Presto Change-O

Here are 10 ideas for transforming living spaces easily and inexpensively

By Tammy Adamson-McMullen 

You might get a little nervous when you think about “decorating,” but decorating doesn’t have to involve large and complex projects. A new area rug here or a window treatment there can breathe new life into a room—and you won’t have to break a sweat or the bank to achieve it. Below are 10 fairly easy and inexpensive ideas to transform your spaces (which you may welcome at this hectic and expensive time of year).

  1. Add Area Rugs

Few products do so much to enhance a space than an area rug—by adding color, pattern, texture, warmth and comfort. There are so many types of rugs available, in so many materials, sizes and price points. Here are a few pointers before you buy:

  1. Select rugs that pick up at least one or two hues from your existing color scheme.
  2. If there is a lot of pattern already in the space, add area rugs in solid colors. Lay them down singly or layered on top of one another.
  3. Choose the material not only for its style but also for its intended purpose. While a furry rug might suit your BoHo décor, a wool or synthetic rug would stand up better to high traffic areas.
  4. Don’t forget a rug pad to protect the floor below, provide cushion underfoot and increase the life of the rug.

2. Accent a Wall

At this time of year, it may be too labor-intensive to paint an entire room, so try painting an accent wall instead—preferably in a complementary or contrasting color from the other walls in the space. To select the right color and sheen, pick up a sample jar at your local paint dealer and brush out a sample board. Place it on the intended wall for 24 hours to view it in different lighting conditions to make sure you’re satisfied. Then purchase the paint you need and get started! Good candidates? Fireplace walls and walls behind headboards and sofas.

  1. Paint Trim

If you’re feeling a tad more ambitious, you might think about painting baseboards, sashes and other trim in a different color. Don’t just think “white”; other colors also can provide a nice “frame” for your walls. Dark colors, like charcoal gray and brown, are trending for exactly that reason. To see if these colors are right for you, use the sample board idea above.

  1. Brighten Up Bookshelves

Bring a pop! of color to a room by painting the back of bookshelves—or cubbies, if the unit has them—in a bright or bold hue. If you’ve painted an accent wall in the room, the paint here can match, further tying the room together. To make the color stand out, choose a high gloss.

  1. Layer at the Window

Are your old draperies looking stale? Then swap them out for a new pair, and while you’re at it, add sheers underneath and a valance on top. Layered looks are “in” again! Think of your window in “threes” that include an undertreatment, such as sheer fabric, blinds, shades or shutters; an overtreatment of draperies or curtains; and a top treatment, like a valance or cornice. If this look is too busy for you, select treatments with clean lines and simple patterns.

  1. Change Hardware

In lieu of—or in addition to—replacing window treatments, try swapping out drapery rods, tiebacks and other hardware. Choose new pieces in one of the trending finishes, such as satin gold or aged bronze, and top off the look with decorative finials. If the budget allows, coordinate drapery hardware with cabinetry hardware. And be creative! Finials (and knobs) don’t have to be metal; they can be made of crystal, mercury glass, bamboo and so on.

  1. Add Light

Look around: Do you have dimly lit rooms? Darkened corners? Hard-to-see work areas? If so, add a reading light, table lamp or other light source into to each of these areas—which will have the extra benefit of boosting the colors of your existing décor. Be sure to choose fixtures and shades that tie into materials already in the space. Tip: If space is limited, opt for a slimline floor lamp that can tuck in beside chairs, behind sofas and into similar small areas.

  1. Replace Lamps

Speaking of lighting, have you looked—really looked—at your old lamps lately? These furnishings, which are both functional and decorative, are often ignored but are so easy to replace. And there are so many beautiful styles and materials currently at retail. Identify lamps that need updating—maybe in the living room or next to the master bed?—and add new ones to your Christmas list.

  1. Update Linens

Bedding and towels are a lot like lamps—often ignored—but work wonders in adding not only color and pattern but also texture to a room. While you might be tempted to scrimp on these items, don’t. Try to purchase the most luxurious bedspreads, sheets and towels you can afford, not only for your own comfort but to enhance the spaces in which they reside. These items, by both their feel and look, help you to create the ultimate “retreat.”

  1. Enhance Accessories

You might want to update throw pillows, chair cushions and shower curtains, too. In the spirit of Wabi Sabi, a style that “makes do” with old things, you might not need to dispose of these items but can enhance them by adding tassels, cording, lace, rosettes and similar adornments. If you do purchase new, don’t be shy. For the biggest impact, select vibrant fabrics with pizzazz.


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