Using your reimagination

So what are you going to do with that old dresser and that ratty upholstered chair you were going to

This spring, because of budget cuts, large trash pick-up has been canceled for many local communities. So what are you going to do with that old dresser and that ratty upholstered chair you were going to park out by the curb?

Interior decorator Kimberly Seymour of Embellir in Wynantskill has a suggestion: Stop looking at those things as junk and reimagine them as fabulous additions to you home’s décor. All it takes, she says, is some creativity, some ingenuity and maybe a can of paint.

Seymour is an expert at transforming humdrum household items and tired-looking living spaces into something spectacular. She gives rooms new life, often by using items relegated to the basement, the attic or destined for the dump.

“Everyone owns hidden treasures, and sometimes they’re right smack in front of you and you don’t even realize it,” she says.

Back into circulation

Kathy Krochina of Ballston Lake found that out firsthand. After downsizing from a large Victorian house to a much smaller ranch home, she was at a loss about how to arrange her old furniture and accessories in her new living room. Many of her possessions wound up stowed away in the basement — until Seymour came along, that is.

“I went through the house room by room and made a mental note of pieces that I thought would look really lovely in here — things I knew she was going to keep and really wanted to incorporate,” she explains.

Up came a 6-foot-tall bookshelf from the cellar; up came an artificial ficus tree; up came a sterling silver platter, a memento from when Krochina’s husband, John, was inducted into the Hall of Fame for football at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. From other rooms in the house, Seymour gathered pictures and wrought-iron wall sconces.

In need of some additional accessories, she sifted through other people’s cast-offs at estate sales and came back with a floor lamp that just needed a little refinishing. She found two table lamps at a second-hand shop, bought new shades and added some decorative trim to them.

A photo of a bicycle with a basketful of flowers, perfect for over the couch, was acquired at a garage sale. “They wanted eight dollars for it, but I got it for five,” Krochina says proudly. “And I picked up that candelabra at a garage sale,” she says, pointing to a gleaming antique silver piece now sitting pretty on the bookshelf resurrected from the basement.

The spindle-legged, drop-leaf table under the front window, she notes, is something her husband has owned for years.

With an eye to both form and function, Seymour redesigned Krochina’s living room, using the treasures she had imported from the four corners of the house, the second-hand finds, and a plaid sofa and two easy chairs already in the room. She made curtains for the front window and pillows for the couch, and added a new area rug and coffee table.

Once complete, the living room exuded a cozy, comfortable, French country feel. Krochina never thought her old stuff could look so good. “I was so pleased,” she says.

Tricks to try

Similar magic can be worked in any home, even without an interior decorator. An enthusiastic do-it-yourselfer can produce amazing results, assures Seymour. One trick, she says, is to look at the things you already own with a different eye.

“There are lots of ways to transform pieces that don’t especially look nice the way they are,” she says.

Sometimes, that takes a coat of paint, other times simply a new perspective. She offers these suggestions:

– Petite dressers make wonderful hall pieces for hat and glove storage. Or, place one in a dining room; top it with two buffet lamps and store linens and silverware inside. In a living room, use one as a display table for a collection of photos or knick-knacks; the drawers can store books.

– Old dresser drawers make great-looking under-bed storage containers. Just add plastic casters to their undersides, top with fabric covers secured with Velcro, and roll your new bins under the bed.

– Just about any small table will work perfectly as a writing desk or console table.

– Don’t ditch old dishware. It makes interesting wall art.

Instead of buying new hardware for cabinets, a dresser or hutch, paint the old handles for a brand-new look.

– A wooden crate, topped with a cushy pillow, makes a great seat.

– Bookcases aren’t just for books. “If it’s a good, solid, wooden bookcase, I sometimes like to turn it on its side; it’s a perfect height for a buffet server in a dining room and really makes a lovely place to stack collectibles as well,” says Seymour. In a hallway, a bookcase can serve as a storage spot for shoes, hats, coats and boots.

–Large, empty ceramic planters can become creative coffee-table supports: Just top two or more of them with a piece of heavy glass or wood.

– Old books stacked and secured together make interesting table bases.

–Thinking of tossing an old upholstered sofa or chair? Reconsider, and reupholster, urges Seymour. “If it’s an older piece of furniture, oftentimes it’s so well-made it’s really worth saving.”

Reinventing a room

Why stop at just reimagining a piece or two of furniture? Spring is the perfect time to reinvent an entire room. It’s a logical process and it’s not that hard to do, Seymour insists.

First, she advises, make a list of all the things you want to do in the room you wish to make over. “As the list becomes complete, it begins to tell you what you need to have in that room in order to have it function the way you want it to,” she says. For example, a reading room would need good lighting, comfortable seating and a place to store reading material. A playroom for small children would need to be free of sharp edges, have minimal hard surfaces and include storage spots for toys.

Once the list is complete, empty out the room entirely, instructs Seymour, and then slowly begin to put things back in. Consider importing things from other parts of the house, and think about how pieces might be useful in a different context.

“When that room is put back together and functioning the way you want it to, stop,” she advises, even if you have furniture and accessories left over. “Many times people overdo the room and it’s not comfortable anymore; there’s too much going on in it.” Think about how leftover items might work in different parts of your home, she says.

Good Karma

Infusing new life into old furnishings is undoubtedly easy on your wallet; and since it means fewer old dressers and ratty upholstered chairs will wind up in the landfill, it’s good for the environment, too.

And here’s an unexpected perk: it’s also good for your soul. “I don’t think there’s ever been a more stressful time in life for people, and I really feel so strongly that people’s homes should be their sanctuaries,” says Seymour. “It should be a place where they can go and not just unwind and restore themselves, but to feel proud and have it be so beautiful. Reimagining and refreshing your rooms is a great way to accomplish that.”

A comfortable conglomeration of treasures acquired over the years makes the best décor, Seymour believes.

“I really want someone’s home to feel like it’s evolved over time. Anyone can go to a furniture showroom and pick out lamps and furniture and pillows and decorative items and plunk it down and it can look lovely. But it looks like it all came out of a furniture showroom.

“This room looks like it has evolved over time,” she says, her eyes sweeping Krochina’s sunny living room. “It has history. To me, that’s what makes a house a home.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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