Decorating on a dime contest 0212

Men laying new hardwood flooring

For this year’s “Decorating on a Dime” Contest we wanted to find out just how far $1,000 goes these days. Atlanta residents accepted the challenge and were happy to share their budget home decorating projects with us, including exactly how much each item cost. We hope the savings strategies of our winners will inspire you.









Non-Professional Winner Kevin Zschach surprises his wife with a well-furnished back porch for $471

Kevin wanted to do something special for his wife, Laura, for their eighth wedding anniversary. “I wanted to give her something she would really love,” says Zschach. “An outdoor space, quiet, a place to get away from the kids, and I hopefully have captured everything that she wanted.” So he decided to surprise her by transforming their lifeless back porch into an outdoor sanctuary.

For three-and-half weeks, Kevin secretly cleaned, furnished and decorated the space, all on a shoestring budget. Many of the new features were upcycled or repurposed, such as bamboo roll-up curtains that were painted with large circles and stripes and hung as artwork above a pair of new wicker chairs. Kevin also mounted four reclaimed plantation shutters on the porch screen windows for architectural interest.

Several items came from other parts of the house, such as a glass door from the front entrance, which replaced a damaged screen door; a chandelier from the kitchen, which was painted and retrofitted with candlesticks in place of light bulbs; and a sisal area rug from inside, which provides added comfort on the back porch. Using leftover wood scraps from previous projects, Kevin made a side table and two accent tables to go in the seating area. The kids’ toy chest also got a fresh coat of paint to blend in with the rest of the furniture.

Because of his resourcefulness, Kevin was able to finish out the space with flair. In addition to the seating area, he was able to add a dining area with a new dining table, table linens and serveware. String lights and lanterns, throw pillows and a soothing water fountain provide the final touch.

When the time for the big reveal arrived, Kevin grabbed a video camera to record the special moment and lead Laura with her eyes closed to the back porch along with their two young sons. A few moments later, Kevin tells Laura to open her eyes. “Oh my gosh!” Laura says in disbelief, taking in the dramatic transformation. “Oh… my… gosh.” “Happy anniversary!” Kevin says. “Oh my gosh,” she continues. “Kevin Zschach! How did you? This is amazing!” Now, not only do Kevin and Laura have a new and improved back porch, but an unforgettable memory too.





Teak dining set (Cost Plus World Market): T$159
Club chairs (Target): $130
Water fountain (Home Depot): $99
Lanterns (Pottery Barn Outlet): $42
Dishes and napkins (Old Time Pottery): $12
Citronella candles (Pier 1): $6
Placemats (Target): $8
Throw pillows (IKEA): $8
Spray paint (Krylon): $4
Willow sticks (IKEA): $3

TOTAL: $471


Non-Professional Honorable Mention Michelle Rothmeier, dining room, $910

Since purchasing a 1952 ranch-style home in March 2010, Michelle Rothmeier and her husband, David, have been renovating and redecorating each room to help bring out its charms. One of Michelle’s most recent projects, the dining room, showcases her “young traditional” style as well as her artistic abilities. After investing in a high-quality dining table, Michelle set about updating the rest of the space with paint, fabric and inexpensive accessories. She even made the large sunburst mirror that hangs on the dining room wall by gluing cut bamboo sticks onto a round mirror and covering it with metallic spray paint. “I find that I often change out pieces like art and linens in my home, so these inexpensive but fun DIY projects suit our space well,” Michelle says. An attorney by day, Michelle recounts her home makeover adventures and offers design tips and inspiration on her blog Ten June (





Dining table (Cost Plus World Market): $450
Flat-weave area rug (IKEA): $200
Wall paint (Behr): $50
Vintage dining chairs (Habitat for Humanity ReStore) and
slipcovers (Kmart): $50
Chair cushions (Cost Plus World Market): $30
Pendant light and lighting kit (Crate & Barrel): $25
Vintage books (Habitat for Humanity ReStore): $20
Metallic spray paint (Krylon): $15
Stencil for wine rack (Hobby Lobby): $15
Blank canvas (Hobby Lobby) & painter’s tape (Scotch Blue): $15
Throw pillows (IKEA and Target): $15
Round mirror (Target): $10
Vases (IKEA): $10
Bamboo sticks (Michaels): $5

TOTAL: $910


Non-Professional Honorable Mention Jeannette Sola-Below, master bedroom, $990

To capitalize on scenic views of the surrounding mountains and forest, Jeannette Sola-Below and her husband, Kenny, chose to convert the third-story loft of their rustic barn home into a master bedroom retreat. With plenty of space to play with but not much of a budget for renovations, the couple focused in on furnishings and custom details to make it their own. “I knew that wallpaper would be out of my budget, so I decided to hand-paint birch trees around the perimeter of the room,” Jeannette says. She and her husband also built a platform bed frame, using a reclaimed fireplace mantel as the headboard. “Except for our bedding, table lamps and cowhide rugs, all the furnishings were bought at thrift shops and given a new look,” Jeanette says. Other improvements include the installation of decorative lampshades to cover unsightly light bulbs on the ceiling fans and replacement of the door to the adjacent screened porch to maximize the view.




Two cow hide area rugs (roadside vendor): $375
Materials for bed frame (The Home Depot): $150
Bedding (IKEA): $105
Table lamps (Home Goods): $80
Exterior door ( $75
Lamp shades (IKEA): $40
Dresser (Waypoint Center Thrift Store): $35
Paint and supplies (The Home Depot): $35
Curtain hardware (Ross): $30
Night stands (Thrift Store DcC’s Ministry): $25
Desk (Atlanta Union Mission Thrift Store): $20
Curtains (Goodwill): $10
Throw pillows (Goodwill): $10

TOTAL    $990


Professional Winner Yamini Mudaliar, Urbanmotifs LLC ( guest bedroom, $935.90

Tasked with creating a standout guest bedroom on a budget, Yamini Mudaliar, chief designer at Urbanmotifs LLC, selected a color palette of blues and yellows along with custom artwork to transform the space. At the center of the redo is a handmade, hand-printed linen headboard framed with distressed wood trim that matches the work done on the dresser in the room, a Craigslist find. Surrounding the headboard on either side is an elegant stencil pattern Mudaliar found online, which creates the illusion of vertical space and softens the lines of the accent wall. Coordinating bed linens and throw pillows introduce yellow into the design, adding contrast and interest to the focal point of the room. To top it off, Mudaliar hung up canvas art that she hand-painted and displayed a collection of sculptures on the dresser and night stand. Completed in just four days, the bedroom “went from being ‘just a space’ to a chic and boutique-looking bedroom all for under $1,000,” says Mudaliar.

Bedroom-makeover_1 Bedroom-makeover_2


Wall lights and wiring (Lowe’s): $175.00

Occasional chair (TJ Maxx): $117.00
Quilt (Target): $98.00
Linen fabric (Jo-Ann): $80.00
Paint and paint tools (Lowe’s): $75.00
Crown molding (Lowe’s): $61.00
Dresser (Craigslist): $45.00
Bedspread (TJ Maxx): $39.99
Side table (This, That and the Other, Duluth consignment store): $35.00
Curtains and curtain rod (TJ Maxx): $35.00
Throw pillows on bed (Target): $25.98
Blank canvas for artwork (Michaels): $24.99
1×4 boards (The Home Depot): $20.00
Area rug (Target): $19.99
Horse sculpture (IKEA): $15.99
Bed skirt (Target): $15.99
Sculpture on side table (Puerto Rico vacation souvenir): $15.00
Basket (TJ Maxx): $12.99
Throw pillow on chair (TJ Maxx): $12.00
Laminate for free printable stencil (FedEx): $7.99
Olive oil bottle planter (Cost Plus World Market): $3.99

TOTAL: $935.90


Professional Honorable Mention Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole, Kandrac & Kole Interior Designs, Inc. (, conference room, $993

When designing a new conference room for their Acworth-based design firm, Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole looked to the colors associated with their branding—pink and green—for inspiration. “We wanted the space to be brightly colored to bring us creative energy but still be sophisticated enough to appeal to our clients,” says Kole. First, the duo painted the walls in the previously empty room grass green. Then, furniture selection began. The designers decided to use an antique dining table that had belonged to Joann’s grandmother as a conference table to complement the historic architecture of their building. A set of eight matching chairs were located at a flea market and updated with bright pink paint and white patent vinyl seats. With the addition of handmade canvas art, a black-and-white houndstooth area rug and a statement-making chandelier to pull it all together, the designers are ready to do business.

Dining-room_makeover_1 Dining-room_makeover



Area rug (Home Decorators Collection): $359
Fabric for stretchers (Mod Green Pod): $180
Bookcase (IKEA): $129
Chandelier (IKEA): $89
Stretchers (IKEA): $60
Six side chairs (Scott Antique Market): $60
Paint (Sherwin-Williams) and vinyl (Norbar) for chairs: $60
Wall paint (Sherwin-Williams): $56

TOTAL: $993


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