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Fixing Up Interior, One Step at a Time


HUNTINGTON BEACH — Karen Shotting realized she had an extensive redecorating project ahead when she moved into her condominium in 1989. She knew she didn't want to live with the glaring plaid wallpaper in the powder room, and she needed new furniture.

But, she also didn't want to go into debt.

She decided the best approach was to hire an interior designer on an hourly rate to help her formulate a plan and get the most for her money.

Shotting and Elaine Hankin of Elaine Hankin Interior Design in Huntington Beach decided to redecorate in stages. They have finished a downstairs powder room and have almost completed the living room.

"We started off with just a couple of things, and we've been building ever since," said Shotting, a tax accountant. Her approach to affordable decorating is to save money, purchase a few items and then save for her next purchases.

This decorating-in-increments approach is just one of the many ways you can make home decorating more affordable, according to Orange County interior designers. And, they say, hiring a designer can often save you money because they can make a plan that avoids costly mistakes and they have access to resources not available to the public.

Shotting immediately replaced the plaid wallpaper in her powder room. Delicate pink roses now wind across a white background on the walls and ceiling, making the room look larger. The sink now has brass and porcelain fixtures.

Her living room now has two white sofas with bright blue and pink throw pillows. "The pillows are all silk, which is not inexpensive, but that's (Hankin's) way of adding a nice elegant touch at not much cost," Shotting said.

The sofas face a large coffee table with a brass base and a glass top. The base was purchased separately and then the heavy glass top was cut and beveled to Hankin's specifications. The coffee table, an end table and a nest of tables totaled less than $2,500, Hankin said.

The lamps at each end of one sofa were purchased at a lamp manufacturer, at a price considerably lower than retail. One of the lamps is one-of-a-kind. The base is a vase painted with pink and blue flowers on a gold background. A custom shade was made for it, as well as the other lamp, which has a double candlestick base.

Accessories also play a major role in the living room. A grouping of crystal items on the coffee table, a crystal bowl on an end table and a stunning Chinese-style vase on a tall pedestal give the room an elegant look. These items and a few others totaled about $1,500, according to Hankin.

For a sliding glass door in the living room, Shotting and Hankin selected a vertical pleated shade on a track (about $350) to replace vertical blinds. The white shade, which gives privacy and plenty of light, is topped by a silk valance in soft pink, which offers the elegance of silk draperies, for a fraction of the cost.

The planning that has gone into Shotting's redecorating project is a crucial step for any home design project. Nancy Bailey of Jon Jahr & Associates in Corona del Mar said planning is "even more important if you have less money." This means deciding what you will need to accomplish the desired look and knowing how much money you can spend on each item before you go shopping.

Once you've done that, there are plenty of ways to save money:

Bathroom Fixtures

Used knobs and faucets can add real character to a bathroom. "You can go to wrecking yards and pick up old fixtures that are still wonderful and have a great deal of life left in them, and they're very inexpensive," Hankin said.


If you're moving into a home and you have a small budget, consider purchasing white resin patio chairs that "can be used inside until your funds permit the purchase of quality chairs," said Betty Hyde of Ultimate Designs Interiors in Laguna Niguel.

These are available from about $8 to $50 each. Add some brightly colored tie-on cushions to create a comfortable, attractive seating. When you're ready to move up in quality, Hyde said, move the patio chairs outside.

Furniture versatility is a consideration to people who move frequently. "Sectional sofas can often be grouped only in one direction, which eliminates them from future use," Hyde said. A more flexible choice would be two 7-foot sofas that can be grouped in a variety of ways, including being separated into different rooms.

Several decorators recommended garage sales, estate sales, used furniture stores (not antique stores) and swap meets as good sources for pieces that can be either refinished or covered with contact paper.


While reupholstering can sometimes be as expensive as buying new furniture, designer Lana Barth of Huntington Beach said it can be a money-saver; sometimes saving 50% or more of the cost of new furniture. "If you like the general shape of (the piece of furniture) and if it's comfortable, then it probably is worth reupholstering," she said.

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