The dipping temperatures are surely nudging you back indoors to nest, and you may begin looking at your home with a critical eye. The tattered chair and ottoman in the living room aren't going to look any better when snow begins to fall. And the dingy paint on the walls will drag your spirits down, along with all the clutter piled on desks and in closets after a busy summer.
The solution is to freshen your roost. Hide old upholstery under new slipcovers and add soft pillows, says Denver interior designer Lane Elisabeth Oliver. And splash a little color around.
"Everyone should have a little robin's-egg blue to make them feel alive," Oliver says. Her family's new living room is a spirit-lifting example, with its blue walls, white-coffered ceiling, floral-covered chairs and mercury-glass collection.
"It just feels so fresh," she says.
Oliver and Denver-area interior designers Mark David, Melinda Douglas, Marjie Goode and Jonathan Fierer offer other inspiring tips for making the home feel more comfortable. Whether you make a few small changes or redecorate an entire house, you'll get a chance to exercise your creativity and enjoy the rewards of re-energized surroundings.
The focal point in Oliver's blue living room is the fireplace. Its tiered mantel and wall brackets serve as stages for ever-changing displays. She recently replaced her quirky collection of globes with sparkling mercury-glass vases and gazing balls, making the space feel more elegant.
Goode recently did a makeover of a two-sided fireplace for a client. "They just felt it wasn't a focal point," she says. Here are some of the changes Goode made:
- Designed a built-in entertainment center to look like a piece of freestanding furniture next to the fireplace on the living-room side.
- Had the fireplace surround, built of drywall, faux-finished in burnt reds and oranges to bring out its architectural details.
- Reframed an oil painting above the mantel and placed decorative ceramic jars and bottles on a pair of stair-step shelves that were part of the fireplace design.
- Placed large, kilim-covered, down-filled pillows on the hearth, for grandchildren to play on.
- Installed a plasma TV screen above the fireplace, on the kitchen side.
Marjie Goode of the Goode Touch has done several front-door makeovers for clients, widening entrances and replacing doors. Here are her suggestions, along with several from Mark David of Mark David Design:
- Stain your front porch or, if it's concrete, cover it with flagstone.
- Replace a door and sidelights with a double door, or refinish the door with a new stain or paint that goes with the rest of the home's exterior.
- Update the porch lighting with new fixtures.
- Hang a fall wreath on the front door, or drape the frame with a long garland twined with string lights.
When the door swings open, a home's foyer sets the mood for the rest of the house, David says. His suggestions:
- Place an attractive area rug on the floor. The first steps people take into your home will feel more luxurious and comfortable.
- Display fresh, scented flowers on a table near the doorway.
- Install better lighting in the foyer, and equip all fixtures with dimmers to increase brightness when needed on dreary days.
When Oliver and husband Brian Breitenwischer decided to add a new living room onto their 1904 Dutch Colonial home in Denver, they wanted it to be full of light and color. Oliver had fallen in love with a traditional Southampton look while working on a major project for a Long Island client.
For her home, she had carpenters create a coffered ceiling out of bead board. Trim was painted white and the walls robin's-egg blue. A pair of chairs were reupholstered in a relaxed floral pattern and piled with pillows. A cushion-topped sea-grass ottoman serves as a footrest and table.
Jonathan Fierer works in a more modernist style as owner of Bobo Modern Living, in Boulder, Colo. Yet, like Oliver, he likes to incorporate pillows into his living-room designs because they add comfort. "The pillows should be functional, something you can lie against while reading a book," he says. Another important accessory is a vase of flowers on the coffee table.
Here are other ideas from Oliver and Fierer:
- If your furniture is similar in style, pattern, finish or color, pieces can be interchangeable. You can add the feeling of fall to a room by swapping a comfortable, pattern-covered chaise in the living room for a leather-covered club chair and ottoman from the study.
- Use khaki as a neutral, background color. Red, green, blue and orange hues look very organic against this popular color.
- Instead of rearranging your furniture, consider a new area rug for the floor. It will be soft and comfortable underfoot.
- Romanticize shorter days with tea lights and candles, placing them around your home. Light them when it gets dark.
- Make sure you have plenty of direct lighting in the living room, such as a cantilevered lamp you can read by. "Direct lighting gives you the intimacy to do reading or knitting without having every light on in the house to remind you that it is getting darker outdoors," Fierer says.