Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thrifty Chic

So we're all watching our pennies right now. In fact, that's all anybody seems to want to talk about (myself included). If you're looking to add some pizazz to your home but your budget is a bit constrained, why not raid your pantry or your closet of office supplies? Did you know that bubble wrap can be used in lieu of linen for a table cloth? Or that cellophane can make some nifty curtains? OK, so it's a hard sell I know. After all, it takes courage and an iron constitution to swag and drape your windows with plastic wrap, and I know it would be hell to get the stuff to not stick to itself in one big mess. But, some designers have used some pretty unique household items to great effect. At the very least, it might get our creative juices going!

Jean-François Daigre designed this tablesetting for Tiffany Taste back in the 1980s. How great is that bubble wrap tablecloth??!! Of course, anything would look great in front of that grisaille mural. And you wouldn't have to worry about laundering the thing!

According to Emily Eerdmans' book Regency Redux, the art department of RKO Pictures had a limited budget back in the 1930s. In the movie "Dancing Lady" (1933), designer Merrill Pye used cellophane for those sweeping curtains! And note the plastic wrap covered chair as well. Very clever!

You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear...unless you were Tony Duquette! He used all kinds of detritus such as vegetable strainers, golf balls, and plastic bottles to create beautiful masterpieces. Here he used Styrofoam grapefruit packing cases on the ceiling of his studio c. 1980 (image from Tony Duquette's website).


  1. Very timely post. What about tulle, which is big this season in fashion, for decorating? Wrap it around chairs, drape over tables, swag or hang for curtains. Very cheap, romantic, and fabulous, I think.

  2. Style- I love tulle! You can do what Diana Vreeland suggested and tie tulle around your wrists!

  3. Jennifer -- the bubble wrap really does look ethereal! I think you will inspire some event planners and future New Year's eve parties.

    Loved your fish anecdote yesterday too :)

  4. I am fascinated by that table setting - do you think the vase with the goldfish is a bit of decalomania? What I do know is that if I dared to drape my table in bubble wrap it would look like I was moving house....

  5. These days we think of Cellophane as a cheap material, but in the mid-193Os it was hot stuff, used in a lot of white telephone movies as a signifier of modern luxury. It was the curtains in the Silver Sandal Club, the backdrop of the finale in Rosalie and Busby Berkeley wrapped up his chorines in it in one of his hallucinatory sequences. All that aside, Cellophane's mention in a Cole Porter song is enought to prove its allure in the era.

    Basically, anything clear gets points with me, whatever its intrinsic value: diamonds, rock crystal, Steuben glass, Lucite, Cellophane, even that annoying un-tearable plastic they use in blister-wrap packaging. Sure, the Egyptians loved gold, but can you imagine how crazy they'd have gone for, say, Wal-mart drinking glasses made of this stuff? Clear as water, light as a feather, able to take on any form & all-but- indestructible? Talk about a priceless substance!

    Anyway, with my own preference for anything clear in mind, and with Tony Duquette's anything-is-fair-game approach as my guide, here's my own personal contribution to Thrifty Chic: my dining room chandelier, made out of plastic dish from a deli shrimp cocktail tray, clear aquarium bulbs & a bunch of plastic shower rings from the Dollar Store.


    This was supposed to be a just a temporary mock-up to help me figure out the correct scale for a permanent version made of enameled metal & Lucite, but after a year, I think it's a permanent fixture.

  6. Magnaverde- How could I forget your fabulous chandelier!!! Shame on me because I remember at the time thinking how clever that was!! And I agree about clear stuff- I too have a weakness for it. (But not those blister packs- they drive me crazy!!)

  7. I can only imagine the difficulty hearing the music at dinner over the popping of the bubble wrap. Especially after that last bottle of champagne. (Maybe that's my guests... do yours have napkin ring races too?)

  8. Okay part of me was laughing but then when I saw all the pictures I thought they looked cool. I'll try it out. Stop by some time. www.socialclimbers.net xxoo

  9. These images are fabulous - how clever was Tony Duquette? I love everything about his brilliance, xv.