Some of my favourite homes in Vancouver don’t have any of the luxury décor items featured in high-end boutiques and high-tech showrooms — no wall-mounted, flat-screen TVs, no Italian leather sectionals, no Swarovski crystal chandeliers.

But what they do display is creative energy and a sense of celebration, resulting in truly inspired interiors.
Not surprisingly, these are the homes of local working (and/or struggling) artists. Also not surprisingly, their living spaces reflect a minimum of funds but a wealth of ingenuity.

The rooms are typically an eclectic layering of textiles, re-imagined furnishings, quirky collections of humble or found objects, intriguing books and traded artworks, as well as the residents’ own works in progress.

Usually, the rooms are multi-purpose: Personal workplace by day, welcoming social space by night.

Unlike predictable, professionally designed interiors, these places are as fascinating as a curio museum or a Victorian library; they beckon to be explored, and only on close inspection do they reveal themselves.

The dentist’s ancient wall-mounted work lamp that was refashioned into a swing-arm TV holder comes to mind, or the tall ladder that serves as display for old woodcarving tools.

It’s all more proof that money can’t buy good taste, and that truly beautiful interiors are often the reflection of an artist’s impulse to innovate, take a risk, think unconventionally and keep an open mind to others’ ideas.

It’s never too late to let our inner artist out to play decorator. Start by making a silent vow not to undermine your ideas with the “shoulds,” then allow yourself to experiment with different ways to display those cherished items.

In the above photo, the structure is 15 linear feet (the equivalent of an Ikea Billy bookcase) of wood wine boxes gathered over the years from trips to Okanagan wineries, and wall-mounted in a Gulf Island cabin.

Photos in pine frames repeat the pattern and recall past summer trips. The boxes display useful cabin items like novels, flashlights and matches as well as mementoes from travels and beachcombing treasures.

Assembling this shelving group is simply a matter of starting with the largest box and adding other boxes as you see fit.

This organic, additive approach to design is only bound by the imagination, but remember to assess as you go, install wall anchors where there’s no stud and reinforce the boxes with wood screws if necessary.

Cost of materials: Zero. Cost of creative input: Priceless.

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