CBJ: More homeowners choosing to redesign instead of relocate - The Daily Progress: Business

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CBJ: More homeowners choosing to redesign instead of relocate

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Posted: Sunday, June 3, 2012 9:10 pm | Updated: 11:22 am, Wed Jan 23, 2013.

Faced with a market that continues to favor buyers, many homeowners are still opting to stay put, despite an improving economy.

And for those looking to revitalize their living space, instead of moving, local entrepreneur Ami Smith works to help them reshape the space they have. Smith owns Embellish Interiors, an interior design firm and has been redoing interiors since 2006. Smith is one of handful of local designers who work one-on-one with clients to reshape their existing space.

As life and time reshape their families, Smith said many people are surprised that a relatively modest investment can improve their living space without tearing out walls or tearing up their wallets.

“My design philosophy is that good, comfortable beautiful interiors don’t have to have a high price tag,” Smith said.

Anita Gupta is one of Smith’s current clients. Together, the women are remaking, one room at a time, Gupta’s Charlottesville-area house, which she shares with her husband and children.

The improvements include new custom wallpaper in the bedroom, new window treatments, and sophisticated furniture that fits and complements the space, yet is still family friendly.

“I love Ami’s philosophy of finishing a room at a time,” Gupta said.

“Now we have three absolutely finished rooms and not much more to go,” she continued. “That philosophy really resonated with me.”

The Guptas bought their home new and essentially had a blank canvas, but said they still wanted a professional touch to help them make the space their own.

And although the Guptas spent about $5,000 to redesign their bedroom, Smith said that investing just $500 in a project can be a good start.

Longtime local builder Randy Rinehart, owner of Rinehart Custom Homes, said he’s also seen firsthand that people are more willing to invest time and effort to refresh their current space instead of moving.

In most cases, when people realize the market doesn’t have exactly what they’re looking for, Rinehart said they decide to pursue a redesign so that their current house will better fit their needs. Rinehart said a common move is to repurpose existing space, such as turning an extra bedroom into a larger family room or adding more windows.

“It’s amazing if you go into a kitchen and you take the cabinets and just simply paint the cabinets and put in a new countertop,” Rinehart said. “The psychological difference that can make … you can give the perception that you’ve got new cabinets ...” And as an added bonus, Rinehart said most of the work can be done while the family is still living in the house.

Although Rinehart’s specialty is more in-depth work, he agreed that minor changes such as carpet, paint, drapes and careful furniture placement make a huge difference in the feel of a residence.

Rinehart also offered a point of advice for anyone who might be on the cusp of a project to design their project 15 percent below what they actually have to spend. Rinehart said there are always unexpected issues along the way and the 15 percent cushion ensures that there’s enough wiggle room without sacrificing too much of a client’s vision.

“I feel like part of my job is to figure out where they are in their lives and figure out what they want,” Smith said.