By Melinda Zupaniotis.
With the change in the seasons people often get restless looking to change something about themselves and their personal environment. Oftentimes, we look to our living space for a solution - isn’t that where the idea of “spring cleaning” came from?
It’s proven that an organized, serene home can bring on a calming effect and represent a safe escape from the hassles of daily life. However, in creating this refuge, some people find that the time and money spent in making-over their house can be a hassle in itself. There must be some way to quickly freshen up a home without burning a hole in your pocket...Yes, there is!
By incorporating one, or all, of the following ideas, you can transform your space into a comfy, cozy haven that you will be proud to share with your friends.
One of the easiest things to change about your home is the ambiance, or the general feeling evoked when entering. People are most responsive to things that trigger the senses, so why not plan on changing one thing centered around the five senses:
Sight: Lighting can make or break a mood. Darkness is probably not the best way to enter your home or to welcome guests. However, a drab interior, an overdo paint job or a child-centric home can be quickly and easily transformed by a subtle change in strategic lighting. Light can make that drab interior warm and inviting, that overdo paint job flawless and full of interesting shadows, and can leave the toys and videos of that child-centric home in the dark corners, instantly giving way to an adult environment! Additionally, the right light can be very flattering to people – so everyone wins! How to accomplish this:
1. Tea Lights for Teatime!
Votive candles are a wonderful and inexpensive way to achieve a change in lighting. Votives are available in large bulk packs of 50 and 100, starting as low as 99 cents! Hint: only use the votives that come with their own aluminum bottom to contain the wax. Stores sell many different kind of votive candle holders, but an another idea to personalize your home décor is to go to thrift stores and purchase coffee mugs, shot glasses, saucer plates, etc, that can serve as votive holders. Then, simply place the “holders” all over a room, light them and turn off most of the room lights. Voila! A lovely, calming environment.
2. Dim the lights please!
Putting a dimmer on the main light in a room is a good way to control the brightness. Depending on your handy-quotient, you can install a dimmer on a wall switch yourself, or you can pay an electrician to do the work for you. Alternatively, there are many different types of portable lamps – floor lamps, table lamps – that have a built in dimmer, requiring you to only turn a knob to find the most ideal light for the mood.
Smell: Smell can conjure up old memories, or help cement new ones. Additionally, aromas can transform peoples’ moods – for instance, lavender calms the mind and body while vanilla makes men feel romantic. These days, there are many different ways to utilize scent in your home. How to accomplish this:
1. Frankincense and Myrrh.
Incense comes in virtually every scent possible, and may be the easiest way to use scent because it is very inexpensive, highly accessible and requires only a match to do its work. These highly potent and concentrated aromas come in the form of a long stick or a small cone. Please make sure you have a properly treated incense holder to use when burning incense, because like anything that burns, there is the risk of fire.
2. Plug It In, Plug It In.
Supermarket shelves are full of all types of room deodorizers – some examples are scented candles, scented oils that plug into an electrical outlet, room spray and fabric refreshers. Go to the store and try out the different kinds – just be careful not to mix too many scents. A clash in smell can work the opposite effect, creating headaches and anxiety!
3. Burning the Midnight Oil.
An oil disk is a special round, heat-resistant disk with a hollow center that sits on the light bulb of a floor or table lamp. The disk is first saturated with a scented oil of choice, then placed on the bulb. The bulb then heats up the ring and forces the oil to evaporate, filling the room with the scent of the oil. Not only is this a wonderfully effective way to diffuse a scent, but it’s a great conversation piece!
Sound: People react to music, and playing peaceful music in the background of your home could subliminally calm you. Additionally, upbeat or thematic music can put guests in a cheerful, festive mood. How to accomplish this:
1. Variety Is The Spice Of Life!
If you have a multi-disc stereo system, put in the maximum number of CDs and set the stereo on “random” or “shuffle”. The stereo will automatically jump around and play music from each of the CDs. If you don’t have a multi-disc stereo, create your own mix CDs. Also, most DVD players also play MP3 discs, so it’s possible to burn a CD-Rom on your computer holding up to 200 songs, and play it through your television. Finally, if you have a portable digital music carrier, such as an iPod, it’s possible to hook up the equipment to your stereo and just listen to your music-on-the-go - but while at home!
2. Video Plays the Radio Star!
Most digital cable and some satellite TV carriers now contain music channels. It’s possible to turn on a TV channel that is dedicated to one type of music, classified into categories such as Modern Rock, Singers and Standards, Old School Rap, Classical and even Party Favorites. Just choose on a channel, and walk away. No need to change discs or remember what’s playing – the TV lists artist, album and song for you!
Touch: The texture of a fabric or the warmth of a blanket can create a change in the feel of your home. Try adding a velvet pillow to an armchair or a chenille throw onto the couch. Even the addition of a washable suede ottoman can completely change the dynamic of a room, adding elegance or comfort, depending on your mood.
Taste: Welcome your guests (and yourself!) to your home with a little treat. The candy dish is an old-fashioned, but still-appreciated accessory to a home. Sure, most people tossed it at the beginning of the last household diet, but it is still possible to set it out, in moderation, of course. Or, instead of filling the bowl with chocolate, how about fat-free licorice whips? Or even apples and oranges? A little offering and a little taste can set your home apart from everyone else’s.
LESS IS MORE
Cluttered areas can create internal turmoil and bring on negative feelings about your personal space. Organizational experts estimate that at any given time, the average person has at least 12 garbage bags full of non-essential things in the house. Why not get rid of some things today? How to accomplish this:
1. Buy a box of extra large, extra strong lawn bags and get ready to fill them.
2. Go through each part of your home and look for things to throw out that have not been used in a year. Extra credit if you even forgot it existed.
3. Separate things into a “trash” pile and a “charity” pile. Don’t forget that many things you have can be donated to charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill. You can also use your donations as a tax write-off!
What can be simpler than changing your sheets? A great way to spruce up a stale sleeping area is to invest in new bedding. The prices of top-quality bedding are dropping fast and even greater deals can be found on the Internet at discount or outlet sites. Some things to keep in mind when shopping for new bedding:
1. What’s Your Number?
The higher the thread-count, the softer and silkier the sheets will feel. Look for a thread-count of 400 or higher for the best quality and the most luxury. Some discount places even sell a thread-count up to 1000!
2. Do You Dream In Color?
Most bedspreads are multi-colored, allowing you to coordinate the color of the sheets with the many colors of the bedspread. Take advantage of this so that each time you change your sheets, you have a new configuration. You no longer need to feel locked into white sheets!
3. Always Accessorize.
When buying a new comforter, see if there are matching items to go along with it. Such accessories as bed skirts, shams and even drapes can pull a room together quickly and easily.
It’s hard to imagine that something that seems so permanent is so easy to change, but your kitchen cabinets can provide a simple source of transformation. Whether you have wood or Formica cabinets, a few little moves can provide a completely different look.
1. Pain the Pantry.
If your cabinets are made of wood, sand the cabinet fronts and re-stain them, or paint them a complimentary color. In order to do either, you will need to take the cabinet doors off the hinges with a screwdriver and place them on a flat, secure surface for sanding or painting. Also, think bold! If you choose to paint, try to find a vibrant color to liven up the busiest room in the house!
2. Can You Handle It?
If you have either wood or Formica cabinet doors, you can simply change the hardware on the cabinets. Do you have dingy or old-fashioned pulls and hinges on your cabinets? Replace them inexpensively with something brand new and modern. Everywhere from your local hardware store to the giant warehouse home store in your neighborhood will have a selection of interesting knobs and connectors. With the simple twist of a screw, you’ll have instantly given your kitchen a facelift.
3. Blow the doors off!
Well, not really, but by taking the doors off your wood or Formica cabinets, you’ve automatically opened the space and made your kitchen more modern and roomier. Simply unscrew the hinges and remove the door. If you find that you are left with unsightly holes where the hinge screws had been, consider attaching a complimentary decorative piece over the blemished area, such as a hook to hold a dishtowel. Having open cabinets is also a great way to ensure that you keep your shelves tidy.
Painting may seem like a big and expensive endeavor, but it really need not be. With a little imagination, you can change the scheme of your home with minimal work and limited funds
1. My One and Only.
Who says you need to paint the whole wall? What if you only painted one wall? In a room with 3 or 4 walls, paint only one wall in a completely different, but complimentary shade. For instance, if you have three navy blue walls, you can paint one wall a color such as cabernet, which is a shade of red with blue undertones. Then against that one wall, depending on the room you’ve painted, position a larger piece of furniture, such as an entertainment center, dresser or buffet, to cover the space, without covering the whole effect.
2. Give It a Trim.
Trimming a room can add richness and depth without taking all your time, energy or cash. You can pick a contrasting paint color (if your room is white, the world’s your oyster) and splash a little color around doorways, molding or windows, or you can even find a nice adhesive border at your local hardware or home décor store. These borders usually have a glue backing that just needs a wet sponge to activate. Just wet and press against the wall, using a level as your guide, and you have a whole new look. Also, while these borders are usually positioned at the top of the wall where the ceiling meets, don’t feel locked in to that - you can place a border anywhere. For example, to create a wainscoting effect: paint the lower half of the wall one color (usually white) and the upper half another color, and place the border in the middle to create a separation (and cover up any imperfections in your paint job!).
3. …Like a Sponge…
One way to cut the time and cost of painting a room is to use a sponge as your tool. Purchase a natural sea sponge wherever you buy your paint and lightly cover the flat end of the sponge with paint. Gently dab the wall in one area with the sponge to create a whimsical, airy pattern, allowing the original color of the wall to peek through. Do not wipe the sponge on the wall – this would create a solid coverage and you want your color to look like a puff of a cloud. Once you have covered one area, move onto the next. Staying in one area at a time will ensure that you keep control of the stippled effect.
Never underestimate the power of fresh flowers. A colorful arrangement in the middle of a table or on the kitchen counter can liven up a room, as well as adding a glorious natural scent to the air. Once a week, purchase a bouquet or two of diverse, in-season flowers and divvy them up among a variety of vases – bud vases, stem vases, long neck, fishbowl, etc. A few stems can go a long way. Then, place the vases all over the house in interesting sightline areas. Each time you pass by, they will brighten your day!
Feng Shui (pronounced fung schway) is the ancient Chinese art of designing your home’s interior in such a way as to let the proper energy, or chi, flow smoothly, thereby bringing good things. Feng Shui involves designating a specific area for the nine key points of life – wealth, knowledge, fame, love, creativity, friends, career, family and health – according to the floor plan, either of the entire house or room-by-room. Each key point has an assigned color, and there are many Feng Shui accessories available, such as crystals and flutes, to help add to the effectiveness. Some people hire a Feng Shui consultant to map and design their interior, while others pick up a book that guides them through the principles, and most Feng Shui practitioners sing the praises of this miraculous and mysterious art.
Sometimes, simply rearranging furniture is all that’s needed to change the entire look of your home. Look for interesting furniture configurations, opposite from what already exists in your home, and grab a partner to help you move things around – don’t forget to lift with the knees! For instance, if your sofa is against a wall, why not try turning it at an angle, and bringing an arm chair in close around a coffee table to create an intimate conversation area. Or, if your bed is against the wall, try placing it catty-corner and replacing your bedside tables with a shelf attached to the wall on each side of the bed. Even simply turning your dining room table 90 degrees can change the whole look and feel of your dining room! And best of all, it costs nothing!
What is the most underutilized part of your home? The wall! For some reason, people neglect this part of their house with the most surface area and the greatest potential for cheap décor and organization.
1. Home Is Where the Art Is.
Home décor and art supply stores, as well as flea markets and catalogues offer an endless supply of inexpensive art. Alternatively, you can purchase posters and lithographs and have them framed – or to save money, buy things in a standard size, find an inexpensive, standard frame and do it yourself! Hint: When hanging art, use a special frame hook of the right weight so you don’t ruin your walls. These can be found at hardware or art stores.
2. Say Cheese!
Photos are a great way for do-it-yourself-ers to create their own art. First of all, you can purchase a CD-Rom containing classical art, or do an Internet search for classic art (be sure the images are not copyrighted!) and then print the 8 x 10 images you’d like at one of the instant digital photo machines at your local store. Pair the photos with a cheap, but attractive, frame purchased at a discount or dollar store and you have your own custom masterpieces! For personal photos, why not take your digital pictures or a bunch of scanned prints of family, friends and places – even the dog! – and upload them to one of the many online photo websites, such as www.shutterfly.com, www.ofoto.com, and www.snapfish.com. From here, you can share the photos online, but more importantly, you can order actual prints of your photos in the sizes you desire. Once they arrive in a few days, frame them using the aforementioned dollar-store frames and arrange them on a wall for all to see!
3. Don’t Shelf This Idea!
At a hardware, home décor or storage specialty store, purchase some shelving for the walls of your home. These shelves can help enhance a room by creating dimension and texture, while also bringing beautiful things to eye-level and de-cluttering the precious floor space of your home. Books and photos, candles and curios, souvenirs and stereos, and much more, can all be moved to the shelves, freeing up room for actual living!
4. Suspended Entertainment.
Have you ever looked at your big, bulky entertainment center and thought about how much room it takes up…and what you could do with that room. Why not take your entertainment elements up a level – onto the wall. This can be done a few ways:
Here’s Looking At You, Kid. Adding some mirrors around the house, especially in tight corners, can instantly seem to expand the size of your home, not to mention provide a quick way to reenergize your space. Whether it’s a wall mirror hung in the foyer or a series of mirrored tiles adhered to the wall behind the couch, the illusion of endless depth that mirrors create will enhance your living space. Plus, mirrors can be strategically placed to reflect light or to spotlight a specific feature of your house. Also, try hanging a mirror high on the wall and position it at a downward angle to create a modern effect. In your bedroom, you can install a floor length wall mirror or a standing looking glass to not only add dimension, but for a functional purpose.
New window dressings can change the feel of your entire house. Scientists have proven that depressed people cheer up when exposed to light. Your house is the same way. Give your home some strategic light and you may not need to make any other changes.
1. Mini Me.
Exchange your window shades for mini blinds. Mini blinds are well priced, easy to find and come in a wide variety of standard sizes. Also, they allow you to control the amount of light entering the room, while still affording privacy.
2. Sheer Perfection.
Swap your old heavy curtains for sheer panels in a complimentary color. These panels have become very common and are well priced, allowing you to swap them out as the season’s change! Pair them with a decorative curtain rod over your windows or French doors and you have a very easy way to bring light into your home while enhancing your color scheme.
If, when you hear the word “rug”, you instantly imagine wall-to-wall carpeting, think again. For a cheap and easy solution, think throw rugs or area rugs! Precut area rugs in solids and patterns, in industrial and plush quality, in rolls and on hangers, are available at any home décor or warehouse-type hardware store, and at reasonable prices. Simply measure the space you want to cover and then go purchase a rug close to the dimensions. If you have a small space to cover, look for a throw rug or even a runner, perhaps in the same color or pattern as an area rug to tie the room together. Already have wall-to-wall carpeting? Find an area rug that aesthetically contrasts your carpeting (don’t be afraid of oriental rugs, too) and place it over your wall-to-wall at an interesting angle, and arrange your furniture on top. Again, it’s all about dimension and a fresh look!
Whether it’s your bedroom or your living room, pillows can add a new look to your space. First of all, pick interesting colors that go with, but may not be one of, the colors of the room. Next, look for great fabrics like chenille, velvet or satin, and fun nuances like beads, tassels and fringe…things that look rich and that invite touch. Add a couple of pillows to your sofa, one on your arm chair, a few on your bed…and for fun, get a few oversized pillows for the floor of your TV room to accommodate extra guests, or for when the kids want to sit on the floor! Hint: A great place to shop for throw pillows is an off-price department store. In the houseware sections of these stores, they often have a great selection of different colors, fabrics and sizes at rock-bottom prices.
Is your sofa old, but you can’t afford to buy a new one? Cover it! You can buy ready-made fabric slipcovers from a variety of places – both retail and online – for a reasonable price, in a huge range of fabrics and patterns. The best part is that you can throw them in your washing machine, and change them at will, depending on season or mood. These slipcovers are easy to put on your furniture and last long, withstanding frequent use, kids and even pets!
You can create new spaces in your house by dividing a room with screens. If you want a small office space in your family room, but are worried about privacy, or of exposing clutter, put up a three-panel screen between your desk area and the family area. You can still be with your loved ones, but retain your focus to complete your work. Or perhaps your two children share a room out of necessity…use a screen to separate the room and give each child his or her own space. Maybe you have a small kitchen with no specific space for a pantry or to store the cleaning supplies. Put up a screen and a pantry shelf can go behind it, or you can line up the mops and brooms and place the attractive screen in front.
Think of the possibilities!