DECORATING Don't buy new stuff -- just fluff

House fluffing -- making over a room using belongings already in the house -- is a big design trend.
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Rebecca Gammelgaard of Chaska, Minn., is a busy working wife and mother with two children, ages 10 and 12. She doesn't have a lot of time to dwell on her home d'cor.
Still, she knows she doesn't like her family room.
"I've tried to switch it around, but it never feels quite right," says Gammelgaard. "I know I want it to feel homey, with a spirit to it, a room that functions well -- but I don't have time to think about how to change it."
And she doesn't want to spend thousands of dollars on new furnishings or accessories, either.
She decides what the room really needs is a redesign -- or a "house fluffing," as it is sometimes called.
Redesigners give your space a makeover using your own belongings. They might cull a lamp from your attic, a table from your basement, a framed poster from your bedroom. They might simply move around the furniture to make the arrangement more pleasing to the eye, or remove the slipcovers and decorate with throw pillows from another room. They might clear the clutter from the bookshelves and instead group your teapot collection on the shelving.
Through fresh eyes
"Our customers see an old, tired room. We see all the possibilities," says Virginia Fenrick of New Creation Redesign, one of the two redesigners who recently made over Gamelgaard's family room.
"I've never walked into a home and had nothing to work with," says Vicki Dye, who worked on the Gammelgaard redesign with Fenrick.
The concept of redesign has been around for several years -- the related "home staging" is a service often used by real estate agents trying to sell their clients' homes -- but suddenly redesign is growing in popularity among thrifty homeowners, perhaps because it is a cheap way to redecorate in tough economic times. Gammelgaard paid $75 for an initial consultation and $400 for the redesign, which is done in one day. In comparison, a new couch can easily cost more than $1,000.
The HGTV show "Decorating Cents"-- hosted by Joan Steffend -- has played an important role in educating the American public about redesign, redesigners say. Until recently, every third show has featured a redesign makeover. It's become so popular that beginning in the fall, when the new season begins, a redesign segment will be featured on every episode.
'Amazing' results
"It's amazing what they can do with no money whatsoever," says Steffend. "It never fails to work. It feels functional and warmer. I really think it's a trend that's going to get bigger.
"I think people like it because you don't give up as much control," says Steffend. "They're working with your stuff, that you've chosen and that you love, vs. choosing materials you kinda like, but don't really love. It takes some of the fear out of it."
Gammelgaard hired Fenrick and Dye recently to "fluff" her family room.
They first met over her kitchen table to talk about the family room and how the Gammelgaards use the space. They learned that the family has an energetic young English springer spaniel, so placing fragile pieces on any low tables was out; that Gammelgaard wanted the focus of the room centered on the new, cherry armoire with attached cabinetry, since the family often watches television from it, including a family movie night on Saturdays.
"Can we 'shop' the house?" asks Dye.
"Sure," says Gammelgaard. "But I'm afraid of what you might find. What about the ugly stuff?"
"We may see it in a totally different light," says Fenrick. "But if you really hate it, put a Post-It note on it."
"Is there anything you wouldn't mind seeing go from the room?" asks Dye.
"I don't really care for that buffet," says Gammelgaard.
"What if we could make it fabulous?" says Fenrick.
"OK," Gammelgaard says.
Down to work
The redesigners arrive the next morning -- armed with everything from a toolbox to a tape measure to bottles of water and tennis shoes -- and start the work after Gammelgaard leaves. The first step involves clearing the room, except for the heavy armoire. Here's what they had to work with: rose-colored carpet, a large window that overlooks the woodsy back yard, vaulted ceilings, a large brick fireplace, buttery yellow and sage green walls with a multitoned wallpaper border. The slipcovered couch and chair take up most of the floor space. There are framed family photos on the end tables and sofa table. A dried floral bouquet in a basket looks faded and tired. Knickknacks line the fireplace mantel.
If they could have done whatever they wanted, the duo might have made the attractive, wood-burning fireplace the room's focal point. But the Gammelgaards never use it because it makes the room too smoky.
So instead, they begin by angling the furniture, a common technique of redesigners. They angle the cream-pinstriped slipcovered couch by the window, with the glass and wood sofa table behind it. They remove the slipcovered chair and replace it with a green chair they find in the home office.
In a better place
"This chair has great lines, and here it's stuck in the corner of the home office," says Fenrick.
With the sofa and chair angled by the window and the armoire across the room, there is suddenly more floor space. Now, the team is ready to do some treasure hunting.
"Let's shop," says Dye.
They mull over a table of items that Gammelgaard had set out for their use, selecting a pink glass bowl that has possibilities. They search the house from the second floor to the basement. They find some faux antique wooden boxes in a bathroom; they discover a cool plastic planter on the front steps of the home; they take the floral entryway rug.
"This is going to be wonderful!" says Dye when they roll up the rug.
They place it in front of the sofa and chair.
"Wow!" says Dye. "The green pops right out of the rug now."
In the next few hours, out goes a framed peony print, the tired floral bouquet, the lace doilies, a computer desk. A large burgundy vase stays, but gets a new look with some interesting burgundy branches cut from a bush in Dye's yard. The framed family photos are placed inside the armoire's shelving, making the room look less cluttered.
The buffet moves to the eating area between the kitchen and family room. The redesigners also bring in several items from other rooms, such as two fat burgundy candles in black iron candleholders that had been separated in different rooms of the house.
A large, framed mirror now decorates the fireplace mantel, as well as the faux antique boxes. The wood coffee table looks different simply because the redesigners lifted up the side panels.
The pink glass bowl now sits atop it.
Homeowner's reaction
When Gammelgaard walks into her reconfigured family room, she can't stop smiling.
"Oh, my gosh, wow, I love it. Oh, my God, I love what you did with the fireplace. Oh, my green chair. The candles are wonderful," Gammelgaard says in a rush. "I can have people over now!"
Upon reflection, Gammelgaard is glad she fluffed her house, even if it did cost $475 (plus $90 for greenery pieces that Dye added to the space).
"I had to mull it over, because it is an expense," she says.
"I didn't think there was anything they could do with this room. But now I realize that there was too much stuff in this room -- you couldn't focus on any one thing. I like how clean the room looks now.
"I'm going to have to have them come back to do my living room."

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