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posted: 3/5/2013 1:00 AM

Get the most bang for your decorating buck

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  • Made of hardwood and featuring nice details, this great-looking side table looks like it should cost a lot more than $338.

      Made of hardwood and featuring nice details, this great-looking side table looks like it should cost a lot more than $338.
    SHNS photo courtesy Nell Hill's

 
By Mary Carol Garrity
Scripps Howard News Service

I'm a firm believer that great design doesn't have to be expensive. The key to getting the most for your decorating dollars is to know where to splurge and where to cheat. Let's talk about how to pick key pieces for your rooms that maximize your look and suit your budget.

Invest the greatest portion of your decorating budget in the room's focal point, items that bring you bliss and pieces that don't have lower-cost substitutes.

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Then, use these cheats to stretch the remainder of your decorating funds:

• Get creative with artwork

• Repurpose old furniture

• Accent with inexpensive accessories

Now, let's talk about how to pick the very best home furnishings to fit your budget, whether it's an investment piece or a lower-cost cheater. Here are three examples:

Occasional tables

From side tables to consoles to coffee tables, there is a wonderfully wide range of great-looking pieces to choose from that will give you a smart look for any budget.

When selecting a lower-cost occasional table, hunt for one that can play a support role in your furniture grouping. This piece won't be the star of the room, so you don't want anything that will distract from the space's focal point. Less-expensive wood pieces can usually give you 10 years of great use, but aren't pieces that will last a lifetime. So, it's OK to go a bit trendier with these pieces, if you want.

If you're looking for a table that will be highly visible, you will want to take a step up in style and budget.

If you want a table that will be the highlight of your space, invest in a piece that features exquisite craftsmanship and fine detailing. When selecting an investment piece, you want to look for expert workmanship, the highest-quality materials and exceptional design features.

Artwork

One of my greatest weaknesses is artwork, whether it's an inexpensive print or an original painting. It's fun to mix together artwork of all shapes, sizes and values to create visually provocative galleries.

Whether you're just starting out and have lots of walls to fill with a limited art budget, or just want some filler pieces that you can change out in a few years, it's easy to get a great look on a limited budget.

If you have more to spend on higher-quality artwork, go for pieces that light up your wall and make it a focal point.

Ready to invest in truly fine art? A hand-painted oil is the kind of painting you will have forever. What is your bliss when it comes to artwork? Signed photography? Originals by local artists? Investment pieces? Buying outstanding art is a wonderful place to splurge, because artwork can transform the look of an entire room.

Lamps

One of the recommendations I make most often is to replace lamps that are outdated or the wrong size. Nothing dates a room more than the wrong lamps, and lamps that are the wrong size can sabotage an otherwise lovely space. Unfortunately, it's harder to cheat when it comes to lamps these days. Those that are inexpensive usually look it.

I've scoured the markets to find lamps that cost less but still feature fine lines and details that make them look more expensive than they are. If you're allocating less of your decorating budget to lamps, pick one that is more subdued and acts as a support player, allowing a more fetching piece of furniture or accent to be the room's focal point.

If you'd like to invest in a truly fine lamp that instantly elevates the look of your room, go for one that offers timeless beauty, like a blue-and-white Delft lamp.

When shopping for a high-end lamp, look for lovely details, like a charming finial. Finishes like that set a high-quality lamp above lower-cost options.

• Adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at www.nellhills.com.

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