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Small, simple projects make big impact

“Looking at bargains from a purely commercial point of someone is always cheated; but looked at with the simple eye, both seller and buyer always win.” David Grayson (pen name for Ray Stannard Baker; 1870-1946), American journalist, “Adventures in Contentment” (1997)

Spring is in the air and, inevitably, we all get itchy feet to do something. Around the house. Some of us still take the “spring cleaning” route and scrub the house from top to bottom. Others like to get outside and clean up the yards and patios and put in flowering plants.

And still others yearn for new stuff. This urge can range from throwing out everything and starting over or it can be a desire to have just a few new things.

Well, my friends, unless you’ve just landed from another planet, you know that times are rough everywhere and very few of us can afford a house full of new furniture, new granite countertops or shutters for all the windows.

In some respects it’s the worst of times and the best of times. If you have excess cash, now is a good time to buy those new things because you can find bargains. There are a lot of deals, if you will.

However, if you don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around, you can still spiff up your house for not a lot of money and satisfy those spring fever urges. Get those creative juices flowing.

First of all, do the big spring cleaning. It’s amazing what you might turn up while cleaning out closets and seldom-used drawers and cabinets. Anytime you start a new project or want to get a new start, it helps to do it with a clean slate. A clean house and organized closets and storage places are great starts.

Now, let’s go from clean room to clean room to see how we can use our wits and not much money. Most of these changes do have a price tag, but they are much less than complete redos.

The kitchen holds a lot of our dreams and wishes. If you can’t replace everything, there are ways to get around it. One of the easiest and most effective changes is to replace the cabinet hardware. Handles or knobs can cost as little as a dollar each and will have a huge impact. This is a project you can do yourself and not have to rely on a handyman.

Another easy fix with a lot of bang for your buck is a replacement faucet. Faucets begin at about the $60 price point and continue up. This is another project you can do if you are somewhat handy.

Cabinets also can be painted or restained. That’s a big wow!

Now for major things like countertops and appliances there are a few little things you can do. Most of us would like a solid-surface countertop, but if that’s not in the budget, there are some tips.

At a recent kitchen show I talked to the nice folks at Formica and found out that you can actually paint that product. So it won’t be granite, but you can put a base coat and faux paint if you wish. Go to http://formica.com for more info. It’s an easy fix with great payback.

And, don’t we all want stainless appliances? Well, if that’s stretching the spring wallet, there is also a fix for that. Thomas’ Liquid Stainless Steel has a product that is applied like paint with amazing results. Visit its Web site at www.liquid
stainlesssteel.com. Check out the examples on the site. Hard to believe it’s not real stainless.

And, of course, new curtains, maybe a new light fixture and a coat of paint. Voilà, a new kitchen.

Bathrooms can be just as much fun. New hardware, new lights and new faucets will give your room an entirely new look for not much money. New towels and shower curtain are just icing on your new cake.

There are other fixes around the house that are easy to do and fit any budget. New linens in the bedroom and bathroom will give any space an entirely new look. Replacing an outdated light fixture or ceiling fan won’t break the bank either.

So, as you can see, there are a lot of cost-saving ideas that will brighten up your house and your mood. We all need to see something different from time to time and if you can make that happen on a budget, yippee.

A few of these changes, a new doormat at the front door and a pot of spring blooms will brighten your day and welcome your guests. Be creative and enjoy your new look.

Carolyn Muse Grant is a founder and immediate past president of the Architectural & Decorative Arts Society, as well as an interior design consultant/stylist specializing in home staging. Send questions to creativemuse@cox.net.

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