Teal and Tangerine

A black inflatable sofa bed, a gray recliner couch from Goodwill, dressed up with splashes of teal

Most people at some point in their life, have experienced leaving the parental nest and moving into a place of their own. When I first moved out of my parents’ house, I was already 37 years old and married. (Even after marrying my husband, we continued to stay with mom and dad to save money).

When my husband’s job promotion relocated him from San Antonio to Corpus Christi, Texas, we had to start from scratch in an empty apartment. Not certain of how long we would be staying, we for sure did not want to invest in and commit to heavy furniture and decor. For the time being, we wanted items that were inexpensive, collapsible, that could be easily transported or that we could sell quickly if the need arose. At the same time, we wanted to use design to make our ‘transient’ furniture look less so.

Starting with the basics, our very first piece was an inflatable sofa bed from Walmart that costs $80. During the day it served as a couch, and at night folded out into a queen bed. This served our needs for a few days until we were able to add to our collection.

After looking at various newspaper and in-mail advertisements for Ashley and Rooms to Go, we decided we liked the look of the reclining leather sofa. But not the prices. So, on a chance to visit Goodwill, we spotted a gray reclining leather sofa in good condition for only $199. Down the street, at a local discount furniture store, we acquired a small 4-seat dining set for $199, which we had to assemble ourselves.

Our apartment was starting to look more homey, however the prominent gray and black colors cast a ‘drab’ atmosphere. It was time to add splashes of color.

I personally loved aqua or teal (which happened to be our wedding motif) but felt it would be too “cool” with all the gray and black. It needed a partner color that would be of contrast. Living near the Texas Gulf Coast, I found inspiration driving along Ocean Drive and saw the orange sky reflected on the blue water. Instantly I found I decided orange or tangerine would make a nice complement to teal.

While we didn’t necessarily live right next the beach (about 20 mins drive away) I still wanted to hang some artwork on the wall that reflected the coastal nature of our surroundings. I shopped around places like Ross, Pier One, Home Goods and other home decor stores and was dismayed to find many of the large paintings I wanted were upwards of $50. Ok, I admit, it’s not like half a Benjamin is that expensive for good artwork, but my inner penny-pincher was at work. So I instead opted to create my own paintings after seeing some acrylic paint and blank stretched canvas for sale at Ross.


It also happened to be while browsing at Big Lots for inexpensive storage ottomans, I came across some smaller panel oil paintings in theme of orange and blue that would compliment my paintings. $15 for a set of 3.


Small apartment Decor on a budget. A lawn chair and an inflatable sofa are dressed up with throw pillows and throw blankets partnered with my own DIY beach scene painting

Once the artwork was in place, I wanted my drab gray and black furniture to reflect the theme colors. So I found some solid teal and tangerine throw pillows from Big Lots $7/ea.

At Walmart in the fabric section, I found cloth with orange chevron prints and another in aqua. So I bought a yard of each and tied them Japanese style to cover some older pillows I had.

Dollar Store Design

While perusing Family Dollar, I found some stackable metal stools in gray and aqua for only $5/ea. I figured they could be used for extra seating, or even as makeshift end tables to place your coffee or drinks.

While at Family Dollar, I also came across a reclining ‘zero gravity’ lawn chair for $40 (which sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods for $88) At first I was going to use it for our outdoor balcony, but because it’s not enclosed, was afraid someone could just fold it up and steal it. So instead I use it as a single chair recliner in my living room. My guests enjoy reclining back in it while watching TV on our 65” screen that my husband bought clearance from Best Buy (It was supposed to be $1070 but was reduced to $750 because it was missing the cardboard box and the remote control, which he remedied with a Universal control)

I also found some aqua blue and orange round placemats from Dollar Tree for $1 each. I decided to not only use them as place mats but when not in use would hang them on the wall as art.

Round placemats and circular wall decals from the dollar store create a solar system of color in an otherwise plain room.

This placemat art extended to the bedroom office, where I covered an air mattress with a brightly colored comforter reflecting the theme. I also found circular wall decals ($2 from Fallas Paredes for a set of 20) in the colors of lime green, baby blue, and brown, which I placed in random patterns on the wall, together with the round placemats from Dollar Tree. I call it my ‘constellation room.’

My Kitchen

As for the kitchen, the small dining set looked lonely amidst the blank walls. Therefore, to give my small apartment in appearance of height, I hung 3 vertical door mirrors ($6/ea from Family Dollar) on the adjacent wall.

A friend had gifted me a housewarming set of cool funky “owl” potholders. They were so cute, I decided instead of hiding them in a drawer, I decided to apply push pins to the wall so I can proudly hang and display them as ‘kitchen wall art’.

Owl potholders, an apron from an Auntie in Hawaii and a handmade tea party invitation card from a best friend comprise my kitchen art

Vertical door mirrors helped add “height” and reflect light while making the tiny dining appear slightly larger. On the left, round colorful Mayan calendar plates, from a recent Caribbean cruise. $12/ea

My Coffee Bar

My coffee station with the 70’s oil painting done in orange and brown

On Pinterest, I’ve been seeing DIY versions of a home ‘coffee bar.’ I wanted to create a temporary one. At Walmart, I found a portable folding table for $59 to place my Keurig on. I also purchased a basket for all

my coffee accessories. And a serving tray gifted to us for our wedding, served as a ‘container’ for our coffee mug collection. To cover up the blank wall atop the ‘coffee bar’ I recovered an old landscape oil painting from the 1970’s I found in my parents’ garage. The dated cheesey-orange colors of the 70’s worked well for my color theme. the teas and coffee accessories, and a serving tray, upon which I stocked an assortment of mugs.

Last but not least, I found that a clothing over door closet rack worked well over my kitchen pantry door for hanging small pots and frying pans to reduce taking up space in my cabinets. Also by hanging little utensils like measuring cups, potato peelers, small strainers using push pins, they were easier to access and provided additional wall decor.

Overall my decor may not be the most sophisticated but I feel a sense of accomplishment for staying within my budget, fusing functionality with style with houseware doubling as art, while creating a cozy, artistic living space chock-full of personality.

Lacking storage space? Use thumb tacks to hang small utensils within arm’s reach

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Jane Kathleen Gregorio

Jane Kathleen Gregorio is a freelance writer for Corpus Christi Business News. She loves traveling, exploring eclectic food places, and frequenting coffee establishments. She binges on audiobooks,  science fiction, movies and TV shows, plays violin, loves to draw, is obsessed with DIY decorating on a budget and is a fan of the tiny house movement and small spaces, big design.

She is also a video producer for Christian television website www.incmedia.org