By CHRIS MADDEN
Scripps Howard News Service
As I look forward to warmer weather and longer days, I am inspired to take a hard look for areas of improvement in my home. And if you've been dreaming about remodeling or redecorating projects in your own home, now is the time to get the ball rolling. And whether you want to redecorate one room, completely gut and remodel another or add an entire room to your home, knowing and working from a budget is necessary.
No matter where the money comes from to fund your project, with a little budgeting know-how and commitment to detail, you can make your dream project happen and probably save money at the same time.
The key to any home project, big or small, is to know what you can spend. If you have a realistic figure on paper in the beginning, you'll save time and disappointment.
Put your figure on the top of a sheet of paper. Below this figure, make a list of your design needs and wants and rate them on a scale of what is most important to you. Decide if you're going for the big renovation or just cosmetic changes.
Next, write down your figure on another sheet of paper and below it break down your needs and wants into broad categories like walls, floors, ceilings, windows, lighting, furniture, carpentry, etc. Finishing touches, such as accessories, rugs and lighting, should be on a separate sheet. But those costs must be considered while determining your budget.
Whenever I start a new design project, I buy a large binder, fill it with lots of pocketed folders and divide it into sections - one section for each of my categories. Place your two budget sheets right in front.
Now you are organized and prepared to do some real research - before you begin shopping! Check with your local decorators, browse through design magazines and visit home supply stores to get an idea of current prices and costs. Take time to browse the Internet, discount stores, catalogs and newspapers, comparing the quality and cost of the goods and services you'll need. If accessories are on your list, don't forget that you can find inexpensive treasures at flea markets, thrift stores and garage sales.
For great ideas, invest in a few interior design books and use Post-it notes to tab your favorite pictures. Be sure to ask for advice and ideas from friends and family members who have accomplished such a project.
Place everything you collect into your binder. Don't forget to write down names and phone numbers you pick up along the way. This process takes time, but you'll be glad you have all your resources at your fingertips when you need them.
Consider the scale of your project and how much time you will have to devote to it. For an overwhelming project like remodeling and redecorating an entire home or several rooms, I would suggest working with an interior designer and/or a contractor. An interior designer can direct you in many ways from helping define your vision to shopping for that perfect piece of furniture or fabric to hiring an dealing with painters, carpet installers and other workmen. If your project involves construction, a contractor can be just as useful and can help avoid legal problems and keep the project moving.
The three most important things to remember if using such services: check references, put everything in writing and get at least two or three bids for the job. This will help you to avoid arguments and misunderstandings.
Once you have collected all your research, you should have a good idea of current prices and costs and how and where you really want to spend your money. Now you can begin your project with budgetary peace of mind.
If you have determined that the cost of your dream project adds up to more than your budget, consider renovating or decorating in stages and determine a timeline for completing your redesigning goals.
Even though working with a budget can be daunting, try it. It may be more simple and fun than you think.