By Adam Chardis//@ritebackadam
10 – 15 minute ead
It should go without saying that I love my mother a great deal. I have her name, “Mom” tattooed on my back left shoulder and about once a week we talk on the phone so I can lie to her about how successful I am and she can tell me about all the women she hates at work. These are modest tokens of appreciation when you consider all she’s done for me…for instance, birthing me into existence or not getting too angry when I steal her cigarettes. We’re on decade three of a mother/son winning streak and I see no signs of it stopping.
Typically, on Mother’s Day, I’m not within 1,000 miles of my childhood home but this year I happen to be in the neighborhood (a.k.a. eating myself into a food coma and sleeping it off in my childhood bedroom which still decorated with posters from middle school…shoutout to Buffy the Vampire Slayer for still looking good after all these years) and since I’d be spending the entire day with my mom rather than phoning it in this year I didn’t think the average bouquet of flowers and Hallmark card were going to cut it, so I had to concoct something new and better.
Since moving out several years ago, my parents have turned a spare room into a den where they spend a hefty portion of their non-working hours watching syndicated network television and falling asleep in chairs. The only problem is the shifting tides have left the original living room into a barren desert of forgotten debris, and since it’s the first thing you see when you come into the house, I thought it would be a good idea (and a thoughtful Mother’s Day gift) to fix it up. The following day I handed my mom a coupon for one free week of interior design help.
She immediately looked at me crooked and then asked who would be helping her and then said the coupon looked fake, but I assured her of its legitimacy and got straight to work.
First thing was first, documenting the “situation” prior to designing so you guys can “Oooo” and “Ahhh” at the after pictures with a proper frame of reference. The house is a small raised ranch. The living room is attached to the kitchen and although it isn’t large it somehow still manages to feel vacant. Aside from a dog bed, my old telescope that has never been used or dusted, and an old wooden trunk that exists solely as a surface for the router to live on top of there isn’t much there. It kind of looks like they’re forever in the process of moving out.
My mother has two seemingly unshakeable addictions:
- Buying things online
- And not throwing away the boxes
Her and my father either stack them in front of the fireplace or use them to build barricades for the dog, either way, there are dozens of them so if anyone is looking to start a small shipping business my mother can certainly help you avoid startup costs.
There wasn’t much seating available in the room whatsoever. A few years back a hellspawn in the form of a Terrier rescue dog infiltrated my family’s home and went to town on the couches. My parents have just recently gotten rid of the love seat (which was mostly just a wooden frame and chunks of loose foam) and the remaining sofa was covered with a beige, corduroy slipcover that never seemed to properly fit, and if removed showed off the battle scars left from the fights with Sam, the dog from hell.
Years and years ago the entire second floor of the house was covered in wall-to-wall pink carpeting, but sometime around 1997, my mom ripped it up with extreme prejudice exposing an unfinished, blotchy wood floor. While in retrospect it was the correct choice, the damaged planks needed to be covered up.
When I dove into this project it was under the condition there would be no construction whatsoever because, frankly, I didn’t feel like patching up holes I knew I would put in the wall, and because I wanted to show you guys how easy it is to inject a little life into a room with minimal effort.
However, after making the mistake of offering to hang some shelves I was somehow convinced to build a matching coffee table as well. Still, both are insanely easy to make and I’ll show you how in a later video. In the meantime, can we get a drum roll please…
A quick trip to Home Goods solved the weird wood floor problem. This area rug was only $45 and did exactly what I needed it to do. Since the rug itself looks like a Gerhard Richter painting, it distracts from the discoloration on the floor.
We ditched the old slipcover and replaced it with a basic painters drop cloth you can get at any hardware store. The burlap sack under the table was a $3-yard sale find and I stuffed it with the excess microfiber throws my mother apparently covets for some reason and turned it into a makeshift poof.
**Design Tip: Casually place a copy of The New Yorker on your coffee table and your guests will immediately know how much smarter you are**
The table base is made from piping you can buy at Lowe’s along with the wooden table top. The entire thing cost about $50, took less than 15 minutes to put together and the only screws required were the ones that attached the top to the base.
I took down the depressing autumn toned art that was hanging above the fireplace and hung two shelves with the same piping I used for the coffee table. Aside from making sure they’re level, these are the EASIEST shelves to install and give the room an industrialized minimalistic *insert third buzzword here* vibe.
If there’s one thing my mother and I have in common it’s that we’re pack rats teetering on the brink of hoarderdom, but it actually worked to our advantage this time. Filling shelves was no issue at all and we were able to use a few vintage tins as flower pots.
Okay, I’ll admit the standing wooden shelf wasn’t just thrown together on a whim for this endeavor. It was handmade by Tumbleweed & Dandelion a few years ago (and if you like it I encourage you to shoot us an email about getting one for yourself) and I gifted it to my mom after moving out of my last apartment.
We’re firm believers in celebrating the past and that’s why you see the tattered garment on the wall. That piece of fabric is a torn portion of the dress my grandmother used to wear while dining with the King of Siam. While living there in the 1920s he would often invite her to extravagant dinners and there have been circulating rumors that I, as well as my sister, may, in fact, have royal blood.
KIDDDING! My grandmother was from the Bronx. I bought that fabric for a quarter at a garage sale, chopped it up and hung it behind some glass to make it seem meaningful and it worked like a charm!
All in all, this entire venture took about three days to complete and I know I joke a lot but it truly was worth it to see how happy it made my mother and even made my father say, “Now we can finally sit in here.” That meant the world to me.
I’ll leave you with this final image and it might be the most important one. If you’re capable of taking your eyes off of the well-curated shelving in the background you’ll notice a mug is the focus of the picture. This mug was a gift to my mother from my sister and it has an adorable drawing of a little girl on it and above that drawing, it boldly claims that SHE is the favorite child. I’m including this to let her know that since the completion of the living room this mug is no longer relevant, and ceramics with lies painted across them have no place in the cupboard. Glad we settled that. Your move, sis.