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Flip This Room

Re-do. Schme-do. After watching yet another homemaker TV program wherein homeowners and their design teams construct furniture out of cardboard boxes and matchsticks, sew fabulous curtains and pillows from bits of fabric and laundry lint, and make “art” from items commonly found in the desks of 5-year-olds, I am ready to throw in the towel. (And not one I made myself!)

Keep in mind these TV land room re-dos are also done in one day, and on a budget that is the size of the grocery bill for a family of four. But spring is a time of new beginnings and I, along with most other fair-weather domestic divas, want a fresh look. Despite my fear of failure, it’s time for a reality check.

Let’s Get Real

“Those designers have 50,000 people that work for them and they scour those shops and it’s not ‘I just happened to go by this garage sale this morning on my way to tape the show and found this.’” So says Beth Birch, co-owner of Smithboro Home Galleries. She helps customers make over their ‘Sooo five minutes ago!’ living spaces into happy places. And she points out that we amateurs must allow the time and money for what we don’t see going into the “McMakeovers.”

“The labor intensiveness of some of those re-dos is incredible,” Birch says. “That’s several thousand dollars worth of labor on some of those things that they say are costing $500.”

Wanda Cockrell is another local designer and the owner of The Stedman House. She specializes in dramatic make-overs.

“It takes a lot of time in pulling fabrics and putting it all together and finding a rug and getting samples and seeing what it all looks like in the light,” she says. She spent about 20 hours designing a recent room make-over before moving even one lamp!

Getting Started

Cockrell says whether you are going it alone or working with a professional designer, get started by figuring out what you like. She advises clients to pull out their folder of magazine clippings or a selection of home decorating magazines to figure out what appeals to you. Cockrell also likes to know the favorite color of her clients, saying a room color should make you happy.

Beth Birch says start with the room’s upholstered pieces.

“The upholstery is the thing that’s going to make the room look the most different because that is probably one of the bigger pieces in the room,” she says.

On The Topic of Chocolate

(the color, not the food!)

Speaking of upholstery, both Birch and Cockrell agree chocolate is a delicious color to work with, calling it the “new neutral.”

“People are putting chocolate with everything, including very bright colors,” Birch says. If your style is toward trendy, Birch recommends a solid sofa (chocolate, anyone?) and express yourself in pillows and wall prints that can be easily changed. And one last time . . . chocolate is a great neutral! It looks good with so many colors, you can change your room as often as Hollywood celebrities change partners.

On Accessorizing

If the devil is in the details, Wanda Cockrell believes angels live in a room’s accessories. She says they are the key to decorating success.

“I’d rather see you spend $2,000, adding accessories into a room, and use your existing furniture than to have brand new furniture and no accessories,” she says. On a recent room re-do, her first thought was that the room was too bland, not reflecting the personality of the owners at all. The fix? Accessories!

“You can have a $500 cocktail dress on from a fancy boutique, no makeup, no jewelry, the wrong shoes – you are not going to look right,” Cockrell says. “But you can buy an inexpensive dress, use your $500 for great accessories, and you are going to look a whole lot better.”

On Challenges

Every room will have a problem or challenge. That doesn’t mean you should give up. Cockrell had one.

“The unique challenge in this room was making this wall color work; the owner loved this wall color and did not want it to change. I had to have something bold to counter the wall color.”

Johanna Royo is a journalist living in Fayetteville who enjoys writing about all kinds of good things for CityView magazine.