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Published: Wednesday, 6/20/2007

Makeover's worth the effort, cost

If the do-it-yourself room makeover bug is nibbling at your heels, you may want to reconsider taking the plunge. I am not so sure that having a professional team come to the house for a surprise redo would be so great. I couldn't live with some of the things I have seen done to rooms on TV by professionals. Come home to that every day? No way.

That's the way I was beginning to feel about my bedroom. The first hint that I wanted a change came in March when spring was bound to happen according to the calendar if not by the weather.

I had lived with the maroon and gray-striped wallpaper, maroon draperies, and one of those matching bedroom ensembles from valances, to shams, bed skirt, and comforter since September, 1995. I know the date because the wallpaper lady was just putting the last strip of border on when national TV reported that O.J. Simpson had been acquitted. She nearly fell off the ladder. It was more emotional than the new bedroom look that was really smashing at the time.

But, 12 years later it had to go, including the gray Venetian blinds that were here when I bought the place 20 years ago. Three months later the new look is in place, and it wasn't easy or inexpensive.

First things first. Off with the wallpaper. The three layers of paper peeled off easily, but not completely. The fuzzy coating, almost like a flannel sheet, turned out to be the backing of the first layer of paper.

The deliberation of what to do to get down to the solid plaster went on for weeks. John Slentz, a Sarasota friend who is an interior designer, advised removing the covering by soaking it with diluted Downy fabric softener, then scraping it off. Several people said the backing had to be removed before fresh paper was applied because the moisture from the new paper would loosen it.

I went for the Downy treatment, after spending about $40 for tools designed to puncture paper to supposedly make the job easier. After four hours and lots of sweat, Therese, the housekeeper, and I had gained but four square feet of bare plaster. I said, no more. It's not worth it. Despite warnings from several people that new paper wouldn't stick, I took the advice of the paint-store employee and had primer applied to the wall, covering the backing and preparing it for new paper. It worked beautifully. The new wallpaper is sticking to it and it's smooth.

The paper with champagne-colored checks could not be more of a contrast to the former striped pattern. The cost of the paper was $450; labor for the primer, ceiling paint, and the paper was $235.

The next step was to cover the naked windows. Pale ivory sheers with lace inserts is a refreshing change from dark draperies and floral valances. Cellular shades blend into the light airy feeling. Curtains, on sale, $192; shades, $70, fixtures, $40; labor to install curtains and shades, $60. Total, including the cost of the paint: $1,137.

But here's some money-saving advice:

Recycle what you have instead of buying everything new. I stole three sage green oriental rugs from the guest room. A summer bedspread and shams in the same shade were in an attic closet. Lo and behold two large paintings that didn't sell in a garage sale years ago were also stashed in the attic and have sage green backgrounds. Would I go through it again? Sure, we all do.



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