By Tarina White for the Calgary Herald

April 10 2004

Megan Car­penter and husband Dany Babakhanian knew it was time to redecorate when Megan’s mountain of memorabilia began to swallow their home. But, like many renters and homeowners, the Calgary couple wasn’t ready to invest in a pricey revamp of their ’50’s bungalow in Parkhill. “We didn’t want to spend a tremendous amount of money because we knew we would either be building up on the house or tearing it down.and rebuilding,” says Carpenter. With under $1000 to commit to the project, the couple needed to create a fresh look that would marry their distinctive tastes without blowing the budget.

It’s a scenario with which Peter Fallico, inte­rior designer and host of HGTV’s Home to Go, is all too familiar. Each half hour episode of Fallico’s decorating program is dedicated to affordable home improvements for people who have yet to establish their roots. “I think there’s a lot you can do on a small budget in terms of changing the colour of the room and us­ing some fabrics,” say’s Toronto-based Fallico.

RENOS: Minimalist meets clutter

“Less is more,” he says. “I’m generally a fan of larger pieces in an interior to add some im­pact, as opposed to lots of goofy pieces which I find people often do.” Paint is the most dramatic way to change the mood of a room, says Fallico, adding it is also relatively inexpensive. And if you really need to penny pinch, it’s not a design faux pas to only paint one wall of a room, he adds. Another inexpensive way to add a punch of colour to a room is to purchase large can­vases from an artist supply store and paint them, suggests Fallico. Alternatively, covering canvases with fabric or wallpa­per is a cheap way to decorate walls.

Albertine Design client, Cathy Whyte was surprised at the im­pact made to the temperature of her expansive living room by coating her walls a chocolate­bronze hybrid. “It just feels warmer to be in,” says Whyte. “I was surprised at how much more I wanted to be in the room.” The purchase of a half-price coffee table and brass floor lamps pulled her living room together and she accom­plished the “sophisticated” living room she desired – for under $1000. Whyte and her three teenage children now use the space on a regular basis instead of re­serving it for company. “We had never really moved into the room because the lighting wasn’t right and we had nowhere to put four cups of coffee,” says Whyte. “It looks more complete now.”

If a room is in desperate need of furnishings but there isn’t money in the kitty for brand new items, Fallico scouts out second-hand stores and flea markets for bargains. “I personally have found all sorts of treasures in places like that, so I’m constantly scouring around,” he says, adding that he almost always finds a great lamp that simply needs to be recovered or an end table that can be revamped with a white­wash. It’s also important to view materials in unconventional ways when designing on a bud­get, adds Fallico. “I collect old suitcases – they’re always at the markets – and stack three of them to­gether to create a sort of pseudo-side table, which gives you storage,” he says. Chinatown and Little India are also must visits for bargain shoppers, says Fallico. “There’s a plethora of great elements in there that are inexpensive,”he says, pointing to paper lanterns, bamboo mats and blinds and synthetic sari fabrics. When it comes to framing windows expensively, Fallico’s advice is to purchase cheap synthetics and polyesters. “My philosophy is it’s a tem­porary thing until you get to the point where you’re ready to invest in the appropriate fab­rics,” he says.

Fallico’s final piece of advice: “Also keep in mind that when you are on a budget there’s nothing wrong with slowly building up to get a certain look”

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