6 tips to give your home a 'space lift'

Story Image

A decorative sofa was moved from the TV room into the front parlor, making both rooms more pleasing and comfortable.

Got grunge? Cramped by clutter? Failing at feng shui? Many of us are dealing with the decorating blahs. We can’t afford to move or buy anything new. We are just stuck with the old stuff.

It would be sweet if some Disney fairy godmother came through and – bibbity bobbity boo – waved a wand to transform a lackluster room into something special. That’s what home stagers do before a sale. Now, some décor professionals are offering similar services to people who have no immediate plans to move.

Dina Petrakis of Littlerock Construction in Chicago usually tells her “Space Lifting” customers that they don’t need to buy a thing. She looks at their space, listens to their problems and ideas, then develops a design plan that rethinks each room’s purpose, removes clutter, changes traffic flow and enhances aesthetics using existing furnishings.

“This is a way to make your home feel fresh or solve problems,” she explained, “and not feel uncomfortable in your home until it’s time to sell. It’s a good Band-aid and really fun. It’s instant gratification for me and for them.“

Petrakis says that working with room design has always been part of her career in construction and space planning but she has focused on it more recently given the economic times.

“In an afternoon you can change your environment,” she said. “It totally makes sense – and there is no plaster dust.”

She charges $240 for a two-hour minimum, and sometimes stays a few more hours. Usually after that, the client is tired, not just because they have been moving furniture, but because it is also mentally draining.

Petrakis is a proponent of thinking about where things should be located, rather than where the last tenant had them.

In many urban units, the kitchen is next to a dining space with the living room beyond that. Just because the original architect put a dining room by the kitchen does not mean it has to stay that way. That dining room’s location is probably a better place for the living room, and the seldom-used dining area can move farther away.

A common mistake that many of her clients make, she says, is to put their home office in the bedroom.

“It’s not good for your relationship or your sleep cycle,” she said. “Almost always there is a way to carve some space out. Maybe in part of a closet, that underused dining room, or under the stairs. Sometimes I see a couple and they are kind of fighting. When the office leaves the bedroom there is more harmony.”

Another common issue clients cite is that a room does not feel comfortable or is not getting used. Oftentimes they have not considered basic human traits, such as not wanting one’s back to the door.

It’s rather primal, she said, to place the living room couch so that users can see the door. “Innately we want to be at the ready if the ‘invaders’ come in. You will be more comfortable if you can see the door.”

Other times she has found that clients are using their furniture in the wrong rooms. Swapping couches from between the living room and TV rooms might make everyone more comfortable.

One couple went through the entire process of making their home more efficient, and then realized that what they really wanted was a new place.

“They got clarity,” Petrakis said. “Amazing things happen when dysfunction is not distracting you in your life.”