House remix

To give a room a new look, skip shopping and look at what you already own

November 06, 2010|By Maria Blackburn, Special to The Baltimore Sun

The chair was a knockout: mid-century Danish modern, with a tufted back and sharp angles that worked together to exude an irresistibly cool "Mad Men" vibe.

Bret Bortner's father bought the chair in Europe in the 1950s and gave it to Bret and his wife, Amy, shortly after they were married. The chair moved with the couple a few times, and when they relocated with their three children to Towson from Atlanta in 2007, it came with them.

But Amy Bortner was uncertain how to combine the modern piece with her traditional furniture in their four-bedroom Colonial, so she put the chair in a corner of the family room and forgot about it.

It wasn't until the Bortners asked decorator Halle von Kessler to help address their desire for an updated living room and a cozier family room that the chair was rediscovered. Instead of shopping for new furniture, accessories and wall decor, von Kessler went shopping in the Bortners' house and turned up all sorts of treasures that she used to redecorate.

Call it restyling, redesigning, recycling or just mixing it up: More people are discovering that you don't need to spend a lot of money to make meaningful changes to the interior of your home. All you need is a fresh outlook, an adventurous spirit and a willingness to move around some of your possessions to see them in a new light.

Using pottery, a mirror, family photographs and original art that was scattered throughout the Bortners' house, von Kessler pulled together a handful of key pieces and made a gallery wall in the living room.

She moved two Arhaus bookshelves from the living room into the family room and styled them with select framed photos, books and family mementos. The foyer rug was moved under the coffee table to warm up the room.

The tufted chair the Bortners nicknamed the "Jetsons' chair" was paired with another Danish modern chair they owned and placed in the living room, where they freshened up the space with a cool, modern feel.

The bottom line? The Bortners got two new rooms without having to buy anything new at all.

"With this economy, the idea of redecorating [by] using things we already had is just so smart," says Bret Bortner.

"This way we're not buying things we don't need to solve a problem, and we can stay on budget," Amy Bortner adds, "Now we can use the money we had budgeted for redecorating to address other needs, like light fixtures, flooring and window treatments."

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, decorators say now is a perfect time to give thanks for what you have by making the most of it.

"Everybody has things that were handed down to them that have sentimental value that they want to highlight," says Joy Waida of Joy Home Design in Fallston. "We all have things like that to be thankful for, and if they are still perfectly good and you like them, then you should use them."

The problem lies in the fact that many of us simply have too much stuff. Bringing in someone with a fresh eye can help focus in on what to keep and where to put it, says von Kessler, a stylist and creative services specialist whose company, 8 Boxwood Lane, is based in Towson.

"If you want a different look, you have to be willing to say goodbye to some things and consider new uses or new placement for others," von Kessler says.

Waida regularly applies her expertise in staging properties for sale to her interior decorating clients. Room redesign accounts for about 40 percent of her business, and she says her goal is to maximize what people already have. To do this, she empties the room and then reloads it using the client's existing furniture, artwork and accessories, arranging them in a new way, often with the addition of a few new items.

To furnish a long, narrow family room, Waida had the client purchase a pair of small loveseats, and then searched their home for other items to furnish the space.

"They had this one really tall black bookcase tower on one side of the fireplace, and I told them we could either shop for another piece or I could look around the house," she says. Waida found a tall, narrow pie safe in the basement and had the homeowner paint it flat black to blend with the more modern pieces in the room. She suggested the client put a piece of art or plant on the top shelf to make it as tall as the existing piece. "It was perfect."

Wesley Finnerty of the Antique Exchange in Hampden says "there are no rules" to mixing up your furnishings and getting great results. Even small changes can make a huge difference, she says.

To update her dining room with its heavy, dark antique dining table that once belonged to her mother, Finnerty reupholstered Chippendale-style chairs with blue cheetah-print linen that brings out the blue in the room's oriental rug. "Adding new things to old things adds personality, depth, and character," says Finnerty, who also does home decorating. "It just makes a space more livable."

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