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In The News - TheSunNews.com

February 21, 2009

A dose of home medicine
A well-decorated house can relieve stress for less

By Elaine Gaston - For The Sun News | TheSunNews.com

If this troubled economy has done anything good, it has forced folks to spend more time at home.

And that's not such a bad thing, unless home feels a little drab, uninspiring and unattractive.

Local and national designers, however, say simple things, such as a fresh coat of paint, a new area rug or slipcovering sofas and chairs, can breathe new life into a home, making it feel brighter, more spacious and stylish.

And more importantly during these financially troubled times, your home should be your sanctuary, a place to unwind, refresh and feel safe.

"If design is done right, and fits your needs and lifestyles, it improves the quality of your life like a dose of anti-depressants," Debbie Wiener of Silver Spring, Md., an interior designer and author of "Slob Proof! Real Life Design Solutions," wrote in an e-mail. "Who doesn't want to wake up in a bright, cheery room where all your things are organized and accessible? You'll dress faster, be cheerier and get to work on time."

Design can be difficult for some who lack good taste and vision, but with a few good pointers and ideas offered up by the design experts, decorating can be exciting and enjoyable with the right approach, Wiener said.

"It's the same as finger painting in kindergarten or baking cookies as a kid; it feels good, it's a creative outlet that's different from your daily routine, and in the end, you get something that looks good and feeds your creative soul," Wiener said.

Decorating on a budget in a downturned economy simply requires thinking outside the box, said decorating consultant Gloria Suggs of Loris.

"I know what it's like to not have the money, what it's like to decorate on a budget," Suggs said. "When I grew up, we really didn't have much. I had to know how to take nothing and make something out of it.

"As a little girl, I remember taking crates and standing them up, and putting a board on top of them to make a dressing table," Suggs said. "I took material and fixed the cutest little ruffle thing. And mom gave me a mirror she had. I was 9."

Suggs said she tells clients with a limited budget to take what they already have and add bold or colorful accents to freshen up the look.

"You take what you've got and add to it," Suggs said. "Do some painting. Or add a new print or piece of furniture. Go to auctions or goodwill stores and get it for practically nothing."

Suggs decorated a 100-year-old house on her property to resemble a bed and breakfast for visiting family and friends. She furnished it with pieces she found at auctions and antique shops "off the beaten path," she said. She aimed for a look that reminded her of her grandmother's house.

"I would take these pieces that had scratches and take my pens and touch them up," Suggs said.

"Old English works wonders. ... Fixing this house was the most fun decorating project. It's like going back to your grandmother's house. There's just something about the past that gives us strength for the present and hope for the future."

Here are some ideas for decorating on a budget, courtesy of Wiener, Suggs and Paula Berberian, creative services manager for Brewster Home Fashions, a Massachusetts wallpaper company:

Paint | Wiener recommended painting the ceilings a pale sky blue to give a room a fresh feeling. Consider adding color around a white fireplace or stripe crown moulding with color pulled from the furniture or paint an accent wall in your favorite color.

Window treatments | Give older curtains a new look. Wiener suggested adding tapes, scalloped edges and tassel trims. Or remove heavy drapery but leave up the shears to add the feeling of spaciousness and airiness to a room, she suggested. Berberian suggested draping new fabric over a tension rod, a cheap way to add color and texture to a room, she said.

Frames | Try re-matting and re-framing artwork to change its look. Try a new mat color, such as grass green, pumpkin orange or periwinkle blue, Weiner said.

Throw pillows | Freshen up a sofa with new toss pillows in unexpected patterns and colors.

Reinventing | Wiener found a new use for an old product. She uses typewriter correction fluid to cover flaws on white cabinetry, doors, trim and tile grout until they can be repainted. She also uses permanent markers to camouflage scratches on furniture legs, walls and picture frames.

Flooring | Add warmth, texture and color to a space with the introduction of a new area rug, suggested Berberian.
"For a more affordable option, use an outdoor rug or large bath mat in a bright color or pattern that serves as an accent in the room," Berberian wrote in a news release about decorating on a budget.

Stylish art | Got a gorgeous frame you want to put to good use? Berberian suggested buying a yard of a favorite print fabric, cut it to fit the frame, remove the frame's glass and insert the fabric for a one-of-a-kind design.

Light up | Lamps in unique designs not only add soft lighting and ambience to a space, but it also can make a bold design statement. Berberian suggested using eco-friendly light bulbs to also lower electric bills.

Focus on flowers | Fill a vase with colorful flowers to make a room pop, Berberian recommended. To add depth, wallpaper one wall behind the flowers. Suggs suggested using a gold rub on a plain vase to give it an antique look.

New use for old stuff | Rather than fork over big bucks on a computer desk, create one using an old kitchen table, Berberian suggested. Paint the table a bright color to add drama to the space.

Stencils | Stencils make it easy to add a personal touch to cabinets. Use gold or silver paint on top of a warmer color to add a touch of elegance, Berberian offered.

Add depth | Hang a mirror in a room to add depth and sparkle.

Make scents | One of Berberian's favorite ways to accent a room is using candles. Candles add warmth and coziness to a space, she said.

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