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It is time to redo your living room, or dining room, but you really don't have the money to spend on new furniture, or a professional decorator. Doing it yourself can be fun, educational, and satisfying. Start with deciding what kind of look you want: formal or informal, country or modern. Look in magazines for ideas and don't feel that you have to follow all the ideas for one room. If you like the window treatment in one magazine, but prefer the furniture in another, go ahead and mix and match. Now collect the pictures of the items you like the most; a scrap book or small photo album is ideal. If you can't decide upon several ideas, have them scanned so that you can mix and match them on the computer (much easier than trying to visualize).

Decide how much you have to spend on decorating, and that is your budget. If it is only $10.00 then that is it, you won't go over it. If it is $500.00 then do what your budget allows.

First, windows. Drapes can be as inexpensive as a set of white sheets dyed to match the rest of the room, or as expensive as custom made drapes. If you can sew, or have access to someone who does, then your expense will be minimal. Remember that the sun will fade your drapes, so use lighter colors and the sun fading won't show as quickly. Heavier drapes can make a large room look smaller, and cut down on echos for a more intimate feel. Drapes can hide a small window or minimize a large window. The look you end up with is up to you.

Furniture is the next biggest expense. Is what you have still usable, just faded, stained or outdated? Re-upholstery is not hard, but can be time consuming. Pick a color that suits your lifestyle. If you have children and or pets, then white is going to mean lots of cleaning, whereas a pattern will hide many "oops." Use a good material; it will save more in the long run than a cheaper material will. Slipcovers can be attractive and are usually less expensive than new furniture and re-upholstry. They are also easier to clean.

Rugs are nice, as is carpeting. Again, watch the colors to make sure they match your drapes and furniture. Don't be afraid to put an attractive throw rug on your carpeting, unless of course you have someone who uses a cane, or wheelchair. Carpeting helps to deaden sounds and can be formal or informal depending upon the color, pattern and style. Light colors will be harder to clean, but make the room look bigger.

Accents such as pillows, lamps, and small side tables should do just that: accent, not overwhelm. Match your pillow colors to the furniture and drapes, or use them to brighten an otherwise dark or dull area. Don't be afraid to pile pillows up on an otherwise empty sofa, it makes an inviting place to rest.

Lamps should provide light and a decorative touch. Look for inexpensive lamps and make or purchase shades to match your room and the theme you are trying for. Beware of using too large or too small shades on a lamp. No matter how pulled together the room is, a lamp with an oversized or undersized shade will detract from the beauty in the rest of the room.

Walls can be painted, paneled, wallpapered, or a combination of all three. If you want an inexpensive cover for a wall, purchase flat white sheets and dye them to match your furniture, tack them to the wall with a staple gun and some decorative ribbon. If you pull them tight, they look wonderful. When you get tired of the color, or decide you can do something different, then they are easy to remove.

Pictures on walls should add to the ambiance of the room. If you want a cluttered, homey look then hang many pictures, if you are striving for a more modern look then one or two large prints is ideal. Most rooms have four walls. Don't be afraid to have different styles of pictures on each wall, family pictures on one, landscapes on another, framed shells or small treasures on another, wrought iron knick knacks on another. As long as they all have a similar frame and colors then they will go together well.

The key to a professional look is making sure that all the elements in a room go together and lead the eye to a focal point, no matter where you are in the room. It could be a collection of pictures on a side table, a fireplace, or an attractive lamp. Don't be afraid to experiment with furniture arrangements and various moveable items. Use a focal point to draw the eye away from the flaws in the room.

Most of all make sure the room fits your needs and lifestyle.