Smart spending – smart styling

“When the well is dry, we know the
worth of water.” It’s that kind of pithy wisdom that put Ben Franklin on the
$100 bill. Aside from his considerable scientific, literary and diplomatic
accomplishments, the guy understood money. More accurately, he understood the
virtue of frugality in preserving money. He knew that pennies saved become
dollars and that dollars saved become the “C-notes” that now bear his portrait.

The world has not always listened
to Franklin’s kind of common sense. When times are good and positive cash flow
seems as certain as gravity, we tend to splurge and squander the surplus. But
in an economy like the current one, Franklin sounds absolutely prophetic, and
no doubt thousands of budget-conscious homeowners have derailed their remodelling
plans because their savings well is running low. To make matters worse, their
home is now worth less than it was just a few years ago, so most owners are
reluctant to invest any more in it.

Still, a shrinking nest egg doesn’t
completely squelch the impulse to improve one’s nest. Author Jean Nayer knows
this and has assembled an armada of cost-conscious renovation strategies in her
book “Money-Wise Makeovers”.

Nayer understands that even when
spending limits loom large, we still want our homes to be more than mere
shelter. We want an environment that sustains us and one that reflects who we
are personally. The results can be impressive, but Nayer insists that good
design doesn’t have to be expensive, and she has the pictures to prove it.

Value conscious    

For her format, Nayer walks us
through different rooms and spaces, offering mini-profiles of successful
“value-conscious” make overs and explaining where and how the homeowners
targeted their sweat-equity and spending. Not surprisingly, the locations featured
involve a fair amount of do-it-yourself effort, but that’s not really a central
theme. Instead, the core message is to understand what design elements have the
most impact and to find cost-effective ways to enhance or include them. Along
the way there are occasional guides to materials such as flooring, paint and
windows, so when you do have to open your check book for a project, you’ll be
better prepared to get your money’s worth.

Colour palettes     

Living spaces get the treatment
first, and it turns out that setting limits is the first lesson. Colour
palettes should be simple and limited, and the same goes for fabrics and
furnishings. This reserved approach not only yields a cleaner, fresher style,
it can almost automatically translate into keeping the project costs down.

Once your paint colours, flooring
and other major elements have set the stage, let a few well-chosen furnishings
occupy it. A piece of architectural salvage, a funky or unusual furniture piece,
or a strong fabric pattern (in small quantities) can add flair and drama, while
less conspicuous smaller items fill in for the everyday functions. Avoid the
temptation to go for design schemes based on matching or closely coordinated elements;
not only do they make for a less interesting look than an eclectic mix, they
often cost more. Living spaces need comfort and character, and that comes more
from good colours, textures, scale and a few details that suggest care in
assembling the room.

Key spaces            

Key functional spaces such as
kitchens and bathrooms get a slightly more practical approach but still have to
win points for aesthetics. Bathrooms, for example, have unique storage
requirements; they are typically smaller rooms with a lot of small and frequently
used items that need to be easily accessible. Potential solutions? Built-in
cubbies, wall niches, drawers with dividers, shallow ledge shelves near the
sink or tub areas, and compact hardware such as towel hooks instead of bars —
all these features target those specific storage needs but none of them are prohibitively


As private and less functional
spaces, bedrooms call for another strategy. First, let the bed itself set the
style tone for the room, then work from there. Emphasize tactile comfort,
diverse lighting sources, and rich paint colours (sorry, no whites) that impart
a calm or inviting feeling. Add or enhance trim details such as wood shutters,
wide crown and base mouldings, and expanded window or door openings to help create
character. Finally, exploit storage options that are less conspicuous, such as
under-bed space or a platform bed, closet organizers and hooks on the backs of

Nayer offers dozens of approaches
and hundreds of specific tips for these and other spaces, as well as ideas to
create curb appeal and outdoor spaces through modestly priced make overs. If
not having a carte blanche budget for updating and improving your home has been
holding you back from doing anything, this book just might be the escape hatch
you didn’t know was there. It doesn’t torment you with gilded visions of
unobtainable splendour, just great liveable spaces that happen to be within
reach of a modest budget and an active imagination. Today’s lesson? Being smart
with money never goes out of style.