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What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod? Mine is the 2002 smash hit “Barenaked” by Jennifer Love Hewitt. Not only do I have it, I actually listen to it. In fact, I consider it a pertinent part of my getting-the-house-in-order playlist.

Admitting, as an adult, that you own the same bargain desk or office chair as college freshman worldwide can feel like sharing the most embarrassing song on your iPod. No need to be ashamed, though; ready-made retail done right can be the secret to pulling off an affordable designer space.

Whether I’m dealing with a $5k space or a $75k space, I often turn to IKEA, the modernist mothership, for secret weapons with which to whip a boring room into shape. Perhaps some of these ideas are a perfect fit for your own rooms whether they’re nearly complete or, in the words of the great Jennifer Love Hewitt, “Barenaked.”

In the seating area of a bachelor’s master suite, I turned to IKEA for both window coverings and swivel seating. At many of my go-to fabric showrooms, good quality white linen runs an average of $35/yard. Instead, I used 4 pairs of RITVA panels at $19.99/pair, then had my seamstress add blackout liner, fan pleats and a 3-inch border of brown trim. The medium-price-point KARLSTAD swivel chairs, $399 apiece, are also from IKEA; however, pairing them with custom pillows made from pricey David Hicks La Fiorentina instantly gave them an overall high-end appearance.

When designing a dining space for teachers in Rhode Island, I wanted to include slipcovered chairs that felt fancier than one would expect in a public school lounge. The shape of IKEA’s HENRIKSDAL chair is timeless and easy to create custom covers for. With the slipcover on, there’s no sign that this was a $59.99 chair.

When designer Betsy Burnham created her teen daughter Carson’s bedroom, she turned to IKEA’s STOCKHOLM RAND for an affordable rug option, using it it amidst a space packed with mostly custom, one-of-a-kind pieces.

To create a jewelry design station in a client’s office-slash-craft-room, I splurged on high-end wallpaper and custom window treatments, then bought IKEA’s TORSBY table for under $200, and skirted it with pink cotton skirt panels to conceal storage underneath. The open storage system is made of three BILLY bookcases, $59.99 each, updated with 1×2 fascia trim along the front and painted back panels.

This master bathroom by designer Keith “Kebo” Brown shows how the designer repurposed an affordable IKEA BESTA media stand as a contemporary sink vanity. By opting not to attach legs, Brown gave it a brand new floating look by cutting holes for vessel sinks and plumbing, then attaching it directly to the wall. At only $249, the repurposed IKEA find rivals vanities that cost well over $2k.

To cover floor-to-ceiling windows in a living room, I was able to afford custom sheer draperies by choosing dark brown acrylic fabric from IKEA at only $7.99/yard. Guess how much its doppelganger from a trade-only showroom costs? $56/yard. We needed a total of 24 yards. You do the math.

To create a bar area inside of a lofty lounge, I splurged on graphic wallcovering and installation, custom-framed Jonathan Adler art from ArtThatFits.com and vintage lighting. IKEA’s TROLLSTA sideboard was the least expensive item at only $349.

There is so much IKEA happening here, it’s kinda like an undercover catalog shot. In this girl’s bedroom, I camouflaged an awkwardly placed window with a wall of floor-to-ceiling drapes behind the EDLAND bed and nightstands. Again, I turned to IKEA for $7.99/yard fabric in order to afford custom seamstress fabrication for both the bedding and draperies. Throw in a $15 thrift-store lamp and some orange spray paint and you’ve got yourself a designer space without the designer price tag. Viva IKEA!

Now comes the part where you confess your most embarrassing song in the comments section. Try it, you’ll feel better. I promise.

Photo credits for rooms: Sarah Dorio; photo credit for Barenaked: Amazon.com


Design Inspiration

15 Responses

  1. becky says:

    Electric Youth by Debbie Gibson. Unfortunately, I no longer have the perfume.

  2. letron says:

    Theme song to "The Last Unicorn"

  3. Heather says:

    Mine is Coldhearted by Paula Abdul. Embarrassing!

  4. dayka says:

    lol @ electric youth!! right about now, i would have to say mine is "you and i", by crystal gayle and eddie rabbitt (or however you spell his last name). i have it on my ipod and actually listen to it. with the windows down.

    the repurposed media cabinet is really amazing and looks so high-end! i love to see ikea items repurposed in ways i haven't seen before, and i love that you proudly use ikea when so many other designers thumb their nose at it.

  5. Erika Ward says:

    hmm, let me see. I'll have to say glamorous life by sheila e…I tap the drum solo out on my steering wheel with great intensity.

    I have to say one of my favorite Ikea tricks you perform has to be with the curtains. I used to sell custom window treatments, swags (gag) and all and know how expensive they are. Adding the blackout lining and trim options really ups the ante and gives you a pricey look on the cheap!

  6. Emily Henderson says:

    What if i said The Notebook soundtrack? What if I said that while I listen to it i also act out the 'pouring in the rain on the boat scene'? What if I also said that I have dressed up as Ryan Gosling the last three halloweens?

    don't judge, you listen to J Love.

    Awesome article. So glad you are doing this.

  7. CourtneyOutLoud says:

    I love Ikea and your ideas! Makes me want to run out right now and buy some fabric. And if it helps, I have Nia Peeples "Street of Dreams" and Clay Aikens "Solitaire" on my iPod and LOVE them both.

  8. michele says:

    sailing by christopher cross. seriously, how old am i?!

  9. ford lover says:

    Thinking. It's always the same thing. To think is to go insane.

  10. CplusE says:

    If I had an iPod (which being too low-tech and not much of a music fan I don't), I have to admit I would have the "Annoying Orange Lady Pasta song" on it! (I told you I'm not much of a music fan!) Listen for yourself:


    You have to admit it grows on you, kind of like mold on an orange! Sorry, I promise not to inflict my poor taste in music on you ever again! LOL!

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