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Makeovers don't have to be extreme

By Elizabeth Bettendorf, Times Correspondent
Published March 7, 2008


Maybe you've opted to stay put. The sputtering real estate market makes you queasy, and you're living a little leaner. That dream kitchen makeover you've been mulling for the past few months might stay just that: a dream.

In fact, your current nest will do just fine "as is" for the time being, thank you very much. Still, a few simple home makeover projects are good for the soul - especially when they're fast and cheap.

Here are some quick and easy home makeover tips from some local design experts as well as Kim Myles, the HGTV Design Star champion whose new show, Myles of Style, debuts March 20.

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Myles promises you'll be amazed at how much bang for the buck this simple act can bring to our living spaces.

"We all collect and acquire things around our homes," she says, "but clearing out gives us both breathing and emotional space. Ask yourself: What is functional? What is a real need? And what do I really love? That really means: What will make me feel disconnected emotionally if I get rid of it? You'll be amazed at how much falls away."

Megan Gregory, a Tampa Bay area makeover designer and owner of Welcome Home Redesign Services, calls declutteringa "quick, free change." She suggests starting with a china cabinet or any other display cabinet, emptying it, and then putting back only what you really love.

"Group like objects in odd numbers -think threes and fives -so put the candlesticks together, or the vases." Or, she suggests, create repeating patterns by putting tall, medium and small items from left to right. On the opposing shelf, do the opposite.

"This is a great way to show off what you own without making the cabinet look like a display cabinet," she said.

Jan Karamitsanis, president and principal designer at Jankara Fine Designs, suggests reworking those bookshelves.

"Mix in colorful or special accessories along with those books," she said.

Rearrange your art

Rehang that artwork, Gregory says. If you're like most people, you probably hang it too high.

"This is a simple fix and has a huge visual impact," she says.

Rehang your artwork 6 to 9 inches above your furniture to keep the pictures visually related to the furniture rather than floating on the wall and getting lost. If you have a lot of photos you want to hang on the wall, a quick way to unify them, she adds, is to use all the same frames, perhaps silver or black, with identical white mats. It's a simple trick that gives a finished look to the grouping.

Consider making your own art, says Myles, even if you have absolutely zero artistic ability.

"Go get an artist canvas and some acrylic paint at an art-supply store," she says. "Paint the canvas one color and hang it on the wall like a museum frame. If you're creative you can get a little fancier." You'll be surprised, Myles says, by how much punch a block of color can add to a room.

Paint: the best quickie

"A fresh new color on the walls can brighten up a room and give a whole new feeling," says Karamitsanis. "Or just repaint dingy trim. Maybe choose a richer or a brighter color for that trim this time."

Paint is the cheapest way to go if you're looking for a quickie makeover, Myles adds. Invite a few friends over to help you with the job. If everyone is afraid of painting sloppy corners and edges, your local hardware store carries tools to help with that problem, she says.

"Get a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine and a pizza. Invite two friends over and make it a special event. Three people can knock out a room in about an hour and a half."

Don't feel like painting? You can also add color with a couple of bright throw pillows, like the big yellow flower pillows on display at Pottery Barn. If you can't afford those, buy some bright yellow fabric on the cheap and make your own.

Lighten up

If you're like most people, you probably don't have enough lighting in your living space.

"Lighting is so important in decorating and room makeovers," Gregory says. "Most people don't have enough light, so I use this simple trick: Create a lighting triangle and have at least three sources of light in your room."

Is it okay to count that annoying overhead light as a source of light? Yes, says Gregory, but don't let it be your only source. She suggests lamps for reading, dimmer switches and the best- kept secret for illuminating dark corners,uplights that can be found at any home improvement store.

Karamitsanis says to consider purchasing a new shade for an old lamp or a new lamp with a base in a trendier, more vivid color. Then use that same color or a variation of it in a couple of accessory pieces.

Go green

Forget the "decorating police," Gregory jokes. Silk plants are great for people with no time to water who want to jazz up their living space a little.

"Using greenery enlivens a home. It offers color and texture and softens the hard edges of cabinetry," Gregory says. "Oftentimes, it's the accent greenery that gives a home the 'pop' we are looking for."

For an eye-popping boost in a room, Myles swears by fresh flowers. Even the $5 grocery store bouquet, with some modification, will do. Separate it into several similar bouquets -lilies with lilies, carnations with carnations. Put them in some pretty vases so that the flower heads just peek over the top.

Mix it up

Karamitsanis offers this final nugget: If all else fails, she says, do what a lot of us did as teenagers: "Rearrange the furniture in your room!"

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.

Tips on the tube and in person

Catch the premiere of Kim Myles' show, Myles of Style, at 8:30 p.m. March 20 on HGTV. A sneak preview will air at 10 p.m. March 16 after a special on the 2008 HGTV Dream Home in Islamorada.

Makeover designer Megan Gregory will offer a course, "Top 10 Decorating Mistakes And Their Solutions," on March 20 and April 10 at Quality Wall Beds, 712 16th St. N, St. Petersburg, and "Color Your World" on March 13 and April 3 at the same location. All talks are free. To reserve a spot, call (727) 488-0212.