A few weeks ago, I asked you all on my Instagram stories to tell me what you’d like to see discussed on the blog. You had some great requests, and today I’m starting with showing you some ideas that can make a significant impact in your home without spending a lot of money.
Plants and Flowers
Every enviable room on Pinterest or Houzz has plants and flowers. They might not be the centerpiece of a space, but you’ll find them tucked onto shelves, on bathroom vanities and nightstands, or in trays on coffee tables. Do you have a corner in a room that feels dead? Try an indoor tree to bring in height and fill the space. Plants and cut flowers are a smart way to add life, color, and texture while creating a lived-in feeling.
If you find yourself struggling with a black thumb, please don’t go out and buy artificial plants. Start by grabbing flowers at your local grocery store (Trader Joe’s is excellent). Avoid the arranged bouquets and instead opt for a bunch of a single variety of flower. You’ll see that they have more impact than a mixed bouquet because the color and shape repeats itself. If you have enough blooms, put one or two on your nightstand. When all else fails, cut some greenery from your yard, or ask a neighbor if you can take a few snips while out on a walk. I’ve been known to take a few clippings from the magnolia and eucalyptus trees in the city parkway near my house.
A word to the wise, succulents may seem low-maintenance, but they don’t do well inside unless they get plenty of heat and natural light. They’ll last longer if you commit to putting them outside in the sun at least once a week. Some other plants I’ve had the most success with indoors are the money tree, dragon tree, philodendron, spider plant, and snake plant.
Dimmers and Lighting
Ideally, you should be able to enjoy all the rooms in your home without using overhead lighting. Not only can it be bad for our health (I’m looking at your fluorescents), but the wrong lighting creates glare and makes us all look older. Does your house feel too dark without your overhead lighting on? That means you are missing a mixture of lighting from floor lamps, table lamps, and sconces. Lighting design is a huge topic, but your goal should be to create pools of light and avoid too many dark spots in your home. I only turn on my overhead recessed lighting when I’m cooking in the kitchen, cleaning the house, or if I’m having a party during the day. In any other situation, I’m using other sources of light to create the right mood.
If you’re looking for a first step then try dimmers. Nearly every light in your home could be improved by putting it on a dimmer. If you’re not electrically inclined, then an electrician can install a dimmer without costing you too much money. What about lamps that aren’t tied a switch? Try an in-line dimmer that you put between the outlet and the plug for the lamp like this one. They also make them for LED bulbs, so be sure to know what type of bulb and fixture you’re shopping for.
While you’re at it, consider changing out those light bulbs that burn bright white or even blue/green. The best light for our eyes is warm/yellow toned, rooms just feel more welcoming and approachable in warm light. The only white bulbs in my home are in my office so my drawings and fabrics are their true colors. With so many different bulbs available don’t be afraid to buy a few different bulb temperatures (yes, they come in temperatures) and test them out at home. Stores like Home Depot don’t bat an eye when you return the ones you didn’t like. Find a temperature that works for you and your home and stick with it when buying bulbs in the future. The box will also tell you if it’s a dimmable bulb, and the range it dims in. Go for the largest range you can find. You want the ability to customize the lighting to the occasion, whether you have a game night around your coffee table or movie night with the kids.
The right artwork can capture the attention of everyone who comes into your home. I’ve found that it helps to buy things that feel unique and special. No one wants to arrive at the party in the same outfit as someone else, and in that same way, we don’t want to see the art from our homes in someone else’s space. The good news is that you don’t need to spend tons of your hard earned dollars commissioning an artist for a custom piece to have something special.
Collecting art takes time since we want it to have personal meaning to us. Did you see an impressive exhibit at a museum? Try picking up a print in the gift shop. Local art shows are great for this too. Check out your flea markets and thrift stores for one-of-a-kind pieces, but don’t be scared off by a lousy frame; you can always replace it. You’ll often find that a common thread starts to develop in the things you buy; so if you like it, buy it! It’s also fun to have a piece with a story to tell, so look for art when you travel instead of cheap souvenirs. Finally, check out Etsy. There are hundreds of artists posting their original work for sale. Some even sell downloads that you can print at a local shop. Try upgrading the paper quality to elevate the piece when you frame it.
I’ll be revisiting art in a future post since some of you wanted tips on how to select the right pieces.
Update Cabinet or Door Hardware
Even the novice DIYer can accomplish this task. Try changing out the cabinet hardware in your kitchen or bathrooms. If you’re up for something a little more complicated, change the door hardware too. If you’re a renter, check with your landlord (they usually won’t refuse an upgrade), or keep the original hardware so you can put it back before moving out. Are you looking for a more current energy? Try black or brass finishes instead of the overused stainless steel or brushed nickel. Your cabinet hardware doesn’t have to match the stove and refrigerator, feel free to mix things up! You’d be surprised how fresh a room will look with these simple updates.
Draperies or Curtains
Wait…curtains and draperies are different? Yes! Curtains are usually lighter fabric, unlined, sometimes sheer, and not used for privacy. Draperies, on the other hand, are traditionally heavier fabrics that are lined to keep out heat, cold, and light. Curtains can be a DIY job for most renters or homeowners, but I always recommend leaving draperies to the professionals. There are inexpensive curtain panels available from most stores and online. If you’re looking to up your game, search for the ones with linings.
Do you want to make your ceilings look higher instantly? Then hang your curtains about 4-6 inches below the ceiling. If the curtain rod is the eyebrow, then the window is the eye. A bangin’ eyebrow makes the eye look bigger and more alert, and appropriately hanging your curtains will do the same thing for your windows. There are tons of online guides to help you size your window treatments appropriately.
Here’s another tip- hang your curtains to the floor. Stopping curtains short of the floor makes your room look shorter because it prevents the eye from scanning floor to ceiling. When you find yourself between curtain lengths, always buy them longer and take them to a local tailor or dry cleaner to have them hemmed to the right length. If full-length curtains or draperies aren’t right for your room, like when furniture will be in front of the window, that might mean it’s time to look into roman shades to elevate your look away from shutters or blinds.
An area rug immediately transforms a room. It anchors furniture arrangements, adds visual interest, and defines a space. If you have hard surface floors, a rug adds warmth and texture; if you have wall-to-wall carpets, a rug helps bring in character or color. The most common problem I see is a rug too small for a room. I get it; we’re practically set up for failure by what’s available in retail stores. The most common size rug in stores is a 5×7 when nearly every room I go into needs an 8×10 (or larger).
How do you know what size area rug to buy? There are tons of guides online that can help based on the size of the room you’re designing. For example, in a living room, you generally want to leave at least 12″ of flooring around the border of the room. If possible, buy a rug large enough to put your entire furniture arrangement on the rug. If the rug is too small for that, then you at least want the front legs of the furniture on the rug. I could go on and on about rugs, and by no means have I discussed every rule of thumb or helpful hint, but this is an excellent way to get started.
Here’s some fantastic news for all you renters! Contrary to popular belief, you can layer an area rug on top of carpet. Just be careful that you’re not creating a tripping hazard. Look for a thinner rug, and consider buying carpet tape like this to help hold the edges down. If you’re installing the rug over hard surface floors like tile or wood, then you absolutely need to use a rug pad. They help protect your floors, extend the life of the rug, add comfort (when you buy the thick pads), and prevent the rug from shifting when you walk on it.
Finally, if you’re getting caught up on the price of a larger rug, check out stores like Home Goods or World Market where you can find a good deal or use a store coupon. Buying online can be tough, but stores like RugsUSA have a lot of variety. Whenever I have clients on tight budgets for area rugs, we look at natural fibers like jute and sisal since they tend to be relatively inexpensive and durable.
Paint will always give you the biggest bang for your buck! Walls will eventually have blemishes or dirt, and the fastest way to freshen up your home is to touch up the paint. You don’t even have to change the color if you love what’s already there. I love color as much as the next person, and most of my clients love color, but we almost always use neutral colors on the walls and introduce color with accessories and art. In this way, your home can adapt and change through trends or as things wear out.
Hopefully, you are feeling inspired to elevate your home and style from these tips. I’d love to see how you incorporate them into your own rooms by tagging us on Instagram!