Sandra Delaney was ready for a change. Her Burleith home had served her family well for more than 40 years, but now it was time to redecorate.
"After the children were gone and I was retired, I began to look at things slowly from my own perspective," she said. "I'm here alone and I want to make this house really mine."
She started with a guest room. The upstairs space had always served as a bedroom for her children, but over the years it had morphed into a drab and unwelcoming space that was functional but not pretty.
To help pull the room together, Delaney called on Malena Kaplan of One Pretty House Interiors. The Bethesda-based decorator and home stager offers a one-day redesign service that uses what a homeowner already has to redo a room in hours.
"First, I ask questions," says Kaplan. "What do they like about the room? What do they dislike? What pieces absolutely have to stay? What can go? Then they leave, I empty the room, shop the house and put the room back together in a more fabulous way." (Her fee for this service is $375 per room.)
When she first saw Delaney's guest room, she agreed an update was in order.
"It was incredibly cluttered," she says. "And there was more furniture than was appropriate. There was no lighting except for an overhead light in a ceiling fan. There was an abundance of kids' toys, an outdoor wicker settee. . . . It ended up being a catch-all room."
(Delaney wanted to have the room repainted before the makeover; with Kaplan's help, she chose a soft, pale blue that went with the existing area rug.)
The day of the makeover, the first thing Kaplan did was empty the room except for the rug, dresser and bed. Then, she moved the bed to become the centerpiece.
"The biggest problem with the room was that it didn't have a focal point, so it had no set purpose," she says.
A white coverlet was borrowed from the master bedroom. Throw pillows found on the living room sofa became accents on the bed. Kaplan located a mahogany bedside table in the sunroom, hidden beneath an old tablecloth. A second table was found buried in the back of a closet.
"That happens a lot," she says. "Someone likes a piece; they don't want to get rid of it but they're not sure what to do with it, so it ends up getting hidden away. Everyone has those pieces."
Also unearthed from a closet: four botanical herb prints that Delaney bought at a farmers market in London almost 20 years ago. "I loved them but never knew where to hang them," she says. Kaplan re-matted and reframed the prints to coordinate with the dark wood tables and hung the set above the bed. The prints now serve a decorative purpose and a practical one, too.
"It's a fast, easy and inexpensive way to have a headboard," says Kaplan.
A small-scale upholstered chair that hindered foot traffic was moved from one side of the room to the other, and a stalk of bamboo placed behind the chair was cut from Delaney's own back yard.
A large mirror that had been lying on its side, tucked between the bed and the wall, was hung opposite a window to reflect the trees outside. Kaplan purposely hung it low enough to be used as a full-length mirror. It also makes the 10-foot-8-by-13-foot-10 room look and feel bigger than it is.
Approximately four hours after she arrived, Kaplan had turned a dark and overfurnished space into a cozy and inviting retreat for guests.
Before leaving, Kaplan offered Delaney some final recommendations: a white bedskirt and taller lamps for the side tables. Kaplan also left a list of items a comfy guest room should be stocked with.
The total cost for Delaney's guest room makeover, including the paint job and Kaplan's fee, was just under $900. A price, to Delaney, that was worth every penny.
"I'm excited for the first time about the possibilities of the house," she says. "I feel like it's really mine. . . . That it's done for me."
Kaplan's fee: $375
Paint, including supplies and labor: $400
Four frames: $80
Existing furniture and accessories: $0