the Marrakech souks and Indian sari shops.

First the wall colors:

Wall Colors

Clockwise around the room starting with the Indian-Moroccan closet nook:

Indian-Moroccan Closet Nook

  • Step stool: forgot the source of the stool; painted with Benjamin Moore paints; stenciled with Zahara Moroccan Stencil from Royal Design Studio
  • Nook bench front: DIY’d by me (tutorial post with stencil and supply list)
  • Cushion: stenciled silk, DIY’d by me (tutorial post with stencil and supply list)
  • Teal pillows: Beaded stenciled bolster pillow DIY’d (tutorial post); Turkish Bursa silk pillow found in Bangalore, India; teal silk pillow: Good Earth in Chennai, India; pillow found in Marrakech; velvet pillow World Market; silk bolster DIY’d
  • Carved Wood Mirror: World Market, 13 years ago
  • Moroccan lantern: found in Marrakech metalworker’s souk
  • Ceiling: Martha Stewart metallic gold paint; paisley stencil from Royal Design Studio
  • Curtain: silk sequined saree from Etsy seller Indian Tradition Dress
  • Curtain tie-back: knob from Hobby Lobby; tassels found in Marrakech

Moodboards on Wall

Craft Tables

Craft and Storage Stuff on Tables




Window Valances

  • Custom made by me
  • Saree fabric: Nalli in Chennai, India
  • Backing fabric: Hancock Fabrics

Sari Ceiling Canopy

  • Custom made by me
  • Sari fabric: Nalli in Chennai, India
  • Backing fabric: Hancock Fabrics
  • Hanging hardware, rods and hooks: Target
  • Beaded tassels: HomeGoods

Hangings on Wall

  • Hamsa: Found in Marrakech medina souks
  • Ashanti Fertility Comb: Randolph Street Market vendor specializing in goods from African countries


  • Futon: don’t remember source, wish we got a daybed instead!
  • Orange and beige checked fabric: Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, MI purchased 20+ years ago
  • Silk elephant: Jim Thompson store in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Ivory pillow: HomeGoods
  • Tibetan tiger fabric: EmmaOneSock
  • Pillow fabrics: silk kimono from eBay, silk/rayon over-dyed jacquard fabrics from a now-closed store in Austin, TX (it was across from the first Whole Foods and I loved that fabric store!)
  • Pillow forms: down/feather mostly from Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn
  • Silk shoes: Etsy

Suitcase Side Table by Futon

Corner by Window

  • What is Good Design poster: direct mail piece received 25 years ago
  • Indian tribal art: The Tiger’s Armoire (and she has great Pinterest boards)
  • Indian patterns: Original antique print from 1873, Etsy seller Antique Print Store
  • Candlestick: IKEA
  • Encyclopedias: Vintage 1980s leather-bound
  • Ladder: Don’t remember source
  • Fabrics on ladder: Turkish Bursa silk purchased from a now-closed store in Bangalore, India; Japanese kimono and obi fabrics found on eBay; silk jacquard purchased from a now-closed store in Austin, TX
  • Glass Hundi lanterns: inventory from a catalog business we had in the ‘90s

And that is all! I will share DIY tutorials in future posts, so join my email list if you want notice of those posts. Meanwhile, enjoy all the other room reveals for the Fall 2017 One Room Challenge! You can visit 20 featured designers and the nearly 200 guest participants and get inspiring ideas for your own home! And a huge thank you to Linda of Calling It Home blog for hosting the ORC for us, and House Beautiful magazine as media sponsor. I thank you, and my husband thanks you too, because my DIY messes should now be contained in this studio instead of all over the house!

The ORC gave us a community of supportive people, and maybe just as important, a deadline to get things done. The result? Dreams come true for people. Homes become more beautiful. Rooms work better for people and their families, and pets too. Better places for better lives. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Now, I’m off to create some “old wall” painted papers in this creative studio that I’ve wanted for so long, and now it’s finally come to be … happy happy dance …

One Room Challenge Creative Studio Makeover

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