Friday, August 20, 2004
Improving a living space with tasteful art and design can be difficult for a college student, especially if you want a unique and interesting place. Original art pieces usually cost way too much for a typical student. Space and living arrangements often limit the size and type of art or furniture. Yet, with a bit of creativity, students can find many options that meet their budget and time constraints. If you are a college student into art and design, I urge you to seek out original ideas, rather than settling for a space that looks just like everyone else's.
As far as two-dimensional artwork goes, many poster reproductions are available online. Avoid buying posters from merchants on campus or at typical retail stores, unless you want your dorm or apartment to look like the one next door. There is nothing more common than seeing Salvador Dali melting clocks or fake Calder mobiles in a student's living space. Check out a few of the hundreds of art museums that have online stores, such as the New York and San Francisco MoMAs, the Tate Modern (London), and the MoCA (L.A.). You can also go directly to artists' Web sites, which can often direct you to online merchants for their posters and prints.
If you are not interested in poster reproductions, seek out artwork by local artists (although their work can be expensive as well). Attend events such as the Fondren Art Walk (starts Sept. 2) and be willing to ask the artists for up-and-coming artists they can recommend who would fall within your budget (or ask for a payment plan. Or barter.). Start yourself an art savings account and, rather than going out for dinner one night a week, throw the cash into an envelope for your art fund. Or, seek out youth organizations, such as Operation Shoestring (353-6336), or other non-profit groups that sell, or would consider selling, interesting artwork. The upcoming Serendipity Art Show (Sept. 2) sells works created by patients of the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield—and the event is mobbed every year with art lovers buying pieces for as little as a few dollars. (Call 351-8000 ext. 4536 for details.)
When searching for furniture, be sure to exploit local and cost-effective resources first. Retail outlets such as Target have cheap modern replicas of some furniture, as well as household items commissioned by well-known industrial designers. Ikea (http://www.ikea.com) has fun mod designs, but you will have to pay an outrageous amount for shipping to Jackson. (The closest Ikea is in Houston, Texas).
Peruse local thrift stores, looking for items you can refurbish. This can often be both the cheapest route and most rewarding. It doesn't mean you have to spend days doing the perfect reconstruction on a junky piece of furniture; it might just mean that you get some purple paint and create yourself a funky bookcase that will look good for a few semesters until you can afford to trade up. The magazine Budget Living offers some great cheap decorating ideas, including ways to make the most of thrift-store finds.
Locally, keep an eye out at NUTS (the Good Samaritan Center, 114 Millsaps Ave.), Salvation Army (110 Presto Lane, 968-3987), used office-furniture stores and all those junk stores in Pearl. Also, watch out for garage sales, even if you don't get up early on Saturdays. Often, you can find the best junk at the cheapest prices in the middle of the day when they just want it all gone.
Once you have all of the big items of furniture, try to fill in the spaces creatively. There are many household items you can design and decorate yourself, often from cheap materials. Readymade magazine is a wonderful resource for building home items and recycling old furniture. Every issue is packed with ideas, such as making coffee tables out of cardboard panels, ceiling decorations, and others. Create your own artwork by making photo collages, or any other material. Try decorating panels of furniture with geometric shapes and bold color. Stay away from pastel colors, anything with your initials and excessive painterly style when creating your own artwork. The point is, you want to make it look like you did not design the artwork yourself just to fill space.
I cannot stress enough the importance of creative thinking to create a living space that sticks out among the homogenous ranks of dorm and apartment living. Try out new materials, create dissonance, break rules. Exploit colors, juxtapose small- and large-scale designs, anything to break from the mold.
Avoid store-bought design mainstays like cinder blocks, magnetic letters, movie posters, shoe racks, etc. Create your own! You will find this approach much more rewarding, and you will stimulate thinking and appreciation among your friends.