How to Brighten a Dark Home

Dreading the end of Daylight Saving Time? Trick your way into a brighter space — even when the natural light prospects are dim.

Whether you live in a large home with a dark interior or a small apartment with only one window, follow these tips to bring in more sunshine — or at least make it look that way.

Paint it light and bright

Colors and values are nothing more than the light that reaches our eyes after bouncing off objects.

The amazing thing about white is that it reflects most of the light that hits its surface, creating the illusion of light. Case in point: that glowing ball in the sky we call the moon.

Paint colors that are saturated yet light in value create a similar effect, while lending their own distinctive personalities to a space.

Keep the contrast

A kitchen with white cabinets, countertops, walls and backsplashes is about as bright as it gets, yet the lack of variety can leave the overall effect a bit dull.

To keep things interesting, introduce contrast. Choose accessories, cookware and decorations in your favorite color, or even decide on an entire palette.

Sneak in some style and personality with a colorful mosaic backsplash, or add drama to the scene with dark furniture, picture frames or patterns.

Strategically place mirrors

Mirrors cannot make a room look brighter on their own, though there is some truth to the mirror myth, since they’re excellent at reflecting natural light in rooms that already receive it.

Don’t expect to get the same effect in dim hallways and bathrooms, though, since it does no good to duplicate a dim view. So, go ahead — replace those huge panels of mirrored glass in your bathroom with more attractive framed mirrors. You won’t miss out after all.

Install new windows

Yes, installing an entire window or two is the nuclear option, but if your home is so dim that you’re forced to keep the lights on all day, then it could be taking a toll on your utility bills — or even your mental well-being!

This isn’t a decision to take lightly (no pun intended), so talk to a contractor to discuss options and pricing before you break out that sledgehammer. You might be better off installing a skylight or light tubes.

Eliminate glare

Sometimes the problem isn’t the amount of light, but rather the quality. Overhead lights can brighten up a room, but the effect is harsh as high-noon sunlight.

Instead, you want the diffuse, indirect light of early morning. Place lights near the walls, and place LED strips under cabinets to cover the wall in a soft glow. Be sure to include task lighting wherever it’s needed most, such as the home office or wherever you need to read and work.

Rethink window treatments

If your curtains cover up too much of the window, replace them with something less obstructive. Sheer and semisheer window treatments let in plenty of light, without sacrificing privacy during the day.

If you’re tired of pulling up the Venetian blinds or plantation shutters every day, replace them with blackout window treatments you can open all the way during the day and close at night.

Brighten the view outside

Maybe you’re too busy focusing on the indoors to see the forest for the trees. But all those trees and overgrown foundation shrubs can block natural light from reaching the house, so cut those bushes and trim those tree limbs. If necessary, call an arborist.

Also, use plants with variegated or silver leaves in your landscape to reflect light indoors, and consider renovating your patio and paving it with something brighter.

 

Replace doors

Doors present a great opportunity to let in more light, improve the view from inside and make the entry more welcoming.

Since your front door is a reflection of your home’s personality, as well as your own, pick a style that’s appropriate to the architecture. If you’re concerned about privacy, choose one with stained glass or small windows at the top. Even a small amount of natural light will make a huge difference.

Clean windows

It ought to be obvious, but when was the last time you cleaned all your home’s windows, both inside and out?

To avoid streaks on outdoor surfaces, don’t bother with the window cleaner and paper towels. Wash the windows with a sponge and mildly soapy water (dish soap will do), wipe dry with a squeegee, and finish them off with a soft chamois.

 

Posted by Steve Asbell on Zillow

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10 Ways to Make a Small Bathroom Look Bigger

Can’t knock down walls? No problem! Work a little design magic to make even the tiniest bathroom feel spacious.

Small bathroom spaces aren’t found just in apartments and condos — they’re in our guest bathrooms and powder rooms, too. Since no one likes feeling crowded, here are a few tips for making any small bathroom seem bigger — no wall demolition required.

Brighten the room

Bring in as much light as possible. Light, bright rooms always feel more spacious than dark and drab ones.

  • Wall color. Paint the walls and ceiling the same light color to make the bathroom feel double its size. Anytime an area of the room is a different color, it chops the room into different compartments, making it seem smaller.
  • Windows. If you have a window, use sheer window coverings to maximize the natural light.
  • Lighting. Install additional flush-mount wall or ceiling light fixtures to increase the light in the room.

Add mirrors

Install larger — and more — mirrors than you typically would in a bathroom. The reflected light will open your small space into one that feels more spacious.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Install a sliding door

Swinging doors can take up almost half the room, depending on how small the space is. A sliding barn door or a wall-pocket door won’t encroach on your bathroom’s already limited real estate.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Think pedestal sink

The added bulk of a full vanity takes up valuable space, so try a pedestal sink instead. You may not have a place for soaps or towels on the vanity, but there are plenty of wall-mounted solutions perfect for bathroom accessories.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Streamline storage

Keep all storage as flush with the walls as possible, because anything that sticks out will chop up the space and close it in. Install recessed shelving and medicine cabinets instead.

Choose light-colored flooring

Even if your walls and ceiling are light and bright, a dark floor will negate their effect and close the space in. Keep the flooring light to create a space with a bright and open flow.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Eliminate clutter

Nothing crowds a space faster than clutter. A good rule of thumb: If you don’t need it there, store it elsewhere. Pare what you keep in the bathroom down to the bare necessities.

Hide the bathmat

Having a bathmat on the floor all the time can make your bathroom feel smaller. Put your bathmats away when you’re not using them to expose the flooring and make the space appear larger.

Raise the shower curtain bar

Raising your shower curtain bar all the way to the ceiling draws your eyes up and makes the ceiling seem taller, creating the illusion of a larger space.

Photo from Zillow listing.

The same goes for any window treatments. Raising sheer curtain panels to the ceiling also creates the illusion of a larger window, making the small bathroom seem larger.

Go frameless, clear, and cohesive in the shower

Clear glass shower doors make the room appear larger, while frosted glass breaks up the space and makes it seem smaller than it already is. The same goes for a frame around the glass. A frame can make the area seem choppy rather than smooth and open.

Additionally, install the same shower tile from floor to ceiling. The seamless look from top to bottom adds cohesion and openness.

Just a few changes to your small bathroom can make dramatic differences in how open it feels. Once you’ve tried these tips and tricks in the bathroom, apply them throughout your home! It’s all about creating the illusion of space.

Posted by Christina El Moussa on Zillow

 

We Asked Interior Designers: What Small Changes Make the Biggest Difference?

Give your rooms a fresh look with these designers’ best tips. Image: Catherine Staples Interiors

Sometimes interiors need change. Whether your style feels a little too outdated or your tastes have changed, making over the rooms in your home is a great way to give yourself a fresh start. However, for most of us, taking on the cost of a complete redesign is not always feasible, even if an update is sorely needed.

With that in mind, we called in the pros. We asked top interior designers to share their best tips on which small design changes make a big difference. Keep reading to learn how you can make a huge impact on your home without breaking the bank.

 

Go bold with your accent wall. Image: LMB Interiors

1. Add an accent wall

“To drastically change the look and feel of a room without spending a lot of money, paint an accent wall,” advises Todd W. G. Corder, the founder of Deja vu Decor. “A pop of color will instantly draw the eye and is a great way to liven up a room with no more than the cost of a can of paint.”

Where accent walls are concerned, there are a few details to keep in mind. The first is placement. Technically, any wall can be used as an accent, but it really should highlight your focal point. In living rooms, this can mean placing the accenting color around a mantle or some built-in shelving. In bedrooms, by the headboard is best.

Aesthetics are the other consideration. A bright paint color certainly does the job, but it’s not the only option. Darker neutrals like black or chocolate brown serve the same purpose. Contrasting materials can also be used. Wallpaper is an excellent choice, as is a patterned tile or even wood paneling.

 

Use texture to add visual interest. Image: Thomas Towne Reavey Inc

2. Vary the texture of accessories

“Texturizing a room is a game changer. Accent pillows in varying fabrics and shades can add another layer of depth to a room. Another opportunity to add texture is through the materials that your accessories are made from. Consider using metals, woven baskets and blankets,” says Dawn Stafford, the owner of Gathering Souls, a concierge design service in Fairfax, VA.

Conceptually, texture can be a bit hard to pin down. The best way to think of it is by evaluating how an item looks like it feels. Take the picture above, for example. Consider how you’re easily able to tell that the surface of the coffee table feels rough, while the blanket on the couch is soft.

Successful interior design is all about layering these contrasts. When you’re sprucing up a room on a budget, take stock of the textures in the accessories you already own. Then, look for additional items that would serve as their opposite. If need be, consider moving your existing accessories to different rooms as a way of giving your home an update that’s free of charge.

 

Include various types of lighting. Image: Black and Milk

3. Re-evaluate lighting

“You’ll need lighting in all the corners of the room; try to avoid just one ceiling light,” says Sarah Elsley, the voice behind Dream of Home. “Use wall lights and floor lights together, so the lighting isn’t concentrated to one place and spreads in an even glow around the room.”

There are four distinct types of lighting you can incorporate into a space. They are:

  • Natural: Any light that comes into your home from the outside via doors and windows.
  • Ambient: Light meant to illuminate the entire room, usually from an overhead source.
  • Accent: A light source that’s meant to highlight a particular feature of the room.
  • Task: Lighting used for a specific purpose, such as desk lamps or reading lights.

Ideally, a room involves a combination of these light sources. Take stock of the lighting you have in place and then look for which types are missing. Fill in the gaps where needed and you’ll be surprised how much of a difference you’ll see.

 

Styled surfaces give your home a curated look. Image: Alvhem Mäkleri & Interiör

4. Give surfaces deliberate style

“Coffee tables, side boards and bookshelves scream to be styled. It is amazing what you can pull together from the items in your own home. No need to go shopping for knickknacks; try shopping in your home first,” suggests Ana Cummings, the owner of ANA Interiors.

Pulling off this tip is all about having the arrangement look intentional. In all honesty, the items you put on these surfaces aren’t as important as how you display them. Do your best to lay out your items in groupings, stick to odd numbers and be sure to vary the pieces in terms of their direction, size and color. If need be, you can always look for some design inspiration to help you get started.

 

Sometimes small changes make a big difference. Image: International Custom Designs

No matter what your personal style is, at some point, you’re probably going to want to change things up. When that happens, there’s no need to wait until you’ve saved enough money to redo the whole room. Even the pros say small design changes can make all the difference. Keep their advice on hand for the next time you need to shake up your interiors. Their tips will help you make a huge impact at an affordable price.

Posted by Tara Mastroeni on Freshome

3 Design Tricks That Will Make Your Small Space Feel Big

With tiny homes and personal decluttering trends taking the world by storm, many people are learning to do more with less.

Do you have a small space in your home that you’re unsure what to do with? Or is your cramped apartment forcing you to be creative in your living arrangements? You’re not alone.

Make your small room or living area fit your needs with clever solutions that will streamline your life and maximize your space.

Paint can work wonders

Choosing the right paint color for your small room can instantly give the impression of more space or emphasize its cozy feel. Traditional neutrals like white, cream and light gray are great choices because they provide a clean and streamlined look, while making the room feel brighter and more expansive.

Painting the ceiling white to draw the eye upward is an easy way to create visual openness overhead. You’ll have an airy and inviting space in no time.

Courtesy of Orlando Soria.

On the other hand, if you want to play up the small space vibe even more, go bold with dark colors. It’s a fun and unique design choice to emphasize the smallness of a room by making a cozy den-like atmosphere with colors like black, dark gray and navy.

Courtesy of Allison Lind.

Whether you decide to go light or dark, adding paint to your small space will help you get the effect you are going for in a quick and budget-friendly way.

Savvy storage

With tight spaces, there isn’t always room for all the storage needed for belongings, clothing, office supplies and more. By incorporating creative and flexible storage solutions, you can easily keep clutter out of sight, while still keeping everything you need handy.

For example, the kitchen is a great place to implement clever storage. Roll-away islands and pantries create an adjustable cooking area to fit your needs.

Courtesy of Sandra Bird.

Add storage by using the space beneath your cabinets for hanging spices or wine glasses, and attaching holders to the backs of cabinet doors to keep foil and cleaning supplies neatly out of sight.

Don’t forget about uncommon spaces like ceilings for hanging items like bicycles out of the way, or adding shelving high up in closets for rarely used items.

Multi-tasking furniture

When you have limited floor space, it’s important to make your furniture work double duty. Choose pieces that have hidden storage and multiple functions, or can be compacted and stored when not in use.

Photo from Zillow listing.

If you can’t fit a dresser in your bedroom, try using drawers or crates under the bed for clothing and extra linens. A pouf or leather ottoman can easily transition from a seat to a footrest or side table.

Add function to your entryway by employing a bench with storage inside to hide extra shoes, gloves, and scarves. And if you have wall space to spare, hang a fold-down dining table.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Using modular pieces that can serve different purposes or fold out of the way frees up room to make your space comfortable and livable for you and your guests.

Limited square footage doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice function and style. Small space living is a great way to lead a simplified and streamlined life. With creative thinking, you can go from a cluttered, cramped mess to an organized and inviting space with room for all.

Posted by Erica Sooter on Zillow

5 Retro Decorating Trends That Deserve a Comeback

If you’ve been yearning for the return of the conversation pit, you’re not alone.

Some home decor looks are just too good to let go. The boldly colored kitchen cabinets of the ’50s are taking on a sophisticated modern look. The late ’80s country kitchen look is enjoying new life — minus the gingham frills and bonneted goose motif — in today’s farmhouse chic trend, and mid-century design has taken over the home furnishing offerings of retailers at every price point. Rattan furniture and velvet upholstery, both popular in the ’70s, are showing up in designer collections again.

Our pick for the decor trend  most deserving of a second chance? The brightly colored bathroom fixtures (and sometimes even matching tile) that became popular beginning in the 1930s, and evolved from cool pastels to the much-maligned avocado and harvest gold hues of the 1970s. We’re not seeing these offered new yet, but salvage stores are a great resource if you simply must have a mint green or bubble-gum pink sink for your bathroom renovation.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Here are some of the blast-from-the-past home decor looks designers are happy to have deja vu over.

’50s-style dens

We are loving the reemergence of the den or the basement as a gathering space. Instead of having family and friends centered around a 50-inch television in the living room, we’re seeing people move toward intimate areas like listening rooms for their favorite vinyls, or casual seating in the den with headphones and their iPads. This setup is more conducive for connecting and catching up, or simply taking time for one’s self — think wood paneling, updated and re-imagined bean bags in designer fabrics, and high-quality retro audio sound.

– Kerrie Kelly, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Photo by Brian Kellogg.

Macrame textile art

Macrame from the ’60s and ’70s, but with a whole new twist. I love the beautiful heavy knotted textile hangings as art, or the thin delicate hangings for room screens. [They can hold] hanging flower vases and even light fixtures. This time it’s all about texture with a Scandinavian vibe.

– Susan M. Jamieson, ASID, Bridget Beari Designs, Inc.

Big macrame on a white brick wall in bedroom; Shutterstock ID 671446057; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Conversation pits

We want big living rooms with circular, sunken conversation pits. They need custom built-in sofas, space-age floating fireplaces hanging in the middle, and plush shag carpeting deep enough to swallow your foot. Give us this dedicated zone for hanging out with friends and family, a space that isn’t centered around a TV screen. Give us bold colors and wild graphic patterns on pillows. And, most importantly, give us a live-in housekeeper, because those shag carpets are a nightmare to keep clean.

– Chris Stout-Hazard, ROGER+CHRIS

Photo from Zillow listing.

The home design trend from the past I’d love to see make a comeback is the conversation pit. Our technology age has created a digital life and physical separation. The classic conversation pit promotes togetherness and community. The conversational pit arrangement organically encourages people to face each other with comfortable deep seating. It also can be an advantage in design strategy, with a flexibility to promote a stylish streamlined modern feel or a casual bohemian aesthetic. Inspiring our clients to ditch the television and engage with family and friends is part of our design practice, creating space as experience.

– Elena Frampton, Frampton Co.

Timelessly practical kitchen features

Two of our favorite features making a comeback lately are banquette seating and library ladders, especially in the kitchen. A lot of our projects are in the city, where space is at a premium. Banquette seating works great in a tight space, plus it creates additional storage opportunities under the bench. Same goes for the ladder: It’s all about space. If you don’t have to haul out a clunky ladder to access everything out of reach, you can double your kitchen’s storage capacity with cabinets or shelves that go all the way up to the ceiling.

– Jeff Pelletier,  Board & Vellum

Photo from Zillow listing.

Brass hardware and fixtures

Used in smaller doses like pull handles and faucets with a more sleek and modern shape, [brass hardware and fixtures] can really up your design game in a cool classy way. My favorite bathroom look right now is dark navy cabinets with Carrera marble quartz counters, oversized white sinks, and printed cement floor tile incorporated with brass pull handles and faucets.

– Christina El Moussa, HGTV’s “Flip or Flop” and SuccessPath

Photo from Zillow listing.

 

Posted by Cat Overman on Zillow

Your New, Bigger Space: 5 Ways to Win at Upsizing Your Home

What to do with all that new space? Experts weigh in on filling it affordably and thoughtfully.

As a new generation graduates from renting to homeownership, they face plenty of uncertainties: How much homeowners insurance is enough? Is a home warranty necessary? How do you fill a 4-bedroom home with the stuff that used to be in a 1-bedroom apartment?

Transitioning from an apartment to a larger home is always tricky, but making that move — known as “upsizing” — is extra complicated for today’s young home buyers because they’re really going big.

“When Millennials do become homeowners, they leapfrog the traditional ‘starter home’ and jump into the higher end of the market by choosing larger properties with higher prices, similar to homes bought by older buyers,” states the Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends. “They pay a median price of $217,000 for a home—more than Baby Boomers, and just 11 percent less than Generation X. The Millennial median home size is 1,800 square feet, similar in size to what older generations buy.”

Many millennial home buyers move from small apartments into 1,800 square feet or more. Photo from Zillow listing.

When you upsize from an apartment into a spacious new home, opportunities abound — plenty of closet space, a yard for the dog, and extra rooms for that home office, spare bedroom, or home gym you’ve always dreamed of.

But once the moving van’s gone and the boxes are unpacked, new homeowners often face the harsh reality of upsizing: The furniture, wall hangings, and knickknacks that fit so perfectly in your small apartment occupy only a fraction of your larger home’s space. And that spare bedroom would be perfect — if only you had a spare bed.

Many new homeowners’ first instinct is to hit the discount stores and buy affordable pieces to fill the space. While budget-friendly furniture has its place, it shouldn’t make up the bulk of your new acquisitions.

There are plenty of ways to use what you already have — and optimize your spending for the things you don’t — to make your new house a cozy home.

Don’t buy things just to fill space

It’s tempting to stockpile new furniture and decorations, but it’s an effort that can easily backfire, according to Jennifer Dwyer, professional organizer and owner of Seattle-based A Logical Mess. Inevitably, the measurements are wrong, or the piece doesn’t match your existing style or decor.

“People naturally want to fill the space, but you really have to consider how you’re going to use it,” advises Dwyer. “Wait until you move in, place the furniture you have already, and assess at that point.”

Start by placing the pieces you have, then decide what to add. Photo from Zillow listing.

It’s OK to sparsely furnish the new place while you get a feel for your new home and the style you’re after. “You can tell when people just go to, say, Pottery Barn and buy what’s on the showroom floor,” says Jason Mathews, owner of Seattle interior design and home staging firm, Jason Mathews LLC.

Prioritize with a special piece

To furnish a large living room or family room, Dwyer recommends investing in a sectional couch. Like a dining room table that expands to seat more people, a sectional sofa pulls apart and goes back together depending on design preferences. And such sofas often have expansion pieces you can buy later to further fill space, adds Dwyer.

Sectional sofa components can be separated and expanded to change the room. Photo from Zillow listing.

Mathews agrees that a sofa is a good investment piece. “It’s something you’re going to use every day,” he says. Furthermore, sectionals pull apart to create more than one focal point in a room — think an L-shaped seating area and coffee table in one part of the living room, and a smaller couch and lamp in another for a cozy reading nook.

Not everything needs to be a statement piece, both Dwyer and Mathews emphasize. Once your sofa is in place, find inexpensive side chairs or perhaps an antique table to repurpose as a coffee table.

Place furniture thoughtfully

Furniture arrangement can make a big space seem smaller. Area rugs are ideal for anchoring furniture groups and making a space feel more homey.

A patterned area rug defines a space within a larger room. Photo courtesy of S+H Construction.

“The great thing about rugs is that they don’t have to be expensive — even a large rug,” Mathews says. He advises centering the rug, then placing furniture on and around it. “Even if the rest of the room is empty, you’re starting out with a cozy spot.”

Homeowners often make the mistake of pushing furniture right up against the walls. But pulling the furniture toward the center of the wall helps minimize an expansive room.

In an expansive room, arranging furniture away from the walls creates natural living areas. Photo from Zillow listing.

“Even just six inches off the wall,” advises Mathews. “It gives the room a chance to breathe a bit.”

Decorate your space

Once you’ve furnished your new home, it’s time to decorate. Items like a standing coat rack in an entryway or decorative vases in a stairwell are classic pieces that also fill space — and they don’t have to be expensive.

“I’m a big fan of T.J. Maxx and Ross,” says Dwyer. “You can play around with ideas, and if they don’t work out, you’re not out a ton of money.”

A few well-chosen decorations give a room a personal touch. Photo from Zillow listing.

Give extra rooms purpose

Empty rooms hold such promise: Will you have a home office? An extra bedroom for visiting families? A place for a treadmill, weight set, and stationary bike?

It’s OK to take some time to think it over — just shut the door if the emptiness bothers you. But whatever you do, don’t use that extra space as a storage room, warns Dwyer, or it will never become anything else.

“Find a home for everything, and don’t leave those boxes lying around,” she says. “If you don’t know where to put it, you probably don’t need it in your new home.”

Posted by Sheila Cain on Zillow

3 High-Impact Spots to Use Bold Color

Don’t hold back — bright, bold colors are on trend and easier to incorporate than you might think.

The next two years are all about the big, the bold, and the beautiful. While neutrals and metallics will always dominate interior color palettes, the new color trends are paving the way for a rise in fearless accents.

Adding pops of color to your home doesn’t have to be a daring feat. Bold hues in a few unique places make a world of difference. Whether it’s a new front door color or a festive case good, let’s dive into a few unexpected ways to use bold color.

Daring details

Subtle yet significant architectural details — like baseboard trim, molding, and wainscoting — are hidden gems when it comes to adding color in unexpected places.

A move as simple as swapping out a neutral trim for a bold, lacquered shade turns even the tiniest space into a prominent focal point. A new color on the old staircase railing stirs instant conversation with visiting guests, while a bright fireplace mantle breathes in new life.

Don’t forget your home’s exterior: Unique details like brackets, corbels, and hidden soffits are perfect places to add a fun, unexpected color pop. Spring gardening DIY calling your name? Shutters and built-in window planters are easy projects, and great candidates for your favorite fab shade.

A colorful front door sets the tone for visitors entering your home. Photo from Zillow listing

Go bold in the bathroom and kitchen

Tubs and sinks — who would ever think that the workhorses of the bathroom and kitchen could be prime real estate for a new splash of color? While avocado-green kitchen sinks are a thing of the past, modern counterparts are taking over the design realm in fun, bold shades.

For a DIY route, paint the underside of a farmhouse-style, wall-mounted sink or vintage clawfoot tub for a fun take on an old classic. Go for tubs and sinks that have lips — they make the new color application look seamless.

A deep egglant tub anchors an otherwise light and bright bathroom. Photo from Zillow listing

Color and case goods

What better way to add an unexpected hue in your space than with a custom case good? Case goods are extremely versatile — use them as a buffet in the dining room, a console in the entry, a dresser in the bedroom, or even a chest in the living room.

While most furniture pieces feature a beautiful, natural stain or a neutral shade, customizing a case good with a vivid hue is a sure way to turn that piece into a showstopper.

If a new case good isn’t in your future, a fresh coat of paint and some fun hardware on a well-loved piece is an easy way to bring new life into an unexpected place. Have fun with an emerald-green buffet in the dining room or a coral console for a festive entrance — whatever shade you choose, it’ll be a unique piece.

Matching aqua chests add a lively touch while providing handy storage. Photo courtesy of The Design Firm

Posted by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow