Interior Updates that Inspire
Make a difference inside your home with fixes large or small
By Mara Soloway
Our innate sensibilities tell us when the visual beauty of our interior settings needs improvement. Look around at yours. Are they ready for all the changes that the warm seasons bring – longer days with lots of activities, visitors from far and near, and the sensations of beauty, growth and new life? Here are some ideas for changes large and small that you can make to bring beauty and new life to your interiors.
Replace an outdated sofa, chair or recliner
Is your seating past its prime and just not comfortable any more? Replacing a piece of furniture is a perfect way to make an upgrade that will add emphasis. We can exptect to replace a sofa every 7-15 years, according to elledecor.com
Have a seat in your worn sofa and begin to imagine the room with new furniture styles in new fabrics and color options. Once you start visiting furniture stores, you can examine the pieces you’re considering. There probably have been some innovations in construction and materials since you last shopped for furniture.
Do some planning: know the dimensions of rooms and existing furniture. If you are budgeting, start with one or two pieces in the rooms where you spend the most time.
Give your home a pillow update
Updating accent pillows is likely the least expensive purchase you can make. What is the right amount to have, and what colors and patterns make a room look its best? According to “Here’s How to Master the Throw Pillow Mix” by design writer Becky Harris on houzz.com, “There are no hard and fast rules; it’s really about switching things up until you find the right combination and arrangement.”
Harris’ categories include a pattern plus one solid color, a bold and a small pattern, a base of primary colors, several patterns in the same color palette, a theme (e.g., tribal or florals), and, thankfully for the indecisive, the “It Just Works” category in which she advises, “If the spirit grabs you, toss the formulas out the window and just have fun.”
Add original artwork and/or paintings
Does your entryway need some color? Is the impact wall in your living room a little bland? Select the walls in your home that are most visible and begin imagining them displaying art. But not every wall – it actually helps a room feel clutterfree when some wall space is kept blank.
If you aren’t an art aficionado, don’t fret. The Houston metropolitan area abounds with art galleries, art fairs and even coffee shops where you can get ideas of the plethora of art styles and color schemes in which you can invest. Pack a visual punch with a large eye-catching abstract swirl of colors or keep it peaceful with a mountain scene. Whatever your taste in art, make the arrangements on your walls impressive but make it your own.
Update or replace old light fixtures and lamps
There’s a decorative side to lighting and a functional one. And there’s the consideration of which space you’re thinking about – that new artwork might require you to rework your light sources to enhance the piece. Decorator Cecil Hayes suggests in 9 Steps to Beautiful Living that you start with an assessment of existing light levels and light exposure. “Walk through your room several times at different times of the day. Does it have lots of natural light or is it dark?” she writes, adding to not be concerned if the space is dark. You can always add more lighting; she feels that low light levels aren’t necessarily bad: “Light – or lack of it – can be used to create a mood.”
Fixtures come in an endless number of varieties – floor lamps, scones, chandeliers, track lighting, etc. – to match every decor and every personal style, from decorative, eclectic, nostalgic and more. Added to those considerations is the type of light bulb and the light spectrum they emanate. We have a big learning curve just to let there be light!
Update your fireplace
Even with mild winters, our homes are built with fireplaces to evoke comfort and nurture gathering. Our eye is naturally drawn to the fireplace and the mantel when we enter the room, making them one of the best spaces above which to put that new artwork. If your fireplace area isn’t visually up to being a supporting player for what you display on or above it, consider giving it an upgrade. This can be as simple as painting the bricks or stone, especially if a collage of colors in the bricks makes it hard for the art pieces to stand out.
Traditional fireplace surrounds (mantel, legs, headers and trim) can be added or replaced with new ones made of wood, faux wood, tile, stone and cast concrete. Mix it up – have a marble mantel with stained wood legs. The hearth can also be upgraded with fireproof tiles. What about inside the fireplace itself? Have a professional install a gas-burning fireplace if you like the romance of a roaring fire but not the clean-up involved with burning logs.
Like artwork, window treatments can add warmth or vibrancy in contemporary or classic styling. It can be a daunting design challenge to get the right mix of window blinds, curtains, Roman shades, cornices, shutters and valances. Study style and fabric options online and in magazines to find the look you want.
Some of the current trends include high-tech options that allow you to control window blinds with a remote, a light switch and online; organic and green materials like natural woven shades in wood, bamboo and matchstick; pops of color that tie into the room’s other elements; luxe fabrics such as silks, velvets, damasks, fur, leather and suede as embellishment; and the sleek lines of flowing drapes with chrome hardware.
Install a new picturesque window
Do you have a beautiful garden but don’t have a window from which to view it? Consider installing a window that will let you gaze upon it when indoors. This can be a DIY project if you are experienced with home repairs, but then again, that’s why window companies exist with qualified window installers who will make the cut in your drywall, remove the insulation, make the cut in the siding, fit the window in properly, clean up, etc. If not installed correctly, water and insects can enter the gaps, ultimately damaging the home’s structure.
If you have a sliding window already in place, projection windows that extend out at various angles – known as bow and bay windows – are features in new home construction. New windows should enhance the look of your home and be energy efficient. Popular frame materials are vinyl and aluminum, wood and clad-wood, each of which have pros and cons.
Add interest to your ceilings
While we might not pay that much attention to ceilings, they have a big impact on rooms. The craftsmen on thisoldhouse.com offer several ceiling improvements that are easy and effective ways to give a room a face-lift. These include: ceiling medallions; pressed-tin panels that complement older homes but don’t provide good acoustics; wallpapering, which the site says is “by far the most versatile treatment discussed here;” suspended-grid ceilings to cover exposed pipes, ducts or electrical connections; layered drywall, which helps define boundaries between rooms; and paneling to give a cottage look.
Take a color inventory
One of the 10 Stylists’ Secrets to Make Your Home Look Great on oprah.com is to conduct a color inventory, brown in particular. Stylist Olga Naiman cautions us that we “shouldn’t have more than three or four brown items in any room, including wooden floors or dark carpets.” Brown quietly takes over because it goes with any color scheme and hides stains, but “too much of it could be making the place look dated and, well, lair-like.”
The solution is to choose three or so items to keep and either paint or reupholster in colors Naiman likes: spill-camouflaging neutrals like olive green, khaki or gray. Remove any pieces that don’t get upgraded.
For more design ideas, consult an interior decorator and visit area furniture stores and home accessory stores. Some furniture stores have interior designers on staff to help you with your decisions.
Interior Updates that Inspire