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Affordable home improvement

OW Staff | 5/5/2010, 5 p.m.

This spring, it should come as no surprise that the number one home improvement technique that can be easily and affordably used to upgrade and beautify your home is your spring cleaning.
Thoroughly clean your home, and in doing so, you will come across plenty of things you don't want, don't need, or that are just taking up space.
To remedy this, have a yard sale. It's doubly beneficial because you make space by getting rid of the clutter in your home, and you make a little extra money you can put towards truly improving the look of your home.
As you clean, remember the sentimental things that you just can't seem to part with can be put into storage.
After the clutter has been taken care of, the real cleaning can begin and what better way to do it than by simultaneously protecting your family and the environment from harsh chemicals. Seventh Generation has a new line of completely green cleaning supplies that accomplish just that. Their products can be found at your local grocery store.
After the cleaning, some people might want to take home improvement to the next step and try some simple repairs or additions. If that's the case, let's start at the front.
First impressions are everything. So you want the front of your home, the first thing people see, to be attractive and eye-catching.
One inexpensive way to make a great first impression is to spruce up the front yard. Home improvement venues such as Home Depot and Lowes have good-looking flower arrangements that you can purchase and plant yourself for about $8.
The addition of beautiful budding flowers, in conjunction with a well-maintained lawn, adds striking color and a fresh spring feeling immediately beautifying the front of your home.
A fresh coat of paint always adds a bright, new feel to your home, and it isn't necessarily a need to paint the entire house. The new trend, according to international Feng Shui expert Fay Chappel, is to only paint the front door in a nice, eye-popping accent color. It changes the look of the entire house, and paint is relatively inexpensive.
With these easy-to-accomplish, affordable additions you've essentially revamped the entire look of the exterior of your home.
As you move to the interior of your home, another helpful tip is to give the heavy curtains and drapes a break and put up some blinds, shades, or sheer curtains. They allow the sunlight to shine in and give the home a nice airy feeling.
Blinds and other similar window treatments can be found at a number of different retailers such as Bed Bath and Beyond or Anna's Linen for as low as $17. They are usually very easy to install and therefore can be done yourself.
Refashioning the bathrooms in the house can also be inexpensive, and the small changes you make can drastically change the look and feel of the room.
If space permits, shelves are always good additions to a bathroom because they add a contemporary look and keep the bathroom neat and organized.
New linens, especially in soft colors like turquoise, purple, or even darker greens can transform the look of your bathroom entirely. Retailers like Kohls and Ikea have reasonably priced towel sets, rugs and bath mats, which can also be accented with an array of bath coordinates like soap dispensers and toothbrush holders. Once you top it all off with a few candles, you've turned a boring bathroom into a haven of elegance and relaxation.
The dining room could also use a change for the season. With all of the new foods coming into season, you should enjoy being in your dining room just as much as you enjoy devouring all of that delicious food.
New décor in the dining room can be emphasized by adding a new lighting fixture, which can significantly change the atmosphere of a room. A cost-effective way to do this is to install a ceiling fan. Home Depot has a vast selection of fans that range from $50-100, and you can install yourself; but it wouldn't hurt to have a spotter around just in case.
Aside from their aesthetic value, ceiling fans use less energy than air conditioning. Environmental expert Jon Baime believes cutting off the air conditioning and using the ceiling fan instead can cut your bill by up to 40 percent.
Changing the table decor is another simple way to modify the look of your home. Walmart and Target are good choices for relatively inexpensive table décor. Both retailers house a wide selection of dinnerware, flatware, table cloths and napkins to match any décor.

Interior designer James Gantt Elcock touches a client's spirit before redesigning their home