best of IKEA: casual modern decor

If you’re going for casual modern decor for your home and don’t want to break the bank, there’s no better place to start than IKEA. I’ve rounded up my 10 favorite pieces to decorate your home in a laid-back modern style, with pieces ranging from a $10 etched carafe to a $900 tufted leather sofa.

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1. SELJE Nightstand ($29.99) – The SELJE nightstand is shockingly cheap considering how incredibly functional and good-looking it is. With an opening in the back as well as another on the drawer front, this nightstand makes it super easy to charge your devices without unsightly cords. At only $30, the SELJE nightstand – also available in bright blue – is truly a steal for such an attractive and necessary piece of furniture.

2. STOCKHOLM Carafe ($9.99) – I’m just crazy about the STOCKHOLM carafe. The sleek glass carafe – made by skilled craftsmen – features delicate decoration around the middle which not only looks beautiful but also improves grip and helps prevent visible fingerprints. Use the carafe to improve your table presentation when serving your guests water, wine or cocktails.

3. TUVBRÄCKA Duvet cover and pillowcases ($19.99 to $39.99) – With it’s clean lines, black-and-white color scheme and hidden snaps, the TUVBRÄCKA duvet cover and pillowcase set is probably my favorite bedding option from IKEA.

4. MANDAL Bed frame with storage ($349 to $399) – The MANDAL bed frame, available in full and queen size, is perfect for a casual modern look with its birch wood exterior, white drawers and platform construction. For a bed that also includes storage, the MANDAL is an absolute steal with an under-$400 price tag.

5. NOLMYRA Easy chair ($39.99) – Considering it costs only $40, the modern NOLMYRA easy chair is a great seating option for those on a tight budget. The chair is extremely light and very comfy as it simply consists of a birch and steel frame with a soft mesh cover.

6. STOCKHOLM Table lamp ($119) – Although this lamp is rather expensive in comparison to IKEA’s other table lamps, the STOCKHOLM lamp is worth the money. With it’s clear etched glass base and contrasting shade, this 24″ lamp is a real stunner and would look great with just about any decor.

7. BLOMSTER Candle holders [(set of three) ($14.99) – The white BLOMSTER candle holder set adds a simple decorative touch to any room. The set, which also comes in clear glass, can be completed using the GLIMMA candles in metal cups ($5.99).

8. MELLTORP / REIDAR Table with four chairs ($261) – The MELLTORP table with REIDAR chairs is one of the best looking dining sets IKEA offers. The bright yellow chairs would add a lovely pop of color to any dining room or breakfast nook, especially against the stark white of the table. The chairs, which are made of aluminum, are also perfect for using outdoors.

9. KARLSTAD Tufted leather sofa ($899) with KARLSTAD Aluminum legs ($20) – For a leather sofa for under $1,000, it’s hard to beat IKEA’s white KARLSTAD tufted sofa (also available in black and dark brown). The leather, which is both soft and durable, looks amazing on the contemporary tufted cushions a la the classic Florence Knoll sofa.

10. MEJLBY Flatwoven rug ($79.99) – Featuring a simple yet modern blue and red striped pattern, the MEJLBY rug is ideal for bringing bold colors into any living space, especially if contrasted against white furniture (see the KARLSTAD white tufted leather sofa above).

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IKEA hack: RAST three-drawer chest

After a few months of work (and a number of paychecks), I’m finally almost finished decorating the guest/cat room. In fact, we’re almost finished getting all the stuff we want from IKEA (it’s a lot of stuff) and I kind of can’t believe it.

One of the guest room pieces that really had me stumped was a TV unit (or similar) that would fit a 24-inch television in a 31-inch space. It seemed clear to me that finding an attractive, affordable option for a piece that would accommodate my needs would be a challenge. Thankfully, with my extensive (and rather useless) knowledge of IKEA products, as well as some online research, I managed to figure something out.

The $35 RAST three-drawer chest, constructed of unfinished pine, grabbed my attention as it is exactly the right size, and even features storage (a rare commodity in our home). After seeing a few incredible DIY projects that transformed the piece into such beautiful chests (so much so that it was basically unrecognizable), I decided the RAST was the one for me.

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RAST three-drawer chest. Photo: IKEA.

I wanted to paint the drawer fronts with gloss white paint as white as the room’s unifying color. I used spray paint to add gold highlights to a few pieces in the room so I wanted the chest to have gold knobs, too. I found the ATTEST knobs from IKEA that have a simplistic, modern vibe. I figured I could use the gold spray paint I already had for those since I’d had such great results with it before. After a bit of flip-flopping, I ultimately decided I wanted to leave the outside of the chest in its natural pine color. I though it would help add a bit of interest in a mostly white room and also fit nicely with the room’s beachy theme.

WHAT YOU NEED

RAST three-drawer chest from IKEA ($34.99)
― white paint (I used Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel Paint in gloss white – $16 for a 32-ounce can)
― foam paintbrush (I used a set of 1-, 2- and 3-inch foam brushes – $4)
― paint tray (I used Wooster Deluxe Metal Paint Tray – $4)
― drop cloth (I used Warp Bros. Super Heavy-Duty Drop Cloth – $10)
― 3 sets of ATTEST knobs from IKEA ($15 total)
― gold spray paint (I used Rust-Oleum Metallic Gold Spray Paint – $11 a can)

(NOTE: Although the total project cost is $153, many of these items can be re-used for other DIY projects, especially the paint, paint trays, drop cloth and brushes. Also, $50 is simply the raw materials of the chest and knobs.)

STEP 1

Build the RAST chest according to IKEA’s instructions but exclude the knobs and do not use the plastic nails to hold the drawers in the chest. It took me about 30 minutes to build mine.

STEP 2

Lay down your drop cloth. Prepare the piece for painting by wiping down the constructed RAST chest pieces (especially the drawer front edges) to make sure there are no loose splinters or wood shards. I simply wiped mine down with a wet paper towel and it seemed to do the trick.

STEP 3

Prepare your paint trays with appropriate amounts of white paint in the paint tray.

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STEP 4

Use a foam paintbrush to paint the fronts of each drawer in white paint. Wait at least 5 minutes between each coat to prevent the paint from gumming up. It took me about 3-4 coats for full coverage, except for a few knots in the wood which I had to re-cover several times.

If you find yourself having trouble with with difficult-to-cover knots, just be patient and make sure you wait a while before your put up your supplies in case it sucks up the paint (this was very frustrating).

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STEP 5

While waiting for the RAST drawer fronts to dry, use the gold spray paint to cover the six ATTEST knobs (I applied two coats). If you’re laying them on paper (as I did since I was on our horribly uneven patio), roll the knob around after allowing it to dry for 10 minutes to make sure you cover the entire surface evenly. They should be dry to the touch within 30 minutes (if you need to move them immediately) and fully dry around 4 hours.

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STEP 6

Follow the directions on your paint as to how long the drawer fronts need to dry (the enamel paint I used was completely set after letting it dry overnight, approximately 9 hours).

STEP 7

Assemble the piece by adding the gold-painted ATTEST knobs to the white drawers, then install the drawers into the chest following IKEA’s instructions.

STEP 8

Admire the results of your hard work!

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I really couldn’t be happier with how this project turned out (with quite little work, I might add). I love the look of the gloss enamel paint on the drawer fronts and it came out much shinier than I expected (it’s pretty hard to see in the photo, though). With our awkward little space finally filled (and with a bunch of other stuff I picked up on my last trip to IKEA), I’m nearly finished decorating our guest room. It’s probably the most IKEA-centric room in our home, but I clearly have no problem with that.

10 best IKEA products for the money

As someone who spends far too much time looking at IKEA products online [and subsequently buying them at our Houston-area store], I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about in terms of which IKEA products are simply the best. For stylish and affordable modern home goods, there really is no place like IKEA. Whether it’s a stainless steel trash can or a mutli-functional daybed, I’ve got you covered with the absolute best IKEA has to offer.

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Photos: IKEA.

1. ÅFJÄRDEN Towel [$4.99 to $14.99] – As the best IKEA offers, the ÅFJÄRDEN towels are both remarkably attractive and affordable. The textured grid design gives them a uniquely modern feel and they are very absorbent and plush. Available in washcloths, hand towels, bath towels and bath sheets.

2. EIVOR Throw [$19.99] – The black-and-white striped EIVOR throw is both incredibly stylish and functional. Place this graphic beauty on your sofa or bed and transform your room with this bold woven throw.

3. BRIMNES Daybed frame with 2 drawers [$249.00] – The BRIMNES daybed frame with two drawers is probably the most useful piece of furniture ever created. Whether it’s serving as a twin bed, pulled out to make a king bed or just as seating, this thing is truly amazing. With two twin bed mattresses [two MOSHULT foam mattresses are only $158] on top, simply pull out the underframe and you’ve got yourself a king-sized bed. The daybed, also available in black, is perfect for guest rooms with limited space.

4. HOVET Mirror [$129.00] – For a 30 3/4″ x 77 1/8″ mirror [that is huge], you really can’t beat the HOVET. It’s white surround and impressive size make it ideal for use as decoration in a living room or bedroom. The piece comes with hardware so that it can be mounted, as well.

5. FICUS LYRATA Fiddle-leaf fig [$12.99] – This 32″ tall fiddle-leaf ficus is almost too good to believe. With a $12.99 price tag, I’d challenge you to find a better looking plant for less. It’s lush leaves and medium height make it great for bringing a bit of the outdoors to any room. Perfect for use as an indoor plant as long as it’s placed in a bright spot.

6. SÄVERN Trash basket [$24.99] – If you’re looking for a stylish, modern trash can for your bathroom, look no further. At $24.99, it’s IKEA’s most expensive small waste bin, but it’s worth every penny. With a flip-top design and sleek stainless steel construction, the SÄVERN trash basket is a real stunner.

7. RANARP Floor/reading lamp [$59.99] – The RANARP floor lamp is one of IKEA’s best-looking pieces. At only $59.99, it’s honestly a steal with it’s white and brass hardware and black-and-white cord cover.

8. KARDEMUMMA Plant pot [$1.49 to $19.99] – IKEA’s KARDEMUMMA plant pots are extremely versatile in addition to being quite stark and beautiful. Available in a number of different patterns and sizes, the simple white pots look great indoors and out. Perfect for using with FEJKA artificial plants if you want to add a touch of green to an interior room.

9. SODERHAMN Sofa and chaise lounge [$899.00] – The SODERHAMN sofa and chaise lounge combination in Isefall light turquoise is simply stunning. The modern, deep-seated design, soft color and chic metal legs truly make the SODERHAMN a winner. Major selling points: the removable, replaceable cover and the under-$1,000 price tag.

10. RIBBA Frame [$1.99 to $24.99] –RIBBA frames are perhaps the most useful items IKEA sells. Ranging from small desk photo frames to massive wall frames, you really can’t beat them for the price [a 27 ½” x 39 ¼” frame is only $24.99]. Not only that, but they come in several colors: white, black, aluminum, high-gloss gray and medium brown. Although the mats in the frames may not fit all print sizes, it’s far cheaper to buy or make a custom mat than buying a pre-matted frame.

from boring to brilliant: white faux fruit

After recently purchasing the most beautiful glass top coffee table from CB2 I flew into a home decorating frenzy to try and figure out how to arrange a modern, visually pleasing table top. The table serves as one of the primary focal points of our living room so I wanted to make sure it looked nice and finished without being cluttered.

I settled on several gorgeous coffee table books to anchor the left side of the table: Alvar Aalto by Louna LahtiTime and Tide: Photographs from Praia Piquina by Christian Chaize;The Portable Magritte by Robert Hughes; and Fika by Carl Kleiner (this IKEA cookbook features food styling and photography at its best and most creative; sadly out of print but you can scour eBay if you’re desperate for one like me).

    
From left: Time and Tide: Photographs from Praia Piquina; Alvar Aalto; Fika. Photos: Amazon; Amazon; Pinterest.

Set to be the most central item in the table top vignette was a gorgeous 14-inch stainless Aalto bowl from Iittala which we were fortunate enough to receive from our wedding registry.

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Stainless Aalto bowl from Iittala (and Olive). Photo: Amateur at Work

It’s hard to do the bowl justice with a photograph ― especially one taken by my terrible phone ― but it truly looks like a piece of art. I’ve been tempted to leave it empty but it looks a bit stark without something in the large vessel.

After a few days of mulling over options and looking online for ideas I came to the conclusion that I wanted to fill the bowl with fruit, but only in terms of shape. By using white spray paint to cover a cheap but attractive set of artificial apples, I could enjoy the apples’ shape without adding red or green color elements to our living room.

I found an example similar to what I wanted to do on Martha Stewart Weddings to show you how great white faux fruit can look!

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Photo: Martha Stewart Weddings

With a little patience (not much) and just an hour or two of your weekend you can turn a simple DIY project into modern, unique home decor.

WHAT YOU NEED

― artificial apples (I used these [$15] from Amazon. Make sure you pay attention to the size of each apple when shopping.)
― spray paint (I used two cans of Krylon Bright White Satin Touch spray paint ― $4 each ― for my project, but you can get creative and use any color or finish you like)
― muffin pan(s) filled with cupcake liners (Very important, helps the apples dry properly)
― newspaper or tarp (You’re going to want to do this outside so make sure you cover the ground to contain your mess)
― disposable gloves (Same premise as above)

STEP 1

Start by inspecting your artificial apples and identify any gouges or rough areas. You might still be able to display these apples as long as their imperfections are facing downward.

STEP 2

Spread out the newspaper to cover your outdoor area: driveway, patio, whatever you have to work with. If you are planning to do it close to your home or apartment, make sure there is no wind as it can misdirect the paint and cause unsightly problems.

STEP 3

Put on your gloves and shake your spray paint as directed on the can (this is important).

STEP 4

Hold your artificial apples by the bottom and spray only the top 2/3 of the apple. Set down the freshly sprayed apple so that the unpainted portion is touching the paper liner.

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Repeat this step with all of the apples and wait at least 10 minutes for them to dry (more like 15 to 20 if you’re like me and are terrified of smudging the paint).

STEP 5

Now that the tops of the apples are dry, hold the apples painted-side-down and spray paint the bottom portion of the apple. Make sure to get good coverage between the top and bottom. Place the apples in the liners so that the freshly painted portion is facing upwards and the dry portion is touching the liner.

STEP 6 (optional)

If you didn’t get full opaque coverage with the first application of spray paint, repeat Step 4 and Step 5.

STEP 7

Let the paint dry for quite a while. I’m talking several hours or even overnight if you’re as cautious as I am.

STEP 8

Double-check that the paint is completely dry and place the beautifully painted fruit wherever you like.

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easily cut mats to fit 11″ x 14″ prints in IKEA’s RIBBA frames

As you may or may not know, IKEA is the ultimate source for standard size frames at unbelievably affordable prices (not to mention it’s also the ultimate source of basically everything in our home).

I’m a RIBBA girl myself, loving the clean lines and modern feel of the design, and you can’t beat the price when a 15.5″ x 19.5″ frame (made for an 11″ x 14″ print) costs only $9.99 and comes in five colors (white, black, aluminum, medium brown and high gloss grey).

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RIBBA frames. Photo: IKEA

Enter the problem everyone has with IKEA frames: Some of the pre-cut mats included with the frames will not necessarily fit what you want them to. The 15.5 inch by 19.5 inch frame would presumably fit an 11 inch by 14 inch print as the traditional frame size for such a print is 16 inches by 20 inches. That half inch difference really screws things up.

(Side note: Not that I would ever recommend using IKEA’s mats to frame anything given their low quality, but the mats in the smaller RIBBA frames ― ie. anything shorter than 10 inches ― do typically fit the pictures they are supposed to. Again, this isn’t recommended as they are really just paper but they would work in a pinch.)

So here I am, wanting to mat six 11 inch x 14 inch prints in RIBBA frames which not only feature mats that don’t work, but the frames are slightly too small to use traditional pre-cut mats with them, too. While you might say, “Just buy frames with mats that fit your print,” I would rather save money and use IKEA frames while also gaining the ability to cut my own mats. I found a set of 16 inch by 20 inch pre-cut mats made to speficially fit 11″ x 14″ prints (opening of 10.5″ x 13.5″ to fit the print perfectly) so I decided I would buy the small number tools I would need to cut them down to fit the RIBBA frames. I can forever cut my own mats thanks to the fact that I now own these few inexpensive items. Given how often I use IKEA frames and need custom mats for prints, spending around $50 on these tools seemed like a good deal to me (especially since that’s the difference of how much I would have paid had I bought Amazon’s cheapest frames at $20 each instead).

WHAT YOU NEED

15.5″ x 19.5″ RIBBA frame (for a 11″ x 14″ print, $10)
― 16″ x 20″ pre-cut mat (I found a set of 10 on Amazon, $23)
― mat cutter (X-Acto #2 Knife, $4)
― cutting mat (Alvin Professional Cutting Mat, 18″ x 12″, $9)
― non-slip ruler (Westcott Stainless Ruler with Cork Base, 18″, $3)
― pen or pencil

STEP 1

Since the pre-cut 16″ x 20″ mats perfectly fit 11″ x 14″ prints perfectly, all you need to do is trim down the outside of the mat to make it fit inside the RIBBA frame. Given that the mat is 1/4 inch too large (1/8 inch on each side), all you have to do is measure 1/8 inch of space to be removed on each side of the mat. Start by measuring 1/8 inch from each edge using the ruler and be sure to make the mark on the back (so the marks definitely won’t show).

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STEP 2

Use the ruler to align the marks on the opposite sides of the back of the mat on each side, making sure each looks properly lined up with the ruler before attempting to cut out with the X-Acto knife.

STEP 3

Use the X-Acto knife with the ruler on the cutting mat to cut 1/8 inch from the side of the mat.

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STEP 4

Proceed to repeat Step 3 as many times as you need to finish cutting all of your mats.

STEP 5

Place the mat and print into your frame. (You can secure it with Scotch tape to provide a malleable attachment to the surface.)

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I cut mats for a set of gorgeous city map prints from StudioKMO to put in our living room. It feels great that such a simple project (only took me about an hour and a half to cut six mats) has led to beautifully matted prints that cost me less than $20 each to frame!

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