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Five Ways to Stretch Your Design Dollars

W

ITH THE REAL ESTATE MARKET at a low point, most of us won’t be moving anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge our desire to beautify our surroundings. Here are some tips.

Reorganize:

First, bring a breath of fresh air into your home by de-cluttering. Furniture with doors and drawers can be used to hide daily clutter like magazines, bills and projects. A collection of CD’s can hide in a chest of drawers. An armoire can hide sports equipment, or a home office. Inexpensive baskets on bookshelves add a fresh, modern look.

When it comes to accessories, think fewer, bigger – instead of four tiny lamps, have two big ones. Group collections of small items (like seashells or small photo frames) onto a large tray. This effectively turns lots of small items into one larger thing, calming down the room. If you have multi-layered window treatments, let the sun in. Take down heavy valances, but leave the side panels on a simple iron rod. Hang framed art close together in a group, and leave some wall space empty. Alternating patterned and plain areas gives the eye rest as it moves around the room, creating calm. If you have patterned upholstery, have one or two pieces slipcovered in a solid fabric to create more plain areas. Slipcovering costs less than half of the price of new furniture, and can be used for seasonal color change as well.

Repurpose:

Go shopping in your own house for pieces you can reuse in other rooms. Bring a chest of drawers from a rarely used guest room into the living room for use as an end table. Short-term guests don’t need drawers; you’ll gain storage in one room and declutter the other.

If you need a comfortable reading chair in the bedroom, borrow one from the living room and have a slipcover made that matches the bedroom. You’ll have a new chair, and the living room will gain some space. If you need the chair again when entertaining a crowd, just take off the slipcover and move it back out for company. This is one area where some interior design help can be very useful; a designer will look at your home with fresh eyes, and for an hourly fee can create new floor plans and new uses for pieces you have.

Recycle:

Check out antiques and shops that have vintage pieces. Not only is vintage furniture a bargain, it is often better made than today’s imports. Certain new pieces, like dining room furniture, can cost a small fortune nowadays, and there are beautiful dining sets made in the last 40-80 years at resale shops for a fraction of the cost. Usually they are solid wood, and can have gorgeous mahogany veneers. With a little touch-up and fresh fabric you’ll have whole new room.

For upholstered pieces, a bargain chair or sofa from an estate sale can work well with a slipcover to provide occasional seating. This can be a great way to add a piece to a bedroom corner or little-used living room where heavy use isn’t required. Reupholstery can be expensive if the piece needs springs and cushions, so look carefully for items in good condition that just need a facelift. If you have a large house to furnish and are on a budget, vintage pieces can really stretch your decorating dollars and add a lot of personality. In addition, the fabric selection in a decorating shop is much better than the fabric offerings on new sofas. With slipcover fabrics, the choices are tremendous and you can create something truly chic and unique.

Buy Quality:

One of my favorite bits of advice for my clients is to buy the best quality they can. This does not necessarily mean you should buy the most expensive brands, however. A more eclectic, personal style of decorating mixes inherited pieces, vintage recovered pieces, and modern pieces for media and seating. I have always liked antiques and rustic furnishings because they create a lot of warmth. We prefer American made furniture since it doesn’t warp or crack like some imports. If you choose rustic or painted woods the prices are great and the craftsmenship is excellent. I also like the inviting look of slipcovered upholstery. Soft and comfortable, slipcovered furniture mixes well with both formal antiques and rustic pieces. Washable cotton damask or linen have a unique elegance and are so practical. Looking for quality guarantees that your furniture purchases will last – and not needing to replace furniture is the best bargain of all. In my design practice, we take the time to show our clients how a good quality piece of furniture is made so they can make an informed decision. Once they have a great sofa frame, all they have to replace in the future is the slipcover, and they can turn their attention instead to other purchases. Over the years they are able to create a much more interesting and personal home.

Give Yourself A Lift:

Don’t decorate to impress other people – pick your favorite colors, and do what you like. Get a quick lift by adding some colorful new throw pillows. We’ve all heard this tip, but the trick is to go bold for an interesting display. Mix big and small patterns freely, but keep them organized by repeating a major color on each one. Have a few custom made for an elegant result. Learn to do your own painting, and tackle just one room for a splash of new color. Ask a designer to help you rehang all of your art. Change your lampshades to ivory to brighten the whole house. Paint an old piece of furniture a cheerful color, and replace heavy patterned rugs with light colors. You may need some advice to bring in more color and make the most of what you have – but that’s the true joy in creating a home.

Copyright 2008 Kerry Ann Dame. May not be reproduced without permission.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John October 2, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Kerry,
I just loved your candid advice and comments on how to decorate with taste and style and still give your clients their individuality in their homes.

It was so refreshing your advice regarding recycling and buying quality. I could not agree more with you in terms of antiques and good quality vintage furniture.

Unfortunately many Canadian decorators, here in Toronto, seem to have an aversion to antiques in terms of decorating and seem to push poor quality modern-made items simply for a look rather than a look that is also quality.

I commend you for your advice to your clients and decorating skill.

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