When Dee Shidaker decides to fix up her home, she doesn't do it halfway.
That's why Shidaker -- who on a recent afternoon was shopping for screening at a Lowe's home improvement store at 4625 W. Charleston Blvd. -- recently finished a bathroom renovation project that included removing a bathtub, installing a soaking tub and putting in a new sink.
How long did it all take? "I don't know," Shidaker said, estimating "a couple of weeks to gut it and put in new drywall and tile the floor."
Shideker did the work straight through and mostly by herself -- although she did enlist a plumber friend to help her with the plumbing work -- and estimates the whole project cost between $4,000 and $5,000, much less than it would have cost to hire professionals to do it.
For her effort, Shidaker got a bathroom that looks like new. Luckily for the less handy among us, giving our bathrooms, and the rest of our homes, a new look doesn't have to be nearly as labor intensive or as costly.
In fact, valley home improvement experts say even the most basic homes and yards can be given a fresh, new look with just a bit of cash and a lot of creativity.
Ben Kohler, manager of Lowe's, 4625 W. Charleston Blvd., said Southern Nevadans seem to be eyeing both the economy and their own finances when considering home improvement projects. For example, he said, customers may opt against a $10,000 kitchen remodel in favor of the more economical tactics of replacing cabinet hardware or refinishing cabinets themselves.
Also factoring into this equation may be the reality that, because of the economy and Southern Nevada's housing market, "we're not living in a house for two years and moving out," Kohler said.
The focus now seems to be on sprucing up homes in as cost-effective a manner as possible, often beginning with a coat or two of paint.
"In my opinion, the biggest bang for the buck, money-wise, is paint," said Michael Klimek, president of Pro Handyman Corp. and a columnist for the Review-Journal's Home, Furniture and Design section. "Even if it's just doing a couple of accent walls, rather than painting the whole room one color ... it makes a fairly dramatic change, and a gallon of paint is like 20 bucks."
Painting accent walls -- or painting a room's two facing walls one color and the other two facing walls a contrasting color -- is, by the way, one way to give a boring room a new look. Another popular strategy is to trade off the usual all-white interior for specific colors in each room of a house. "Now it's the green room, the red room, the blue room. They're adding character to the house without adding expense," Kohler said.
The look of a room also can be altered dramatically by changing out accents and accessories. For instance, in Klimek's living room, wall-mounted candleholders help to accent both a large painting and a nearby grouping of four smaller paintings.
Color also can be added to or changed out in a room through the addition of throw pillows or by reupholstering dining room chairs. Klimek said the latter is an easy-to-do project for even beginning do-it-yourselfers, and material typically will cost just a few bucks a yard.
Shelby Roberts, assistant manager of Ace Hardware, 4858 W. Lone Mountain Road, also has seen customers who buy garage sale furniture and then refinish it.
Mounting paintings, posters or pieces of art can be an inexpensive way to change a room's feel. Klimek said grouping three or four smaller pieces instead of hanging one large one -- it's even OK to vary the spaces among the pieces for aesthetic effect -- can be a cost-effective way to cover a large wall.
Kitchen remodeling almost always is an expensive home improvement project. But Klimek said changing out cabinet pulls and hardware -- the cost can be as little as $20 or $30 -- is an easy and inexpensive way to create a new look. And for cabinets that don't have handles or pulls, installing them requires only a drill and a screwdriver.
Dave Cousino, production manager for Handyman Las Vegas, said installing indirect lighting underneath cabinets can add a different look to kitchens. So, he said, can adding indirect lighting on top of cabinets (just direct the lights skyward).
Serious plumbing work is something only particularly confident do-it-yourselfers would tackle. But Klimek said changing out an old faucet for a more modern-looking one is a project beginners can handle with a bit of patience and an hour or so of free time.
Take the same tack in the bathroom. Major bathroom upgrades are expensive and time-consuming, Klimek said, but switching out, say, "that old, '70s gold faucet" for a more modern brushed nickel model can make a bathroom look new.
However, Klimek added, "stay with the same manufacturer" -- replace, say, a Moen fixture with another Moen fixture -- to make sure the fittings conform.
One handy trick for turning a large bathroom mirror into something a bit more striking: Put molding around the mirror, "so it frames the mirror," Cousino said.
Klimek said changing window coverings can give a room a different look. "For reasonably little money, you could install the two-inch faux wood blinds."
Corwyn Frierson, department supervisor at The Home Depot, 1030 Sunset Road, Henderson, said Home Depot's Martha Stewart line of draperies are becoming a popular way to "add a focal point" to a room.
Moving outdoors, Cousino said installing a decorative door pull on a front door "really does dress up the front entrance," as does changing the front porch light fixture.
Meanwhile, the arrival of spring has turned homeowners' attention to their yards. Now that so many Southern Nevadans "have started to decide, 'I'm going to be in (my house) for the long term,' they've started to do little things like planting flowers and restructuring the yard," Kohler said.
Frierson added that, while landscaping work requires a bit of physical exertion, it's generally not too complicated, even for beginners. Simply placing paving stones of various colors and in various designs around a yard can change its look, he noted.
Planting shrubs, flowers and trees "can make a huge difference," Cousino said. "And you can get some of those decorative small boulders. You can get those fairly inexpensively, and they make a big difference."
Placing a few potted or hanging plants around a patio or sitting area is an inexpensive way to brighten it up. "We have a lot of hanging baskets, and that's an easy thing to do," Frierson said.
Cousino said even that bane of Southern Nevada outdoor life, the cinder block wall, can be made at least a bit more aesthetically pleasing with a roll or two of rolled bamboo.
"You can unroll that against your wall," he said, "and use some fasteners to fasten it into the concrete."
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.