A Painter's Small, DIY Condo Design

Decorative painter Kristen Fountain Davis was determined to make her small condo into a colorful showplace for her work. See how she did it and steal her best design ideas.
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June 24, 2015

Multitalented Painter

Painter and avid do-it-yourselfer Kristen Fountain Davis turned her 850-square-foot Atlanta condo into a showcase for her painting skills and her ability to turn trash into treasure.

Chic, Small Living Room

Kristen was able to give her modest 10-by-12-foot living room a high-energy, sophisticated look by sticking with flea markets for staple pieces, then updating them with color. The walls were painted a dark blue tone from Benjamin Moore called Black Horizon. "I love using dark colors to create backdrops for my pieces," she says. "The canary yellow bamboo chair and the pair of turquoise end tables really pop against the blue. Plus, the navy blue makes my abstract art look even better!"

Set the Scheme

When deciding on a color scheme for her condo's living room, Kristen opted to pull the same hues of yellow and orange from an original abstract painting. For contrast, she set it all against navy blue walls, noting: "Everything looks so crisp against the navy, especially my white sofa. Although it only cost $25, it looks like a million bucks up against the blue."

Experimental Art

In addition to painting furniture, walls and canvases, Kristen often experiments with unique materials and applications to create one-of-a-kind works of art. "The 20-by-20-inch framed piece along the sofa wall is a play on texture," she says. "I combined a simple piece of white burlap with a small remnant from a damaged piece of art. By adding 4-inch thick matte, it instantly turned disparate materials into a crisp, abstract statement."

Turquoise End Tables

Kristen scored a pair of mid-century modern end tables from a garage sale for $10, sanded them down, and painted them a high-gloss shade from Sherwin-Williams called Aquarium. The hardware was taken from another piece and spray-painted gold. "Gold is my favorite accent color for turquoise; it looks really rich and glamorous," the painter says. For a hint of texture, Kristen covered the open bottom portion that's just below the drawer with grasscloth wallpaper.

Cool Canary Chair

Kristen's use of canary yellow spray paint gave a brand new life to a $50 bamboo lounge chair she bought at a sidewalk sale. To make the piece extra comfortable, she invested $100 in new upholstery made from grey and white indoor/outdoor fabric.

Clear Coffee Table

Space was limited in Kristen's living room. To give the illusion that the area was slightly larger, she opted for a clear acrylic coffee table. "You can see right through it almost as though it's not even there," she says. "If I'd have gone with a solid table, it would have taken up a good amount of visual space."

Media Center

In order to create a functional media center on a budget, Kristen customized two IKEA bookcases with crown molding and charcoal grey paint, then sandwiched a piece of plywood between them as a TV stand. The open storage concept also allows her to showcase her books, vintage magazines and favorite objects.

Hand-Painted Pattern

Although the wall behind Kristen's media center looks like wallpaper, it's actually a custom, hand-painted design. "When coming up with ideas for new patterns, I love to experiment on my own walls," she says. "This black and white trellis pattern was inspired by an area rug I fell in love with. It was really fun to make and I'm hoping one of my clients will ask me to customize it for their homes." Unable to decide on the right shade of dark grey, Kristen mixed her own to create the perfect hue. "If you have different colors at home, try mixing them together for a one-of-a-kind, custom hue," she says. "It's easy to do and it's free."

Faux Built-In Bookcase

For a built-in look, Kristen attached crown molding to the top of ready-made bookcases. "Something important to keep in mind if you're doing this project yourself is to be sure and fill the space between each piece of trim with wood filler before painting," she says. "It will give you a much more finished look in the end."

Hidden Components

In order to keep wires and components hidden from view, Kristen created a custom skirt from burlap.

Brilliant Burlap

She used hot glue to add grosgrain ribbon, creating a Greek key-like pattern.

Dining Nook

Since Kristen likes to watch TV during dinner, it was important she squeeze some dining space into the living room. "I only had about four feet of width to sneak in dining furniture," she explains. "Finding a table to fit the space perfectly was impossible. By purchasing two different flea market tables — one with the perfect top and another with the perfect base — it allowed me to combine the two and create something custom." To create a uniform look, Kristin spray-painted the newly assembled pieces with a high gloss white.

Eye-Catching Trim

For a Hollywood Regency touch, Kristen painted the inset detail of her contractor-grade front door black, noting, "It adds a really nice graphic punch to an otherwise boring door."

Baroque Mirror Turned Chalkboard

Kristen gave new purpose to a baroque mirror she picked up from a flea market. She removed the frame and spray-painted it turquoise, then replaced the mirror with a piece of wood painted with chalkboard paint.

Prettified Curtain Panels

When dressing the windows, Kristen wanted something light, airy and organic. She customized ready-made, white linen drapery panels with Greek key trim that she attached with hot glue.

Discount Dining Chairs

The dark blue backdrop of Kristen's living room walls allowed her to use a wide array of bold colors as accents. Eager to work orange into the mix, she used a Laurie Smith graphic print fabric in pumpkin and white to re-cover a pair of Danish modern dining chairs. Kristen found the chairs for $10 at an antique store and bought the fabric on clearance. "The whole bolt was less than $10; however, just one yard was enough to cover both chairs," she says. "My friends almost don’t believe me when I tell them the chairs cost less than $15."

Graphic Pair

An abstract diptych in black and white on canvas adds a dose of graphic pattern to Kristen’s otherwise muted and serene bedroom.

Bold Little Lamps

Two of Kristen's favorite colors to use on canvas and for decorative wall applications are orange and blue. To put the two to use in her bedroom, she picked up a pair of ginger jar lamps from a thrift store for $6, and then updated them with orange spray paint, noting: "I love the contrast. It's bold but still really soothing."

Budget Headboard

Determined to keep her bedroom's decorating budget under $500, Kristen decided to make her own headboard from scratch. "I had a piece of plywood cut down to size at the home improvement store, then I used my own jigsaw to create the scalloping. Since foam and batting can be very expensive, I used a foam egg crate mattress pad to get the same effect. Instead of fabric, I used a sand-colored twin bed sheet," she explains. "People find it hard to believe my headboard cost less than $100."

Custom Bed Skirt

Kristen created a custom bed skirt based on a basic white version she bought from IKEA, then customized it with orange cotton duck fabric. She says, "After putting my bed on risers, it was too high for standard bed skirts to fit correctly. Updating the bed skirt was easy. All I did was cut fabric down to a four-inch band, then attach it to the bottom of the bed skirt with hot glue."

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