Decorating Ideas under $100: The Good, the Bad and the Funny


When you're totally low on the dough, man, how do you change the look of your pad? How do you bring grooviness and hep jive to your home base? How do you make your bathroom virtually crawl with pattern? Or turn your stately Victorian bath into an abode Mr. Roboto would envy?

This 1971 book I found at the Salvation Army Thrift Store-- "Home Decorating Ideas under $100" was designed to help...

And actually, there are plenty of good ideas between its pages. Update them from their early 70s styling, and they can be applied nicely for today. And I'll share with you a few of those items right now.

It's the Good ideas that then set us up for the, um, surprises later.

I mean, here, we have a perfectly normal, reasonably tranquil late 60s room...

The blue and green color combo was so popular at the time. But they combine it with a more neutral gold-beige background, so it doesn't get too overwhelming.

The focal point is a 60s blue-and-green graphic panel of fabric to bring the eye upward. There's a rather gratuitous glass dog on the hearth, but at least he seems happy. Everything seems spacious and well-balanced.

Yes, nothing suspicious here.

Then we have a kitchen, where colorful floral fabric has been used to create interest and update old cabinets.
The fabric here matches the drapes. But all-in-all, very clean and workable... Nothing eye-poppingly busy. You start to feel almost comfortable with the Better Homes and Gardens people, figuring they must know what they're doing to offer such smart, doable ideas.

And, well...

Okay, so the cabinets covered in cut-out tissue paper flowers above are a bit quirky. And who knows how well they'd hold up to use. But they're cheerful. And what do you expect for ideas under $100?

Okay-dokey, so we move on. To a clever way to display all that popular 70s milkglass...

The paisley background to the white cabinet sets off the interesting shapes of the milkglass dinner service, so it allows the items to be used decoratively when not actually on the dinner table.

This would really work well with any sort of pattern and color-scheme, and any sort of uniform glassware collection, too.

And look, this colorful centerpiece with...

Er, with...

Well, why is that white rabbit there?


Okay, we'll pay no attention to that random rabbit added into the scene for absolutely no discernible reason. And instead, we'll check out... Um...


Okay, I know I'm supposed to be paying attention to how they glued shells inexpensively to some board to create instant art. But my eyes keep going over to the disembodied head of the chick in the bonnet...

What kind of statement are you making when you combine shells with bonneted heads-and-torsos? Are you saying, "Look. I'm earthy and frugal! Also, I have strong negative feelings about the show Gunsmoke"? What would you call this style-- Seaside Pioneer? French Revolution Prairie?

(Shrug)

Then there's this bathroom, that I simply cannot get to scan properly. Why? Because I think the scanner is rebelling in the face of this much pattern in this small of a space...

"It's the wallpaper, with its colorful contemporary design, that makes the small guest powder room come alive. Add to this, a sculptured tin mirror frame, a row of theater lights above it, and unique containers of crystal, silver and bornze, and you have a completely individual retreat for guests."

The walls come alive, all right! And let's just hope none of your guests enjoy refreshments of the narcotic persuasion, or this bathroom might just cause a very bad scene.

"I'm freakin' out, man. The walls see everything and they're comin' for me."

I love how they don't just infest the bathroom with the crawly wall-paper either. They also get a gigantic mirror to reflect the other three walls of it, just in case you missed it when you came in.

Now that's decorating confidence!

But not so confident as this little robotic beauty. Yes, the hills really do have eyes!

"If you have an old-fashioned bathroom of Victorian vintage, flaunt it. The only cost involved in updating the one below was for paint, lumber for a shelf above the bathtub and a wooden theater light frame around the mirror. Use accessories to accent the color of the tub and the wall decorating."
If I had a Victorian clawfoot tub, I somehow don't think I would look at it and say to myself:

"Self, you know what this needs? An eight foot tall purple and orange rendering of the robot Gort looming down on me. Yes, nothing says nice, quiet bubble bath time as being watched loofahing by an acrylic invader from another planet."

Oh, Better Home and Gardens people, you were only setting us up with your clever ideas, weren't you, in order to stick it to us later with your budget Borg Invasion.

Ah well...

Yarn flower centerpiece, anyone?...

Why spend money on fresh flowers, when you could spend money on yarn to make these elegant pom-pom ones?...

Yes, yes, I know. I should have quit when I was ahead.
Otherwise, I hope to see you Wednesday with our next Treasure Box post. I am feeling a ton better, so a little thrifting was in order!

Hope you all have a happy week ahead of you, too. And with no robots trying to invade your bathtime.

17 comments:

Courtney said...

Hahah some of those pictures look like something straight out of an acid trip. Wonderful ;)

Andrea said...

I think that I had that book!!
I've lived through the avocado and gold appliance days...stoves, refrigerators, washer & dryer. UGH! They'll very likely come back and I'll like them again, but when they went "out" they went waaaaaay out. One of our houses had an orange bathroom with bright, fake red bricks behind the tub. I think that the previous owners even painted the tub orange. It was "FAR OUT BABY!"

Serena said...

Strangely enough, some of the ideas in the book appeal to me. I esp liked the tissue paper covered cabinet and the yarn flowers. The red floral centerpiece (minus the rabbit) was cool, too. And I'm not one to like retro decorating ideas! Go figure!

beccy said...

Haha, I love those books! When I took up the carpet in my bedroom, the floorboards were painted purple and yellow irregular stripes - two planks yellow, one purple, two yellow, three purple etc. If you look closely at the doors, you can just see the outline of a giant 'splodge' in each panel. I never stripped the doors but I bet they're purple and yellow underneath too!

Jenn Thorson said...

Courtney- And the irony is that this particular book was subdued compared to a few... where every single surface ends up covered in the same loud floral pattern. I don't know how folks slept at night.

Andrea- Ah, yes. I'm familiar with those-- our family had appliances that were "coffee" colored along with the avocado and marigold and orange accessories. Groovy, man! :)

Serena- Yes, they did a nice job with that tissue paper cabinet, oddly enough. There's something peppy and pleasing about it. Goes to show, some ideas will always have an appeal-- and other ideas seem like their value is more related directly their time-period.

Beccy- Oh, wow-- the purple and yellow had to have been a bit of a shock. I bet you were laughing when you discovered that one!

Janelle said...

Glad you're feeling better, because some of those rooms could have killed you off in your weakened condition!

Jenn Thorson said...

Janelle- Can you imagine having the flu and having to spend quality time in that writing paisley bathroom with the mirror? Between the fever and that pattern, you'd be passed out on the floor in no time!

Bee Balm Gal said...

This was one of the funniest blogs I've ever read. I actually laughed out loud. Am still wiping away tears. Loved it!
I enjoy looking through library book sales for old decorating books like this. I figure anything that still appeals after thirty years or so was in fact a good design idea.

Jenn Thorson said...

Bee Balm Gal- Glad to hear you got some chuckles from our friend Mr. Roboto and the likes. :)

I imagine if you've gone through book sales for things like this, you're well familiar with both the good ideas-- and the not-so-good ones-- that evolved from this era!

chyna said...

And now we see who the renovators have to thank for some of the messes found in their homes! Oh you BH&G you are so funny!

I could live with some of that but their brilliant ideas for bathrooms were way out there.

Glad you're feeling better, what a week for you!

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- I didn't even show you guys the bathroom with the hand-made plastic orange tree pole used to "freshen" it up. :) Nothing like plastic fruit to make things fresh, right?

Yes, I am feeling a whole lot better, thanks! It WAS a pretty crummy week. At least I was able to meet all my deadlines. It was looking touch-and-go there for a while.

Vonlipi said...

My mother had the disembodied chick head with the bonnet....that is super creepy! LOL

Jenn Thorson said...

Vonlipi- Oh, wow-- so you've seen the bonneted head thingie in person!

I haven't even seen anything like that at antique malls in all the years I've been antiquing.

chyna said...

A plastic orange tree?!!!! OMG, that I could see my grandmother doing, she's the one with a decidedly obvious lack of decorating ability. hey you could buy those plastic fruits with the candy in them and decorate that way. Very Willy Wonka. LOL

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- Oh yes-- it went with a citrus themed bathroom. It looked a bit like Harry Belefonte exploded in it. :)

Down Pillow said...

Wow, great photos :) I'd love to have a copy of that book.

Maine-ly Me said...

Now that's some fun stuff! I guess everything old IS new again! Thanks for sharing. :-)