Let's be honest: Most of us lack a decorator's visual sensibility when it comes to making our homes look "put together. " But where do you...

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Let’s be honest: Most of us lack a decorator’s visual sensibility when it comes to making our homes look “put together.” But where do you turn if your Ikea budget can’t fund a decorating pro’s high design?

Fortunately, not all interior decorators spend their time kitting out mansions for millionaires. Typically, for around $300, you can hire an “interior redesign” expert to rearrange and optimize one or more rooms in a few hours, using furniture and accessories you already have.

Most redesign consultants charge $60 to $85 per hour; interior designers can charge hundreds per hour. And unlike the interior designers who help you buy new things, the redesign consultants merely rearrange your things into a more functional and comfortable space that is reflective of that person’s personality.

So how does this work? We watched as local redesign pro Gwen Williams, of Space Transform, reinvented a creative couple’s living room in less than four hours.

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The couple, Ariel Meadow Stallings and husband Andreas Fetz, downsized in September to a one-bedroom Capitol Hill condo from a three-bedroom house in Rainier Valley.

The move meant major space reduction: Gone were two home offices where Stallings, 32, worked on writing projects and where Fetz, 31, a professional musician, had his studio.

“This area is now a combined living, dining, social, office space,” said Stallings, surveying her home’s multifunction living room.

Here’s how the redesign process works, and what you can learn from Williams’ methods.

Starting from scratch

Before moving a thing, Williams discusses the living room with Stallings, learning how the couple (and their dog, Sassafras) use the space, and what items must stay and what can move.

Then Williams empties the living room of everything but the sofas. She says the room has good architecture — high ceilings, a big window, nice color — but its furniture needs “tightening” (moved closer together), and the room needs focal points to create atmosphere.

Williams starts with the sleeper sofas, which are too far apart for Stallings’ liking. Williams tries linking the sectionals with a corner table — and the fit is perfect. With the sofas established, Williams tests placement for an area rug and coffee table. In a corner opposite the sofas, she sets an old chair from Stallings’ family and a music stand from Fetz’s mother.

Williams says this corner needs “weight” to balance the heavy sofas opposite the space. By moving a chair, table and the music stand here, she uses a grouping of three to fill the space and create a visual vignette.

Looking at lighting

With the major furniture placed, Williams has created three seating areas and table space for all. Now she tackles lighting for each seating area, placing a paper lamp between the sofas and hanging a paper lantern in a corner visible from the hall.

Williams says rooms need lighting for tasks as well as aesthetics, and that lighting arranged in a triangle pattern — throughout the corners and at the sofa ends in this room — can serve both functions.

Introducing art, color and texture

With the seating, lighting and table surfaces in place, Williams begins layering art and colors into the room. She tests where to hang a shiny orange tapestry on the wall vs. draping it on the couch before ultimately deciding to hang it vertically. She also brings in framed album covers and experiments with their grouping.

As she hangs art in the living room, she’s mostly swapping the placement of art pieces or lowering the height at which they’re hung.

She then forages in the couple’s bedroom for more pillows — many shiny and brightly colored — and places them strategically on the living room couches.

“You can use pillows to tie a whole room together,” she says.

In small rooms in particular, Williams likes to use fabrics such as velvet and silk to reflect light and amplify space, as well as adding elegance.

A few hours after she started the project, Williams reviews the work with Stallings: She created a cozier seating area, with table space; placed lighting strategically; brought (or rethought) art into the room; and placed the couple’s beautiful and sentimental objects throughout.

“I love it,” Stallings says.

And she should. Her and Fetz’s belongings haven’t changed, but they now work together in a more aesthetic and functional way.

Jane Hodges (janehodges@hotmail.com) is a freelance writer in Seattle.

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