As the New Year dawns, many people will look around and realize that it's time for a little freshening up at home.
Putting away the holiday knickknacks is a good start, but more substantial dramatic changes require a little more effort — although not necessarily a lot of money. Homeowners can add bright colors to alleviate winter's gloom or rearrange furniture to accent a different element of a room. There are plenty of options, but quick, simple and affordable are key.
With that in mind, here are five easy ways to recharge your space to welcome 2012.
Toss it: Throw pillows can give any room a pinch of pop in seconds. If your sofa and chairs are in a print, look for solid pillow covers that bring out the recessive colors.
If your furnishings are in solids, then patterns are the way to go. You can go with some of the latest trends, like trellis patterns, botanical engravings or chinoiserie prints in your pillow fabrics, and when those trends fade — as they all do — you won't have spent loads of money to get the look.
To find pillows in contemporary patterns and colors that you won't find in every store, try looking at stores on Etsy.com. Clients can often work with a seller to get custom-made furnishings and fabrics.
Robyn Hagedorn of Severna Park makes and sells a wide range of pillows in a diverse palette of colors and patterns at her Etsy shop, Pillowscape Designs.
"Pillows are the easiest way to switch it up if you're tired of what you have," says Hagedorn, who creates reversible pillows from three fabrics and also offers custom designs.
Cover it: In the bedroom, just changing the duvet cover or comforter can enliven the space. If the bedroom walls are painted in neutral shades, almost any color or print will work.
The key is to find something you love. Phina's for the Home in Baltimore offers beautiful bed linens. From a sparkling white matelasse coverlet to an animal-print comforter, the shop carries a variety of styles and designs.
"[We have] some new lilacs and grey linens in beautiful patterns in duvet covers, pillowcases and sheets. The lilac really pops grey in the patterns. You can go from a light to a dark, from a lavender to lilac," says Carla Wing, co-owner of the home furnishings boutique in Federal Hill.
Paint it: This is one of the quickest ways you can change the look of a room. A gallon or two of paint can instantly refresh a space. Painting a small room can be accomplished in an afternoon, especially if you're using just one color. And if you have children or animals, a new coat of the same paint every few years will do wonders to make the room appear cleaner. A gallon of paint typically costs less than $50. Home Depot's Behr Premium Plus Ultra, which Consumer Reports identified as one of the best interior paints, costs just a little over $30 per gallon.
If you want to use paint for dramatic effect in a room, spend an hour or two finding inspiration and new colors at websites like Pinterest.com or Houzz.com. The Pantone Color Institute recently selected Tangerine Tango, a vivid shade of red-orange, as the 2012 Color of the Year. If that's too bold, another trendy shade is Bellflower, an ornamental purple that would look stunning in a room with silver accents.
And don't stop with the walls — furniture can become reborn with a stroke of color. If your dining room set is not a priceless family heirloom, consider painting it a chalk white. Although it's expensive, about $50 a quart, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint provides great coverage and a Scandinavian look.
Move it: You probably haven't done this since you moved in or had new furniture delivered, but rearranging a room immediately gives it a fresh feel. Moving the television, or swapping a long sofa for two comfortable wing chairs with ottomans, can make a world of difference. If there's a feature in the room that's not being shown to its advantage, like a fireplace or a great view, consider making that the focal point.
Lissa Tilley, an interior decorator at Architectural Design Works Inc. in Towson, suggests taking a look at the furniture you have and repurposing it. She recently re-evaluated a Shaker-style table she'd been using as a desk, moving it from a sunroom to a spot bext to the entrance stairs. "What a difference it's made," says Tilley. "I added a beautiful blue painted 1950s ceramic lamp, a tureen of forced paperwhites, and a tray for keys and mail. Some family photos welcome us as we come home and, more importantly, the table keeps us organized!"
Store it: When you've put on the new bedcovers or painted the walls, look around and give the room a good tidying. Clean off the top of the dresser or tables, finding a space for your favorites but storing the rest. Consider using that piece of exercise equipment for something other than a clothes hanger. With these small changes, you'll be seeing things in a whole new light and starting off the new year in just the right place.
Meg Fairfax Fielding is the editor of Pigtown Design, a Baltimore-based blog about home furnishings, architecture and design. She can be reached at pigtown-design.blogspot.com.