Home Design Facelifts on a Shoestring Budget

Tips from the design faculty of The Art Institutes (ARA) - After a cold, gray winter, nothing says spring like a home design facelift. But how can you get a fresh new look for your home without spending a fortune?

Simple, say the design experts. Pick one room and make inexpensive, yet big changes. If you try to spread your budget around too many rooms, caution designers, you won't see much change and may be disappointed for all your work.

To begin, start with color. According to Glenn Currie, design instructor with The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, it's one of the easiest ways to give a room a lift. "Most people are afraid to choose color, but they shouldn't be. A bold palette choice will have an immediate impact on the look of a room," says Currie. Another idea for walls, he suggests, is to select wonderful wallpaper, cover one wall and then choose a color you like from the wallpaper to paint the other walls.

Another way to add color to a room is with area rugs. According to Currie, "Area rugs are an easy way to unify the walls, furniture and accessories in a room." Select a colorful rug in a traditional or modern pattern; a wide variety of affordable choices can often be found at carpet outlets or local auction houses.

Windows offer up a great way to alter a room's appearance. Nancy Lowe, with The Art Institute of Colorado, likes to use inexpensive and simple fabrics for draping to create window treatments with a little drama. "I'll buy a simple cotton muslin or beautiful remnant and play with ways of draping the fabric over a rod until I get an effect I like," says Lowe. For the rod, Lowe suggests looking for an inexpensive and unusual option such as copper piping from the plumbing section of a home improvement store.

Speaking of drama, nothing changes the mood of a room like lighting. Depending on your privacy needs, consider removing curtains altogether to instantly brighten a room. "You can put an attractive gathering of plants in front of a window and have privacy and a great new look at the same time," says Lowe. When lights are needed, "they shouldn't be exclusively overhead. Lights at different levels and in non-obvious places are much more interesting," says Lowe. To create a mood with lighting, she suggests uplighting such as a small spotlight set on the floor behind couches or sofas, picture lights, or lamps set on sideboards or within bookshelves.

If it's your child's room that needs updating, look for ways to change the room that can transition as a child grows. For example, Donna Fullmer, Academic Director of the Interior Design department of The Illinois Institute of Art Chicago, likes "removable" wallpaper borders. "Selections are wonderful now - it's not just Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse," says Fullmer.

Before applying borders, Fullmer likes to paint the room using two different colors; the first color is applied from the floor approximately five feet; the second color from the ceiling down to meet the first color. To divide the two colors, she adds a picture rail molding or narrow bookshelf to create display place for a child's treasures. "The two paint colors and trim create an implied wall height that is a more tangible scale for a child," says Fullmer. She then adds borders using pretty flowers or bold graphic patterns, some with scalloped edges and cut-outs, for a more grown-up look.

Think of a room as areas, not just four walls, says Fullmer. To create small nooks for a child to play, Fullmer likes to arrange furniture and accessories at different angles, for example a child's bed placed out of a corner instead of against a wall. "It adds an element of surprise and can also create random storage space," she suggests.

Remember, to really give your home a facelift that will elicit "oohs and aahs" from friends and family, "Don't play it safe or you'll end up with nothing for all your hard work," says Currie. Be bold, experiment and most of all have fun. That's what makeovers are all about.

For more information on the Interior Design programs of The Art Institutes, call 1-888-328-7900 or visit The Art Institutes Web site at www.artinstitutes.edu/nz Courtesy of ARA Content, www.aracontent.com, e-mail: info@aracontent.com