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 Whether your style feels a little too outdated or your tastes have changed, making over the rooms in your home is a great way to give yourself a fresh start.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

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8 Home Improvement Hacks From the Humble Dollar Store

Want some home improvement ideas on the cheap? How about the crazy cheap? Whether you want to spruce up the garden or streamline your closet, there are plenty of insanely clever creations that hail from the humble aisles of your local dollar store. Check out these simple DIY hacks that can transform a space—and best of all, no one will ever guess where they’re from.

Reflect your good taste

Build this work of art to be as “compact” or grand as you like. Thistlewood Farms

Anyone who’s priced wall decor knows it doesn’t come cheap. But, as KariAnne Wood of Thistlewood Farms points out, there’s no need to go broke when you can build a beautiful focal point all on your own.

This stylish mirror, made with dollar store compacts, set this DIY-er back a mere $19. Not too shabby!

Drip-dry boot trays

Simple stones make a great boot tray. Dollar Store Crafts

In lieu of throwing down a pile of dish towels to dry up puddles left behind by soggy boots, consider a simple tray and a bag of stones.

Heather Mann of Dollar Store Crafts decided this river rock boot tray was a more elegant addition to the entryway. We couldn’t agree more. Give your regular doormat the day off.

Grow an indoor greenhouse

This simple project will add a pop of color to your home in no time. The Wicker House

If you crave a little bit of nature indoors, this greenhouse terrarium should satisfy your green thumb.

Emily Sweeten of The Wicker House made this picture-perfect piece with picture frames from the dollar store. She put it together in no time, though she admits, it helped to have another pair of hands to construct the rooftop.

Posh spice rack

If you’re really good, you’ll alphabetize them.The Stonybook House

Want to free up some coveted cabinet space? Lori Leeper at the Stonybrook House was inspired to create this back-of-the-door spice rack, made from dollar store cooling racks.

Fresh herbs flourish at your fingertips

 

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme—all within reach in your kitchen. Vanessa Brady

Want an innovative wall hanging that doubles as your very own produce aisle?

Vanessa Brady of Tried & True and her sister, Adriana, shared this Minimal Modern Herb Garden, which, depending on size, might cost you less than a bunch of fresh cilantro from the market, thanks to galvanized tubs priced at $1 a piece.

Tea for two … birds

Your backyard just got a bit more beautiful thanks to this oasis for your feathered friends. Morena’s Corner

Morena Hockley of Morena’s Corner added a little Mad Hatter’s tea party influence to her garden when she built this teapot birdbath with cups, saucers, plates, and, of course, a teapot she found at her local Goodwill (but dollar store housewares work just as well). Go ahead and spray-paint your creation to match your outdoor decor.

Keep the bugs at bay the natural way

Bug repellent never looked so good. A Little Claireification

If you’re sick of your outings reeking of citronella, consider this natural and cost-effective way to repel pests.

These Mason jar luminaries, designed by Claire of A Little Claireification, offer a chemical-free alternative to those pungent candles and sprays. Plus, they make attractive centerpieces.

Just grab a few rosemary sprigs, along with cedarwood, lavender, and lemon essential oils (or the real thing), which Claire says will make your gatherings bug-free.

Thumbs-up for word art

Nothing “tacky” about thumbtack art! DIY Ready

Want to make a statement, literally?

Lisa Loperfido of DIYReady notes that this thumbtack word artproject costs just $3. Spell your way to stunning decor for only pennies.

Posted by Liz Alterman on realtor.com

 

 

 

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

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

13 Ways To Spend Your Tax Refund On Home Improvements

Enjoy that hard-earned tax return money on summer evenings by adding a privacy fence or outdoor kitchen.

Your tax refund feels like found money, doesn’t it? Here’s how to use it to spruce up your living space.

April brings many lovely things: warmer temperatures, flowers beginning to bloom, and hopefully a check from Uncle Sam once you’ve filed your taxes. It’s enough to make you giddy with possibilities — no matter the size of your refund. “While it’s typically not sufficient to fund major home improvement projects such as a new addition or a kitchen renovation, it can often provide enough cash to accomplish a wide range of home up-fits and improvements,” says Leigh McAlpin, principal of Dwelling Interiors & Design in Charleston, SC. Here’s how to use your refund to refurbish or enhance your home.

$500 refund: It’s all in the details

Hire a professional organizer. “Since tax refunds often come during the springtime, you can tie this to spring cleaning,” says Sarah Roussos-Karakaian, co-owner of Nestrs, a construction, design, and organizing company in New York, NY. Most organizers charge a day rate, and if you work efficiently, a day or two might be all you need to banish clutter. Before you hire one, be sure to ask if they’re certified by the National Association of Professional Organizers, says Roussos-Karakaian. “It’s a good way to gauge how serious they are about their career.”

Recaulk and repaint your baseboards. “The top of the baseboard where the molding meets the wall gets really dirty over time,” says Roussos-Karakaian. “Caulking and giving it a fresh coat of paint can bring your walls back to life.” Contractors and painters typically charge anywhere from $2.50 to $6 per linear foot depending on the size of your baseboards, so if you don’t DIY it, this project may cost closer to $1,000.

Buy a new rug. The right rug finishes a room, and purchasing one is an excellent way to spend a smaller return. “A general rule for area rugs is that the outer edges of the rug should be between 6 and 18 inches off each wall, closer to 6 inches from the walls in smaller rooms, and up to 18 inches from the walls in larger areas,” says McAlpin. While it may be tempting to buy a small rug to save a few dollars, doing so will make your entire room look out of scale, she advises. “If it’s an open-concept floor plan, use area rugs to frame seating and dining areas, which will help to define the different uses of the space.”

Add curb appeal. Adding or updating some of the essentials, like a new mailbox, some flower boxes, new house numbers, outdoor lighting, and shrubs, can give your home a face-lift. Take your exterior upgrades to the next level by painting your front door. Want an even bigger payoff? Repaint the trim around windows and other features while you’re at it.

$1,000 refund: Think upgrades

Upgrade your water heater. It’s not a fun or sexy purchase, but swapping a standard water heater for a tankless model will save energy — and money — because it heats the water only as needed, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a network of home improvement professionals.

Give your ceiling a lift. Ceilings are easy to overlook, but revamping yours is an inexpensive way to add interest to a room, says Sassano. “If you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a professional to scrape them smooth,” he says. “Then look for DIY projects like installing crown molding or box beams for a fresh look.” A simple coat of fresh paint can do wonders too.

$2,000 refund: Add style

Upgrade your home’s lighting. If your entryway or dining room has flush-mount fixtures, swap them out for chandeliers, suggests Roussos-Karakaian. “It brings the light down, which makes it more purposeful, and aesthetically dresses up the room,” she says. But in any room, like with this semi-flush mount bedroom fixture at 629 Ames Way, Dover, ID 83825, swapping in new lights for those builder-grade finishes will give your home a customized look. And while you’re at it, swap out your incandescent bulbs for LEDs. “LEDs are really affordable right now. They come in warm and cool colors and all sorts of wattages,” says Roussos-Karakaian. Bonus: You’ll save energy too.

Treat yourself to wood flooring. You can expect to pay anywhere from $7 to $12 per square foot for quality hardwood flooring — potentially more if you choose professional installation. But this favorite home upgrade can return 1.5 to two times its cost when you sell, so it’s a worthy investment.

Build a deck or enhance the one you have. Of course, the cost of your deck will vary based on size and details, but a small deck typically costs about $2,000. And it’s a favorite feature for homebuyers — by far the most common amenity mentioned in Trulia listings across the U.S., with 22 states claiming it. It’s not a huge surprise that decks are so popular, though, considering they bring in an 80% to 120% return on your investment.

$3,000 refund: Add features with ROI in mind

Add a backsplash to your kitchen.Kitchen upgrades often have some of the highest returns on investment when it comes to home improvements. If you have neutral cabinets and floors, opt for tiles with big, bold prints, like the backsplash of the kitchen at 5769 Adair Lane, Plano, TX 75024, says Roussos-Karakaian. Or go super-DIY and buy peel-and-stick backsplash tiles, which are inexpensive and removable, but look luxe.

Splurge on French doors. “Consider turning two [adjacent] windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors,” says Sassano. “Full-view glass doors can brighten up any space and help bring the outside in. And modern doors are energy-efficient, which cuts down on heating and cooling costs.”

$5,000 refund: Go big with projects you’ll enjoy

Put up a privacy fence or replace an old one. While cost will vary depending on the size of your yard and what materials you use, a sure way to keep costs down is to avoid common mistakes. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, make sure you get the pipes marked beforehand to avoid damaging them. It’s also a good idea to have your property surveyed before you begin. Some fence installers won’t put in your fence without one! The reason? Installing your fence on what turns out to be your neighbor’s land can be an expensive error to fix. The privacy fence pictured above, at 12021 36th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98125, connects with the privacy fence of the home next door — another way to save costs.

 Create a simple outdoor kitchen. With warmer weather on the horizon for most of the nation, now’s the time to enhance your barbecue area. Keeping the essentials in one place, an outdoor kitchen gives you party access while you cook — no running back and forth from kitchen to grill. To create one, purchase a premade grill island or structure that has countertops and storage space (you can even get one with a built-in grill). Add a mini refrigerator and some outdoor furniture, and let the party begin.

 

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

Spectacular Solariums and Sun Rooms Let in the Light

Summon the sun indoors with these gorgeous light-filled spaces.

Sun rooms, solariums, skylights — oh my! While the terminology can be confusing, these rooms designed to offer indoor sunbathing have similar qualities, and are great for any type of home environment.

If your climate doesn’t offer year-round sun, you can still enjoy the outdoors by adding a sun room or solarium addition to your space.

What’s the difference?

A sun room is a home addition made completely of windows, which offer a 360-degree view of the outdoor scenery without stepping foot outside.

The term “sun room” usually means a room made of glass, and it’s commonly interchanged with conservatory, solarium, greenhouse, and atrium, among others. Technically, a sun room is any large room that allows the light to pour in through large windows or glass walls.

A solarium, on the other hand, is a more specifically designed room. To be considered a solarium, the space must also have a glass roof in addition to a wall of windows or glass.

Traditionally, solariums were built as part of hospitals to allow patients to soak up the sun without being exposed to the outdoor elements. Solariums can be attached to the home or stand as a separate structure altogether.

Check out these gorgeous sun rooms and solariums, and get inspired for a sunny space of your own.

Bright meets sunlight

This bright and spacious sun room lets the light pour in while still maintaining a homey charm. The woven furniture and floral-patterned cushions add a touch of whimsy, while the serene outdoor views provide a tranquil environment for afternoon tea or family game night.

Photo from Zillow listing

Safely sunbathing

This sunny haven in Pensacola, FL is a modern solarium structure that offers privacy between spaces while letting in plenty of light. The iron frame and tinted glass allow the homeowners to enjoy the sun but avoid harmful rays and heat.

Photo from Zillow listing

Eclectic outdoor living

Upbeat and contemporary, this sun room features French doors, exposed brick, and bright lime-green paint to add an eclectic touch to a traditional space. Palm Beach-inspired furniture and natural elements, like stone and grass, are sprinkled throughout to bring the outdoors in.

Photo from Zillow listing

Room with a view

Boasting sky-high views and traditional architecture, this solarium in Friday Harbor, WA shows how outside structures can flow seamlessly to the indoor space. With area rugs and overhead lighting, the solarium feels like a light and bright living room that’s ideal for entertaining.

Photo from Zillow listing

 

Posted by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow