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Update a room in your home without cleaning out your wallet

November 11, 2011|By PEPPER BALLARD | Special to The Herald-Mail


Vickie Hrabal bought her Hagerstown home despite the outdated tile colors in its bathrooms. One featured lime green and olive green, and the other, Pepto-Bismol pink and white.

What would be a deal breaker to many house hunters was an accepted challenge for the Oak Hill Interior Designs owner, who employed a decorative trick for each room that she uses for many clients on tight budgets: She got creative.

Kitchens and bathrooms are typically the most expensive rooms to remodel, and Hrabal, like many of her clients, wasn't eager to spend a fortune ripping out the old tile and replacing it. Instead, she found wallpaper, valances and modern lighting for each bathroom that complemented the tile, and brought the rooms back to present day without the modern price tag.

"It could cost as little as $500 for updated color, a new rug and shower curtain that gives the whole room a whole new look," she said. "Good design should be affordable."

For the room of clashing greens, she found a topiary-patterned wallpaper with a persimmon background that made the competing tile colors work better together. For the pink bathroom, she used an elegant white wallpaper with tigers and bright flowers that complemented the tile. To up the ante, she installed a beaded chandelier, and added window treatments that pulled from the wallpaper colors.

Sacrificing expense on one item means that homeowners can indulge on the items they most want. If someone spends too much on cabinets and a granite countertop, they should skip the granite backsplash and buy moderately priced bathroom tile — glass or metal — to create a small design, she suggested.

Money can be saved in other ways, too.

Hrabal fixed a drafty door in Hagerstown accountant Lester Curry's conference room for about $200 with thermal drapes, full-spectrum fluorescent light bulbs and fixtures, saving energy costs.

"It looks 500 percent better, and it's an economical fix, for sure," said Curry, owner of Curry and Company CPAs on Potomac Street. "I was surprised it looked that good for that price."

Color likewise can make an inexpensive impact, Hrabal said. The mistake people often make, though, is choosing colors without professional input. 

Paint mistakes can cost double in new paint, primer and supplies. For an interior decorator's hourly rate — Hrabal's is $60 — they could work with a decorator to choose colors for their entire house, and go to a store with confidence. 

Retired teacher Verda Hockensmith went that route when she hired Hrabal to make sense of the furniture in her great room. Her 1700s Big Cove Tannery, Pa., home, which has been in her family for three generations, felt outdated.

"Everything was on the outside walls and I was tired of looking at it," she said. "I needed to get closer to the TV and (move) the furniture away from the walls." Hrabal moved the furniture in a way that enabled Verda and Richard Hockensmith to view the television without straining their eyes. 

"She tells me what goes together and that's a big help to me," Verda Hockensmith said. "I have different types of furniture and different colors that I don't think go together, but she tells me that they do."



Inexpensive design tricks

Vickie Hrabal, who owns Oak Hill Interior Designs and teaches a class called Designing with Style at Hagerstown Community College, offers the following tips on inexpensive decorating:

  •  Combine valances available on store shelves with custom-made panels.
  •  Make outdated tile colors work with complementary wallpaper and modern lighting.
  •  Hire a decorator to pick out paint colors to prevent mistakes with colors.
  •  Rearrange furniture; accent with a few modern and moderately priced items.
  •  Splurge on the items you want most. For example, after installing a granite countertop, skip the granite backsplash and create a small design with moderately priced tile instead.
  •  Save heating costs by installing insulated drapery.
  •  Compromise and prioritize. Spend money on what you want most and complement it with lower-priced items.
  •  Change room lighting for a different feel.
  •  Change picture frames or rearrange frames for a different look.

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