Interview with Monica Benavidez
Photography courtesy of Monica Benavidez

With self-taught DIY skills and secondhand finds, blogger Monica Benavidez has styled her modest Texan home to resemble a posh Parisian apartment.

Texas blogger Monica Benavidez loves the beauty and opulence of Parisian style so much, she transformed her home into her own slice of Paris. Unsurprisingly, in her blog, Monica Wants It, she shares her secrets for how to make a home look sophisticated on a budget. She discusses how anyone can transform their space into their own Versailles with vintage and thrifted items.

Monica Benavidez

How does Parisian style affect your design choices?

It influences me because people often think they need a grand mansion to have a place that feels elegant and opulent. My husband and I live in a home that’s about 2,000 square feet—it’s not massive—but I find ways to incorporate Parisian moments all over it. Every little pocket of a French home is special. They have smaller homes, yet they have grand decor. They stick to statement pieces, and that’s what I try to do in my home too.

How do you describe your style?

It’s accessible luxury. I have a dog and a husband, so nothing in my home is too precious. I would also describe it as traditional American with a French twist. I like very ornate baroque picture frames and artwork and a variety of rich colors, textures, and textiles.

When did you first learn about design?

I grew up poor and shared a room with my mom in our apartment, and my grandmother had the other bedroom. I didn’t have my own bedroom until I went to college. It was there that I binge-watched the TV show Trading Spaces. I focused on what the designers did on the show with so little money—they were very creative. It showed me that if I were willing to put in some elbow grease, I could make my home into anything I wanted. I also read a lot of design books. Candice Olson is a huge influence as are Sarah Richardson and Eddie Ross.

Fireplace decoration by Monica Benavidez

What do you like about decorating with thrifted furniture and decor?

I like shopping secondhand so I can have a home that looks unique. I also love that my money will stretch further. If I bought a nice lamp from a major retailer, I would spend at least $300. But I can find a $5 brass lamp at a thrift shop and make it look new with Brasso polish. Also, as someone who thrifts a lot, I notice so much disposable home decor and sometimes worry about where all this stuff will end up—another reason I want to focus more on giving new purpose to things. I try to buy timeless items so I will like them now and ten years from now, which helps reduce consumption.

You bought your vintage Parisian desk at a fraction of its original price. How did you do that?

You need to know your market. For example, where I live, farmhouse and Texan rustic styles are popular, but they’re not for me. I saw the desk come up on Facebook Marketplace for close to $2,000. I knew nobody would snatch it up. Six weeks later, it dropped to $750. When it fell to $350, I picked it up the same day. You must be willing to wait. If I know something will sell quickly, I will offer an extra five or ten dollars. Most of the time, though, prices go down. You should follow your gut.

How and where do you shop for your vintage finds?

I love thrift stores and shops that support charities. I like going to estate sales, too, especially on half-off day, which is usually on the last day of a sale because they are trying to get rid of everything, so there will be bargains. I always look for beautiful frames that can be repurposed. I also advise buying old trophies because the bases tend to be made of real marble that you can use as lamp bases. Sometimes I find original oil paintings and beautiful cut crystal and glass.

Outside patio by Monica Benavidez

What are your tips for buying old furniture?

I recommend that your first piece be an inexpensive one, so you’ll only be out a few dollars if it doesn’t go well. I also suggest buying solid-wood furniture—if you pull out a drawer and the joints are dovetailed, that’s quality. You can often find the brand on the bottom of a piece, so get familiar with brands. For example, I found an American of Martinsville burl-wood nightstand, which sells for hundreds of dollars, but I only paid $25 for it.

Which of your reclamation projects is your favorite?

I found a sofa that I tried cleaning by hand with dish soap, but it got stained. So I dyed the entire sofa a gorgeous peacock green one weekend. But it didn’t fit where I wanted it to go, so I sold it for more than four times what I paid for it three days after staining it. It was a French sofa with claw feet and was very pretty and ornate, so I wish I had found a way to keep it.

What inspired your beautiful patio makeover?

I went to Paris in March 2020. It was wintery and cold, but I noticed that there was so much green everywhere, even in the middle of winter, including a lot of ivy, boxwood on the walls, and topiaries. I liked that cozy feel and wanted to bring that and the happy moments I had in Paris to my backyard in Corpus Christi. So, over a weekend, my husband and I painted our cement-slab patio with big squares to give it a secret garden feel, and I paired faux boxwood panels on the walls with a fountain. The patio was an easy project—if you don’t want to do a checkered design, you can paint stripes or stencil a rug. I love sitting on my patio now and listening to the fountain while drinking a glass of wine.

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