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Big changes on a small budget

Do you envy participants on home makeover TV shows or salivate while flipping through shelter magazines? Everything looks so dazzling and new, but you can’t justify the expense of an interior redo. Don’t despair. You can jazz up any room with style swaps that carry a powerful punch.

Pamela Witte, owner of White Orchard Home Furnishings in Orchard Park, said some of her clients are looking for small updates. Along with buying furniture, they usually want to add new accessories like artwork and lamps that can make a noticeable style change.

“There are so many ways to change a room and keep your expenses down,” said Witte, who has been in the interior design business for more than 30 years.

Before you start making changes, Michael Donnelly of Michael Donnelly Interiors and Gift Gallery emphasized the importance of cleaning and decluttering the room.

“The first thing you should do before making an upgrade is to wash your windows,” Donnelly said. “It makes everything look better. Bring in the sunshine to see what you’ve got. Then get rid of clutter — things you’re done with or never needed to begin with. Make the room look as clean and simple as possible.”

Once you’ve got a clean palette, it’s time to make some easy upgrades. Donnelly and Witte, along with Richard Nashwinter of Nashwinter Designs, shared ideas for style swaps in five areas:

1. Freshen up your artwork

If you’re had the same watercolor over your couch since Seinfeld was on the air, you probably don’t even see it anymore. Like becoming “nose blind” to smells that constantly permeate our homes, we can become blind to longtime objects around us, Donnelly said. Move the painting to a new spot and suddenly it looks like a brand new piece, he suggested. Witte recommends replacing artwork with a simple white shelf on which you can layer art: “Shelves can give a nice balance to a big room.”

2. Re-do your draperies

More than window coverings, draperies add to a room’s mood. Nashwinter noted one popular upgrade is to custom order draperies. “You will get something of quality that you will like better and that will last longer than draperies off the rack.” If you want to dress up your existing draperies, Witte suggested adding a decorative trim.

“A decorative flat tape sewn on the inside edge can add an extra zip to those existing panels,” said Witte. “If you’re not handy with sewing machine, there are iron-on panels.”

Regardless, Donnelly advises vacuuming or taking a whisk broom to your drapes and your upholstery regularly. “It does brighten things up. If you don’t do it, the fabric will eventually wear out, especially lighter colors.”

3. Update your hardware

Swapping out hardware on your kitchen cupboards is a relatively inexpensive way to make a change, both Witte and Nashwinter said. Donnelly also said that while switching from shiny chrome to brushed nickel or bronze can update a kitchen, think of the entire mood of the room when choosing your hardware. “I have seen a lot of hardware changes that were overdone or underdone. Make sure they are appropriate to the setting.”

4. Light fixtures

“It’s amazing what new lamps can do,” Witte said. “I always say lamps are like the jewelry of the room. Another simple change is to replace your old shades with new ones.”

Darker shades, including black shades, are popular now. And darker shades will not affect the volume of light in the room, Witte said, adding that lamps also provide a way “to step out of your box if you’re shy about being artsy in other areas of the room.”

“Light fixtures can definitely update a room, just be sure to coordinate with the time period of your décor,” Nashwinter said.

Likewise, Donnelly advises people to replace light fixtures with ones that complement their furnishings, adding that your light bulb choice makes a huge difference. “Some of the LED bulbs are so cool they make a room look like a moonscape,” he said. “The newer ones are warmer. Look for bulbs that are at least 2,700 degrees on the Kelvin scale.”

5. Paint

Designers agree that a fresh coat of paint is one of the more inexpensive ways to quickly upgrade a room. Even if you just paint an accent wall, it can change a room’s feel. Witte recommends going one shade darker on the accent wall or picking a contrasting color that isn’t so extreme it sucks all the attention. Nashwinter suggests wallpapering just one wall for a new look. A simpler change is to paint wood trim white or a bright contrasting color. “People often say they don’t want to paint the woodwork,” Donnelly said. “Why not? It’s ugly. Just do it.”

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