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Good plan, creative thinking can keep decorating costs low

DEAR DESIGNER: Given the economic times, I will be staying in my home longer than I expected. Can you give me some ideas on how I can spruce up my home décor on the cheap? -- Cassie

DEAR CASSIE: Decorating on the cheap can be done if you have patience, time and a little bit of creativity.

I'm a big advocate of planning your design before any purchases are made. Take measurements, do a floor plan to scale (Draw your room with furniture in the correct sizes; typical scale: 1 foot equals 1/4 inch), and organize your plans in a three-ring binder or a file folder. Attach paint swatches if you plan to paint your walls. I like to add pictures of the areas I'm decorating. If I ever have a question about something, the saying is true "A picture speaks a thousand words." Leave your folder in your car so you have your measurements and ideas handy wherever you go. You never know when you might run into a great deal.

Think creatively. Just because a certain item is meant for one use, doesn't mean it can't also be used for something else. As one of eight children, my parents taught us to be resourceful. When my sister wanted purple draperies for her bedroom, my mother bought purple sheets and made her some curtains. That was a creative and practical solution. When you begin to look outside the normal use, you will see a myriad of things that have multiple functions. Do you have a dresser that can be used as a buffet? An end table can be used as a nightstand. Using your existing case goods (pieces of furniture that provide interior storage space) in innovative ways can give you a feeling of having something new, without the price tag.

If you have an overstuffed chair in your living room and another in your bedroom, try exchanging the two for a new look in both rooms. If you are tired of the fabric but don't want to reupholster, find a neutral slipcover and add some pillows to brighten the look. And don't forget to slip a duvet cover over your existing comforter to give your bedroom an up-to-the-minute look.

Painting is an inexpensive and quick way to freshen up your décor. You can make quite a statement by painting an accent wall (one wall painted a different color than the rest).

A fresh spring bouquet added to an entry table or kitchen table can add a lot of life to tired design.

Furniture stores everywhere are consistently having spectacular sales. Furniture consignment shops can be handy for filling in empty areas of your home. If you have an odd piece of furniture that needs replacing, consider putting it into the consignment store and purchase a "new" item that better suits your style.

A unique resource in Las Vegas is called Hotel Furniture Liquidators (www.hotelfurniture.com. Be ready to walk through warehouse-type aisles and weed through the great, the good, the bad and the ugly. You can find some amazing light fixtures that once hung inside various local casinos. One designer told me she found a brand-new, queen-size, pillowtop mattress for $350. You can't beat that.

A designer secret (told to me by owner Bart Maybie): When hotels purchase their furniture and design items, they overpurchase by about 10 percent. These extra pieces go into their "attics" and are used to instantly replace items that get broken. Many times this attic inventory never gets used. When the hotel remodels, the attic inventory is sold along with the used items.

He added, "We also buy entire furniture showrooms at the World Market Center after every market." Furniture manufacturers and distributors ship their furniture into Las Vegas for the market. Many of them prefer selling their goods (after market) locally so they don't have to pay shipping back to their warehouses. This furniture is new and can be purchased at a price below retail. It's certainly worth a look-see on any budget.

One final thought: Don't hesitate to call your favorite designer and ask if she or he would consider giving you an hour consultation. Some designers will be happy to charge you an hourly rate to give you valuable design tips. Be up front about what you need from her or him. Have your questions ready for her or him and enjoy an eye-opening hour with a talented professional who can get you started in the right direction.

Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as a licensed contractor. E-mail questions to her at deardesigner@projectdesigninteriors .com or send them to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at www.projectdesign interiors.com.

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