First-home decorating

by Ann Bertelsen


For buyers or sellers, a fresh new look that's quick and easy

Moving into a new house can be an overwhelming experience, especially if your dream home initially seems more like a nightmare. But take heart! This decorative transformation, which cost about $6,000, took less than six weeks and involved no structural changes. The new look derives from fresh paint, new carpet and linoleum, refinished parquet floors, and a mix of new and old furniture throughout the house, as you see on these four pages.

The owner purchased the house with the ultimate intention of reselling it in a growing market of first-time home buyers. She wanted the house to be fresh, colorful, and inviting.

After refurbishing the walls and floors, she put together carefully chosen furniture designed to make the space feel homey. She began with inexpensive pieces from a catalog showroom (IKEA), then brought in several older pieces from her own collection. Decorative splurges added focal points.

The house sold promptly for well over the asking price. This successful decorating approach can be applied to any makeover, whether the aim is to please a potential buyer, or yourself.

DESIGN: Susan Churcher

* Dining room and living room

BEFORE. The dark wood and old-fashioned light fixtures made the room appear dingy, while the padded valances and floor-length curtains concealed the architectural beauty of the windows.

AFTER. A fresh paint palette--an off-white on woodwork, doors, windows, and mantel, and a soft buttery yellow on the walls--imbues the rooms with a warm, airy feeling. Without curtains, the handsome windows gain a new importance, bring in more light, and, along with the refinished and lightened floors, brighten the space. The windows can be fitted with inset blinds.

Minimal furnishings emphasize the bright, open feeling and make the rooms appear larger. The bentwood chair and area rug are focal points. Furniture--red, white, and yellow with blue accents--injects bold splashes of color without dominating the space.

DECORATING TIP. Inflatable furniture can be a good-looking, inexpensive stand-in for more substantial tailored pieces to be acquired at a later date as the budget allows. Here the white sofa and cozy lounge chair are inflatables with upholstered slipcovers.

* Bistro-style breakfast nook

BEFORE. With a fussy valance, the bay window looked dated, and the gray linoleum floor was drab.

AFTER. Red and orange linoleum tiles laid out in a checkerboard pattern lend new drama to the space. Extending into the kitchen, the 12-inch tiles attract the eye and combine with the undraped window to make the nook appear bright and spacious.

DECORATING TIP. The simple metal-framed table and chairs, functional enough for coffee and snacks, avoid crowding the room, and their slim, neutral lines don't compete with the flooring.

BEFORE. Floor-length curtains and old-fashioned wallpaper darkened and dated the room.

AFTER. Without curtains and wallpaper, the room appears larger and brighter. The crisp white paint on doors and windows sets off the soft yellow of the walls.

DECORATING TIP. The blue-and-white bedding, related to the blue tiles in the adjoining bathroom, is a complement to the wall color. For a bit of zing, hot pink accents appear on a pillow and in matching floral prints hung side by side over the bed.

* Bathroom

BEFORE. The white-and-blue-tiled bathroom had a certain vintage charm that just needed to be enhanced. On the downside, the pedestal sink and open shelves offered little storage.

AFTER. The open shelves were replaced with a small cabinet for storing toiletries and cleaning supplies. DECORATING TIP. Replacing the old blue toilet seat with a white one made the space appear less fragmented. Thick luxury towels--white with an embossed design--evoke the ambience of a classic hotel bathroom.