Behold the promotional sweepstakes: Enter now and win a convertible! A cruise! A 42-inch plasma TV with built-in DVD!
As if. Sure, it sounds nice. But let's face it: Does anyone actually win?
Hence Linda Liggett's dismissive reaction last winter when a saleswoman in a local furniture store urged her to enter the shop's home-decorating contest.
"I never win anything," said Liggett, of Leesburg. "Never." But to be nice, she obliged, dropping her name in the slot and thinking that was the end of it.
So when she got a phone call two months later informing her she had won $5,000 worth of goods to redecorate a room of her choice -- under the direction of Joe Ruggiero, an interior design guru best known for his role as host of Home & Garden Television Network's "Homes Across America" -- she was suitably shocked. Her name was drawn from more than 5,000 entries.
"I was screaming on the telephone, just the fact that I'd won something," she said. "If anybody heard us, they'd have thought we were crazy."
Crazy for being excited? Nah. The crazy part, if anything, was Liggett's room selection. Winners in past years have typically chosen large spaces, such as a family room. Liggett chose a hallway.
Actually, it is a hallway-cum-balcony that overlooks the family room of Liggett's home -- a sitting area for the three upstairs bedrooms. Liggett and her husband, Roy, who recently retired as a chief pilot at United Airlines, moved into the house in Raspberry Falls a year ago; they had lived in Lovettsville in a house they built 32 years ago. Although Linda Liggett, 60, knew she wanted the balcony to be a quiet spot for reading or enjoying the view of the pond and golf course behind the house, she wasn't sure what to do with the space.
Neither was Ruggiero, at first. "I've never decorated a hallway before, really," he said.
No matter. Ruggiero teamed up with Kristen McAlister, the 25-year old decorator with Norwalk-The Furniture Idea store in Dulles who had urged Liggett to enter the contest. Ruggiero, who lives in Los Angeles, assessed the space through pictures and swapped e-mails about fabrics and furniture.
By Thursday, it was time to begin the job. Ruggiero, who had flown in the day before, joined McAlister and a team of movers at the Liggett home. Linda Liggett was promptly exiled into the master bedroom on the ground floor, hidden from the action.
If Liggett, who has strong opinions about decorating (she's not a "stripe person" or a "plaid person"), was at all nervous about relinquishing control of the process, her concerns might have been eased by her familiarity with Ruggiero.
She is an avid watcher of Home & Garden Television, and "I feel like I know him," she said.
Ruggiero, too, assumed a kind of intimacy. "I always like to go snooping around people's houses because you can find the most wonderful things," he said. "It's important to personalize things."
Among his finds: an antique tapestry, a cane-backed French side chair, antique books -- all used to accessorize items from the Joe Ruggiero collection of furniture he brought. Ruggiero's offerings included a three-piece sectional couch, a leather reading chair and a birch and maple tea table, flanked by two high-backed chairs known as the "Barrymore." (In a nod to his hometown, Los Angeles, Ruggiero names all of his pieces after movie stars.)
At McAlister and Ruggiero's suggestion, the Liggetts had painted the walls by the balcony a deep caramel, which added warmth to the window-laden space and gave it an "anchor," Ruggiero said. The Liggett house is open, he said, with cathedral ceilings, so "there's nothing wrong with taking one accent wall. All walls don't need to match."
Roy Liggett, 63, said he wasn't sure about the painted walls at first, but "as the days went by, I thought, 'That actually looks pretty nice.' "
He said that he was "very impressed" with the final appearance of the room but that it wasn't so much his opinion that mattered.
"I am a typical husband," he said. "I have basically no jurisdiction over [decorating] issues."
Besides, it's really Linda Liggett's space. Her husband has an office in the basement where he retreats to work on his new consulting business, "so I'll probably use it most of all because he's so busy working," she said. "I told him he'll have to have tickets to come up there and sit in my area."
Her area, as it turned out, was "beyond all my expectations -- it's absolutely gorgeous," she said.
Not that she would let herself enjoy it just yet. Liggett, an effervescent redhead and seemingly consummate hostess, was already heading downstairs to lay out the "celebration" spread for the decorating crew: cheese platters, brownies, cream puffs, strawberries and, of course, a champagne toast.
"To the queen," Ruggiero joked, raising his glass.
"To the queen -- me," Liggett echoed, laughing. "I do feel like a queen today."