Decorating after a fire: disaster design has perks

There are many reasons you will want to avoid a fire at your vacation home. Among them is the possibility that you will witness your partner (in this case, the relatively agile, 60-ish Man of the House) clamber up a peaked roof with a garden hose. In high winds, I might add.  You may also spend many more hours than you wish on the phone with an insurance adjuster who, while insisting that she’s “there for you,” dickers endlessly about how much it will cost to replace an (admittedly) aged sofa.

wide shot of cottage basement makeover with sofa, tub chairs and fireplace consoleI learned these lessons after lightning struck our four-season cottage last summer and sparked a fire that that did damage to a loft bedroom, the kitchen below, and most noticeably, a below-grade family room that gets a tremendous amount of use, regardless of the season.

Unlike so many of life’s little inconveniences, these actually delivered a payoff. Here it was the chance to partner with Walmart and  Urban Barn  to create a comfy, year-round family room with affordable, handsome furniture.

After the new drywall was up, we painted walls a straw-like beige. (Shut up, I LIKE beige) and tinted the white ceiling-paint blue, as I wanted sand and sky/water tones to be the constant colours.

Redecorating began with an online browse of Walmart for anchor seating and occasional tables. A large, lumpy pull-out (which no-one ever used as such) would make way, I decided, for something more flexible and compact, and be augmented with hand-me-down tub chairs refreshed with slipcovers.

Branch motif standing lamp from Walmart in affordable cottage makeoverShopping this way was unexpectedly hassle-free and fast. I ordered several items to compare at home, and those I chose not to use were returned to a nearby store. An occasional table, bought online, was returned assembled instore without a hitch. TIP: check with the local Walmart about whether and which online items can be returned instore. Keep original packaging, hardware, instructions and receipts.

I settled on a toasty-toned micro-fibre loveseat  several shades darker than the wheat-y  walls. Packed in a box, it was no sweat for two people (MOTH and me) to carry, and it took less than 15 minutes to assemble (minus the argument MOTH and I had about how it should be done, of course.)

Stylish, sturdy side tables in a low-sheen white finish have a useful bottom shelf for books and games.

One of my favourite pieces in the room turned out to be the metal branch-motif, floor lamp from Walmart. It’s a good-looking, graceful nod to cottage kitsch. It also delivers great lighting for new television. (More on that up next.)

To the very affordable items from Walmart. I added pieces from Urban Barn  that I think will prove to be room staples when MOTH and I retire here in a few years. (I’m trying to get in good with the local paper). I decided to lay a nine- by twelve- foot cotton area rug atop the oatmeal- coloured carpet to separate and centre the conversation/media area from a hard-not-to-notice pool table.

From Urban Barn, the Vares rug is supposed to evoke the patina of antique textile. But it also nods to digital design, and echoes the sequinned blues, whites and greys of the nearby lake.

Mixed design metaphors continue with a set of MCM-inspired oval nestling tables (very handy, folks!) made from recycled wood, whose cracks, knots, worm holes and tool marks that are considered not blemishes, but part of its beauty.  A reclaimed wood console table tucked beside sliding doors holds an emergency lantern. Below sit two leather-topped stools (originally from a roller skating rink, we think) which work as extra seating or footstools.

Long shot of cottage basement with cost-effective draperies made from drop cloths and easy-going furniture from Walmart and Urban BarnDon’t you just love the draperies? Of course you do. They are made from painter’s drop cloth. Total fabric cost was $40. Another few hundred to have them lined. And if you’re fainting over the grommets – such a bugaboo for many designers –   take a Valium. I think they are perfect for this space.

This project was sponsored by Urban Barn and Walmart. Neither has reviewed or approved this post. Opinions are all mine, dude — including the one about the grommets.

All photography by Darren Lum.

Vicky Sanderson

A self-confessed Opinion-ista, Vicky Sanderson has been writing and talking about décor, design and lifestyle issues for almost two decades, and has tested just about every home product known to humankind.

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