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Consumer Reports

Tips from a dollar-store decorator | (KRT) Curtains were dismantled.

The hand-painted, beaded lamp was tucked away. The palm- tree comforter and matching sheets were packed into a corrugated box, along with treasured pieces destined for a college apartment miles away.

When the oldest daughter - a budding artist - scooted the last of the cardboard boxes across the carpeted bedroom floor in a whoosh, she took her hand-painted accessories and personal icons and left behind a space devoid of comfort, character and cohesiveness.

And while she waved her own decorating wand to create a tropical-themed apartment in her new home, I stood in the doorway of what was left of her bedroom, wiped away those tears you shed when the kid moves out and vowed to turn the space into a cozy guest bedroom without breaking the bank. I began with my daughter's leftover fragments - a metal-frame, full-sized bed, a lone dresser and mirror, an angel print above the bed, an angel throw blanket and a few knickknacks.

There was no wand involved in the room makeover, only patience, a creative eye and a little adventure. I managed to redo the room for less than $150 with accessories gleaned from multiple visits to area dollar stores.

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I call it dollar-store decorating, a great and inexpensive way to spruce up a room or completely redecorate it. I found almost everything needed - lamps, bed linens, window treatments and knickknacks - to accessorize the room at places such as Family Dollar, Dollar General and Dollar Tree.

And it hardly put a dent in the budget.

Shannon Day of Myrtle Beach is another mom who has discovered the rush of dollar- store decorating. On a recent afternoon, Day browsed the aisles of a Dollar General store, filling her shopping cart with decorating accessories for her 4-year-old daughter's bedroom.

"I'm freshing up my daughter's room," said Day, a stay-at- home mother of two young children. Dollar-store shopping has helped Day's family save money but also has become an adventure for her and her kids, she said.

"I knew when I decided to quit work to raise my kids, I would have to find a deal," she said. "Now, we just like going in there to see what they've got." Her daughter Allie's bedroom is a work in progress, slowly transforming into a garden-inspired theme room. Recent visits to area dollar stores have resulted in finds fitting the theme, including a $10 lamp with butterflies and flowers on the shade, two $12 floral shower curtains that Day is smartly using as window treatments, flower garlands to drape over Allie's canopy bed, $5 throw pillows and four $1 butterfly wings typically used for a child's costume, but which Day has cleverly and creatively decided to use as wall hangings above the headboard.

"Why pay a lot of money for something when you can get it at the dollar store?" Day said.

"This is the cheap way of decorating. You can't beat it." Dollar stores first opened in the 1950s, popping up in neighborhoods convenient to low- and middle-income consumers. Low overhead and a no-frills approach have allowed the stores to keep prices low on their merchandise assortment, which features basic goods for family and home needs. Dollar stores are perfect for financially strapped families, college students or consumers looking to save some money in an uncertain economy.

Wendy Barker, manager at the Family Dollar in Surfside Beach, S.C., said such stores "have everything for your bath, kitchen and bedroom."

"We keep up with all the modern and trendy things," she said. "And there is something to be said about the personal service you get at smaller stores.

"Plus, you can get in and out of a Family Dollar faster than you can get out of your car and walk into a bigger discount store. Here, you can park right outside the door."



_ Finding all the right pieces to pull the room together might take visits to several dollar store locations. Merchandise changes often.


Stores such as Family Dollar and Dollar General have the biggest selections for accessorizing baths, bedrooms and kitchens, including bedspreads, sheets, kitchen and bath towels, table linens, curtains and the hardware to hang them.


Find knickknacks, vases, kitchen items, silk flowers and glassware at places such as Dollar Tree.



Throw pillows - To add punches of color to any room, toss pillows on the bed or a side chair. Look for tropical prints or beaded pillows to update your existing decor.

Rugs - To add interest or texture to a room, place an area rug under the coffee table or at the foot of a bed. Use a smaller version in the foyer to tie the spaces together.

Window treatments - Use off- white sheer panels to soften daylight filtering through a window. Top off the panels with a fringed valance in an accent color used elsewhere in the room. Or pick up a curtain rod with decorative finials to add detailed elegance.

Table runners - Crocheted, lace or damask table runners dress up a side table or buffet, or for a hint of Victorian flair, use on a dresser top.

Silk flowers, plants - For a romantic touch, drape a garland of silk flowers across your bed canopy, over a decorative curtain rod to serve as a valance or snip it in two and use the garland pieces as curtain tie backs. Soften a dark corner with a faux ficus tree.

Lighting options - Enhance the room's lighting with candle stick lamps on either side of the bed, a mini torch light for the dresser and a night light to illuminate dark corners.

Bathroom decor - Freshen up the bathroom with a towel set, new rug, shower curtain and decorative hooks. Consider hand-painting a plain vanity set to add a personal touch to the toothbrush holder, soap dispenser, soap dish and cup.

Frames - In themed rooms, collect decorative picture frames to display your loved ones. Cut up old calendars or art books and create your own framed art, remembering to hang art work at eye level.

Candles - Inject the smell of fresh flowers in the room using fragrant candles, displayed in candle holders or on a decorative plate.



Here is a breakdown of the dollar-store items used to accessorize a guest bedroom: Sweetgrass basket - $2, Dollar General Mini torch light - $6, Dollar General Floral garland - 2 strands, $1 each, Dollar Tree Angel picture frames - $3, Family Dollar Vase - $1, Dollar Tree Clock - $6, Dollar General Lamps - $12 each, Dollar General Round tablecloths - 2 at $5 each, Family Dollar Percale sheet set, full - $15, Family Dollar Candle - $4, Dollar General Throw pillows - 2 at $7 each, Family Dollar Shelf set - $5, Dollar General Candles - 2 at $1 each, Dollar General Candy dish - $3, Dollar General Bedspread - $20, Dollar General Sheer panels - 2 at $5 each, Family Dollar Valance - $5, Family Dollar Framed angel print - $15, Family Dollar Total - $137.

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