College Apartment Decorating with Recycled Items

Our last minute application, acceptance and move in of Shane to Bard College at Simon’s Rock was proceeded one day later by our daughter’s move in at Wake Forest for her Senior year. Kelsey and I were originally going to drive over to Wake from where we were on vacation in Wilmington, North Carolina  (about a three and half hour drive). I was to help her move in and furnish her first ever apartment and then fly home. Best laid plans always go to waste, and with the unexpected detour to Great Barrington, Massachusetts to move Shane in, that wasn’t to happen. Frequent flyer miles are a gift and I used them to fly down and meet Kelsey.

We had exactly forty eight hours to shop antique and consignment stores to find the bones that we could use to furnish her apartment. With a little embellishment, we turned some one else’s cast off objects into some functional and pretty pieces to set the stage for her new apartment. Here are some tips and ideas on how you can transform “trash to treasure.”

Step 1 ~ Identify the rooms that need to be furnished and then make a list of what furniture or pieces you are looking for.

Step 2 ~ Google consignment and antique stores in the area that the new residence is in within a particular radius. Read reviews about the stores you find so that you do not drive half an hour to get to your destination to find that their idea of vintage is military paraphanalia. Don’t shake your head, it could happen to you.

Step 3 ~ Head out with an empty car so you have plenty of room to jockey in and fit the goods you find.  Try to look differently at pieces when you see them to see if they could serve a purpose other than what they were intended for.

Step 4 ~ Buy, buy, buy!! Look for the bargains and what economically makes sense. 

Step 5 ~ Enjoy! for it is the thrill of the hunt! Make time to eat for that helps keep you and your partner from growling at each other.

Step 6 ~ After you purchase all of your finds, take a break, access what you have and then make a supply list of all the materials you need to gather to transform your items. For fear of getting snagged at security for harboring a glue “gun” (for that would be my luck,)  I decided to purchase most of the supplies I needed down there. I would then leave them in the apartment for the girls to continue to use throughout the year to add on accessory items that they retrofit from junk! 

Our hunting list consisted of a few key pieces that would primarily fill our number one task of furnishing the bedroom.  The girls had purchased used couches and coffee tables from previous apartment dwellers such as themselves and put them into storage until they moved in. There are some great deals to be had if the kids network to find out who is moving on and has furniture that they would rather sell than move. A stumbling block had been the mattress. Prior to coming down, we realized that it was only going to be Kelsey and I, so the thought of trucking a box spring, bed frame and mattress up to the second floor of her narrow apartment stairs gave us pause. Not to mention the cost of a new one and how did we actually get it to the apartment before we could truck it up the stairs?  Kelsey found, on the Sam’s Club website, this full mattress and bed frame that actually gets shipped to you in a two boxes that both of us could handle together. The mattress and box spring like bed frame was less than $300 (less than anything else we found) and the shipping cost was $24.00. Done deal! We set it up while having visions of it exploding out of it’s kryovac packaging and getting pinned against the wall. The reviews are all excellent and it was really comfy! 
Now that the bed was set up, we headed out to pick!
Our first score was a pepto bismo pink frame that was $14.00. Wouldn’t that make a fabulous head board?
We spray painted it with one can of primer. We then coated it with 3 more coats of regular latex white paint. While each coat dried we worked on one of the other pieces and went back and forth like that so as to not waste any time.
When I typically make old frames into bulletin boards, I cut out a piece of plywood that fits into the frame to mount the cork and then the burlap. That adds a lot of weight and I wanted this to be light weight so after it was dry, we stapled burlap to the back and then a layer of thin batting.
We attached picture hangers on the back and strung wire between the two hooks. To hang it we hammered two picture hanging nails into the wall on either end so that it would center well and there you have it! A faux head board that with all materials came in under $35.00. We ran out of time to criss cross ribbons across the board but Kelsey has instructions on how to finish it up.
The next find that we came across was a very heavy gold mirror that was odd in that the top portion of it was not a mirror but was covered with an old green piece of velvet that looked like it might have had a picture mounted to it. Kelsey had been looking for a stand up mirror but we could not find anything for under $150.00. This was $20 and with a little TLC we made it into a mirror jewelry holder combo.
We first used Liquid Nails (love that stuff) to glue a piece of rolled cork onto the green velvet.
Once we glued the cork in place we put some of the heavy storage bins on top to help the glue adhere. After that set, we covered the cork with a piece of burlap doubled over. We then staple gunned the burlap right to the cork as tight as we could to the edges. 
We felt that we needed to cover up the edges of the burlap which we did with some rope trim that we had picked up at the craft store. We glue gunned it all around the edges of the burlap.
To make it functional, we hammered in upholstery tacks in antique brass so that Kelsey could use it as a jewelry rack. Kind of looks like the one I had in college…ha! 
Total cost $40.00
Yes…the dresser…another really important piece to have found in the short time we were down there. We found quite a few, but they were either way too expensive for the nine months that Kelsey will be living there, or too heavy for us to get it up those stinkin stairs again, or would have required too many coats of paint that we just did not have time for. We found this, not so special one at the last store we went to for $40.00. We thought with some new paint (you cannot tell from this photo but this piece had a pink cast to it and was very chipped) and some new knobs, it would do.
Do it did!
We could not find enough of our favorite knobs…
so we had to use two different styles. Kelsey is going to check out the store to see if she can get a few more when they get a new shipment in. 
We found this “frenchy” trunk that we tucked under the window for more storage options that we did not have to do a thing to. Topped with a pillow she brought from home, it makes a nice little window seat.
So here you have it:
All we need now is a cute end table. Shhh…I have the perfect one in the barn that if I paint and take the legs off of, I might be able to stick  in my suitcase and bring it down for parents weekend. We had bought the pillow shams at the Restoration Hardware Outlet before we came down and the comforter is from Target. The bed duvet at the bottom of the bed was purchased three years ago at the Pottery Barn Outlet for her dorm room. Since it was for a twin bed, it no longer fit but when we found the pillow shams, we thought it would work as a throw or extra blanket.
Another area that we thought we would snazz up was the bathroom. Pretty standard but with a pop of color, it makes it a little more eye appealing.
We found all the bath accessories at World Market which is a chain store in the South that is fabulous!!  You can also order on line. They have wonderfully fun, styled, unique, authentic decor at great prices, not to mention their food section. 
Shower curtain was $29.00 ~ not bad! 
Bath rug was $15.00
One thing that I recommend for kids going off to college is a set of monogrammed towels. It helps them keep track of them and who wants to borrow without retuning a towel that has someone else’s initials on them? These I had a friend do when Kelsey left for her freshman year. She still has them and she is now a Senior. Look for a monogrammer who will let you purchase your own towels. You will pay a lot less for a quality towel at TJ Maxx or Marshalls and then you can have them monogram them for you. This makes a great Graduation gift as well.
We picked up a couple of odds and ends here and there including this cute little cork display board that we put a hanger on to use as a wall decoration. For $7.00 it was a steal.
On another wall, we hung this cute bulletin board that we found at Home Goods for $19.99. Snagged it because I cannot make one for that!
Really bad selfie

All in all it was a successful trip, not so much measured by the things we made but by the time we spent together making memories even if we slept very little…Mom, tilt it…

The end of the story:
I arrived safely in Philly with my bags, unfortunately they were under my eyes, to get dressed in the airport bathroom so as to not be late heading to an event where I met Cole Hammels and some of the other Phillies players. I wonder if he noticed that I had brought my bags with me? 
Never a dull moment!
I hope that you can use some of these project ideas or revamp them to make them work for you!
Meg


Here are some of our finds and how we transformed them into a much prettier version of their old selves.





Reply...