Actually, you can afford a decorator!

In this time of tightened spending and heightened anxiety, coming home to a feeling of peace is more important than ever. Harmony at home depends mostly, of course, on who you live with and how you live together, but the rooms you live in and how you feel in them also matter.

I never thought that I would work with a decorator. A social worker, I married a man who had once lived in a tree house and we had two children together. Decorating for me has always been about flea markets and yard sales. It isn't something I'm complaining about -- it's actually a passion. Unfortunately, being financially "limited" isn't the only problem for me when it comes to home decor. I have an additional problem. I am among those missing the decorating gene.

On Saturday, I worked with Rachelle Goodfriend, of Goodfriend Design Group, who was recently featured in San Francisco magazine . A designer, who also happens to be a psychotherapist, Rachelle gave me a glimpse of just what a decorator has to offer even if you're working on a small budget.

We would have 24-hours together to redecorate my bedroom (to be completed by the painter the following week). We began on Friday evening, sitting amidst the wicker dresser and nightstand, twin beds destined for kingdom, one large gold framed abstract and an Asian screen that I had eagerly snagged for $20 the previous day at the thrift shop. The abstract was what Rachelle calls an "inspiration piece." The color and style choices we would make for the room would flow from that piece.

"How do you want to feel in this room?" Rachelle asked. "What will you do in this room? What else? What are your favorite colors? What colors do you absolutely dislike?

My favorite colors turned out to be those most commonly favored by Americans -- blue and green. There was a blue-gray in the abstract and we would start from there.

Most decorators will say that you can do more to change a room with paint than with any other single decision. Rachelle was thrilled that a local chain carries C2, specifically LoVo, an environmentally-friendly, high-coverage paint. So the paint store was our first stop where for once I wasn't stymied by what in this instance were 496 color choices. Rachelle also loves C2 because 18x24 inches paint chips, coated with real C2 paint, are available. She might as well have been speaking Japanese to me but she was clearly fluent. I purchased three paint chips and we were back in the car in less than half a hour.

From there we were off to her choice of stores for my budget -- Bed, Bath and Beyond, where I made my single largest expenditure -- the comforter set and some additional pillows -- to Jo-Ann Fabrics for cloth to cover a bench seat -- then to Pier 1 for lamps and accessories.

Usually the decorator does the legwork while the client stays home. If you're decorating on a budget -- and aren't too sure about your choices -- hiring a decorator for a day can make a huge difference in both the process and the outcome. Some decorators, Rachelle is one, will do an online consultation working with digital photos.

Why did working with a decorator make so much difference? For me, it was mainly about confidence. I was amazed by the speed at which this decorator could look around Bed, Bath and Beyond and eliminate 95% of what she saw. As the afternoon unfolded, I began to make my own choices, to find a growing sense of pleasure and confidence.

It turns out that when it comes to decorating, like so many other things, you can do it yourself but it helps a lot to have a good teacher even if it's only for a day.

And, yes, I'm crazy about the bedroom.
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