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Filling an Empty Room on a Budget

It's Easier Than You Think!

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Confronting an empty room is one of the scariest things most beginning designers do. I would much rather redesign a room that is already done. It is easier to see what is wrong and what can be changed. But you needn't fear starting from scratch. You have an opportunity, when you start from scratch, to build your design around reused and recycled products - a budget decorator's dream. And with my tips, you'll even please your accountant! Here's how to start:

1. Paint

Guide to PaintingPhoto: S Nada
Your first visit should be to the "opps!" counter of your local home improvement store. If you can find a paint you like, use it to paint one accent wall. This paint usually runs about $5 a gallon in my neighborhood. You can base your room design on the accent wall color. Repeat it in pillows, art, upholstery and rugs. This is the cheapest part of the transformation. If you want to paint the whole room, count on spending more money.

2. Furniture

Sofa in a Big White RoomPhoto: Andy Sotiriou - Getty Images
Easily the most expensive part of filling a room is choosing furniture. If you are willing to buy used, furniture is one of the easiest to find at a bargain price - if you are willing to work at the search. There are many sources of good used furniture: craigslist, the classifieds of your local paper, eBay, yard sales, thrift shops, friends and relatives, or the grapevine. Let it be known that you are searching, what you are searching for, the style and color you prefer and your budget.You can even post a note on the classifieds board at your local supermarket. A caution though: inspect before you buy and never meet the seller alone. Always take a friend.

3. Art

Scott Liddell
Art is in the eye of the beholder. It can be "art" art or simply a striking or unusual object. Visit thrift stores, yard sales and discount stores for possible bargains. If you find a frame you like, buy it. You can change the art inside with any number of possibilities. It is especially advantageous if you can find multiple frames to match. Fill them all with blank or used canvases covered with 4 fabrics which harmonize with your room colors - a cheap grouping that has visual power. You don't have to be an "old master" to make art for your room, but if you have an "old master" lying around, by all means, display it.

4. Accessories

Add AccessoriesPhoto: Fabrizio Turco
Accessories at liveliness to a room, but be careful not to overdo it. Accessories can help create a focal point in a room, but if you have too many focal points, they become - unfocused and lose their effectiveness.

The best way to accessorize a room is to use things you already have and love. Group them by theme or size. One accessory I always recommend is a folding screen. Simple or elaborate, they are versatile and mobile. They can be used to divide a room into smaller areas, hide unsightly areas of the room, provide privacy or simply used as art. I see them frequently at thrift or consignment shops. Pick one up!

So, we have your room full and you still have money left. Use it to buy a great area rug! You will thank me.

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