Dina Sapen of the Ethan Allen store in Huntington explains...

Dina Sapen of the Ethan Allen store in Huntington explains the design styles of one of their pre-designed rooms to the design and style workshop class. (Feb. 12, 2011) Credit: Photo by Jason Andrew

With spring just weeks away, it's easy to walk around the house and crave a fresh look. With today's tighter economy, it never hurts to get free advice. Many retail home decor chains offer no-charge design classes and seminars.

"Our classes started in the aisles of the store," says The Home Depot spokeswoman Jennifer King. "A customer would come up and ask an associate about a project he was working on, and suddenly there would be a crowd around them. We decided to make things more formal by offering clinics and workshops."

These days, Home Depot's more than 20 Long Island locations regularly offer free in-store classes - as do other retail chains.

Pottery Barn

Where: Walt Whitman Mall, 160 Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington Station

Info: 631-549-5630, potterybarn.com

Classes: 10 a.m. select Sundays. Upcoming: How to throw the perfect party (March 27), How to design your family room (April 10) and Creating botanical arrangements (April 17).

The furniture and home accessories chain hosts small groups of customers for in-store chats focusing on designing a specific room in the home or entertaining smarter - natch, showcasing Pottery Barn products. The "perfect party" class will "focus on the design aspects of the party - tablescape, table settings, presentation of foods," says instructor Patty Galterio. Meanwhile, the April 10 class will prompt customers to first consider how the family room will be used and draw design inspirations from there. The April 17 class will cover faux and real flowers and plants. Galterio says, "We try to get people to look around their house and see what can be used in a different way."

Reservations are required for all classes. Participation includes a 10 percent off coupon for same-day use.

Ethan Allen

Where: Locations in Garden City (516-228-2130), Huntington Station (631-271-2900), Lynbrook (516-887-0042), Setauket (631-642-8163) and Water Mill (631-726-4652)

Info: ethanallen.com

Classes: 10 a.m. select Saturdays

The national furniture chain offers free design classes about every other month, focusing on general room design (reservations encouraged). On a recent Saturday, nearly 20 people attended one such class at the Huntington Station showroom. After a formal presentation, the class was led on a walk-through of the store to see examples of design elements. "We went over the whole thing with them," instructor Gina Terriaca says. "From space planning to how to use a color palette . . . and how to place accessories." A $150 store gift certificate was raffled.

The Home Depot

Where: Dozens of Long Island locations

Info: homedepot.com

Classes: March classes include Interior Paint (10 a.m. Saturdays), Small Bath Updates (1 p.m. Saturdays) and New and Innovative Kitchen Appliances (1 p.m. Sundays).

The Home Depot's in-store classes run the gamut - some teach customers home repair skills, while others are geared to aesthetic design elements and project planning. Reservations aren't required - in fact, walk-ins are welcome. Morna Marino regularly leads workshops devoted to do-it-yourself interior painting at the chain's Huntington location, which include considering how different types of lighting affect the room's design.

"In a bright room, colors get washed out," Marino says. "In a darker room, colors become more intense. Things in the room also reflect color and affect how the finished room will look."

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