(ARA) The economy may be in the doldrums, but that doesn't mean your decor has to be there too. It's possible to turn dark, dreary and dated decor into light, lively and "now" on just a shoestring budget.

What's the secret to sprucing up on a shoestring? Lighten up literally.

Upgrading your home's lighting can impart a whole new atmosphere, and you don't need to spend big bucks on pricey new fixtures to do it. Simple, budget-friendly changes can make a big difference in how your home looks and feels, and how much you enjoy living there.

The experts at the American Lighting Association (ALA) offer a few tips for creating a big impact on a small budget.

First, consider the first impression guests (or potential buyers) have of your home. "Upgrading exterior lighting or entryway lighting can improve the curb appeal and first impression of your home," says Monty Gilbertson, manager of Lighting Designs by Wettsteins in La Crosse, Wis.

Michael Berman, a lighting consultant with Chatsworth, Calif-based Lamps Plus, agrees. "Replacing old, worn-out fixtures, purchasing inexpensive landscape lights to highlight interesting architectural elements or plantscapes can make it 'love at first sight' for potential buyers," he says.

Once you've upgraded the outside, take a look at the first parts of the house guests see often the entryway or dining room on modern floor plans.

"Changing the dining room chandelier and/or the foyer light will make major strides in improving the look and, in some cases, the efficiency of your home," Gilbertson says. "Fixtures in the entryway should set the style for the rest of the house," Berman adds. "Even a small flush-mount fixture can add style to an otherwise lackluster entry."

Next, install dimmers throughout the house, even in rooms where you might not normally think of using them, like the kitchen and bath, suggests Joe Rey-Barreau, an education consultant for the ALA and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky's School of Interior Design.

An upgrade that's well within the skills of most do-it-yourselfers, installing a dimmer can completely change the character and quality of a space. For example, dimmers in a bathroom enable you to use the facilities in the middle of the night without the jarring impact of turning on bright, overhead lighting. In a master bedroom, they can create a soothing or even romantic mood.

In other rooms, take a look at your table lamps, advise both Rey-Barreau and Jeff Dross, senior product manager for Kichler Lighting in Cleveland. "One way to make an impact on a small budget is by changing outdated lampshades with newer trend-forward versions that incorporate fashion-friendly colors, fabrics or patterns," Dross says. "Many companies sell stand-alone shades at budget-friendly prices."

Consider how you use table lamps as well, Rey-Barreau says. "How many do you use in a room? What types? Table lamps can create a more diverse quality of light, and adding a few accent lamps in a room can really change the quality of a space," he adds.

Simple upgrades in kitchens and baths can also deliver big impact and enhance your home's value on a shoestring budget, the experts agree.

Modern kitchens often hide lighting under cabinets or in the ceiling through recessed lighting. "Adding fixtures that can be shown off and enjoyed can make a big impact," Dross says. "Adding mini pendants is a good place to start. They add aesthetic appeal and build an interesting focal point at a fair price." Or, upgrade from a single bulb fixture in the kitchen to a multi-bulb unit with a dimmer, Gilbertson suggests.

In baths and kitchens, consider replacing fixtures with dated finishes with more contemporary choices. Many manufacturers now make light fixtures in finishes that complement some of the more popular choices for plumbing fixtures, Rey-Barreau points out.

Finally, when you're lighting a room, keep in mind that you need to use more than one light and more than one kind of light. A balance of overhead lights (on dimmers), floor lamps and/or table lamps will produce the most aesthetically pleasing, livable atmosphere.

To learn more about how to use lighting to enhance your home's decor, livability and salability, or to find an ALA showroom near you, visit www. AmericanLightingAssoc.com, or call (800) BRIGHT IDEAS (800-274-4484).

Courtesy of ARAcontent