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ROOMS FOR IMPROVEMENT RESOLVE TO BEAUTIFY YOUR HOME IN 2004.

Byline: Evan Henerson Staff Writer

A couple of cans of paint, some new wall decor and maybe some creative shifting of furniture and accessories may be all you need to fulfill a New Year's resolution.

Or maybe this is the time to give yourself the kitchen of your dreams that you've always deserved.

Granted, the ``I vow to get organized and beautify my house'' promise can take any number of forms, spanning days, weeks, months and several price ranges. But it doesn't have to. Many of us don't have the time, patience or funds to make major commitments to home projects. Other homeowners consider beautification an ongoing endeavor, not just something they do during the months when resolutions are still fresh in mind.

The Aebi family of Pasadena will spend close to $10,000 restoring a chimney that hasn't worked since the Whittier earthquake. The Speidels of Simi Valley spent part of the last weekend in December at the Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse in West Hills. Their mission: find suitable wallpaper to decorate 1-year-old son Alex's room. New paint is also in the picture.

The first project involves a contractor and city permits. The second is the ultimate in ongoing do-it-yourself-ism. One will take three to four days, the other considerably longer.

Designers say the early months of the year - and spring, of course - are prime home-project times. Today is as good a day as any to, if not actually start a project, then figure out what you might want to do in the weeks ahead.

That's what Summer Baltzer, a California State University, Northridge, graduate and interior designer does. It's practically a ritual.

``Every new year, I take stock of all the furniture I have - all the clothing and accessories. I look at the things that mean the most to me and that I want to keep. Everything else I put in the garage and donate,'' says Baltzer, co-host of ``Design on a Dime'' on Home and Garden Television. ``That's the first step.''

``Then I go through each of my rooms and just kind of figure out, 'Do I want to paint it?' '' she continues. ``This is a new year, do I want to change the look, or is it still a room that makes me feel good?''

Brush with newness

Baltzer is an advocate of the change-through-paint formula. A new look - and especially a new color - can not only change the outlook of a room but also the disposition of the person who occupies it. Getting rid of unwanted or unused furniture - decoration through subtraction - is another quick and cheap home improvement. Or try rearranging the furniture you already have.

``Put up new artwork on the walls or rearrange the artwork you already have,'' says Baltzer. ``Reorganize your accessories, switching them from room to room, to create a brand-new look when you walk in. Yesterday I brought in a plant, and all of a sudden the room looked different. Adding some greenery to a room can add a lot of life and vitality to a space.''

Budget, says Florida designer Patricia Hart McMillan, is an all- important consideration for someone evaluating their house for a New Year's project. So is mood. If a particular room isn't working, for whatever reason, the homeowner should figure out what's going wrong and look to make changes.

Like Baltzer, McMillan believes a change of color can do wonders toward altering the mood of a room, whether through paint, wallpaper or both. Or maybe it's a piece of furniture that needs a makeover.

``You may come home, walk into a room and just say, 'I'm tired of this. I want the whole thing changed,' '' says McMillan, who co-wrote ``Home Decorating for Dummies'' with her daughter, Katharine Kaye McMillan. ``Often after I look at something, I think it's not really necessary to throw everything out. My whole approach is to save whatever works and add what's essential.''

Making it work

A recent condominium project tackled by McMillan required working with ``two of the ugliest, cheapest-looking Parsons tables.'' Instead of jettisoning them altogether, McMillan painted the offending tables to blend in with the walls and pulled off a change of emphasis.

``Now what's important about them is what's on top of the tables,'' says McMillan. ``One has a colorful floral arrangement: very bold, very beautiful. The other one is backed up against the love seat, and I put a beautiful bowl on it. That adds importance to the love seat - and the bowl becomes a small focal point.''

The Aebies' chimney and fireplace is an example of a project that was inspired by another transformation. A year ago, husband and wife Andreas and Joan Aebi redid their living room and added new furniture. The feeling at the time of the room revamp, says Joan, was, ``If not now, when? Do I need to be 80 before I have nice living room furniture?''

The same sentiment prompted fixing the chimney. Now that the living room has been spruced up, why not have the fireplace and chimney work too? And there's no better time, they figured, than the present.

``Yes, it was a hard decision, and it's a lot of money to spend on something that we're not going to be driving around,'' says Joan of the nearly $10,000 job, which will take about four days. ``But it just seemed really stupid to have a chimney and not be able to use it.''

Once the chimney is done, the Aebies will try to re-create some of the original tile for decorative purposes. Bathroom and patio work may also be on the agenda in the months to come, according to Joan.

The wallpaper chase

In Simi Valley, the Speidels have tackled wallpapering before: doing their kitchen, living room and hallway. ``We like doing it and decorating how we want,'' says Alisa. ``The painting gets a little monotonous.''

The couple is currently in the process of transitioning Alex, who just turned 1, to his new bedroom. Mom and dad envision a planes-trains-and-automobiles motif, in part because father Andy is ``a train fanatic.''

Currently, they admit, the room is a mess - as a work in progress figures to be. The old wallpaper has been stripped off, and the Speidels are looking for borders and matching paint.

The entire project may take a couple of weeks, or even longer depending upon when scheduling allows them to actually complete it.

``Our hands are kind of full,'' says Andy Speidel.

Evan Henerson, (818) 713-3651

evan.henerson(at)dailynews.com

Protect now, plant later

If you expect to nurture or develop a green thumb in 2004, hold on to that urge until the weather warms up.

``Right now, it's too cold to plant,'' says Martha Parker, garden buyer for the Home Depot's Woodland Hills store.

Think instead about pruning and protecting the trees and plants you already have. Now is the time to de-thatch the lawn and get that winter fertilizer in place to stimulate spring growth. A burlap sack or an old bedsheet can protect citrus trees and ficuses from frostburn.

Parker recommends pruning roses and deciduous fruit trees. And if you must break the soil, now is an appropriate time to plant winter-budding plants like pansies and stalk primrose. Bare-root roses, fruit trees and berries can also be planted now.

``You can save a lot of money and have a good variety if you're interested in roses,'' says Parker.

Those looking to become first-time gardeners in 2004 should familiarize themselves with their home and planting space. How much light is available? What's the condition of your soil? How can it be improved?

``People who have not gardened before want to now, especially if they're looking to diet and they want to grow their own vegetables,'' says Parker. ``There are also people that want to reconnect with the earth by spending more time in the yard. It can be meditative and relaxing, and you get a good sense of accomplishment when you do something in your yard.''

- E.H.

CAPTION(S):

5 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Remodeling resolutions

Bring your home up to snuff in '04

(2 -- color) no caption (hammer)

(3 -- color) no caption (can of paint)

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer

(4 -- color) Andreas Aebi figured that now was the time to fix the chimney damaged in the Whittier Narrows Earthquake of 1987.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer

(5 -- color) Alisa and Andy Speidel are creating a bedroom that echoes planes, trains and automobiles for their 1-year-old son Alex.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News

Box:

Protect now, plant later (see text)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 3, 2004
Words:1433
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