Like the clothes we wear, our homes reflect who we are and what we value. And, just like a new bag or pair of shoes, little fixes around the house this fall can bring instant satisfaction without overriding ever-tightening budgets.
In my house, the mantra is, "It takes so little to do so much." In fact, a few years ago, I replaced an ugly, utilitarian kitchen faucet the plumber picked out with a beautiful, chrome goose-neck model. Afterward, every time I walked into the kitchen, my eyes fell onto that shining piece of kitchen jewelry, and I couldn't help but smile. The faucet was a little something that brought big change.
The economic downturn has forced us to re-examine how and where we spend our money. Rather than "replace," the current trend has become "rethink." So this fall as you think about making décor changes to reflect the season or just to brighten things up, check out these money-saving tips for rethinking our living space.
Accessorize the front entry. If a whole do-over for the front door is too much, make it simple. Freshen the front door by replacing that wreath that has been hanging since last year. Make it reflect the current season. Also, add potted plants. Put up some house numbers on your home's exterior. Consider using ceramic number tiles to complement Spanish or French country-style architecture -- just make sure the numbers match the style of the house.
Repaint the interior. Use a neutral palette to paint all of the rooms in smaller houses in one color. Painting rooms in different colors creates "islands" and makes the spaces visually smaller. Using a single neutral shade will open up the space and provide a foundation on which to build with color.
Add a touch of nature. The latest design trends have been embracing all that is found in nature. Use fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers to bring color and texture into a room. A bowl of bright green apples on the dining-room table or lemons in a glass column are inexpensive and make a great color statement. Even a branch from the back yard, hung over the entryway to a room, can bring an unexpected visual impact.
Rearrange. Use what you have, but with a new vision. Move a chair to the opposite wall, pull together vignettes.
Edit. Don't feel compelled to decorate with everything you own at once. Keep some of your accessories in a closet and change things out seasonally -- it will keep your possessions fresh for your eyes as well as those of your guests.
Use books and magazines as decor. Photo stylists use this trick to dress up ordinary spaces. Use stacks of books to add height to a tabletop, then top with a pretty vase.
Change up a bookcase. Don't let all of the books stand straight up and down. Vary the shelves with horizontal stacks and add mementos such as rocks you have collected or some framed art.
Replace dated decor. Two things that date a home are wallpaper with a border and carpeting in the bathroom. Absolutely pull up the carpet. Then, just removing the wallpaper border can give any room a quick update.
Replace dated hardware. Start at the home-improvement center to find new pulls for your cabinets. Don't just go for looks, touch it. It has to feel good in the hand. Then, choose one nice drawer or cabinet door and give it its own statement hardware -- a piece that is in the same finish, etc., but that makes it a focal point.
Paint the front door. The first thing people notice about your home is the front entry, so change the color of your front door. Don't be afraid to go bold -- a rich glossy red or glossy black makes a big statement for very little money. Just make sure the color complements the rest of the house trim.
Replace the hardware at the front entry. Change the door knob on that front door. Pay attention to the feel of the fixture you choose. It is the first tactile impression that guests will have of your home. And be sure the metals at the entry -- the doorbell, knob and kick plate, if you have one -- match in color and finish.
Add some pillows. This is Design 101-- everyone knows how new pillows and throws can update a look. Take it a step further by customizing store-bought pillow covers with trims and buttons. Have a set of pillow covers in bright linens for warmer months and another set in rich-toned, cozy fabrics for the cooler months.
Create artwork with your collections. You may not realize it, but you probably have enough of something to make a collection. How about some pretty china plates and platters that you could group and hang on the wall? Grouping things in odd numbers is a winning formula. Pull together oddball items like crystal candlesticks, mirrors or desk clocks, and you have an instant collection.
Give your kitchen a pop of color. Instead of repainting the kitchen, or upgrading major appliances, use small counter-top appliances to add a fun pop of color. Add a stainless-steel blender instead of a new stainless-steel refrigerator.
Change the look of a basic upholstered piece by adding a trim. Add bullion on the bottom of a skirtless chair or a tassel trim to the edge of a bench. It will add a custom look for little money.
Get some new accessories for the shower. Use a new shower curtain to perk up the bathroom. Then go for a spa-like feel - add a cushy new rug and towels. Don't forget to change the rings, which can bring a little bit of bling into the room.
Change the shower head. While you're at it, add a rain-style shower head. It may not bring a big visual change, but it makes a big impact with the user, even furthering that spa experience.
Have patience and take advantage of sales. Home decor retailers, such as Pottery Barn, are constantly turning over inventory to make way for new items. Instead of buying items when they first appear, wait (taking into account that there is enough in stock), and your dollar will go further. Resist the urge to fill rooms immediately. Instead, allow yourself to find what ultimately works in the space over a period of time.
Ideas from Patty Potter, interior-design consultant with J&D Fabrics, Fort Worth, Texas; Ken Jorns of Kenneth Jorns & Associates Interior Design, Fort Worth; Sue Perry, deputy editor of ShopSmart magazine; design team of Robb & Stucky, Southlake, Texas.