Home decorating suggestions for a belly dancer?
May 2, 2009 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Creative inspiration for bohemian home décor in a tiny, rented studio apartment?

It's time to decorate, and I could use some inspiration! My apartment also serves as a meditation/altar area and practice space for my main hobby and obsession: tribal style belly dance. So I’m facing several decorating challenges:

1) Need to keep the central area completely open so I have enough room for dance practice
2) Can’t paint the white walls
3) Can’t hang anything from the ceiling, because of the radiant heating pipes
4) Can’t hang curtains over my L-shaped corner windows (with standard-issue white miniblinds)
5) No balcony, and precious little storage space
6) Beige wall-to-wall Berber carpet
7) Limited budget – lots of DIY projects and thrift store purchases, though I’m not averse to spending good money for quality

Within these considerable constraints, I'm doing my best to deck the place out in style with a funky belly dance theme, but I seem to have reached a creative block and don't know what to do next.

The look and feel I’m aiming for is nothing short of a sumptuous feast of texture and color – a place that inspires me to dance! Think crushed velvet drapes in rich jewel tones, lots of plush overstuffed pillows, saris from India, Turkish lanterns, Moroccan tea sets, fringed tassels, canopy beds, paisley prints, Persian rugs, beaded lampshades, gothic arches, mosaic tiles, candleholders, and so on. Think cavelike and cozy, with lots of inviting nooks and crannies. (The collections section of this site contains some good examples). I want my home, humble and eclectic though it may be, to be a sanctuary where I can set aside the demands of the mundane world.

To that end, I’m seeking recommendations for blogs, photos, books, and periodicals I could use for decorating inspiration. Even better if they feature meditation areas, altars, tea rooms, or other spiritual themes, or if they offer fresh ideas for dealing with the many restrictions that come along with being a renter.

I’ve checked Apartment Therapy, Design*Sponge, and the LiveJournal Saucydwellings community, and while they’re helpful in a general sense, a lot of the styles are more modern or minimalist; there don’t seem to be too many examples of the kind of style I’m after. Any suggestions? Can I really pull this off while I'm renting a tiny studio, or am I just kidding myself? I love my place, and don't want to move!

Thanks, MeFites!
posted by velvet winter to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: This book is full of advice and DIY craft inspiration, especially for renters on a budget. All the folks featured seem to be working to create their own havens, many with lovely nooks/pillows/altars. It's out of print, but you can pick it up used at Amazon for next to nothing.
posted by corey flood at 8:22 PM on May 2, 2009

Sad to say that what you're looking for seems a little specific to find a blog about. But if you get a general impression of what you want, you can combine resources to pull it together.

Don't give up hope. The middle eastern/meditation aesthetic is very much about mixed patterns, casual use and lots and lots of draped fabric on things.

I don't have a blog suggestion, but white walls? Blik. Keeping open space while creating a belly dance vibe? Floor pillows that you can lounge on or throw out of the way covered in fabric from whichever culture you're interested in. Go thrifting or wherever and grab lamps. Hit fabric stores (online or local) and find patterns from which specific culture. Add incense.
posted by Gucky at 9:36 PM on May 2, 2009

There is a home decorating book that may have some ideas for you -- it is mainly focused on creating exotic bedrooms, but the ideas can be applied to any room, really.

In particular, I know there is a fairly easy way to make removeable "wallpaper" out of fabric -- just use starch to affix it to the wall, and you can just peel the fabric off later.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:34 PM on May 2, 2009

In the 90's I taped many episodes of Interior Motives- the host was Christopher Lowell. He did cool projects with inexpensive materials, including lauan plywood- it's about $10 a sheet where I live. The closest thing I can find to the types of things he used to do is on this stage design web page. Lauan is lightweight and kind of easy to cut with a jigsaw and you can paint it and staple stuff to it. You could cut out arches, stabilize the back with 1 x 2s and probably lean it against your walls.

I'd love to see pictures when you're done because I'm halfway through a similar theme in our kitchen/dining area. The doorway curtains haven't been up a whole day and the damn cat's already made them his personal playground.
posted by auntbunny at 5:30 AM on May 3, 2009

2nding the book that corey flood recommended. I have a second-hand copy and it is all about, er, flamboyant decorating on the cheap
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:52 AM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: Love these suggestions! Looking over the Just Morocco website really makes me drool. Just the kind of look I'm aiming for. The books look interesting, too - I'll definitely check them out.

Thanks, EmpressCallipygos, for linking to that rental decorating site - lots of great tips there for renters!

Has anyone here actually tried the starch method to affix fabric "wallpaper" to their walls? That sounds like an awesome idea, and I'd love to try it in my bathroom. I'm wondering if it works well in practice, and if the fabric actually stays put over time. Would moisture in the air loosen it at all?

auntbunny - the plywood arches idea sounds really appealing! I don't have a good workspace or a saw to cut the wood to my specifications, but I might be able to use a friend's garage. I'll look into it. I do have a wooden build-your-own headboard that I put together from a prefab kit containing plywood, foam padding, and metal fasteners. I used a staple gun to attach a lovely paisley-print velvet fabric over the padding. It worked very well and I love it!

I'll try to post some pictures when I'm done. And if there's anyone reading this who's done something similar in their own abode, I'd love to see pictures, too - especially if you have any before-and-after shots! Feel free to MeFi-mail me as well.

Please keep the suggestions coming!
posted by velvet winter at 11:36 AM on May 3, 2009

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