Heather Wood, Freelance Writer: articles about interior decorating & redesign, home staging & enhancement, & more
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An affordable solution: redesign

You don't have to be rich to get help spiffing up that problem room

By Heather Wood
published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Real Estate section
Sunday, April 8, 2007

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Use-what-you-own decorating. One-day room makeovers.

Decorator for a day. Restyling.

What do these terms have in common?

Redesign -- a trend that's creating big buzz nationwide in the world of home interiors. Unlike traditional interior decorating and design, interior redesign reinvents a room using what you already have. Sound dubious? Read on.

Redesign has gained tremendous popularity over the last decade as an alternative to traditional redecorating. Entire associations have evolved to support this burgeoning field, including the Interior Redesign Industry Specialists (IRIS) and the Interior Refiners Network (IRN).

Lauri Ward, author of Trade Secrets from Use What You Have Decorating, is frequently referred to as the founder of the redesign movement. A designer by trade, she began her business in New York in 1981 with the notion that even though average Americans could not afford to hire a traditional interior designer to decorate their homes, they still desired, and deserved, a comfortable and stylish place in which to live.

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If cable TV is any indication, Ward was right. The pop-culture interest in affordable home interiors and enhancements has never been greater. Some channels -- including HGTV, the DIY (Do It Yourself) Channel and The Learning Channel -- are dedicated partially, if not entirely, to home improvement. TV shows such as HGTV's Decorating Sense and Freestyle showcase the redesign technique and what a little elbow grease and ingenuity can do to bring a fresh new look to a room.

While television shows have the benefit of a large cast and crew to transform spaces quickly, the well-trained redesigner can provide similar results in your home.

The right arrangement

Albuquerque resident Karen Vaught hired a redesigner to assist with a difficult room in her new home. "We have one particularly challenging room -- a small living room with an 18-foot high ceiling that opens to the dining room, entry and second-floor landing," she said.

Vaught had painted and installed new flooring and window coverings, but still couldn't get the room to look the way she wanted. She had difficulty coming up with a workable furniture arrangement, too. All the arrangements she tried "either looked awkward, weren't practical, or interrupted the flow of the rooms," she said.

The redesigner cleared the room, Vaught said, "then spent only 20 minutes moving furniture around before she came up with an ideal arrangement that optimized the flow through the room and looked great from all angles.

Space transformation

A typical redesign begins with a consultation to evaluate the room or rooms being considered. Conversation with the homeowner helps determine style preferences and pieces that must stay, as well as her frustrations with the room.

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Some simple shifts of furnishings and accessories make this space, which is the first thing you see from the entryway, warm and welcoming. Photos by Heather Wood, courtesy of Casa Milagros Interiors
Some simple shifts of furnishings and accessories make this space, which is the first thing you see from the entryway, warm and welcoming.
An awkward room arrangement made this already small living room feel even smaller. Photos by Heather Wood, courtesy of Casa Milagros Interiors
An awkward room arrangement made this already small living room feel even smaller.

The redesigner takes into account the room's occupants, uses, focal point(s) and unique architectural details. The redesign project day is scheduled, typically while the homeowner is away at work, as this maximizes the "wow factor" for the client upon his return home.

On project day, the redesigner, with or without an assistant, transforms the space.

Many redesigners work in teams; moving furniture around is a labor-intensive business and not as glamorous as it looks on TV.

To start, the room is cleared of all furnishings and accessories. Starting with a clean slate is key. Accounting for scale, texture, color and balance, furnishings and accessories are rearranged and displayed in ways that maximize form, function and reflect the homeowners' sense of style. Decluttering, rearranging and highlighting focal points and unique items pulls the room together in only a matter of hours and for a much smaller financial investment than traditional decorating and design. And that's the appeal.

"The redesigner was very hands-on and efficient, moving furniture, hanging artwork and window coverings and making the space look great with what we already owned," Vaught said. "I would recommend that anyone with a new home, or who is out of ideas for their space, hire a redesigner," she said.

Everyone knows the value of a second opinion, and redesign brings a quick, affordable update to almost any room in the house. With the average room makeover ranging from $200 to $500, redesign offers an attractive alternative for those in search of a fresh look.

"I brought in a redesigner to help me with my family's guest house," said Caroline Russell, a Realtor at Sotheby's International Realty in Santa Fe. "I was overwhelmed by where to start with the project of decluttering, rearranging, and making the things we already had feel new again. In just a matter of hours, the space was transformed into a calm, peaceful setting," Russell said.

According to Vaught, who researched redesign before moving back to New Mexico from the Washington, D.C., area, "By working with a redesigner when we moved into our new home, we accomplished more in a few hours than I would have in months trying to get it done myself.

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Redesigners help with
Havens for Healing

Stephanie McDaniel of Albuquerque, a Havens for Healing recipient, enjoys her room makeover with husband, Dillon. Photos by Heather Wood, courtesy of Casa Milagros Interiors
Stephanie McDaniel of Albuquerque, a Havens for Healing recipient, enjoys her room makeover with husband, Dillon.

To ensure that women in treatment for ovarian cancer have comfortable rooms in their homes in which to focus on rest and wellness, interior redesigners such as Heather Wood are volunteering their time and talent to create "Havens for Healing."

The Havens for Healing program is a partnership between two national organizations -- Interior Redesign Industry Specialists and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Women selected to participate in the program receive a complimentary consultation with a redesign specialist, as well as furniture placement, the rehanging of art and accessorizing with existing possessions.

Emphasis is on transforming a room into a healing environment that is balanced, harmonious and individualized to each woman's preferences.

If you are an ovarian cancer survivor who lives in the Santa Fe area, or know of someone who would be interested in the program, contact Heather Wood at 690-2685 or send an e-mail to Heather.

Licensed designers

The redesign industry has recently evolved, and various certification programs are available in North America, including IRIS and IRN. Unlike the profession of interior design, there are no formal licensing requirements for interior decorators and redesigners in New Mexico.

Under state regulations, only licensed designers who have passed the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam can legally identify themselves as interior designers. This helps protect consumers, as there are significant differences between the required knowledge of architecture, electrical and plumbing systems that a designer needs to obtain a license and the knowledge, experience and talent a decorator and redesigner need to create a welcoming room.

Each designation has its merits.

Ready to hire a redesigner?

Ask friends and colleagues for a referral. Or look in the phone book under interior decorators.

Many redesigners and decorators offering redesign services indicate such in their advertisements. Many redesigners also offer other services, including real-estate staging, home enhancement and professional organizing.

Online resources include the following Web sites where you can search by state and city:

When you interview potential candidates, ask what type of training they've had and other related experience; look at portfolios or photos of their work; and find out if they carry liability insurance.

And the next time you're channel surfing, take a look at one of the TV shows highlighting redesign. You might be surprised at the radical transformations that can occur in a matter of hours. After all, seeing is believing.


Heather Wood is a freelance writer who writes regularly for the Santa Fe New Mexican. She can be reached through her website at www.HeatherWoodFreelance.com.

copyright © 2007 - 2010 Heather Wood
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