carlyn yandle/for metro vancouver


A collection of wooden needlework hoops create a whimsical bubble effect on this living room wall.


I got my share of ribbing for devoting a recent column to crafting a room-divider out of garbage bags (see, but there’s method in my madness: this belief that you need money to have great decor is bunk.

One look inside the spaces of one of the city’s many poverty-stricken artists could tell you that.

Despite what our over-consumptive culture tells us, good taste has nothing to do with buying power; it’s quite the opposite. In a society where we tend to throw money at our problems, we look around our home, we’re disappointed in what we see, so we go buy more furniture and doo-dads.

We are not conditioned to see that less is more; that the space between the stuff is just as important.

That’s why a good chunk of my design work is editing out all the extras. I go to someone’s home — usually because they’re planning to sell but the place needs some love — armed with my pack of Post-It Notes.

As I’m toured around each room, I stick a Post-It on each item that has to go: the mismatched lamps and overabundance of side tables, the bad, big-box-retailer “art”, the listing fibreboard bookshelves, the fake fig trees and water-stained baskets bearing sad houseplants, the extra dining chairs stuck in the corners.

Sometimes it’s a lot easier just to tag what needs to stay. The idea is to improve function, mobility and enhance the feeling of space.

Then I ask the homeowner if she has anything she likes to collect. Half the time there’s something hiding in a china cabinet or an old trunk that we daylight and use as art once the decks are cleared.

Once it was rolls of high-end wrapping paper, which we fanned out in a large vase like a bouquet of flowers. Another time it was old suitcases that were stacked into side tables flanking the sofa.

I once hung several vintage fabrics on a long wrought-iron curtain rod installed a foot above eye level, turning each fabric piece into an artpiece.

In this week’s photo, a living room wall becomes a feature for a collection of different-sized needlework hoops hung on straight pins, arranged to create a bubble effect.

There’s something satisfying about using humble, overlooked items that have been in service for years in surprising new ways.

That ability to provoke and delight through decor takes more than money.