Decorate Your Walls For Less By Gluing Random Crap Together

My friend and I used to pretend to be crafters, and we would email elaborately ridiculous project descriptions back and forth to each other as examples of that past time gone wild. Now we must put down our imaginary glue guns and denim swatches to pay homage to Pamela Cole Harris, who does this stuff for real. Below, see what happens when a kindly scrapbooker goes insane.

Some of Harris’ suggestions:

  • Paste fringe onto old picture frames
  • Glue wooden spoons to spraypainted canvas
  • Hang scraps of wrapping paper on the wall

Here’s another one:

Pick up old vinyl records from the thrift shop – particularly bad or scratchy ones because we don’t want to ruin the good ones. For the sake of musical history, I recommend using old Lawrence Welk albums. Spray these in bright colors and attach them to the wall as instant graphic elements.

Elsewhere, she suggests hanging a curtain in place of your headboard, draping sheets over old furniture, and decoupaging, which is a craft technique that you really should need a license to attempt.

Harris seems aware that her ideas are not exactly mainstream:

Don’t worry about the design being ugly. Remember all of the abominably ugly design ideas we have fallen for in the past (think flocked velvet wallpaper, cottage cheese ceilings, and avocado green appliances) just because someone with confidence and an accent told us it was “Fabulous, Dahling!” Your abominibly ugly idea just might be the next “in” thing!

So there you have it: if you want to save money but convince your friends that you’ve gone off your meds permanently, try out some of these decorating ideas. Now excuse us—we have to go finish this toaster cozy we’re making out of hamburger meat trays and used shoelaces.

“Cheap Decor Ideas for Your Living Room” [About.com: Budget Decorating]
“Easy Furniture Makeovers – No Hammer Required!” [About.com: Budget Decorating]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. howie_in_az says:

    I’d love to see some of her “designs” in action. In fact, I’m rather upset that she didn’t post pictures of her own home, full of chotchkies glued onto various pieces of other items and hung on her walls at odd angles like some sort of Piccasso with Alzheimers.

    • Skiffer says:

      @howie_in_az: I’m just imagining a poor tortured terrier running around her home with macaroni and AOL cds glued to it…

      • NikkiSweet says:

        @Skiffer:

        and just what, pray tell, are you *supposed* to do with the AOL cds? use them as coasters?? (ok I admit… that’s exactly what I used them as…)

        • dewsipper says:

          @NikkiSweet: Or christmas ornaments: paint the crappy (aol) side and then decorate it. The other side nicely reflects the christmas lights on the tree. And it keeps a 5-year-old busy “creating” for an hour or two.

    • sir_eccles says:

      @howie_in_az: Go watch HGTV for a few days and assuming your eyes don’t bleed you’ll get a fair taste for what she is talking about.

      • Parapraxis says:

        @sir_eccles:

        I remember seeing a couple on an HGTV show learning how to make crown moulding, and the husband looks at the wife at the drafting table, closes in for a kiss, and she totally shies away…

        It cuts really quickly to a scene of him perched precariously on a ladder desperately trying not to break his neck.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Avant garde is more or less just another way of describing something as “crap stuck to canvas” isn’t it?

    I’ve been looking for interesting wall art, and I can’t imagine items stuck together would be worth paying for. But to actually be the one to stick it all together, and think it’s imaginative…sigh.

    Am I the only one freaked out when I walk into Michaels and there are aisles and aisles of scrapbooking punches and stuff, and it’s all grossly expensive? And people still. keep. scrapbooking.

    • m4ximusprim3 says:

      @IHaveAFreezeRay: I just think it’s a fairly sad commentary that “scrapbooking” is a verb, comparable to “running” or “weightlifting”.

      Taking the 4th grade definition of Verb as “an action word”, scrapbooking should be declared null and void.

    • MercuryPDX says:

      @IHaveAFreezeRay: You haven’t seen it until you’ve seen the specialty Scrapbooking Only stores.

      I could swear a saw that ‘Paint Vinyl Records’ idea on “Trading Spaces” or one of those home decor shows. It looked great since the whole room was “60’s Sock Hop/Malt Shop” themed, but how often do you actually see that?

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @MercuryPDX:
        “I could swear a saw that ‘Paint Vinyl Records’ idea on “Trading Spaces” or one of those home decor shows.”

        You did – Hildy did it in someone’s rec room. It looked really cool.

  3. mac-phisto says:

    no thanks. i did have a friend that hung 45’s along a hallway (no glitter or other craziness) – they actually looked pretty cool & were a great conversation piece. they weren’t just random records – they were some of his favorite albums & he had a second copy ready to play if a guest saw something of interest.

    i commissioned a few paintings thru internet social sites to decorate a room in my home – paid a few hundred dollars altogether for about a half-dozen pieces from various artists whose style i enjoyed. plus, i even got to pick the subject matter & explain my vision. it was actually a very enjoyable process & it gives me relatively cheap, one-of-a-kind art for my walls.

  4. JadedScientist says:

    My folks actually covered the dining room walls with straw-colored burlap panels. But this only takes second place in the hideous decorating division to the siding shingles lining the indoor hallways of a friend’s condo; not only were they ugly and dark, but they also snagged clothing.

    • buckinggrimace says:

      @JadedScientist: My parents had wood shingles on the walls of their basement. It had tiki-cool potential, but the actual effect was cheap and sad – kind of like the gold-veined mirror tiles and corkboard in the family room. Bleah.

      • Orv says:

        @buckinggrimace: Having worked in some casinos that had tiki themes, I’m of the opinion that it always ends up looking cheap and sad. And that stupid fake thatch collects dust like you wouldn’t believe.

      • JadedScientist says:

        @buckinggrimace: Yeah, the burlap got replaced by dark cork board (flaked all over the white carpets), and finally by dark wood paneling. We also had the requisite orange and yellow shag rug in the family room and the formica dinette set with the little golden flakes in the pattern. Such a short journey from trendy to ghastly.

  5. jamesdenver says:

    I was at a friend’s mom’s house who has phrases stenciled all over the place. Like “welcome to our home” in front of course, but then “Friends gather here” and blah blah all over the place.

    We had a party at the mom’s OTHER friends house, who must have owned the stencil franchise or whatever, and hers was insanely stenciled in every room. Pictures of Elvis with “Whole lotta shakin…” and “Mirror Mirror…” written backwards on the wall in the bathroom.

    i joked to my friend i wanted to break in and stencil War and Peace in every room – around their original stenciling…

  6. Meggers says:

    I have framed album covers but never thought of just sticking the actual record itself to the wall.

  7. zenigmatic says:

    @NikkiSweet we were actually provided with AOL discs for this purpose when we got new office furniture. HR walked around and handed out the “coasters.”

  8. smallestmills says:

    I’m glad to see I was ahead of the crappy art trend. My b/f and I have always hated store-bought art and I figured art should be crap you have around your house. (What is that, DaDa or something?) Anyhoo, our house currently features cereal boxes (stolen idea, I forget where), photocopied pictures, his artwork, paint-by-numbers gone horribly wrong by nicely framed, and I agree with the above: Decoupage should only be attempted by professionals.

    My #1 decorating tip (mind this is coming from someone with thrift store religious paintings): Stick anything you want in a frame. Everything looks good in a frame.

  9. Back in the olden days, this was called tramp art.

    Like hey – make a cabinet border out of old bottle caps! Whee! Glue sticks to a table! Hang bent silverware from a chandelier!

    Ugh.

  10. I used a curtain as a headboard, which LOOKED really cool, but the pillows were constantly tugging on it, pushing it to the side, etc. Much more impractical than I anticipated.

  11. Yurei says:

    Yes, I really need to move out and get my own apartment so I can start “decorating”. I have waaaay too much creativity with a tiny budget, things could turn out quite… scary. I wonder if my gramps’d give me all his old license plates he saved to hang on the walls. (No, I have no idea why he bothered to save them, they just sit stacked up in a pile in his garage.)

  12. Sockatume says:

    “Don’t worry about your design being ugly. [...] Your abominibly ugly idea just might be the next “in” thing!”

    Who would want to deliberately make their home ugly just in case it became “in”? I mean, ugly is your own subjective opinion about a piece, so if your own home seems ugly, you’ve done yourself a serious disservice.

  13. Canino says:

    “Hang scraps of wrapping paper on the wall”
    Yeah ok. When my aunt did this we took away her scissors and sent her to the home.

    If I’m going to hang junk on the walls it’s going to be cool junk, not cutesy faux decoration junk. A pawn shop moose head on the wall and a big chrome bumper from a Cadillac standing in the corner is 10000X better than “glue wooden spoons to spraypainted canvas.”

    • m4ximusprim3 says:

      @Canino: This is my whole problem with this design philosophy. Pasting boring things like wooden spoons to your wall doesn’t make them any less boring.

      New rule: If it’s boring on your counter, it’s boring on your wall, or in a frame, or anywhere else.

  14. Orv says:

    I bought USGS topographical maps of places I like and framed them, to decorate my bedroom.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @Orv: awesome! when i was a kid, i used to save the maps from natgeo mags & do the same thing.

      i still have those maps somewhere…some of them are really cool, like a topo map of the moons surface.

  15. JulesNoctambule says:

    I’m reminded of an episode of some home-decorating show where the ‘designer’ glued hay to the walls of one couple’s family room. The couple in question had young children at that ‘wow, stuff fits in my mouth!’ stage. No, can’t see a potential conflict there at all. . .not at all.

  16. madanthony says:

    I bought a bunch of political and other buttons at a flea market. I then bought a couple of deep frames from Ikea and put them in – it’s sort of like a shadowbox, and a good conversation starter.

    But not as good a conversation piece as the “Detoxify” neon sign I bought at a going out of business auction from a local independent record shop chain. I also have a Miller Lite neon ($5 from a yard sale) but I haven’t found a way to mount it without having to worry about the cat destroying it…

  17. EricLecarde says:

    I managed to catch Rachel Ray in the break room where they had a lady on there talking about taking cheap wall paper, framing a small section, and presto chango you have art deco. She also took one of those DIY book cases and covered the backing with wallpaper to give it a neat funky design on the inside.

  18. I’ve a fan of using minimalism to decorate my walls for less.

    Glueing shit to a frame sounds like ornamentation.

    And yes, I will worry about the fact that my design is ugly. I’m designing for me, not for the chance that I’ll be ahead of the tide with some fad.

  19. nerdychaz says:

    If you have an artsy streak, buy a cheap frame from goodwill. Then cut a piece of particle board to the correct size. Either paint it, decorate it, or whatever. I suggest spray-paint. Then frame it (don’t forget to sign it!). Voila! Art on the cheap!

  20. lockdog says:

    I’m going to add that faux painting of any type should never be attempted by anyone but professionals. It requires the special combination of not giving a damn and also being truly random that can only be acquired through years of theatre school. Take it from this scenic artist, half the time we were flinging paint onto canvas with old mop heads, the other half we were free handing calligraphy with our paintbrush on the end of a 6′ bamboo pole. And of course, no matter how covered in paint you are, its straight to the bars after class…

    One of the coolest things I have seen done with “flea market art” was the oak five panel door that was refinished, turned on its side, a piece of wide crown molding at what was now the top, and two short legs at the bottom for an awesome king size headboard.

  21. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Going out of one’s way to cover things with pompoms and glitter when it wasn’t meant to have it to begin with is icky. Forced kitsch usually looks terrible and dates quickly.

    For example, a collection of glittered and brightly painted Dia de Los Muertos skulls is cool. But a collection of beglittered and pompomed picture frames looks forced and tired.

    My own personal design “thing” right now is this: [www.apartmenttherapy.com]

  22. HYDRAULICMONSTER says:

    Wow, just wow.
    My mother used to be a professional interior designer back when I was a child before she got into sales and I have to say most of this woman’s decorating “tips” are crap. Mom still does some decorating on the side, mostly for friends, family, or for my parents own house, and I’m usually drafted to help out.

    Want to decorate on the cheap while indulging your artistic side? Think TASTEFUL.

    Get some nice cheap patterned fabric that matches a room’s general mood or design theme, an equal amount of fabric the same as the pattern’s background or main color, cut to fit and sew together with loops on top for new thick curtains for your windows. Use the same technique to cover the outside of your plastic shower curtains.

    Find old wooden furniture, air it out, strip off the paint, re-glue the joints, and stain or re-paint it.

    Make your own throw pillows, you just need fabric and stuffing.

    Paint your walls and then dab a complementing color over it using sea sponges for a stippling effect.

    Paint cabinets, shelving, or doors a different color from the walls.

    Heck, even hanging some cheap suncatcher glass prisms in a window that gets a lot of sunlight can improve a room.

    In my own one bedroom apartment I’ve got a black shower curtain cover with gold thread patterns. I have an old end table, a scavenged kitchen table along with two stools, and a bedside drawer table that have all been repaired and redone. All of my lamps have been bought at bargain stores and clearance sales, repainted, and given hand made lampshades.

    Put some effort into it. Make it a summer project to restore some old furniture or paint a couple of rooms. Make a few pillows, it’s freaking easy to do.

    Just don’t, for god’s sake, spray paint random crap and glue it to your walls.

    • @HYDRAULICMONSTER: “Make your own throw pillows, you just need fabric and stuffing.”

      Way more stuffing than you think, however. :)

      I find it hard to get the pillows stuffed firm enough for my taste or, if using premade forms, to get the fabric tight enough around the form. It takes some practice!

      My decorating thing right now is trying to figure out what color to do my livingroom to highlight the buttloads of art we’ve got. It’s a small, informal cottage, but we own a TON of art because of relatives in the art world. I’m at something of a loss.

  23. HYDRAULICMONSTER says:

    Not to say I’m a design freak, but when every summer for 20+ years is “Lets redo the kitchen/bathrooms/living room/patio/garden/basement/bedrooms/or whatever” you tend to pick stuff up.

  24. HYDRAULICMONSTER says:

    I’m straight, I have a beard, and I work in heavy manufacturing dammit!

    Why do I have to know so much about interior decorating!

  25. cobaltthorium says:

    Just finished this last night:
    [www.wikihow.com]

  26. mariospants says:

    It’s just one small step from scrapbooking to human skin coat-making…

  27. mariospants says:

    oh, and Hildi? She’s the REAL “Devil (that) wears Prada”.

  28. happysquid says:

    It’s one step from that to this…
    [lileks.com]

    • Narockstar says:

      @happysquid: Oh no! I just hung up a bunch of keys in my kitchen like page 4. I hung up a bunch of hooks in a grid pattern and then randomly hung keys on the hooks. I thought it looked kind of cool.