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Mix & rematch

With a modest budget, redesigner Adene Lucas remixes a client's existing furniture to come up with a whole new look in one day

Lin Connery For the Calgary Herald

October 29, 2005

[note: Article also picked up by the Times Colonist in Victoria November 3, 2005]

Two years ago, Janice and Roger Patterson moved their young family into a comfortable home in Dalhousie after renovating it to open up the floor plan. With help from a friend, Janice chose a few pieces of good furniture but couldn't decide on the right finishing touches -- including suitable coffee and end tables. "I'm clued out when it comes to picking furniture," she says.

That's where the project stalled while Janice was busy as a student -- and the family made do with garage-sale tables and odds and ends they'd picked up when they first moved back to Canada from Switzerland. With school behind her, Janice had more time to think about home decor. Impressed by a promotional brochure, she called in Adene Lucas, a designer who specializes in redesign -- making the most of a client's existing furniture and accessories, with additions as needed. Lucas, proprietor of Accent on Design, typically books a client for a consultation, and photographs the spaces that are candidates for her one-day makeovers. A few days later, she returns in the morning, and by the afternoon she has created an environment that's warm, inviting and beautifully finished.

At the "before" shoot:

At first glance, the Patterson living room is a nice enough space. The main pieces are an attractive, neutral-toned curved sofa that fits into the curve of a bay window, a comfy chair with a matching ottoman in a co-ordinating print, and a wingback chair in a solid colour. A bookcase is edged into a corner behind the wingback, and a nice piece of framed artwork is on the far wall. Of course, there are also the garage sale tables. The hardwood floors are bare. "It's boring, boring, boring," says Janice. "Nothing flows. I don't think it looks that great." The living room has to meet the needs of a busy couple, their three children, a playful new puppy and a kitty who's set herself up as "queen of the house." Upstairs, the master bedroom is almost too tidy and too understated. A bed, a dresser and a couple of framed prints are the main elements. Lucas has already completed her assessment of how the family lives, and what needs to be done. In this case, a few pieces will have to be purchased, so a budget has been set. Lucas will return the following morning to work her magic.

At the "after" shoot

After just six hours working on her own, Lucas has exposed the full potential of the Patterson living room.

Problem No. 1: She righted the placement of the curved sofa.

"I don't like blocking a window with furniture," says Lucas. Moving the sofa makes it the focal point for people entering the room from the foyer, and reveals the window as a feature in its own right. It took Lucas -- an experienced shopper with a sharp eye -- just one stop to find the perfect coffee tables for the room. They were sturdy but graceful choices that hold their own against the weight and scale of the upholstered pieces. With three kids and pets to consider, "sturdy" and "functional" were Lucas' watchwords for this redesign project, she says. Lucas also purchased two lamps, bought a new shade for a third that was already in the room, and arranged "a triangle of light" to balance illumination throughout the space and to accent key points. The wingback was removed, says Lucas, because its style clashed with the other pieces.

Together, the co-ordinated upholstered chair and its ottoman intruded too far into the room, blocking the flow of traffic; separated, they were more useful. The chair was angled in a corner but still well connected to the sofa, and the ottoman now provides one more soft seat in this exceptionally pleasant room. The bookshelf was pulled out of the corner and centred on the wall. Books and decorative items were either thinned out or replaced by co-ordinated choices gathered from the rest of the home. More framed prints were also collected from around the house. Janice already had the attractive rug -- it had just never been put to use.

In the bedroom

Upstairs, the bed was moved to the window wall and the dresser was shifted to the opposite wall, instantly making the room feel larger and more open. The two existing prints were hung side by side for bigger impact, and a colourful painting was added to the opposite wall to balance out the display of artwork. A bright reversible quilt, pillows and a vivid throw add vibrant colour and warmth to the bed. A pair of co-ordinated lamps for night tables instantly dress them up, and a bed step that Roger had made for Janice is now displayed at the foot of the bed. The end result is a much softer, warmer space for the private oasis of a bedroom.

What it cost

"Re-design is affordable," says Lucas. A one-day makeover starts with a $75 consultation. The full day redesign is $500, and shopping for any purchases is extra but without a mark-up on the merchandise. Lucas has access to designer discounts and knows exactly what will work, so "it's money well spent," says Janice. Usually Lucas works with what a client already owns, but every house and every redesign is unique. "I use what you have. It's you -- but better," she says. In this case, the Pattersons' rather spartan home didn't have a houseful of extra pieces that could be drawn upon, so a budget was agreed on. "I thought $1,000 was a little low for what she wanted to buy -- so we set $1,500 as the upper range," says Janice. "I could have spent $1,000 on a coffee table and an end table and nothing else -- and she bought that and 20 other things. I was totally happy with what she bought and what she spent."

Shopping sources

Lucas went shopping with digital photos of the Patterson home in her bag and spent a total of $1,200, mostly at HomeSense, and a few plants from Rio Silk Plants. She bought the two gorgeous tables for the living room before they had even been fully unpacked. She also selected the required accessories and an oval rug that was the perfect finishing piece for the Pattersons' dining area -- not part of her assignment, but Lucas knew it was right and grabbed it for a bargain price. "Janice came home today and her house is done," says Lucas.

Key contact: Adene Lucas, Accent on Design, phone 651-7491, website accentondesigninc.ca

� The Calgary Herald 2005

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