Trailer-park dwellers aren't famous for their exquisite taste. But just because you live in a corrugated-aluminum rectangle doesn't mean you can't be aesthetically minded. After all, there's more to life than a hot plate and a stack of water-damaged National Geographics.
To lend a hand, we've assembled a distinguished panel of 12x70 experts, including Teri Lynch-Jones, Ravenna stained-glass artist and horse lover; Anna Clement, Rootstown bingo fanatic and mom; and, representing the ever-popular "fuchsia-haired young person on a budget," the stylin' Erin Wohlfield from Amherst.
Tip No. 1. Never underestimate the versatility of wicker. "I'm going back to a lot of wicker," says Clement. "Because with wicker, if you get tired of the natural colors, you can take them out and spray-paint them."
If you keep your eyes peeled, you can occasionally find an outstanding wicker furnishing strewn in the middle of the highway, advises Lynch-Jones.
"My husband found it on the way home from work one day," she says of her living room chair. "It probably came from Wal-Mart or one of those stores down the road, because it still had a tag on it. The only thing that's the matter with it is along the back there, wherever it fell off somebody's truck, it skidded along the road and got a little botched up." (Which is OK, because skid marks and tire treads are in style right now.)
Tip No. 2. Camouflage your trailer hitch: Some people in Wohlfield's trailer park -- which is rumored to have been won in a poker game by the current owner -- accent their hitch with a little triangular flower box, if they want to be really gauche. Wohlfield favors disguising rather than highlighting the unsightly accoutrement by incorporating the hitch into the flower box, then planting flowers around it and letting them grow really tall so you can't see it.
Tip No. 3. What to put on the walls. Lynch-Jones prefers original art. The light-blue walls of her living room are punctuated with a velvety painting of a horse with purple mountains in the background, painted by an ex-boyfriend, and a pastel, done by her great-grandmother, of longhorned cattle watering at a rain-filled crevice. The authentic cobweb that fossilized on one of the cattle's heads gives it that antique look, which is very "now."
Tip No. 4. Maximizing space. When Lynch-Jones moved into her trailer 14 years ago, much of the space was taken up by the previous owner's dog's hair. "Even in the oven," Lynch-Jones recalls. Once her husband vacuumed that up and bombed the place for fleas, it was actually quite roomy.
But she has even more space-saving secrets to share. She stores her scrap glass in stacked plastic tubs in the living room. On top, instead of a doily or linen, she throws the cloth from a Pittsburgh Steelers pillow she never made and voilà -- it's a lamp stand. Not to mention a tribute to her husband Ron's favorite football team.
Tip No. 5. Brightening up wood paneling. "When I moved in, I thought, 'Oh, God, this could be awesome,'" says a downcast Wohlfield of her swank bachelorette pad, walled with strips of genuine wood. "But I tried to paint my bedroom red, because I thought it would look cool. It took forever. I had to use two coats of primer and three coats of paint, and it still shows dark underneath."
For a faster solution, Clement suggests sponge-painting paneling. She did her hallway in turquoise and white, with the wood showing through -- still seeing the tree for the forest, so to speak.
Tip No. 6. Getting creative with carpeting. Faux animal-skin rugs are a great way to hide unsightly stains, which show up even on orange, cream, and brown shag carpeting, says Wohlfied, who believes in making her place feel like home with a few well-draped accessories. "But that costs money, and I don't have a lot of money." So unfortunately, nothing matches too well at her place, being hand-me-downs, she says. Her prized avocado couch came from a good family with West Virginia and Kentucky ties, though.
Tip No. 7. What to do with all your spouse's stuff. Lynch-Jones believes in not dusting anything, including her husband's billiard trophies, which adorn the entertainment center and the top of the TV.
But she lets Ron liberally display his possessions, like the kitchen table with a full-color diagram of the solar system glued to the surface. "It's kind of neat," she enthuses. "It's got all sorts of facts and figures on it that are probably completely outdated."
Tip No. 8. Impress your parents: "I come from a very strict religious family," says Wohlfield, "and the lady showing us the place had greasy gray hair with a feather in it and a scratchy, scratchy voice. She's taking us in the bathroom to look at the [sunken] tub, saying, 'You can fit two people in there. It's great for a single girl!'"
Tip No. 9. Choose cactuses. "That tall skinny one that my mother's cousin's sister gave me. Mother of millions, I think it's called," says Lynch-Jones. "And the one in the back, I think that's called saguaro cactus. One of my friends gave me that when he moved. He said, 'If anybody ever asks you where you got that, tell them you don't know.'"
Tip No. 10. Bored? Put up a wall. "It's hardly any work at all," says Clement, who remodels her place about every six months. "A few two-by-fours running through, and some paneling on both sides, and you can do it in an hour and a half."
If all else fails, move. Wohlfield thought a trailer would be way quieter than an apartment, but it's not. "When my neighbor smacks her TV, my trailer shakes," she says. "I'm outta here."