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Making your home your own

Tips from design experts on low-cost ways to add a personal touch to your space.


It’s midnight, and my feet are covered in confetti.

No, I haven’t been re-enacting New Year’s Eve or working the night shift at Party City. Confetti is the deceivingly cheerful name of lavender paint my daughters hand-selected for their bedroom when we moved into our new house two months ago.

Painting their bedroom is the second project I’ve tackled since we moved in. The first was a chalkboard wall I saw on Pinterest and decided to recreate using a few cans of chalkboard paint I bought at Home Depot. The experiment was a success — you can write on it and erase with ease — but the growing list of home improvement projects I want to complete is starting to overwhelm me.

Seeking inspiration, I asked several local home-design experts for tips on how to successfully turn a new house into a home — without going crazy.

“Our homes are where we rejuvenate,” said Kate Payne (http://paynekate.com), author of the “Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking.” “We’ve got busy schedules and jobs, and we’re running around all over the place. Coming home, if it’s chaotic or stressful or if it’s a place you don’t really like, it’s really hard to renew and refresh yourself.”

Payne, who lives in East Austin, said the first rule of home improvement is to start small.

“Build a plan, and then work away at it on a smaller scale,” Payne said. “Do not wait to enjoy your space. People are always like, ‘One day, I’ll get that done, and it’ll look so great.’ Don’t skimp on doing something small right away, because you can really improve the experience in your home.”

Maureen Stevens (http://maureenstevens.com), an Austin-based interior designer and stylist, suggested creating centerpieces filled with items that you love. Stevens, for example, is currently creating a wall collage of framed coasters that she and her husband collected during their travels.

“Bring out all of your favorite artifacts, get them together, get them framed, and make a wall collage,” Stevens said. “A lot of people are afraid to put the things that they love out there, but it’s just so important to be surrounded by things you love so that you feel inspired.”

Among Payne’s favorite things: illustrations of root vegetables created by a friend, a bird-bead abacus and a bright blue butter dish. She also said plants have a positive impact on the way she feels at home.

“I have some plants that have finally found the right sunny spots, and they’re growing up the wall,” Payne said. “I love it. And we have a bougainvillea in a five-gallon bucket. Just get a few sturdy pots — not heavy terra cotta but nice quality plastic that you can actually move around. You don’t want to plant something and have it just die. Start with pots, then — if you can and want to — plant them.”

Payne said it’s also important to experiment with where you put the items in every room.

“I suggest moving furniture around pretty constantly,” Payne said. “You can start to see new possibilities. If you move your bed, maybe it creates a space in your bedroom and it opens your eyes to where a chair will go. We’ve been in our house a year, and I finally think we’ve got it just about how it feels the best. It took a few iterations.”

When it comes to purchasing pieces, Stevens suggested avoiding current trends.

“As far as decorating, with bigger pieces — sofas, bookcases, chests — go for a classic or more traditional piece instead of a trend,” she said. “Then, put your personality on it.”

In addition to walls, Stevens suggested painting objects such as picture frames, bedside tables and vases to give your space more personality.

“Some people are afraid of patterns, but if they can choose a pattern that they really love and put it on a small piece like a vase or the edges of a frame, then it’s not too scary,” Stevens said. “Or, if they’re feeling more adventurous, they can paint (a bigger piece) and make it their own.”

The key, Payne said, is to give yourself credit for what you have completed.

“Just don’t forget to enjoy the little things you did do,” Payne said. “There’s always more to be done, and you’re always looking for the next project, but remember to keep your sights on the things you’ve accomplished.”


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