Affordable Fashion for Your Walls: Top options for designing on a dime

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What you put on your walls can have the biggest impact in a room’s décor scheme, both in terms of design and, if you’re not careful, your wallet. Fortunately, new technologies and turn-key products are making it easier than ever to achieve professional, predictable results on a do-it-yourself budget. Here are some popular and affordable options to consider for your next wall-to-wall redo.
Your wall is your palette
Paint is one

What you put on your walls can have the biggest impact in a room’s décor scheme, both in terms of design and, if you’re not careful, your wallet. Fortunately, new technologies and turn-key products are making it easier than ever to achieve professional, predictable results on a do-it-yourself budget. Here are some popular and affordable options to consider for your next wall-to-wall redo.

Your wall is your palette

Paint is one of the most affordable wall coverings of all, but make a wrong move with your color choice, and you can easily end up paying and working double to correct the offending hue. For great results the first time around, major paint brands have rolled out several tools that let you try before you buy, including online room visualizers, pre-coordinated color palettes, and, best of all, trial-size paint samples. Ranging anywhere from two to eight ounces in volume, these allow you to paint a generous area of color on a piece of scrap board or directly on the wall to literally see it in a different light. Various times of day reveal various combinations of direct sunlight, indirect sunlight and artificial light that can transform a color (or at least your perception of it), and large-scale swatches are the best way to ensure you’ll enjoy living with your selection around the clock.

Good looks on paper

Always a favorite for its versatility, variety, and suitability for just about any room, wallpaper has only improved in terms of cost efficiency and application ease. Choose from pre-pasted and easy-change varieties, go for texture, and complement with borders and other embellishments. And remember those full-wall murals? They’re back in vogue again, and thanks to digital technologies, photographic vistas are all the more alluring and trompe l’oeil illustrations have the look of personally commissioned artwork. Just as with paint, it’s easy to test your wallpaper design plan with large-scale product samples and visualizers, and illustrated step-by-step application instructions are only a click away.

On board for texture and architectural interest

Another great way to achieve a personalized design in no time is with wallboard, now available in a range of textures and patterns for floor-to-ceiling fashion. Far from the shallow-grain wood paneling of yore, today’s options include stone and tile looks, leather, metal, and beadboard styles. High-moisture environments meet their match with special compositions like cellular PVC, and wood-look varieties can be painted or left as is depending on your color preference. Design with a wainscot or full-height scheme in mind, and install it all with just a few traditional tools. You can also add specialty panels such as chalkboard or markerboard for planning future projects.

Next: Picture Perfect Painting

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's Web site.

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