A little skill, a lot of ideas

Even if you're a klutz with crafts, says decorator Kitty Bartholomew, you can embellish your surroundings with these easy, do-it-yourself decorative touches.

Easy projects: It's relatively easy to turn a carpet remnant into a fun area rug, Bartholomew says. Turn the piece upside down, draw a shape — heart, star, question mark — then cut with a utility knife. Or turn an old bedspread into custom curtains: Just sew a pocket for the rod.

Reuse and retool: Start with what you have. Linen tablecloths can get a second life as shower curtains, she says. Need a desk? Put an old door on two file cabinets and cover with translucent plastic.

Smile: If an item makes you happy, find ways to use it. Bartholomew came across a collection of croquet balls at a swap meet. They look cool displayed in a glass bowl.

Try a face-lift: Hardware-store staples such as Briwax can give a wonderful patina and add richness and depth to surfaces, she says. Spray paint comes in matte, semigloss, satin, crackle and chalkboard finishes. Oil-based felt-tip paint pens are good for beginners.

Sources: Bartholomew recommends Wertz Brothers in Santa Monica for its extensive selection of used furniture from every era. She says Country Curtains (countrycurtains.com) has window coverings and inexpensive fabric, so you can make matching napkins and placemats.

— Maryann Hammers

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