Saturday, April 3, 2010


Let's say you designed that special room 10 or 15 years ago. And it's lovely; just the way you like it. Always has been and always will be.

But, when you look at it objectively, you can see that it's a little tired; maybe the carpet has a trail worn in it from the door to the closet that no matter how many times you've cleaned it, it's still there. And the paint looks a bit dingy, especially around the light switches and doorknobs. And maybe, just maybe, overall it looks little bit dated.

It's counterintuitive to say that if you love a room and it needs to be refreshed that you should redesign it. There's no rule that says you can't just make the old look new with a fresh coat of paint and a similar carpet.

But taking a well-designed room that's tired and making it look new takes a bit more than just repainting it the same color and replacing the carpet with the same color and style. After all, the same hairstyle that you had 15 years ago may no longer be appropriate today. It needs to be modified, if only slightly, to look its best.

Look carefully at the room, and then think about rooms you've seen in magazines. Compare your room with what's in the pictures. For example, look at the scale of the crown moulding and the details of the recessed lighting. Notice the difference? These little details can date a room. But with a little bit of work, they can also refresh the look of a room without changing its design. It just updates it.

If you already have crown moulding, an updated look can be achieved with a new style of moulding that's larger and more in keeping with today's housing trends. It can be installed directly over the existing moulding. Any good lumber yard, Home Depot, or Lowe's has an expert who can guide you with what will look best in your home. Work with a good carpenter to make sure your design is installed properly. If you don't already have moulding on the ceiling, consider adding it. This change can make a huge difference in any room.

If the room has recessed lighting, the units installed in the mid-'90s probably have black inserts, called baffles. That was the style then. Now these inserts can be updated by removing them, painting them white with a heat-resistant spray paint, and putting them back in place. Voila, an update for the price of a can of spray paint!

If the room doesn't have recessed lighting, it's not difficult to add it for an updated look. Then think about putting in dimmers to give your room a totally updated look. Lutron is the maestro of lighting switches, so start on their web site for good ideas. Make sure to work with a licensed electrician as this is a technical job that needs to be done properly and meet building codes.

When you're planning on repainting the walls and trims, think about how to update this aspect as well. Use the same color on the walls, but by changing the trim color ever so slightly you'll give the room an updated look. If the trim is white, think about a different white - there are only about 100 variations to choose from. If you used a bright white then, now a softer white will reflect the change in decorating styles. For example, if you go to Benjamin Moore Paints' web site, they have a "Virtual Fan Deck" where you can look at all their variations of any color, including white. It's a small difference, but one that brings the house into the new century. And, for the wall color, if you don't remember what color you used or have a paint can in the garage or basement from all those years ago, they can make a perfect match from your existing color just by bringing a small piece of it to the store. It might mean taking it off the walls with a knife, but since you're repainting, you can do a small patch as part of the prep. Home Depot and Lowe's paint departments can also do this for you.

Finally, new carpeting. To match exactly what was a standard color when the room was designed, the new carpet might have to be custom dyed. Or, you can use this opportunity to choose a newer carpet that's more in keeping with today's home trends. Stay in the same color palette to maintain the good design, but select a carpet that's ever so slightly different. This might also be a good time to go "green" with a product that's more environmentally friendly. There are lots of choices out there; it just takes some research and working with a good vendor. A good place to start is "From the Floors Up," a blog site that's filled with useful information about carpet and flooring products.

Bottom line; for not very much money you can transform a well-designed but tired-looking room into a fresh-looking room with all its elements intact and updated with fresh paint, new carpeting and lighting, and current moulding. You can also use this time to put your plants in new containers and rearrange your well-loved accessories so they look fresh to you.

Good design always stands the test of time: it just needs a little help to stay good looking.

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