Look Again

Ten designers offer their tips for remaking a room for less than $1,000.

Amanda Rafail of Interior Concepts in Hockessin says simple touches such as introducing new throw pillows will help create a new look in any room. Photograph courtesy of Century Furniture.So you have a room in serious need of work. As unlikely as it may seem, you can turn it into something totally new for $1,000. Preposterous, you say? Never. Here are 10 tips from 10 local designers.  

Tip 1: Get the Big Picture
Hanging a flat-panel television will save you floor space wasted by the furniture you needed for your old set, says Bill Frankil, president of Home and Company in Rehoboth Beach. The TV also serves as entertainment device and ever-changing piece of art. “If you’re entertaining and the TV isn’t the focus of the event, you can even put in a CD or DVD of family photos, or a  trip you’ve gone on on the TV,” Frankil says.

Tip 2: Tackle Big Items in a Small Bath
Bathroom updates are notorious for sucking up money. Ed Albers of Design Center of Rehoboth says addressing the few key items in a powder room can add up to a major improvement. The average half-bath is made up of floor, walls, ceiling, sink, toilet, mirror and small fixtures such as towel bars. By spending frugally and installing wisely, it’s possible to remake a powder room for $1,000.

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“If the space is small enough and the homeowner is handy, try new tile and add a pedestal sink,” Albers says. “Many web sites carry overstock merchandise where you can pick up a new toilet and pedestal sink for less than $500.”

Tip 3: Freshen Your Accessories
“The most effective ways to spruce up a room are to get new pillows, change out artwork and purchase new accessories,” says Amanda K. Rafail of Interior Concepts in Hockessin. Consider the accessories you already own. You might have items in storage or other parts of the house that can be rotated through different rooms to update the look or create one that is appropriate for the season.

Tip 4: Consult a Professional
Doing so is not at cross purposes with saving money, says Ed Girardi of Edward Girardi Interiors in Wilmington. Paying for a few hours of a professional designer’s time can save you worries—and money—in the long run.

“A good designer is going to find ways to stay within your budget, but give you a dynamite look,” he says. “The creativity level that the individual designer has is what makes a happy client—you’ve stayed within my budget, you’ve given me something I could never imagine, and people walk into my house and say, ‘This looks fantastic.’”

Tip 5: The Importance of Reflection
Mirrors have been perfect decor items for centuries because they not only add the illusion of depth, but they reflect light. Those attributes make investing in decorative mirrors, appropriately sized and beautifully framed, worth the money, says Nita Burstam, a designer with Somethings Unique in Greenville.

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Adding flowers to the mix with high-quality silk arrangements in beautiful vases creates yet another level of beauty, she says. “They should be nice silk flowers. They should look real,” she says. “And it’s so easy to take them away when it’s the season for real flowers and put them away when you don’t need them.”

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Tip 6: Shine a New Light
Like mirrors, lighting is often taken for granted. That shouldn’t be the case, says Terri Wasdyke of Brandywine Design in Wilmington. “In a kitchen or maybe in a family room or living room that’s really dreary, that’s probably where I would put the money,” she says. “Having more light is going to help that room feel better, and it’s going to make a big difference with tasks.”

One key task is replacing fluorescent lights with warm standard bulbs or halogens. “Good lighting makes people look better, and if they look better, you respond better to them,” Wasdyke says.

Tip 7: Take it to the Mattresses
The bedroom can be a place where that $1,000 goes an especially long way, says designer Betz Moore of J. Conn Scott Fine Furniture in Selbyville. Because sheets serve a mostly utilitarian function and are usually hidden, bed linens are a great place to start. “Do generic sheets from Marshalls and jazz the bed up with pillows that match your style,” she says. “As long as you keep your bedding neutral, you can change accessories with the seasons.”

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A single purchase, such as a yard sale find or a piece of fine reproduction furniture, can also remake a room, Moore says. Have second-hand items refinished and replace the knobs. Reproduction pieces, meanwhile, add richness to a bedroom and can also become heirlooms.

Tip 8: Tie it Together
Unifying a room’s color is one of the easiest ways to change a look from top to bottom, says Nancy Conklin of Nancy Conklin Interiors in Wilmington. “Unifying everything by color really is the answer, whether you’re spending $1,000 or $10,000,” she says. “You can do a lot by making it come together with carpet, paint, upholstery and accessories.” It’s often as easy as keeping large pieces neutral, then finding smaller items—area rugs, pillows—to bring a room’s colors together.

Tip 9: Add Some Structure
The difference between a room with crown molding and one without can be similar to that of someone who just rolled out of bed and someone looking her best to go out. Adding architectural details such as moldings, chair rails, bead board or wainscoting can add depth to a room, says Susan Schwab, owner of Architectural Interiors in Wilmington.

“Texture and being able to give a room dimension are key to giving your room a sense of warmth and continuity that changes from one space to another,” Schwab says. “It just gives interest.”

Tip 10: Put a New Face on the Kitchen
A kitchen renovation can easily soar to five figures. But freshening the cooking area’s look on the cheap is easier than you might think, says Ellen Sarafian of Dezins Unlimited in Wilmington Lighting is key, she says. Replace fluorescent fixtures with recessed halogen lights. Consider painting cabinets to complement a newly established palette and finishing with new hardware throughout.

Often, however, acting on that new color scheme via a coat of paint on the walls and trim “makes it seem like a whole new kitchen without having to redo cabinets or countertops or anything like that,” Sarafian says. 

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