Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Home Decorating for the New Expat (or anyone, really)

Edited with Pixlr-o-matic
 One of the few downsides of moving internationally (unless, of course, your company moves you and provides a moving stipend and a shipping container, which has never happened to me) is that you don’t have room in the suitcase for a lot of knick-knacks, curtains, or framed art.  Now, some people don’t mind stark white walls decorated with fingerprints of unknown past tenants, but I need color.  What’s the fun of a new apartment if you aren’t going to decorate?  

Since I have neither excessive money nor space, but want to be able to cover those white walls quickly, I have to improvise.  I usually pack colorful calendar pictures, photos, postcards, etc. laid flat in the bottom of my suitcase for some quick décor without taking up much packing space.  This time around, however, I have found some websites with ideas for more unusual, but still packable, decorations.  I’m really looking forward to adding some of these to my wall collage once I arrive at my new apartment in Wuhan.  I’ve gone ahead and had some things printed at Walgreens so that I could get them in a larger size and on photographic paper, but you could also print them on regular paper on your printer after arriving.  All of the following are free except one, and it is noted.
  •   Tagxedo:  This one turned out to be a bit addictive, at least for me.  First, you enter a list of words, or a poem, or a quote, or something of the sort.  I used the lyrics to my favorite songs. Then, tagxedo creates a word collage; you can choose from a variety of shapes for the collage, or even upload a new shape yourself.  Finally, there are dozens of color schemes to choose from—this is where I spend a lot of time, choosing from among thousands of possible combinations.  The end result is a unique personalized collage; you can share it, print it, or save it as a jpeg of various resolutions. (See example at the end of the blog).
  •  Pixlr-o-matic: An easy-to-use photo-editing program lets you add filters, special effects, and borders to your photos.  
  •  Block Posters: This is a tool to take your photo, blow it up to any size you want (the default is about two feet by three feet, but you could make it anywhere from a sheet of paper to the size of the whole wall), and then print it in sections on a regular printer.  This is the cheapest way I’ve ever seen to make some really big wall art.  Check out the gallery for some great ideas of things you can do with it. 
  • Craft Jr.'s Paper Chains:  Especially useful if you have kids or like a bit of whimsy, these paper chain patterns are fun, and there’s a lot more than just the traditional children holding hands.  I especially like to owls and the rockets. 
  • 20 Going On 80 :  This blog has some great decorating ideas, and she has a page of free printables that are really cute, for the walls, for crafts, and for various holidays.
  •  Big D and Me's Kitchen Printables:   The blogger made a fun collage in her kitchen; some of the items she bought off of Etsy, but the ones she made herself she offers free to download.  
  •  The Pretty Blog: This is predominantly a wedding décor website, but this page of free prints would work on the wall, too, as long as you like pastels. 
  • Tip Junkie: Life is to be Enjoyed: A cute print of a joyful quote, available in three colors; there are a lot of other printables for all occasions on this site, but this one is most suited for a wall decoration.
  •  Taidye's Printables: Really fun and bright prints, most with Bible verses; I really like the Einstein quote one, too, and the one that says, “Rock like Fraggles!”  (Or am I showing my age by knowing what Fraggles are?)  Oh, and the nest one, and…
  •  Google Books (Life Magazine): Did you know that Google Books has every issue of Life magazine from 1935 through 1972? And you can print the pages?  A lot of the covers show the major historical events of the twentieth century, and if you’re into a vintage look, the advertisements are almost addicting.  A lot of the appliance advertisements would look adorable in an I-love-Lucy style kitchen, and the car ads with their mountainous backgrounds show a rustic sense of adventure.    
  • Graphics Fairy: The Fairy has a plethora of vintage postcards, clip art, backgrounds, pages from old books, and other graphics available; these could be put to a lot of uses if you’re crafty.
  •  Scrap Your Trip: SYT is a scrapbook supply site, but they have some incredible 12x12 papers that are beautiful photo prints—check out Italy under International Scrapbooking for some of the best examples.  Besides that, a lot of scrapbook paper has great patterns and colors, and would look great as part of a wall collage.  The paper is of course not free, but for about a dollar you can get a 12x12 print of Venice or the Cliffs of Moher or a Saguaro cactus in the desert, just to name a few.  
  • Simple Crafter's Free Wall Art:  To gain access to the printables on this site, you have to register your email address, which is a minor annoyance, but once you do, there’s quite a few word art things to print, including a collection of holiday word collages. 
  • The Cheese Thief: This one takes just a bit of work on your part: she offers a template to make an eye-exam chart that you can customize with your name and details. 
I’ve found so many great things this time—I have a feeling I will run out of walls to put them on in my apartment.  I can’t wait to move in!  

Made with Tagxedo, using the words to Freebird

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