Impressive Decorating On A Shoestring Budget – Only 1,100.00 bucks!

Beautiful decorating on a shoestring budget is something that a lot of us wish we could do.


For most of my life, it was that or nothing, so I completely understand about not having the funds to do whatever I wanted. And actually, I know some very wealthy people who don’t want to spend a lot of money on furnishing their homes.

This is a  special treat today about a reader, Laura with a very interesting story involving a pipe organ. She has created the most charming music room with very little money. But, wait until you see the before.



And you are not going to believe your eyes when you see her gorgeous art wall that looks like it must be thousands and it cost almost nothing.


Why are you scrolling down? You come back here right now!  ;] haha.


I now am going to hand you over to Laura; please take it away. She makes decorating on a shoestring budget look easy.


(Laurel’s interrupting comments in this color)


Dear Laurel,

First, let me gush for a moment and tell you how much I love reading your blog.

Okay. I’ll go grab my raincoat.

From your dry humor to the long-lost fine art portraits, from the Mozart musical soundtrack to the narrative of your dancing days, I look forward to each post arriving in my email box. Thank you for what you do. It brightens my days 🙂

Thank you so much for your kind words, Laura. I appreciate that immensely!


Now on to why I wrote you, today.


I commented a few weeks back on a post about ‘drab gray’, but mentioned my husband has a pipe organ and collects antiques, which has been so hard to meld with my more modern aesthetic.

Yes! I remember reading that.

I’m also 12 yrs younger which further divides our tastes.

I have seriously felt like a stranger in my own home for years because nothing feels like me. It’s actually a really empty, sad emotional feeling that’s hard to explain, but very real.


I do know that feeling, but probably for different reasons.


This struggle is what led me to your blog and slowly I have seen how beautifully one can combine styles, giving me hope to finally find a balance.

Even my tastes are “growing up” and evolving from your imparted wisdom. I’m so happy to have been steered by an actual design professional, and not the hoards of bloggers spewing trite “Farmhouse” decorating cliché nonsense (that my friends have embraced). Blech.


So, armed with all your posts and guides


(and not much cash on hand (because we just bought this house), I set out to tackle the first room one sees in our home, the Organ room. The result, I have to say, almost brings me to tears. I feel like it is such a success, especially considering I mostly worked with what we had, only spending about $1000. And most of that was the light fixture, rug, sofa, and window panels purchased on super Wayfair closeout clearance.

But I feel like I was able to do it because I knew what styles I was looking for and had a good plan that gave me confidence!

Laura, these words I know, are from your heart and it means so much to me. I sit here working in isolation many hours and even though I stare at my stats (my entertainment haha) and see big numbers, it doesn’t really feel real. And this is not a ploy for more feedback. haha So many of you are already doing that and I love your emails so much! I’m truly blessed.


Okay, Laurel, brace yourself because first I’m going to show you the before.


Okay, I’m ready.


so bad window treatments before - don't do this

Oh, dear me Laura. Thank you for the heads up. So bad, so bad! Even the poor doggie has turned to stone.

yucky green paint before

And here’s the yucko army-green paint with the weird paint job on the wainscoting and coffered ceiling.

I’ll say. Although, I’ve seen this done before and it’s okay, I guess, but, it’s not working here.

Okay, I’m a little nervous showing you, even though I couldn’t be more pleased. I’m attaching two photos just so you can see what I’ve done.

Decorating on shoestring budget music room - wall color - Benjamin Moore - Jack Pine


decorating on a shoestring budget - Pipe Organ dining room - sitting room

I am beaming with pride, but of course I realize these probably won’t seem all that impressive to you!


Are you kidding me! I just fell over I’m THAT impressed and immensely proud of you, too!


Here’s what I did to keep the costs waaay down:

  • Old Walmart end tables
  • Ikea chair and lamps
  • a Big Lots chair (the black one)
  • lots of diy projects like: the curtain rods, the art I printed myself from museum digital archives, and rub& buffing some frames don’t make for a room you could really blog about…


uhhhhh… you would be wrong about that one. :]


but I am truly so happy that I have found a piece of what feels like home in my life!


music room - art wall - decorating on a shoestring budget

Thank you, thank you thank you for all you do.

You’re very welcome!

Now on to tackle on our family room! Dang it…… now I’m depressed again.

Laura Omgapipeorgan




This isn’t really Laura’s last name, of course. Very good Laura Omgapipeorgan

This room is reminding me of the charming living room with the high ceilings and gorgeous mouldings. Remember?


But, what confused me a little is that the previous owners were using it as the dining room which means that the kitchen must be nearby.


Since I had nothing else to go on, I wrote Laura back and told her that I’d love to do a post about this and asked her a few questions which she dutifully answered.

Here’s what she had to say:


We live in a mostly rural farming area in Northeast Ohio. That’s right. The SNIRT belt and we have it for six full months! The original idea for why we bought this house was to move my aging father-in-law in with us after his wife passed away.

But then after everything was a done deal, with moving day only weeks away, my F-I-L informed us that he met a woman and she would be moving in with us!

Yes, I know…

That certainly changed things but, needing to work this out, we gave them the real den off of the entry hall. It’s the room with the French doors and is now their living room.

Fortunately, they’re the loveliest people, but I’m not even 40, with 2 young kids, trying to navigate a life and multiple careers– here at home. My own family is across the country in Arizona. It can get rather hectic and stressful at times. But, there are also positives to having my father-in-law and girlfriend here.

Oh, wow! That’s quite a story.


The organ, of course needs a home and the only place left was the dining room which also doubles as our little living room.


In addition, it’s a music room as both my husband and I are professional musicians. There are a myriad of instruments.

organ room - kitchen - decorating on a shoe string budgetHere, looking into the orange-flavored CHERRY-wood kitchen you can see my cello in the corner and cases for other instruments. One of them belongs to my older daughter, age five.

Laura's daughter with baby violin

What can I say, we’re a musical family.

Oh stop! The cuteness is killing me! But, thank you for letting me post this adorable photo of your daughter. I love that tiny violin!


Laura was so kind to share her shopping list and more for her decorating on a shoestring budget


She said that the final tally for the room was actually $1,350.00, including paint and other supplies.

What’s awesome is that she had a base from which to begin with her husband’s rockin’ antique pieces that he had inherited when his mother passed.


Ceiling light: Montelena 5-light Shaded Chandelier $175 at Wayfair.

Wayfair apparently discontinued the 5-light—maybe that’s when I snagged it at that price.

Below, there’s a small widget with about seven other chandeliers that are also very reasonably priced.


Rug: $250 Miara Cream Rug 10×13 Its not going to last forever, but for that size at that price?!


I have some bad news. It IS going to last forever. ;] It’s polypropylene. But, I had no idea from the photo.


Sofa: On “Wayfair Day” this baby went down to $525.


Holy Crap!!!

I had read your post on the best sofas to buy  and this one too about the number one sofa at least 20 times, and knew this could fit the bill, but it didn’t have great reviews. I took a gamble on the quality and it paid off as I’m very happy with both the quality and comfort of this sofa.


Phew! But, I look at the reviews, because it’s good to know WHY folks are giving a low number.


Sometimes people want to be mean for no reason whatsoever except that they are sadistic freaks. But a couple of people complained that the measurements are inaccurate. So, we have to consider if they even know what they are talking about. They say that the sofa is only 31″ high. Yes, to the back RAIL that sits behind the back cushions. The pillows are always higher. But, it’s not an exact science because well, they’re pillows and scrunchy.  I can see from Laura’s images that the sofa is at least 34″-36″ high.


Window Panels: $225 loads less than velvet, but still looked to have a lush texture.


Mine are the Juniper Berry colorway in 120″ length; I hemmed them myself and added drapery hooks (to hang higher to cover my make-shift DIY rod) and rings.

I notice that they are a shade off from the wall color and I actually really love that. There are so many greens in the room and this reflects that.


Paint is BM Jack Pine in flat/matte with Simply White semi-gloss (thank you Laurel Those are both beauties from your curated paint and palette collection.).


Accent pillows were from a home stagers warehouse clear-out sale, $5 ea.

WOW! And I love the colors


The end tables were on clearance at Walmart this summer for $17ish ea.

That works.

Ordered the flowers from Amazon, maybe $3 a stem.


Now, for my favorite part.


A few of the art pieces we had, but about half a dozen were printed on my large format color laser.  (in addition to being a flutist, I’m also a graphic designer and photographer).

Wow! You’s so talented and the art wall is my favorite part too. It’s what you see when you first walk into the room and it compliments the wall color so beautifully. It totally makes the room!


So yes, with paint about $1,350.


That is outstanding! And I love that the supporting players aren’t terribly flashy. They don’t need to be.

Below I created a small widget that has about ten items, mostly ceiling chandeliers that are under $250 and most of them way under that. I tried to choose pieces that are stylish and don’t look super-cheap.  Some are quite modern and I think that’s a good move for this room.



Laura wrote to me in a later email some interesting info about her luscious art wall.


decorating on a shoestring budget - fabulous art gallery wall - art wall


I wanted to use a portrait on the gallery wall and had a mass-produced print that seemed to work. But even after putting it under the wavy antique glass of a Victorian frame, it looked terrible. So I used matte Mod Podge craft glue and with a brush, replicated strokes following the print, let it dry and repeated.  Behind the glass, it looks like canvas! Win!



I asked Laura how much space is there between the sofa and organ bench.


It’s only 53″ and since this is a major path, a coffee table won’t work.


cherry kitchen into music room


The view of the music room is stunning, but the cabinets do look quite orange in this photo.


Brace yourself again, this is the family room. “It’s beyond overwhelming,” Laura said and continued.



I know. The giant furniture is overwhelming and obviously the wrong colors.

Although I LOVE the Benjamin Moore Washington Blue that sort of balances the overpowering orange wood, it is WAAAAAY too dark in there), wall-to-wall built-in with ridiculously sized niches — it’s next on the list.


family room before


Though, with how long I had to wait to find pretty pieces at rock bottom prices, I’ll give myself maybe $2500+ for the family room.


Wow! That might be tough; especially if you want to replace the cabinet. Just taking it out and repairing the wall is pretty expensive unless you guys do it yourselves. I imagine that you have to be careful with your hands?


As an aside, I have found literally no help/ideas online trying to rework my kitchen with no windows.


The kitchen lives between the breakfast/table area and dining room, and as much as I’d love to do an unkitchen, I don’t have any pretty windows illuminating the space. And according our friend/contractor, taking down the wall in between the kitchen and family is not a realistically viable option. Just putting that out there maybe as a future blog topic.



This has been incredibly interesting Laura. I want to make a few remarks.


First of all, as you know I think that you did an outstanding job; particularly with so little money. The only thing I would probably recommend is that the area rug be a little smaller next time. ALTHOUGH. I am thinking that the organ can’t be half on and half off the rug. Or maybe that’s all that was in stock at the time, that you liked.

Normally, I recommend a minimum of about one foot of wood showing around the room, but usually 18″ to two feet. It all depends. The rug could be floating even more.

I think that Wayfair should use your image of the curtains for their advertising. Their photo makes those drapes look cheap and yours look luxurious. Note to all. These are black-out drapes which have both pros and cons. The pro is that the color will remain constant as the day-light can’t go through it. The con is that they will block some light. But this appears to be a bright south and maybe west-facing room, so black-out is an excellent idea.


I would also look into having some UV film applied to the glass if it is not there already. Over time, if the hot sun is filtering through the room, it could harm the furniture and maybe even the organ!


I LOVE love these big beautiful windows and with transoms!

And, this is a lovely house, however, there is a LOT of wood. But, it seems to me that its biggest problem is that it can’t decide if it wants to be a craftsman-style of some sort or a Victorian-ish style home. Lotte’s home from Sunday is the real-deal Victorian.


One thing that is bugging me when you guys can swing it. I would definitely consider changing the front door.


If you click that link, you’ll see some similar doors. This makes Laurie (me, to be clear) very cranky.


They are 100% American fraud. There is no such thing as a Victorian door that looks anything like this. Of course, if you like it, despite my saying it’s wrong, it’s not the end of the world. :]

And while I adore the interior doors and transoms, I’m also not crazy about the ersatz (laurel’s favorite word) frosted glass with the trying-to-be Craftsman design in the interior transom windows. It’s not real leaded glass and this isn’t Taliesin.


But, but, but, there is so much potential here. Just look at how the music room came to life. You can do this! I do love the gorgeous high ceilings and the coffered ceilings too. Over-all, I think that this home is really more Victorian than Craftsman, and I think knowing that will be helpful when deciding what gets painted and what stays as wood.

You can see some authentic Craftsman and Victorian homes here and how they are painted (or stained).


As for the kitchen and family room, plus eating area.

I told Laura that if she sends me a floor plan of the entire area, that I might be able to work on this one. These are not uncommon problems. This is the heart of the house, but that’s just it. It’s dark and does have a ponderous vibe, as is.

However, we can discuss north facing rooms and rooms without windows and ways to integrate this area to make it as warm and inviting as the beautiful music room.


decorating on a shoestring budget-clock organ room afterOne last look before I send this one off.

Thank you so much Laura for not only sharing your lovely home with us, but a part of you and your lovely family, as well.

BTW, I didn’t comment, but I love the dark green velvet chair and then repeating that one pillow on the sofa. Muah! Really great. I think that you got the balance just right.



PS:  I almost forgot. I recorded a podcast recently for these lovely women who have a professional organizing business called Spark Joy.

No, it’s not Done and Done.


It’s only 19 minutes and I talk about a variety of topics related to interior design. Enjoy!





83 Responses

  1. What a wonderful post, congratulations to Laura for designing such a wonderful room. I have a similar shoestring budget and I’m hoping to tackle my living room over the next year. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Also, Laurel your post on getting inexpensive nice furniture is really helpful – I am scouring facebook marketplace daily and so far have gotten a lovely secretary desk/cabinet with drawers unit and a china cabinet for roughly half IKEA pricing! (And they are lovely and higher quality)

  2. Oh my goodness, I LOVE your reading your blog so much, I’ve cancelled every other one. And the funny thing is, we live in a very small motor home. Perhaps 180 sq ft when it’s all open. Tonight we are on our way to Zion National Park for 2 weeks. The thing is, I know we won’t do this forever and one day we’ll build and it’ll be Hammertime! Uh … Berntime!
    You’re so much fun and educational.

  3. This is so fun to see. It’s wonderful to have these great resources like you Laurel, so we can make our homes beautiful without spending so much money! I’m learning the hard way that contractors and architects are NOT interior designers of decorators. I’m going crazy fighting them over every detail. They want to build what they have seen trending. I’m so glad I have your knowledge to back me up and I can say, “No, I’ll do it without you later if I have to.” Great examples here of taking a home and Laurel Berning” it!

  4. Laura, just WOW! I also like to find a bargain and have done many DIY projects. But, I wish I had your talent! You have a wonderful ability to style everything beautifully. Thank you for sharing your home with us; please do a follow-up! Laurel, I LOVE these kinds of posts – they give me inspiration on how I can make changes (that aren’t super-expensive) that will make my home feel more like “me.” I can’t wait to see what you recommend for her other rooms!

  5. Oh and Laurel dear,
    After reading that you highly advised using an interior designer, even if just for a few hours, another set of eyes, tweaking…
    Honestly, I did look at everyone listed on google in my area.
    I must say that looking over their portfolios scared me to near shock.
    The interiors that they were calling AFTER should have been BEFOREs.
    I thought it must be because of the area that I live in and the concentration of peoples who still seem to want to live in the 90s ERSATZ ITALIANATE style.
    There wasn’t ONE that I would have paid to do anything for me.
    I’m not trying to be all high and mighty here.
    What to do in such a case? How far reaching do we need to go before finding someone that can relate to Neo Trad and would still be willing to travel?
    Just curious, Thanks

    1. Oh gosh, that is a problem faced by many and it could be a cultural thing and/or the population is not large enough. Or, they might have your style, but don’t take on small jobs. This is another reason that I’ve written these posts about the design process.

      And then, a lot of designers do work long-distance. It is definitely more of a challenge, but not impossible.

  6. Brava Laura!
    Really nice job. Love the colors. The Sofa is pretty and I really like your gallery wall.
    Very good luck with your sofa, But should it give you difficulty in the future…
    There’s a product by NO Sags, INC. bought on Amazon, that will revive a sagging bottom cushion.
    Our basement sofa still Looked good But was saggy. Also, The back pillows on my sofa became compacted and deformed, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I opened them up and cut open the lining, and Re shredded the fiberfill and Restuffed them. World of difference.
    Good luck on future improvements

  7. Kudos, Laura! Exceptionally well done. And kudos to you, too, Laurel, for teaching us so well; you must be so proud of your “student”! I just wish I could have been the one to tear down those ghastly, overwrought draperies!

  8. Laura, you did such an amazing job on your music room!! I think it looks stunning, and just the right mix of antique and more modern pieces. It definitely looks like you spent way more than what you did.

    In looking at your kitchen, I realized that we have the exact same cherry cabinets, which I also inherited from a previous owner (and of course they don’t go up to the ceiling). I also inherited pink(!) granite counter tops. Pink. Granite. I haven’t gotten the money together to redo the kitchen, but I will say that what helped me a great deal was painting the kitchen walls a nice grayish blue.

    The previous owner had painted the kitchen yellow, which totally brought out the orange in the cherry cabinetry and bounced off the pink granite in a weird way. The color I chose worked out perfectly to tone down the orange in the wood and mutes the pink in the granite so that I can now live with these things until we have enough money to redo everything (unkitchen, here I come someday). I would try painting, since it’s a much cheaper and quicker fix and it doesn’t seem like you have a lot of wall to paint. It might work. One other idea is to use daylight halogen bulbs, to create a bit more organic light since you don’t have a window. I hope you come back and let us know how you change the kitchen and the family room!

    1. Oh dear, yellow and pink- I also found out about that bad combo when I chose one of Laurel’s lovely paint palettes for our renovation, which had a lovely coral-pink. Problem is I didn’t think about our flooring, which is bamboo (new from prior owner, sadly, so I can’t bring myself to rip it out). Anyway, thank goodness I painted a sample board and laid it casually on the table. I was walking by, glanced down and quite accidentally saw the HIDEOUSNESS of coral with the yellow/brown floors.

      There’s a reason why Laurel warns against that very combo several times in her book. It is terrible. Blech. Good that you nixed that one right away. I also used a grayish paint, but grayish green. Oh so much better!

  9. Kudos to Laura. Being able to pull off a stylish yet affordable makeover while juggling a large family couldn’t have been easy.
    Most of my friends with little kids don’t have the energy (not to mention the skill) to pull this off. Her home must be very important to her. Her surroundings must be important. Some folks don’t really care as long as it functions. Laura’s a girl after my DIY’ing heart!

  10. First, Laurel what a thrill for my home to be featured on your blog. I may (or may not) have let out the most embarrassing squeal when I saw your message in my inbox. Perhaps something akin to the Brady Bunch episode where the Brady girls meet Davy Jones? I’d never admit it though. 🙂 Next, thank you all Laurel readers. I was nervous to read the comments, (especially after partially exposing you to the TOTALLY ORANGE world I live in) but Laurel assured me that her readers are among the most lovely earthlings in the universe. I totally agree. My heart is so full, it may just burst.

    BUT YES! The Victorian v. Craftsman IDENTITY CRISIS! The whole house has these crazy swings one way or the other. I have been saying this from the first day we walked through! And that DOOR! I KNOW, I KNOW!! I agree that I think it would be easier to modulate the vibe to Victorian throughout. I can’t tell you how many times I have googled “Victorian Modern Farmhouse” with few inspiring results! (being rural and in our setting of a few acres + pond, once you see the whole exterior, I think you’d agree it leans towards Farmhouse too.) May those words don’t belong together. Maybe it’s not and shouldn’t be a thing. But it sorta feels right… Anyway, onward and upward. Thanks everyone! Muah!

    1. You’re so adorable Laura. Really, it’s a pleasure. And I have to say, that I moderate all comments, but not a one has said anything that needed to be deleted. That’s because, not only is it real, it’s completely accessible. And it’s good to know that a cheap Wayfair sofa is not such a bad thing! Will it hold up? The cushions, maybe not, but the rest probably will be fine.

    2. Davy Jones! Oh, no, you didn’t, Laurel … ok, that was me… I’m the crazy woman who compared my obsession with Laurel and her blog to my childhood obsession with Davy Jones and the Monkees. Unless, of course, you coincidentally have the same obsession, Laura! Hahaha! Within 30 minutes after I’ve come home from work, I’ve got my laptop open looking for a new blog post! “I wouldn’t live without her, even if I could!” Hahaha! Your home is beautiful, Laura. You must feel a great sense of satisfaction. You saved a ton of money and your music room is gorgeous!

      Speaking of saving money…. I bought the rug that was recommended for my color palette from Overstock and it was about $400 less than you said it would be in your Ultimate Paint Palette and Home Furnishings Collection guide, Laurel. Overstock is having a sale on Safavieh rugs! I can’t wait for it to arrive! If you don’t have the Ultimate Paint Palette and Home Furnishings Collection guide, buy it people! Heck, I just saved enough money on this one purchase to pay for the guide twice!

      1. I swear to anyone reading this, that I have not paid Donna to plug my guide! Overstock is great for rugs. It’s where I got my new bedroom rug and I love it. The colors looked exactly like the photo which is so rare and actually not that easy to do as Oriental rugs do have a nap. This one isn’t very pronounced, but some are.

        Anyway, thank you so much Donna. Yes, it was you who wrote me that sweet email and spoke of Davy Jones. Gosh, weren’t we ALL obsessed with him when we were little girls? I guess those of us who are over 55. And too funny, but yes this is a coincidence that Laura mentioned him too. But wait. She’s pretty much a millennial. Well, I guess reruns?

  11. This is a super-interesting post! I’d love to know how Laura designed her art wall. Regardless of the cost of the art, the arrangement takes a lot of skill.
    This is off topic, but Laura and her husband might want to consider consulting a lawyer re the girlfriend. Should anything happen to the father the resulting situation could be quite difficult.

  12. Holy cow. That transformation would be remarkable at five times the price! But at just over $1,000? Brava, Laura.

    And still the most beautiful part is your daughter : ) .

  13. #2, got ahead of myself & didn’t read to the end. I see the ‘ersatz’ now, whoopsy. I loved that windowless room post! So funny with the dolphin floor & the space window! For windowless kitchen … maybe shiny brass panels or ‘antiqued’ mirrors, however they do that look with the splotches like the back is wearing off. I’ve seen those in modern style kitchens though, I don’t know what goes in a craftsman. Wallpaper? A nice plaid. Speaking of ikea & brass, I’m still disappointed they are selling brass panels to Europe & not to the US. I see it for $15/Kuwait though???!!! lol

  14. Big Lots you say? I don’t think of them for chairs & was eyeing the little one in the pictures. Also have always liked that ikea one since I first saw it in the catalog. Thanks Laura for sharing your home! So great. I’ve also been thinking of that paint color, so nice to see it in action. For the family room, maybe you could trade off painting the built-in, for not painting in the kitchen? I would argue (to a husband) that it isn’t thaaaat special a piece that it couldn’t be rebuilt… and how much better the front room is with the white ceiling… that was a good choice. Change some of the moulding? Add shelves? It would really reflect light well in that back corner if there was some white, & I don’t like white. Laurel is making me a believer in paint. Is that the grass cloth wallpaper in kitchen? Such a fun texture, I love the windows above the doors also. Etched? All so inspiring & pretty.

      1. Whoops: I meant, I felt silly for liking the windows that were ersatz. I should try using more complete sentences.

  15. Fellow Ohioan here. I live in the no-man’s land between NE and NW Ohio but I have a lot of love for NE Ohio and frequently visit Akron which has got to be the Tudor revival center of the world. Check out the Stan Hywet Hall sometime. Acres and acres of gorgeous gardens and stunning house. Loving Laura’s makeover. Her house looks to have so much potential with her great taste, some paint, and Laurel’s fabulous blog!

    1. Thanks Eleanor! Though Stan Hywet is nothing like our house, it also has a pipe organ!!! A much larger one and its in a sort of largish ballroom…so, basically nothing like my house… but sooo funny you mention it because we actually have a little inside joke that we live in Stan Hywet Hall now, based on how much smaller our last home was compared to this. Lol.

    1. haha! Well said. In my case, I saw the before– After as I asked Laura if she had any before shots. That one is a classic. I’ve been in a number of homes that to me look so dated and I hate to say like grandma, but it’s just term because every single time, I would hear my new client say, “no, they are a young family.” So, “grandma decorating” isn’t an age thing really. It just means, dated,tired and oftimes – precious in a cloying way. And in this case, the window treatment is also some invented atrocity, (with ugly muddy fabric) that has very little resemblence to the 18th century swag and jabot, it thinks it’s emulating. Plus, putting that heavy vertical swath of fabric below the transom is just so wrong. I wouldn’t have done a valance at all on this type of window–ever!

  16. What a lovely reader! And generous. I cannot imagine being surprised by an additional “lady of the manor” with her own tastes, spaces and style. Truly amazing. The room is beautifully done and the home as a whole is wonderful. Here in Florida we don’t see much Victorian or that kind of woodwork…just lots and lots of drywall and practically zero trim. I can’t wait to see more of what she does on her shoe string budget but honestly can I say she is giving her children the most beautiful life with multi-generational living and all that culture and music. What a gift.

    1. Hi Pamela,

      There is an old style in Florida that’s quite classical and I’ve been meaning to do a post about it. Have you ever seen photos of old Havana? It’s absolutely gorgeous! And, I agree completely on the gift these children are getting.

      1. I have not seen Old Havana but would love a post on that. We decorate in a somewhat British Colonial Island/American Colonial Style but still drywall galore. We had a place decades ago in the Florida Keys and loved the old architecture there.

  17. LOVE this post! While I enjoy looking at rooms done by decorators (with a large budget I assume)seeing a beautiful room done on a budget, by a regular person, is so inspiring!!

    Laurel you should be so proud of what you are doing with this blog. You are helping to educate thousands of people on design and you are helping them create and live in a home that speaks to their inner spirit. Just think, without your blog, someone like Laura would not have had the knowledge to create such a lovely room for herself (and her family).

    1. Hi Maggie,

      Thank you for such a kind comment. I realize that some designers don’t like to give out all of this information– for free, that is. This is how I look at it. First of all, the people that are utilizing the information were never going to hire an interior designer in the first place. It is still only a tiny percent of the population who hires an interior designer/decorator to help them furnish their home.

      Most people don’t and the vast majority have no idea what’s involved or the millions of landmines just waiting to explode in their face. I mean, you wouldn’t try to deliver your own breech twins, would you? ;] Well, decorating a home is no different. It’s just not usually a matter of life and death. But, it sure can be expensive.

      So, my aim all along has been to give the talented Lauras of the world, and even those with lesser abilities, the skills to create for themselves, a beautiful home. For the rest of the population who DO hire interior designers, the original intent was for them to see that I (usually) know what I’m talking about and have had the experience to make them feel comfortable, etc…….

      And, man, it worked! And then, I started getting, not only calls, but calls BEGGING me to help them. Total strangers. I mean, I could be a serial killer. but no, they were ready to sign the contract and pay me whatever. That is the power a blog can yield.

      This is really aimed at all of you designers out there who are wondering how to get your phone ringing. Buy my blogging guide! It is not just for full-time bloggers!

      For me, there was a shift around three years ago, where I was absolutely about to lose my mind. I was very busy with client-work and trying to run the web-site, and grow it, plus writing my books and without any help whatsoever. There’s a post here about a client with a busted coffee table. Well, I know it was two, but actually, yes, THREE times the freaking table came in busted. The first two times, it went back. The third time, it was minor enough to get fixed at the receiver. My normally exceedingly lovely and patient clients were understandably miffed. I was livid!

      And then around that time, a husband of a client was screaming at me; Yes! screaming in my ear about this piece of furniture with damage that was DELIVERED. Then, the delivery company tried to bill me for TWO deliveries! (yes, I fired them even though we had been working together for 16 years!) Oh, I could go on and on…

      I did love working with people and helping them create more beautiful homes. But, I can still do that and on a far larger scale, this way. It’s very gratifying, plus I’m FINALLY for the first time in my life, making a decent income. It’s a win-win-win!

      If any designers think that I’m making it so that people won’t want to hire them, I disagree. I believe that what I’m doing is hopefully elevating the profession. And, it’s also showing just how difficult it is to put together a beautiful room, thus conveying that they really should seek out pro help if possible. I always encourage people to at least consult with a designer.

      Geepers! I think that I just wrote another blog post! LOL

      1. I agree with your comment about being more open to using a designer after seeing all the moving pieces to getting a fantastic room! I think one of the main reasons more people don’t use a designer is that they are intimidated–thinking only ‘rich’ people use designers. A misconception you have addressed.
        I have used a designer before only because I had a friend that used one and I could see that she (the designer) was very friendly and willing to work on small jobs and work with what I had…but if my friend didn’t use her, I would never have used a designer.

        1. Hi Maggie,

          While it is more difficult to find a designer who will take smaller jobs and be open to working with you have, it is by no means impossible. A lot of my clients were those whose jobs were deemed to be “too small” to take on by other designers. One of my favorite clients. You can see several of her rooms in my portfolio. The smaller white kitchen/blue and gold family room and the pale sun room with the aqua ceiling. You can see a little of her dining room. I only did the wallpaper, drapes and chandelier in there. But, I also did the living room, two bedrooms, carpeting up the stairs and upstairs, wallpaper in the entry and probably some other things I’m forgetting. But the point is, that over time, it was not at all a small job. And it was always such a pleasure visiting her.

    2. Maggie S speaks the TRUTH. I would not have had the knowledge to create this room on my own! I worked at a well known home decor store throughout high school and college, studied fine art (music & graphic design) and then eventually became a photographer and graphic designer, and am generally the gal my sisters/fam/friends go to for style/color suggestions, I still couldn’t visualize my aesthetic world cohesively melding with my husband’s love of everything OLD. Maybe this is similar to the classic problem of designers having a hard time designing for themselves? But after about 8 months of Laurel blogs, I felt confident on a direction and ran. Thank you Laurel!

      1. Well, thank you too Laura. Obviously, you have an innate talent. One of many, I see. But, still, you had some significant challenges with this space, but made the most of it.

  18. Thanks for sharing this transformation, I think it is beautifully done. Wondering why the window trim and baseboard were not painted white also? I agree with others that painting the cabinets in the den white will go a long way. I would take it further though and paint all trim and ceiling white, Kitchen too. The built-in cabinets could become a lovely library/display with books and decorative items. Can’t wait to see this transformation too!

    1. Hi Valerie,

      You took the words out of my mouth. While I was writing it, I did notice that some of the trim is wood and some painted white. That was already done by the previous owners. It doesn’t make sense to me. There’s a lot of logic in this business. As I said in an earlier response, the window muntins are white, too. That’s because they are probably the plastic snap in kind. I don’t have a problem with that, in particular, although of course, wood would be my preferred material. But if a builder is going to stain all of the trim, then he should put in the proper muntins to coordinate with the trim. However, I don’t know the history of this home, so maybe the builder’s intent was to paint, but the original owners decided to stain.

    2. The painting in this room occurred BEFORE my husband was fully convinced of Laurel’s wisdom. Lol. We didn’t paint the windows as a compromise– he does love ALL THE WOOD. ALL OF IT. I attempted the SAME argument about the white muntins (didn’t know that word before now- more education via Laurel)- he was unsure. Once the transformations take place throughout the family room, kitchen, and hall, I’m sure we’ll circle back to the windows in here!

      1. Sorry, the copy editor is coming out in me. The word is muntins, and mullions are the dividers between double or triple or grouped windows.

        Back in the day muntins held panes of glass, but nowadays they are usually simulated and are not true muntins. Mullions used to be a structural member to help support the wall above the window between individual window units, but nowadays they are usually integrated into the entire window to make it a single unit.

        There are many styles and parts to windows and it all can be very confusing!

  19. Hello Laurel, I am impressed with what Laura did. She not only found solutions to many individual problems, she coordinated them wonderfully as well. Ha, ha, I have to admit that my first thought when scrolling down was that budget or not, that front door would have to go, even if that meant going at it with a Sawzall and framing-in a simple rectangular glass panel.

    I love the taste and skill that went into the art wall. Still, I have to tell you, I just spent the summer in Northeast Ohio and found so much bargain framed art (quality things that were very special to me, nothing generic) that I have no place to put it all up. (I sent you some samples in an email. Let me know if you got it, so I’ll know if that address is viable.)

    1. Hi Jim,

      Apologies again, for missing your email. For anyone reading this, besides Jim. I saw his comment and immediately flew over to my email to rectify the situation. I was just a wee bit tired on Sunday morning and inadvertently missed it. Thank you for corroborating my aversion to the ubiquitous, fake Victorian front doors. Yes, it’s the oval that’s at the heart of this. Oh, I’ve looked and looked and looked and I cannot find such a door that’s authentic to the Victorian period; not even close!

      Now, more syncs abound that you were in northeastern Ohio last summer. I think it’s possible that some of those pieces were acquired as you did.So, let it be known, that northeastern Ohio is the place to find cool bargain art! I’m sure that there must be other places, as well. ;]

      But I also understand Laura’s situation, all too well. She’s a momma to two darling angels, (that’s full-time job #one), but then, works full-time at multiple jobs which some no doubt include teaching, I’m presuming. And then, there’s her own practice of her instruments. I know that at the very least, she plays the cello and the flute. Plus, all of that, needs to be worked around her husband’s schedule. Although, I can imagine that she practices in their bedroom sometimes.

      I can recall the days in my old home when I was still a mother, lol that there was almost two different musical events going on and very often three. I would be sitting at my computer in the middle of it all. I loved the cacophony of sound. It meant that all was right with the world. At that moment in time.

  20. This was quite an undertaking and she should be quite proud of herself. I think in that “dark” living /family room, I’d be painting all of that dark wood white. Every bit of it…even the ceiling. How dramatic of a change would that be? Can you imagine how light and bright the room would become? Change the wall colour. Instant transformation. If she didn’t have the funds to replace the furniture, she could cover it. But, if she lightened up the entire room, she maybe could get away with it as it is.

    1. That thought has occurred to me as well. In fact, in the music room, the previous owners are the ones who painted the coffers and wainscoting. I am positive that they were originally stained like the rest of the wood. And I base that on the fact that the window casings are stained. I have to say that the color of the wood looks so fabulous with the curtain fabric and wall color. But if I were painting everything else, I would probably paint the trim as well.

      And hang on just a sec. The window muntins in the music room ARE white. Strictly speaking, I’d paint all of the trim white. OR, I’d paint the kitchen and family room, not white, but a beautiful warm khaki. I’m getting ahead of myself, but my biggest problem in the family room aside from the sculpted wall-to-wall which for me, is like chalk being scraped against a chalkboard is that recessed downlight; bright enough to perform surgery under. However, I realize that I’m really swimming up the tide on that one. However, I’m getting a headache just looking at it. In the room, the glare would be mighty uncomfortable, for me, anyway. In a coffered ceiling, unless a kitchen, those big cans are just criminal, IMO. And in kitchens, I use the little halogen or LED cans that are about 3″ in diameter.

      1. Re: the downlights You will never believed me (well maybe you would now after seeing their other home choices), the previous owners only had 4 lights in this GIANT room, and they were all 65 watt equivalent bulbs. With the dark blue paint. And all the wood. And there is even a porch over those windows, so there is even less daylight coming in. (there was lighting in the built in and a couple spots for wall art, but that hardly counts). We moved in March– when it was still very cloudy and very dark outside most days. It was so painful to live in the darkness, I literally had to escape to Arizona to visit family for a month. So my first order of business when I returned home was to put 125 watt equiv bulbs in, just so I could survive! I wasn’t ready to rework the lighting because I didn’t have a master plan. And I am not one to piecemeal a problem. I wait till I have a great solution and take action. So, throw me frickin’ bone on that one. LOL! 🙂

  21. Congratulations Laura on a job well done. What I love about that room, is that it looks so personal, and not a generic looking ‘display home’ room. To achieve such a beautiful transformation, with so little, and canny sales shopping, is a coup! Inspiring.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Danielle,

      Yes, that’s the word– personal! And, it’s a word I always used with my clients over the years. I always strived to help make their rooms personal to them. And it often meant incorporating pieces that had sentimental value. Those were some of my favorite rooms to work on.

  22. I second the solar tubes. They aren’t cute really, but I have two in my beach house and you think you’ve left the lights on bc it’s that bright. Just a little metal tunnel to the roof that lets in light. Mine don’t even have the little filter in them so you can see the metal material, but it lets in even more light that way. And mine are 11 years old in VERY rainy Oregon Coast and no leaks! (A concern I would have had.)

    1. Hi Again,

      Not cute, eh? I definitely think that the lighting needs to be worked on. I always try to keep an open mind, but I’m one step away from wishing we could go back to candles. lol Do you know that when they filmed Amadeus and the scenes were indoors at night, they used nothing but candle light. And yes, they had a lot of firemen on the set.

      1. You and Mozart. Geez. 🙂 You’d really like it here because our local classical music station (WKSU) plays Mozart constantly. And for variety, Haydn. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Mozart, but as an Arizonan living in NE Ohio, I draw the line at ‘only by candle light’. hehe.

        1. Papa Haydn. Forgive me, but the long harsh winters and lake effect SNOW/SNIRT are enough to keep this hothouse flower away. Five years in Wisconsin and I had my fill of it. It’s not so great here either, but tends to be a little milder, on the whole.

  23. I think she did an amazing job. And all that woodwork in the family room could be painted the same (white/offwhite) color as the dining room/music room and keep the blue wall paint and it would lighten it up tremendously and marry the two rooms. The niches are huge but they can hold music equipment or instruments or whatnot and it would look great. If the doors are ugly, I can’t tell, in that cabinetry, either leave them off or have a cabinet guy just make new doors. Saves 80% of the cost of new cabs. But just painting them will make the room so much happier, cleaner, more mod while still tying into the house’s character!

    1. Hi Danni,

      Some good ideas there. I told Laura that I needed to see more before making any recs. But, I’m thinking lighter too. It’s too big of a space with very uneven lighting. But, I think that a lot of people have something similar.

  24. Thank you Laura for sharing your home and your talents with us. You did an exceptional job on your music room. It’s just beautiful! I am almost 4 years into a DIY rebuild of a our 1911 home. We completely gutted the entire house. We have walls and floors again but there is NO money left for finishing and decor. My entire kitchen budget (yes including cabinets, counters, and appliances) is 10k. Couldn’t have pulled it off without this blog. No way, no how!! Renovating with no money can be fun. It gets the creative juices going, but it sure is slooowww…

    1. Thanks Gail! I wouldn’t exactly describe decorating with no money “fun” 🙂 , but certainly rewarding! We are however totally on the same page with “sloooowww…”

  25. As a former music teacher , I can tell you that’s a great teaching room. Plus there are actually people who want to learn pipe organ and would be happy not to have to go to a big cold church in Winter for lessons!

    Well done on the renovation. I’d just paint the wall unit in the family room. If hubby is in love with wood, as most of them are, you can just use a tinted brown varnish (varnish with stain in it) to take the orange out. Then get a cabinetmaker to match the colour with doors for the niches. If it is all too dark, look at solartubes. They make a huge difference.

  26. What a great post. I loved the budget transformation. Great job also with the Wayfair chandelier/

    I can’t believe that you found a budget alternative to the Morris Lantern (The Burkeville). That is an 80% discount!!!!! Way to go.


  27. I love this. I, too, am on a shoestring budget. I, too, look forward to your blog. My tastes are also evolving to be more “grown up” from your imparted wisdom . Until I started reading this blog, I left the interior decorating to my talented sister and her beautiful Victorian home. But solely because of this blog, my small town Indiana ranch home has become a place I love. It is a slow work in progress. But, there’s progress.I really, really appreciate your wonderful talent. I appreciate your willingness to share it. Your work is amazing. I’m no Laura. She killed it. But, I want you to know that you have also influenced me in a major way and I am so grateful.

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Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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