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Designing women

  • LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Lori McHale, left, and Jill Kearney, right, of Beautiful Healthy Homes, showed members of the Palmerton Concourse Club how to redesign an entrance or hallway of a home for the cold weather season.
    LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Lori McHale, left, and Jill Kearney, right, of Beautiful Healthy Homes, showed members of the Palmerton Concourse Club how to redesign an entrance or hallway of a home for the cold weather season.
Published April 13. 2010 05:00PM

As you walk in the door of your home or a room in your house, you should feel enveloped in warmth and comfort. But if you don't, what do you do?

According to Lehigh Valley-based real estate staging professionals, redesigners and color experts Jill Kearney and Lori McHale of Beautiful Healthy Homes, you can have the home you want with just a few simple tricks.

Sometimes, all it takes is using what you already have in a different setting or grouping. Sometimes a trip to the local Wal-Mart, Target or home store can result in a few inexpensive items that can give your home a "Wow" factor.

That was the message these two gals presented to a packed house at the last Palmerton Concourse Club meeting.

They started with an empty setting against a blank wall that might be a foyer or entrance hall of a home. In just minutes, they transformed it into three different vignettes for three different seasons.

"You change your wardrobe for the different seasons. Why not your home's accessories?" said Kearney.

She said she likes to warm up a space with lighting and McHale added a table lamp. For a cold-weather season, the lamp had a red patterned lamp shade, combined with a dark red glass vase with tall branches, a green plant, some artificial fruit and a unique bowl to hold carved wooden balls with a collection of books, and a colorful framed print hanging on the wall warmed this blank canvas into a cozy and inviting area.

For a spring look, the lamp was changed over to a burnished silver one with a white lamp shade, resting on a green leaf-patterned table runner. The hanging picture was replaced with an empty picture frame with a wreath hanging in the center.

A vase full of pink and fuchsia posies, a decorative plate with the words "Spring" on it resting in a plate rack, some artificial grass in a planter, some candles, a few birds, pretty ceramic bird bath holding jelly beans, and the look was fresh and inviting.

Kearney asked how many in the audience liked the beach. Many hands were raised.

"You can make your setting look beachy without going overboard," she said.

McHale changed the lamp again to one with clean simple lines and a white lampshade. She replaced the green table runner with brown fish netting. She placed a starfish and oyster shell against it.

By adding a tall clear glass container with seashell encrusted balls and sand, three tall aqua colored vases, a decorative seashell picture frame, and a different plant in a modern container.

McHale kept the empty picture frame hanging, but removed the wreath to reveal the words, "Gather here."

The words are prepasted, pre-spaced transfer wall lettering that can be found in most craft and home design stores with many words, phrases and quotes to choose from. Kearney said they are easy to place and remove.

Someone asked Kearney how she got into the redesign business and she said it was her mom.

"She called me from Florida one day and told me about this business that redesigns people's homes and told me that I do it all the time for my friends, why not do it and get paid for it," she laughed.

At the time, she was a decorative painter of wall murals and tiles.

"I was doing a lot of talking to the dog and thought I needed something more social. So I looked into it," she said.

Now she and McHale go into people's homes, offer a consultation and help redesign their homes.

"We'll come in, look at the function of the room, go through the house and put things together for the look the owner wants."

She told the audience about homeowners who fell in love with a sample home and had one built for them.

"They lived in it for five years and felt sad every time they came home, especially the husband. We went in, tweaked each room and when the husband came home, he just loved it and said it finally felt like a home.

"There's a lot to the psyche. People are stressed from their jobs, children, activities and if your house isn't comfortable to come home to, that's doesn't help. I'm not saying you should spend a lot to make your home beautiful. It's important to keep your priorities straight.

After the hurricane hit in Haiti, I now sponsor an orphan there. But, you can often times make a difference by just using things you already have but in a different way, a different location."

Another question from the audience asked Kearney how to frame family photographs.

"I don't like to see pictures hanging straight on a wall. I like to cluster them. Do them in all color or all black and white. Or change your frames to all one color. Paint is cheap. Paint them all one color and if you get tired of the color, just paint them a new color," she said.

Beautiful Healthy Homes also help seniors in transition. Sometimes seniors, widows and widowers want to downsize but become overwhelmed with all their belongings and become frozen with fear on how to start.

"We come in, help them decide what will fit in their new place and what to do with the stuff that won't. We're there on moving day and have everything in place by the end of the day. We come back the next day and accessorize for them."

Kearney says she and McHale love what they do.

"We consider it a kind of ministry."

Visit to learn more about Kearney and McHale's "ministry" for cleaner, healthier and more comfortable homes.

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