Carrie Waller is the type of person who makes decorating on a budget look so easy. From the bold, colorful walls to the eclectic mix of furniture, the home of Carrie and her husband John is anything but bland. A newspaper page designer for The Lynchburg News & Advance by day and blogger/freelance writer by night, Carrie is a 26-year-old who used her thrifty ways to design a space full of personality and style.
When Carrie began to decorate the “cookie cutter” town home she and John had purchased in Lynchburg, Virginia, she knew it would take a lot of time and imagination to design a vintage-inspired home on a budget. By thrifting, shopping estate sales (Carrie’s favorite is Estate Specialists in downtown Lynchburg), and repurposing old furniture, this cute and quirky couple created a retro space that tells their story. From buying a shag rug that can be trimmed down if one of their three furry friends drags in dirt to replacing the dated fixtures with more modern ones, Carrie has done an inspiring job of transforming their space. Come on in, look around!
Full name: Carrie Waller
Location: Lynchburg, Virginia
Current title/company: Newspaper copy editor/page designer, freelance writer, and blogger behind Dream Green DIY
Educational background: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a double major in Studio Art and Art History from Christopher Newport University
What main attributes were you looking for in a home? What sold you on the town home you purchased?
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t actually involved in the purchase of our home. It started out as a bachelor pad for my husband John, but I think it truly became “home” once I moved in and we started working on making it unique together as a couple. What sold me on the townhouse after I saw it for the first time (besides the amazing guy who lived there) was the size. Townhouses can often look pretty compact from the outside, but we have plenty of room to spread out without feeling crowded.
What advice would you give to someone in the market for their first house?
As hard as it might be, you have to think with your head, not your heart. While you may have fallen head over heels for the look and style of a 1970’s house, that 40-year-old character and charm often comes with a 40-year-old foundation. If you aren’t ready to renovate and rebuild an old home, look for a house that’s already been updated or one in which you can layer on that character and charm yourself. Know what you can afford and how much work you’re willing to do BEFORE you go house hunting.
What are your favorite/least favorite things about your home?
My favorite thing about our home is being able to paint, drill and tear down anything I want. This is my first time owning a house rather than renting from a landlord who controls my ability to renovate. The freedom has been so liberating. I also love our neighborhood. Location really IS everything, and with coffee and clothing shops (hello, J.Crew clearance store…) all within walking distance, I couldn’t ask for more.
My least favorite part is the fact that, living in a townhouse, we don’t have as much natural light as we would get with windows on all four sides. Plus, I wish our neighbors weren’t only a wall’s-width away.
How would you describe your decorating style? Where do look for inspiration?
My decorating style is pretty eclectic. I am an avid collector of vintage mid-century modern furniture and accessories, but those pieces are often out of my price range. I’ve had to learn to be patient and wait to uncover cast-offs at thrift stores and estate sales. I’ve gotten some great pieces this way, like our coffee table, TV stand (which is actually a vintage dresser) and nightstand. None of the pieces were over $150, so I was able to stay on budget. My heart is now set on finding an original Eames chair.
What advice would you give to others trying to create a unique space in an otherwise “cookie-cutter” neighborhood?
It takes a whole lot of imagination. When I first moved in, the house was a huge blank beige canvas. It had whitewashed kitchen cabinets and every room was painted in the same cream color. To make it ours, we stenciled pattern on boring walls, painted every single room a cool, fresh color and redid the kitchen cabinets in a deep espresso brown. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to give a “cookie-cutter” home old charm is to change out the fixtures. Search thrift stores or eBay for salvaged sinks, faucets and light fixtures to replace the contractor-grade pieces already in the house. Take down the standard frameless bathroom mirrors, and replace them with vintage mirrors with intricate frames. These projects and updates will gradually give your house a voice all its own.
What has the decorating process been like? How long has it taken to get your home to look the way it does now?
It has definitely been a “process.” Decorating a home, when you’re on a pretty strict budget like we are, is a slow but steady journey. I’ve learned to buy pieces that I know will suit our style for years to come, rather than buying a stand-in piece for the here and now. The other major thing I’ve learned is that you can’t redecorate a house in a day. It’s a process that takes years to truly get “right,” and that’s okay. I find more value in the “doing” now, rather than just the finished product. Although, stepping back and seeing a space FINALLY come together is a pretty fabulous feeling too.
How did you save money when decorating your house?
One word: Thrifting. I go at least once a month to scavenge our local thrift and estate shops. It’s great to begin with a list of things you need, but stumbling upon an unexpected piece that just speaks to you is priceless. Those little touches are what give a home personality. I’ve saved so much money by thrifting nearly all of our furniture, light fixtures, and artwork. Being an artist myself helps save money on art too, since I can often whip up my crazy visions on my own.
What is your favorite budget-friendly piece in your home and why?
The stenciled feature wall in the living room is my pride and joy. It was so much cheaper than splurging on designer wallpaper but gives the room just as much impact. It’s a great first impression when people walk through our front door, and guests always gravitate towards it.
When did you start your blog Dream Green DIY and what inspired you to do so? What were you hoping to get out of it?
I started DreamGreenDIY in March 2011 as a sort of outlet for the thoughts and projects I had bouncing around inside my head. It is such an intimate representation of who I am and the things I love , from design inspiration and DIY project tutorials, to random posts about my life and family. Over the past year and a half, I have gotten engaged, moved into our home, gotten married, changed jobs, and started making a career out of my freelance writing. I am so lucky to have been able to document all of these exciting life moments on the blog. It’s my outlet, my motivation, and my inspiration every day, and I hope to be able to give that back to my readers.
Obviously, you are no stranger to DIY projects, and you offer some great tutorials on your blog for others looking to recreate looks on a budget. What advice would you give to someone new to the DIY world?
Try it at least once. I’ve had projects fail me before, but those processes help me learn what I am capable of (and what I’m not). Also, learn to just walk away if it’s not going as planned. Sometimes a couple of minutes away will reveal the solution that’s evading you. But when it DOES work out (which is 99% of the time), there’s really no greater feeling of satisfaction.
What are your current career aspirations? Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
I’m a creative type at heart and would love to have my blog become a full-time outlet for that, but let me throw you a curveball. Although I’ve read about incredibly successful and passionate entrepreneurs on The Everygirl, I don’t think that’s exactly the life for me. I’m the behind-the-scenes gal, the follower and soap-box-shouter. I’m an activist, a campaigner, an advocate for others and their goals. My absolute dream job isn’t actually to BE someone like Erin Gates or Abby Larson, but to stand right there behind them. I want to be part of a team and I want to help turn a vision into a reality. While some might not find that lofty or worthwhile, I think there’s tremendous value in having your hand in the success of something great, surrounded by people you admire and believe in.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Breathe. The world is going to open up to you and all those things you fear will never happen, will. And it will be better than you ever imagined. Keep your chin up and never ever give up again. P.S. Call up John Waller, that crazy kid you knew back in high school. Sure, it’s been a few years, but you’ll be glad you did.