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Brown's advice on where to skimp and where to splurge

As a professional designer and house-flipper, Ryan Brown knows how to increase the beauty and value of a house. But what does a flipper do differently when he's designing a permanent residence for himself? Here's how Brown splurged and scrimped:

Millwork: "Molding adds instant warmth and character to a room," says Brown, who added crown molding that juts out by windows and serves as curtain valances. He also added wainscoting and vertical trim pieces between baseboards and chair rails, creating the appearance of paneled walls. "You can get it at a hardware store and just nail it up. It doesn't need to be real wood since it's going to be painted." Brown covered the dining room ceiling in bead board. He used bead board again on family room walls, with a twist: The grooves run horizontally.

Cabinetry: In the kitchen, Brown designed a fretwork pattern for cupboard doors that gives the room the Chinese Chippendale look associated with Hollywood Regency style. The cabinets were built by Ian Ferguson of Dig It Furniture in Venice, (310) 455-0255, www.digitfurniture.com.

Window treatments: Brown installed traditional-width windows in multiples where there had been wall-to-wall glass. Then he painted the sills and frames black for architectural presence. "It's beautiful in the day," Brown says, "and at night it enhances the views."

Fabrics: Brown splurged on high-priced designer fabrics by Lulu DK and Kelly Wearstler for reupholstering vintage chairs. When it came to larger jobs such as curtains and Roman shades, he headed for downtown L.A. "I went down to the Fashion District and shopped the discount fabric stores."

Lighting: For maximum impact in the stairwell, Brown hung the 30-bulb Meurice chandelier, a Jonathan Adler design available online for under $750. "A lot of the lamps in the house cost under $100 at flea markets and garage sales," Brown says.

Furniture: Though he owns custom-made and contemporary designer tables and sofas, Brown also shops at Crate & Barrel and West Elm for chairs, tables and rugs. He browses IKEA for woven outdoor furniture. "The key is to mix it," Brown says. "Get the cheap pieces in with good-looking, more expensive pieces and no one knows the difference."

-- David A. Keeps

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