A frugal room makeover

Room Makeover for $100 or Less!

by Shaunna Privratsky


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Are the walls of your house starting to close in on you? Are the tired furniture, dingy paint, and dusty curtains prompting you to pack up and move? Are you addicted to the HGTV shows? Before you jump into the housing market, consider these tips to freshen up your space without busting your budget.

First off, you need a plan and a budget. You can do a lot on a limited amount of money, but some projects require more than others. If you are planning a major renovation, first consider how it will affect the resale value of your house. According to Remodeling Magazine's annual report, kitchens and bathrooms net a big return on your investment, while bedrooms and living areas don't offer as much. A minor kitchen makeover gives you a 75.4% return, while a bathroom remodel will yield a respectable 65.2% return on your investment. Most people want to personalize these areas, so putting too much money here can backfire.

Another area that offers a big reward is outdoor living, such as decks, patios, three-season porches, covered sunrooms, or formal gardens. Any investment made here will increase your home's value and add more square footage of living and entertaining space. Choose carefully if you are mainly considering your home's resale value. A wooden deck will return 77.3% of your cost, while a sunroom only adds 46.5% at a much bigger investment. For a whopping 85.6% return, replace your entry door with a steel one and spruce it up at the same time.

Once you pick a room you are going to tackle, decide on a theme. This could be an architectural style, like Mission, Contemporary, or the old standby, Eclectic. Or you could choose a color theme with one or two accent hues to complement it. Or base your room on a favorite collection, a treasured art print, or the funky old couch your grandma gave you that you adore.

Keeping your theme in mind, divide your plan into five major areas: flooring, walls, lighting, furniture, and accessories. Make a list of items you'll need for your project and the estimated costs. Having a plan makes the whole project go smoothly and eliminates overspending.

Now that you have your plan firmly in mind, go online or pick up the phone. Calling stores to locate the items you need and get an idea of prices eliminates as much legwork as possible. Shop around for price as well as quality. When your shopping list is complete, you should hop in your car. Group errands at stores that are nearby to save both time and gas.

Flooring can be a big expense. Hate the green shag carpeting but can't afford to replace it? Cover it with an attractive area rug. Discount stores, home improvement stores, and even catalogs are good sources for inexpensive rugs. I scored a room-size rug for $49 at a back-to-School sale. The regular price was $189!

Walls are a relatively easy fix. Neutral or light walls will expand the space visually. Yet don't be afraid of color. You could paint one wall your focal color, like Ocean Blue, and then paint the other walls a pale gray. Paint is the cheapest, fastest way to start your "look." I buy Wal-Mart's store brand for around $15 a gallon. The colors can be custom-mixed, and the semi-gloss finish makes cleaning a snap and offers excellent coverage.

Lights add visibility and mood. The lamps or lights you have will most likely work, or you can spray paint them for a totally new look at a fraction of the cost of new lighting. Shining light upwards also draws the eye up and makes the room appear taller. To update our black lamps, I purchased feather trim for $8 at Michael's craft store. With a little glue, it instantly transformed Modern style into Safari.

Furniture is another area to consider. You may just need to update what you have. Slipcovers are a quick way to totally change that old chair into the new favorite seat in the house. Or you can paint wood or metal furniture to give it new life.

Rooms become "stale" or boring when everything stays the same. Add some excitement by changing the floor plan and mixing things up. If the sofa has always been in front of the window, put it against the wall. Move the television stand to a new corner. Pick a new wall or area for the focal point with a large picture, mirror, or wall design.

During our recent living room redo, I needed a large piece of wall art for the "new" area created when I painted dramatic horizontal stripes on our 16' wall. I decided on a metal wall plaque, but blanched at the outrageous prices at department and furniture stores.

Instead, I found a gorgeous piece on clearance at a hardware store for only $15! The corners were banged up, so I simply filled in the cracks with spackling, sanded, and painted it. The two sconces setting it off were half-priced Halloween decorations from Target. I paid only $4 for them.

Next comes the most fun part, the accessories. Remember that less is more; there will be less to dust and more drama. This can really cement the theme you choose. For example, if you are going for a Contemporary look, choose sleek vases with a single flower, shiny metal platters with patterned balls, chunky black candlesticks, etc.

Have fun and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Walls can always be re-painted and furniture can be recovered or rearranged, and you can change your theme. Decorating should be fun, no matter how big or small your makeover plans are. Make it sparkle with a touch of your personality, and your "new" space will be big on style.

In today's high-priced home market, it might not be feasible to pick up stakes and move. Yet by relocating a few key pieces of furniture or picking up a paintbrush, you can get a whole new look in your home. Once again, it will be the house of your dreams.


Shaunna Privratsky is an expert in personal finance. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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