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DALLAS BY DESIGN LIGHTER & BRIGHTER FOR SPRING

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In spring, winter-weary spirits naturally crave light and space. It’s a good time to lighten and brighten your home.

With interest rates lower than they’ve been (or 15 years, a home improvement loan for a major redesign looks attractive. Homeowners with 20 percent equity in their homes may be able to tie this into a mortgage refinancing and come out ahead. And cosmetic changes that don’t require going by a bank or even very deep into the checkbook may be all that’s needed to give your home a fresh face. Current design trends offer inspiration for home redos of any scope.



What’s New

“Lighter and brighter is the thing in color now,” says Suzy Kaye, a Dallas interior designer. “The trend to clearer, truer colors is continuing. They’re less-grayed, purer hues. All the whites are brighter now – old off-whites look drab in comparison.”

Perhaps a taste for lighter colors expresses our yen for a brighter viewpoint in gloomy economic times. The light colors are everywhere. Three of four cabinets on display in kitchen showrooms are light. “In Texas, sales of light wood finishes such as pickled wood are the largest in the U.S.,” says Ms. Kaye. Pickling bleaches wood, while whitewashing lets the grain show through a wash of light color such as white or pale gray.

“White kitchens are hot right now,” says John Freeman, past president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). White can be neoclassical with architectural columns, or minimalist modern.



Makeovers

Every room in the house can be a candidate for remodeling or simple redecoration. When it comes to remodeling, work done in the kitchen really pays off. “Those are the dollars that come back to you fastest when you resell,” says Mr. Freeman. “Annual cost-versus-value studies the past several years show that costs for kitchen and bath remodeling in the Southwest consistently are recovered at about 90 percent.”

Your kitchen may need a complete facelift, including flooring, paint, wallpaper, new counter tops, new cabinet fronts, light fixtures, and a factory refinish for your appliances. An average remodeling job runs about $9,000 -$10,000. New mid-range appliances including a refrigerator may add another $4,000.

If the spatial arrangement of your kitchen works well, new surfaces may be all it needs to seem like a new place. Porcelain tiles bring the popular stone look to kitchen floors and cost less than natural stone. Sheet vinyl and less expensive woods are an option for tighter budgets. Hard-surface counter tops with the weight of stone and even greater density are popular for their durability and because they can be buffed to remove marks. An array of high-fashion colors, geometrics, and spatter patterns is available. For about one-fourth the cost, you can dress up plastic laminate with wood trim and a sink back-splash of ceramic tile. Decorator tiles with fruit, flowers, and geometric motifs and even ready-made tile murals add a custom touch.

Cabinet refacing is an option; contractors cover the cabinet face with plastic laminate in your home. You can replace wooden slab doors with more attractive panel doors. Touches as simple as new paint, new drawer and door pulls, and new light fixtures can make a world of difference.



Money Matters

If your home fix-up project requires a loan, financial trends may be in your favor. Interest rates on home improvement loans are lower than they’ve been in years. And there’s another angle. Mortgage refinancing is saving many homeowners big bucks over the 16 and 17 percent interest rates of 10 years ago. If you’re considering refinancing, there may be a way to combine a home improvement loan and end up with only one payment. Andy Lewis, a mortgage loan officer with Comerica Bank, explains how: “The homeowner gets mortgage department approval for a loan equaling his mortgage and an additional amount for home improvement. We let the home improvement department of the bank know the total amount approved. When the work is complete, the mortgage is refinanced at the total amount, and the home improvement loan is paid off.

“The only catch is, there are two closing costs. You have to decide if saving the interest is worth it. And you have to have enough equity, typically 20 percent, to get a home improvement loan.”

One-step financing of a home mortgage loan as part of a mortgage refinance is much more difficult to get and generally a thing of the past, bankers sa



Small Change

if you just bought your home and home improvement loans and refinancing are not in the picture, new decor still can be. New techniques and details can transform your space with small changes like fresh wall paint, new tabletop accessories, and slipcovers,

For walls, multicolor treatments are news, says Susan Kaye. “Beyond one solid clear color, you can sponge or stipple other colors over it,” she suggests. “Either a contrasting color or tone on tone.” A contrasting medley might be cream dappled with a soft rose and muted gray. The contrasting colors have to be applied while the base coat is still wet so the colors blend. It’s an effect best done by a professional, unless you have a knack, perhaps aided by a seminar and some practice.

“Change accessories to change your space,” suggests Susan |. Combs, a Dallas interior decorator. “Change the art on your walls to something lighter. You can change your tabletop accessories.” Throw pillows can herald a new season. A new area rug can give a complete change of pace to a setting. “Slipcovers are a great idea. They’re not much less expensive than reupholstering, but they give you an alternative style. Some manufacturers are offering slipcovers as an option with new sofas. This gives two complete looks.” While custom slipcovers are recommended to fit the form of your Queen Anne treasure, tie-on styles are available from mail order catalogs for everything from arm chairs to folding chairs.

Spring comes in full flower regardless of what the economy is doing. And a touch of spring can grace the inside of your home, regardless of the size of your budget. In Dallas and Fort Worth, professionals abound to guide your selection, plan your redesign, or hand-hold through the whole process.

For referrals, contact the local office of the National Association of the Remodeling industry at 214-943-6274.

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