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Posted March 13, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Spring on the cheap: Freshen up the season without breaking the bank

Karen Stovall, resident artist at PJ Designs
Karen Stovall, resident artist at PJ Designs in Woodstock, shows how this buffet, unfit for refinishing, received new life by simply painting. Rich Cooley/Daily

Pat Koch, owner of PJ Designs
Pat Koch, owner of PJ Designs, measures a roll of fabric, costing as little as $10 a yard, which can make a dramatic change in any room without a huge investment. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Elizabeth Wilkerson


Though new colors, patterns and accessories are introduced every year, area interior designers and decorators say the dominant trends so far in 2009 are budget consciousness and deliberate spending.

"I think that what I have seen is that people are more focused," Pat Koch, owner of PJ Designs in Woodstock, said Tuesday. "It's actually been interesting for our business, in the sense that, there is very targeted, careful spending."

For example, rather than coming in and saying they want to redecorate a room, clients say they want a new sofa and chairs and draperies, she said.

"It's a very subtle difference," she said, and, though there's a trend toward being careful with budgets, clients have "always mentioned" budget concerns and limitations."

Clients are looking for a fair price, she said, but also an even better value, and there's an expectation that suppliers will meet those demands.

"I'm seeing more goods made in America, which I like," Koch said, since she makes an effort to carry American-made furnishings and products. Though it's hard to buy some goods, including some fabrics, domestically, there are fewer and fewer foreign-made goods in the store all the time, she said.

In a direct response to what clients seemed to be looking for, Koch said, the store has added some less expensive fabric lines to its inventory.

Nancy McDonald, owner of Piccadilly House Interiors in Edinburg, said customers are tending to do some projects, but wait on others. For example, a customer may get window shades or blinds now but wait to purchase draperies, she said.

"The economy's had a huge impact," McDonald said. "They have to be a little bit more cautious with their money, and maybe do [a project] gradually rather than do the whole thing."

Spring is "a very forward-looking time," Koch said. "People always are looking to rejuvenate their home spaces," she said, and that "can be done without too much effort."

It's possible to make significant changes on a relatively small budget, she said.

"We work with people's budgets," Koch said. "As long as they're realistic, we can work with them."

Sometimes, "it's as simple as changing a paint color," curtains or rugs, she said, which homeowners can do themselves. If a client says their sofa has to go, she said, reupholstering or rebuilding it from the inside can sometimes be "a lot less expensive than buying new."

Faux finishes on walls are "a great way to get a lot of pizzazz for not so much money," she said. They can also camouflage defects, such as small cracks in plaster walls in old homes, that a homeowner cannot afford to correct, she said.

Things like throw pillows and table linens and runners can also make a difference, and, with a variety of fabrics available for $10 or $20 a yard, they can do so for relatively little money, Koch said.

Sometimes, a window topper, floral arrangement or an accent wall can do the trick, McDonald said. Temporarily taking down the drapes, exposing as much of the windows as possible or replacing heavy rugs with smaller, lighter floor coverings can also change the look of a room, she said.

McDonald, who's been a decorator for more than 20 years, said her advice is "always to go with the traditional, rather than trends, because the trends don't last."

"I think trends are great," she said, "but I would do ... trendy colors in accessories, things that don't cost a lot of money [and] that you can change over later."

People should buy furniture and accessories because they like them, not because they're "in," Koch said. Pieces with "staying power" are a good idea, she said.

Koch said her store, which tries to be "off-retail," carries some "antiques that are very well priced" and sells its "floor samples as floor samples." McDonald said Piccadilly House is offering some discounts.

"We have to be affordable at this time," McDonald said.

Koch said she and her staff try to keep the redecorating experience "happy" for clients, who are looking to make positive changes and may have saved money to do so.

Karen Stovall, PJ Designs' resident artist, said clients seem to need more encouragement now.

"They still want to do it, but they need somebody to say it's OK to spend a little money," Stovall said. It doesn't take a lot to spruce up a home, she said, and sometimes even just rearranging the furniture that's there can help perk things up.

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