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Not-so-shabby chic

Columbia’s guide to low-fund decorating

January 31, 2008 | 12:00 a.m. CST

For many people, the new year represents a clean slate. It’s a time when one can bask in the long-awaited calm that follows the chaos of the holiday season. Taking down holiday décor means something different to many apartment renters. Without the glow of lights and tinsel to cover up the cracker box they call home, renters are faced with the question of what to do with the stark white walls and empty space staring back at them.
Picturing that space as home can be daunting. Numerous restrictions from landlords and that ever-diminishing bank account might make hanging an old band poster in the middle of a blank wall seem like the most refined style possible. For those who want to keep up the appearance of spending big bucks while preserving their deposits, Vox provides a guide to decorating on a tight budget.

Where to go in Columbia

Take advantage of living in a college town by frequenting student art sales. These provide great opportunities to buy individual pieces of art at a lower price. The Davis Art Gallery at Stephens College will display works by fashion, graphic and interior design students at the B.F.A. Seniors/Student Show in April. Stop by anytime, though, and the gallery almost always has works for sale, Robert Friedman, curator of Davis Art Gallery says.
According to Friedman, the benefits of buying student work include owning a piece of art that is an original and one you love. After all, if the piece speaks to you, the artist’s level of expertise is irrelevant. “What if the student you buy from ends up being the next Rembrandt?” he says.
To find more unique works of art as well as pieces of furniture, head to downtown stores such as Maude Vintage or Blackberry Exchange. Maude Vintage owner Sabrina Braden says the advantage to shopping at vintage stores is the chance to find interesting items for a low price. She compares the fairly priced retro furniture at Maude Vintage to expensive, retro-inspired furniture. “Vintage pieces make a person’s house look very modern and minimalistic,” Braden says.
Channing Kennedy, manager at Maude Vintage, says the good furniture usually goes quickly, and it doesn’t come in as often as wall pieces, so don’t procrastinate. He explains resale stores turn over stock all the time, which allows for plenty of new pieces.

Mixing the old with the new

Although you probably won’t find anything unique at Target or Wal-Mart, these discount chains offer high-style home decorations at a price that won’t drain your pockets. Target, which is known for bringing in celebrity designers to create budget-priced clothing lines, offers the same options in home décor. Designers such as Victoria Hagan, Michael Graves, Rachel Ashwell, Thomas O’Brien and Isaac Mizrahi have lent their names and their expertise to bedding, furniture, window treatments and wall decorations. “I got some prints from Target that I saw at a specialty store for twice as much,” MU student Haley Spoeneman says. She says she mixes her Columbia finds with pieces she bought during a semester overseas, and friends often can’t tell what came from where.
However you choose to add a little spice to your apartment, be sure to stick with your own style and stay within your budget. “Creativity is the most important element you can use,” Kennedy says. “I think it’s really totally feasible to have a good eye for pattern and texture and go out and find something rather than going to Pier 1 and spending $100 on a piece of driftwood.”

Comments on this article


    Columbia is a great place to find unique items. Unlike larger cities you don’t have to go very far to find good stuff. If you ever travel to Knoxville, TN visit the Market Square District you will find some great shops similar to Columbia.

    Posted by Grant Venable on Feb 4, 2008 at 5:29 p.m. (Report Comment)