Anyone with a little talent and a large budget can create beautiful rooms.
But it takes someone with unlimited creativity and an artsy eye to design budget-conscious rooms that look fabulous.
One of those rare people is Tersa Agard, an artist, sculptor and decorator who has transformed her 1,802-square-foot Boca Raton, Fla., condo into a reflection of her talent and travels.
She shops at every price level -- from the Design Center of the Americas in Dania Beach, Fla., to consignment shops, Marshalls and Tuesday Morning.
"You have got to know when to spend and when to save," she says. "The actual value doesn't matter to me as long as I think they work together."
Her best ingredient is her unlimited imagination. When her 40-year-old mirrored Parsons table began to tarnish, she covered the marks with painted flowers. When she didn't like a painting, she covered part of it with craft paper to make it look like a partially opened package. The focal point of her living room is an elegant, crackled finish eight-panel screen, which she found for $900 at A Consignment Gallery in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Agard saw a similar screen selling for $5,000 at a designer showroom. Her sculpture of a woman's head on the coffee table was originally done in clay and then put into a mold and made in Lucite. The 48-by-60-inch glass coffee table shows off her splurge -- a Tufenkian Tibetan rug that cost $3,500.
Lightened up: Agard started with a contemporary light fixture that looked like a curved bar with four small lamps. Now, thanks to her imagination, it's an innovative chandelier. She attached a vase-shaped metal container she bought at Marshalls and used fishing line to attach crystals, Christmas mirrors, odd knives, forks and spoons from thrift shops.
Crowning touch: High-hat lighting (recessed can lighting) is versatile but not very decorative, especially when the fixture is in the foyer. Agard came up with an attractive solution. Using stencils she bought at Michaels, she decorated around the high hat. Then she nailed a picture frame to the ceiling and added different stencils outside the frame.
Care package: Sometimes you just outgrow a painting or never really loved it anywhere. Here's a creative solution: Wrap it with craft paper, tie it with a string to keep it together and tear it to reveal just a small portion of the painting. Agard's additional touch? She addressed it to make it look more like a package.
Think big: Don't reject hanging a painting because the frame is too small. In the kitchen, she needed a larger frame to extend the size of an Indian painting on silk. She painted plywood black and attached it to the framed painting. To make the two pieces look like they belonged together, she repeated the designs from the artwork.
Make it fit: There's no need to get rid of your bed just because it appears too big for your new bedroom. Agard's bed, originally a four poster with canopy, overwhelmed the bedroom in her condo. Her solution? Cut down the four posters and add finials. The headboard posters are now 6 1/2inches tall and the footboard posters are 4 1/2inches tall.
Dollar saving designs: Looking for inexpensive ways to decorate your home? Here are additional ideas from Agard, who has been a decorator for more than 30 years.
Artful backsplash: If your kitchen has only a painted wall and no backsplash, decorate the wall. Agard used a rectangular piece of ceramic art and two ceramic plates she found at Marshalls.
Go stencil crazy: Add interest to an old ceiling fan by adding a stencil design in a contrasting color. Customize ordinary tile floors with stencils. In large spaces, you can surround four tiles with an edging and stencil a rosette in the middle. Scatter the design throughout the room. Use porch and deck paint or you will have to touch it up every few months.
Make it your own: Agard has a great solution for tarnished mirrors and furniture. She used acrylic paint to cover the tarnish marks with flowers and added them in other places to balance the design. Can't draw? Trace flowers and fill in the design with paint.
Create counterculture: The blank wall beneath Agard's counter pass-through looked bland, so she drew a simple diamond pattern, using blue painter's tape to keep the lines straight. She traced a quarter and painted the areas gold to create circles in the design.