"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Living + Room: Big Style, Small Budget

Chicago-based photographer, Caroline Manrique said she was inspired to make-over her living room because, "We needed to get hip to this century!"

"Really! Our furniture was so outdated. We had dark red, over-sized velvet couches -ugh!" To make matters worse, the couches had become the domain of the family dogs and no one dared sit on them- "ever," said Caroline. "They were gross."

In addition, because of their dark color and size, the sofas made the room feel small and according to Caroline, rather uninviting.

"I never liked sitting in the living room. Heck, I never liked the living room. It was a space I passed through but never used. I thought ...well, this is just stupid! Let's actually try living in this room -and so the make over began."

 The clever artist, blogger and mother of two used her signature style and key shopping strategies to transform the room while sticking to a  budget.

"I gave myself $3000," she explains. "That might sound like a lot, but we paid over $6,000 for both of those horrid couches 12 years ago! And frankly, furniture is pretty expensive."

To achieve a look Caroline describes as, "clean and simple; neutral but elegant," the motivated mom zeroed in on a trifecta of retailers who complimented her aesthetic and understood her budget: West Elm, Target, and Z Gallerie.

"I also love decorating with white," says Caroline, "it just seems to open everything up...and I love mixing wood pieces into a clean space."

Her advice for achieving big style on a small budget: "Price shop!" Caroline says it's important to know what resources offer affordable style and which resources don't. "Stay away from places you know are too pricey...and don't go to shops where you feel pressured to buy." She says, "West Elm is great because there are no commission sales -so I never felt pressured. CB2 is another great option, as is Cost Plus and Pier 1."

So what makes Caroline happiest about her re-imagined space? "I love that I am actually using the room! It seemed to open up the entire house. It feels fresh...and well, new furniture is just fun!"

Caroline is a Chicago-based photographer. Visit her blog, Constantly Evolving, or check out her beautiful website, No Wordz.  

All photography for this post is courtesy of Caroline Manrique. (Thanks, Caroline!)


  1. OMG!! THIS is my Favorite Post ever!! Seriously it game me HOPE...to know that I too...could possibly transform my home to look this effortlessly chic and calmly cool...it spoke to me...motivated me...and I found myself taking notes on the way the space was clean and uncluttered! AND..after seeing Caroline's site..wanting to order her photos and frame them in my newly renovated room as well!
    Kudos to both of you for fearlessly posting such beauty and wisdom on your blogs!! Please keep it coming...

  2. Thank you again Bonnie for sharing this today. It was such a fun transformation!!!


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