HOME DESIGN : A SPECIAL ISSUE OF ORANGE COUNTY LIFE : They Find the Silver Lining in People's Kitchens, Bedrooms

Evan Cummings is a free-lance writer

If you are moving to a new home, redecorating or refurbishing an existing one, or merely giving your house a good thorough cleaning, you will likely be forced to face one of life's great challenges--the dreaded shelf lining caper.

Remember the frustrations of the last time you decided to line every shelf in the house? Measuring--not quite accurately, as it turned out? Peeling, and positioning sticky paper that seemed to have a life of its own?

Can your marriage survive another exasperating attempt?

Well, Donna Bradshaw and her sister, Pam Owens, owners of the Santa Ana-based branch of American Shelf Lining, offer a simple alternative to the do-it-yourself frustrations that often accompany lining shelves.

Bradshaw, a former corporate real estate executive, and Owens, a former elementary school teacher, will handle the awful chore for you. Bradshaw takes care of customer inquires and appointment scheduling, while Owens does the measuring, banking and bookkeeping. For the installation itself they work as a team.

Bradshaw and Owens say their lining is unequaled and unavailable in the retail market. It comes in a choice of eight decorator colors (white, oyster, peach, sea foam green, pink, blue, dark gray and black). It is a medium weight, high gloss, patent leather-like vinyl, cut to measure and bonded to a specially designed backing, which, they say, ensures durability. American Shelf Lining guarantees both material and workmanship for life.

When a prospective customer calls to inquire about an installation, an appointment for a free estimate is arranged, at which time all shelves and drawers are measured. A custom-designed and patented decimal tape measure is used that allows the team to measure 1/20th of an inch, assuring a perfect fit--not only on shelf and drawer bottoms, but on sides, back and front as well.

A hand-held computer feeds the measurements to the factory and then provides a complete printout of each drawer and shelf to be lined, including size and cost. The product is custom cut and hand-wrapped at the factory and shipped, ready to install. (The cost averages about $2.25 per square foot, says Bradshaw, for a total of anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 depending on the size of the home.)

Bradshaw and Owens say the advantages of lining shelves this way are multifaceted. "The material is durable, shelves and drawers are custom fit, you don't have bubbles or curling edges, and it never needs to be replaced," says Bradshaw.

Owens adds: "It is water-resistant, so spills wipe off easily, and grit and grime won't get stuck into crevices."

Customers seem to like it too. Kim Levine, a Yorba Linda homemaker and mother of three is clearly delighted. "I had planned to do it myself, but I remembered the time I papered shelves in my last home," she says. "I am a perfectionist--but no matter how careful you are, you just can't achieve a look like this. When we bought our new home, we decided to just go ahead and have it done professionally, and I am very, very glad we did."

Levine's neighbor, Judy Altshuler, recently had her own home done. "I love it! Every time I open a drawer it looks so clean and bright and shiny--it's just great," she says, "but the best part is it was so effortless for me!"

A typical home can be lined in less than a normal working day, depending on how many rooms are lined. They will do an entire home or just a kitchen, depending on need and budget.

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