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Create a designer look on a budget

Interior designers have a knack for pulling together furniture and accessories to create rooms with widespread appeal. But not every homeowner has the resources to hire a professional to help turn their interior from drab to fab. Fortunately, it doesn't always take a pro to transform a home's interior.

The key to creating a beautiful room is planning. Designers do it and so should you. Measure the dimensions of the room and create a sketch of the area using graph paper or computer software. Be sure to plot any windows or doors on the drawing so that you will be aware of obstacles.

Homeowners unsure of what they want should browse through magazines or pictures on the Web for inspiration. Search for key phrases that describe your design style, such as Tuscan, farmhouse, country, colonial, etc. Then read up on the components of these styles that define it. This will help you select items that fit with the style.

Once a particular style has been chosen, create a design board just like the professionals. Cut out swatches of fabric, select paint swatches, find magazine pictures that fit with your goal and arrange them on a piece of poster board. See how the items work together. If you are unsure of colors, see which shades were used in the inspiring picture and determine if it will coordinate with your home.

When designing, identify or create a focal point in the room and build off of that. This may be a large window, fireplace, or even the entertainment center if it's a family room. Place furniture around the focal point and then move outward.

It's also important to keep scale in mind. Large walls or tall ceilings will create plenty of wall space. A small print or wall hanging will be lost in such an area. Be sure to choose furnishings and accessories that fit with the scale of the room. In other words, a huge sectional may overpower a small living room.

When choosing colors, make sure they are cohesive. Research the color wheel that artists use to help with designing the room. Some colors are complementary or opposites and still work together. Homeowners nervous about color should choose a color from fabric or furniture and use a few different shades of the same color in the room. Select an accent color that can be used on trim or as a spot of color on a pillow or accessory.

When plotting wall hangings or other decor, odd numbers often look more pleasing to the eye. Experiment with different sizes of framed artwork or different shaped accessories for visual appeal. For example, a few rectangular shaped items with a circular clock and a conical flower vase can mix it up in the room. This is where looking at magazine layouts can be extremely helpful.

Many stores sell items that mimic the look of higher-priced items. When copying a designer room, select pieces that are similar, but not necessarily the same brands. Consider shopping at second-hand stores or antique shops for discounted pieces. With a little new fabric or stain, many items can look like new again. Shopping online also may enable shoppers to find items more readily and see how they look in staged rooms.

When designing, it never hurts to think outside of the box. Items that were intended for outside may work well inside as well. Hanging lanterns or plant stands could be put to use in a rustic room. Save some money by making some items yourself. For instance, if you cannot find a particular throw pillow or drapery that fits with your style, go to a fabric store and purchase fabric to make your own.

Decorating doesn't have to cost a fortune or look like you pieced odd items together. By following the guidelines of a designer room and selecting lower-priced items that mimic the shape and scale of similar accessories, it's possible for any homeowner to create a room for less.