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25 Creative Ways to Liven Up Your Home

By MARILYN SOLTIS
    As we wait for the economy to fully rebound, it’s okay to think small. Subtle touches can make a world of difference and don’t have to break the bank. 
    First, prepare your home so you can look at it with a fresh perspective. Before you even begin to think about adding one more thing to your décor, be sure to complete the following three exercises. You’ll save just by being able to see what you have. You might even have the perfect accessories right under your nose.

1 Declutter. One of the first recommendations made by professionals when you are trying to sell a home is to clear out all unnecessary items. If you don’t need or love that longtime possession, ditch it. Donate it to charity or give it to a friend. Sometimes just creating the illusion of more space is a good way to spruce up your environment.

2 Organize. There are so many different ways of organizing these days. There’s even a National Association of Professional Organizers. If you don’t have that kind of spatial talent, you can hire a professional to get you started or get some ideas from a visit to the Container Store. Design some new ways of organizing your necessities.

3 Clean. There’s nothing like a clean house to make you feel good. It’s better than therapy. Invest in some organic cleaning products for your health and well-being.

The Basics

4 Lighting. Indirect and layered lighting is important in every room. It sets the mood. Another way to contemporize is to go green. Change over to more energy-efficient lighting fixtures and replace your old bulbs. You’ll save a lot in electricity and help the environment.

5 Painting. No other aspect of your home can affect your mood more than color. It can convey fantasy, impulse and intuition or evoke memories. Let your imagination run wild and really express yourself without restriction.  It’s your home. Don’t worry about making a mistake—whatever you do can be easily covered up.

6 Easy to lay flooring. Many flooring products like new laminates and vinyl can look great—even when installed by do-it-yourselfers. Try a small room first and get comfortable with the process. Work up to more difficult materials like tile for the bathroom and kitchen. Instructional videos are available on the internet.

7 Window treatments. Organic is in. Bamboo and natural woven shades help bring nature in from the outside. Silk window treatments are one of the biggest design trends. Multi-colored shades can add a fresh look. Try some bold patterns if you think the room can handle them.
  
8 Kitchen Island. If you have the space, add an island in your kitchen. It will become the central meeting place for your family and guests, as well as offering additional storage and counter space, adding warmth and intimacy to the environment. Higher tables and butcher blocks also make for great instant islands. 

9 Fans. Air conditioning is a new invention. Many tropical paradise destinations still use fans for air circulation and cooling. It’s a great way to save on electricity, and fans come in many contemporary shapes and styles. You can use them in any room  to circulate stagnant air.

10 Mirrors. Even if you aren’t a narcissist, decorate with some interesting mirrors. Mirrors can attract light and brighten up dark corners. Use different shapes and frames for an eclectic look that can create drama or whimsy. The reflection of candle light in a wall of mirrors adds mystery and glamour.

11 Add a fireplace. Fire has ignited the imagination since early civilization. Now you can have multiple fireplaces or stoves in your home without expensive construction costs. New electric and ethanol fireplaces come in a variety of styles. They provide heat in cold weather and are economical to run.  Portable fireplaces can even be moved from room to room.

Accessorize

12 Indoor plants. Get some dramatic indoor plants for your health. It’s been proven that plants improve air quality.

13 Clocks. Shop around. Have fun with different styles and shapes of clocks. Think of wall, mantel, grandfather, retro, children’s, alarm and kitchen clocks. Many shops carry kitschy designs that add an element of fun to this practical workhorse.

14 Artwork. Cover your walls. Don’t be afraid to fill the walls and be creative in spacing. It should look unstructured and random while providing balance and interest. Even small leftover wall spaces can be filled in. 

15 Artifacts. Artifacts can cover a wide array of items, but generally they represent cultures of a bygone era and are made of naturally occurring materials. They can be expensive or just decorative, but they provide a unique feel and sophistication to any home. Place them strategically anywhere you want to make a statement.

16 Rugs. Bold-patterned rugs are in and are a great way to alter the dynamics of your space. Ethnic rugs give an exotic influence without being too pricey. Don’t be afraid of color. Persians go with just about any décor and can add rich texture to all rooms.

17 Antiques. Integrate the old with the new. Add an interesting piece here and there. Family heirlooms give a personal touch and provide an easy conversation piece. Antiques can also incorporate the right amount of eclecticism and add a designer touch to a boring room.

18 New dishes. Dinnerware collections are available in every style and price these days. Get rid of chipped and worn dishes and treat yourself to a new set of pottery or china with a chic design you enjoy. Basic white can be easily accessorized. You can even mix and match different dishes for an artsy table setting.

19 Bathroom accessories.  Don’t worry about the bathroom flat-screen. Buy some luxurious items that you can use right away. Try a contemporary bath mat and get some super-thick bath towels.  Go for a Zen-like atmosphere with muted natural colors. Accentuate with simple accessories and keep the space as clear as possible.

20 Bedroom linens. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important necessities for good physical and mental health. The area where you spend a third of your life isn’t the place to scrimp. There are few things that feel more luxurious than a high thread count. Treat yourself to natural fibers like Egyptian cotton. Keep bed linens organic to avoid allergic reactions, and simple to maintain a serene environment. 

21 Home office. Create a comfortable work space. Convert a closet, find an empty corner or utilize hidden space in the dining room, guest quarters or part of the living room. If you live in cramped quarters, use a multi-purpose piece of furniture and slide work materials out of the way when needed. 

22 Candles. Create a mood with subtle candlelight and natural fragrance. Use candles throughout the home to create a varied environment and ambiance. The low-level lighting will cover up a multitude of flaws—not to mention that everyone looks better in candlelight.

23 Books. One of the first places new visitors zero in on is the book collection.  They say a lot about us, whether we like it or not.  Book shelves and books strategically placed around the house provide a rhythm, color and sense of intrigue. Sort through the books you have and find new ways of categorizing them.

24 Flat-screen TV. Nothing dates your space like a boxy television. If your budget allows, replace it with a flat-screen on a contemporary stand or installed on the wall. Prices have been dropping over the past few years and quality has improved. Not a bad investment.

25 Screens. Oddly enough, screens can give the illusion of more space even when there isn’t any. Find a wall to adorn with a screen and it will look like there is another room behind it.  It’s another way to add architectural interest to an otherwise plain..... interior.

Published: December 09, 2009
Issue: Winter 2009 - Annual Philanthropy Guide