Small Upgrades That Go a Long Way

When it comes to making home upgrades, it’s important that sellers remember to go for simple, clean improvements that make homes look more modern and elegant.

No one wants to spend a fortune when it comes to selling a home, but most want to spruce up a few areas to make their property more appealing to potential buyers. There are several types of small improvements individuals can make that can transform the look of a home without forcing them to break the bank.

When it comes to making home upgrades, it’s important that sellers remember to go for simple, clean improvements that make homes look more modern and elegant.

New Countertops

One of the first areas sellers often focus on when making improvements is their kitchen, and rightly so. Buyers may examine a kitchen space more closely than bedrooms and bathrooms because this is the area where a family will spend the majority of its time. However, unless there is significant damage to the room, sellers may not need to renovate the entire kitchen. Instead, small changes, such as replacing the countertops may be enough to give the area a newer and fresher look. Owners should consider using materials that are common in neighboring homes. A buyer may be less likely to purchase a home with tile countertops when the surrounding homes on the market all feature granite or marble.

New Doors

Many homeowners overlook the appeal of new front, back and side doors, but these features are some of the first that buyers see when they pull up to a home. Adding a new door or painting the current ones to make them stand out can make the home feel more welcoming. In addition, adding new handles and locks can make buyers feel more secure. Doors are relatively inexpensive, and can be installed by the owners themselves with little effort.

Replace Hardware and Fixtures

Old, ruddy cabinet handles, kitchen spouts and light fixtures can be a turn off to buyers and make the home seem outdated. Replacing these fixtures with modern, top-of-the-line hardware is a simple and affordable solution that can be done quickly. Most home improvement stores carry a variety of fixtures and hardware, and owners can compare costs easily by doing some research online.

While homeowners are seeking out new fixtures, they may also examine paint samples to freshen up the colors in their home and make it more inviting.

How to Find Inexpensive Art for Your Home

Add your own flair to your home through art with these creative & inexpensive ideas.

Your home should reflect your personality, interests, and all the people and things you love. One of the easiest ways to accomplish that is through the artwork you display around your home. When my husband & I moved into our apartment, we initially worried about finding art that was not only beautiful, but at a price point that wouldn’t break our budget. Here’s what we discovered:

Print Your Favorite Photos on Canvas
Some of our favorite artwork displayed in our home is actually photos we took ourselves while traveling, and had blown up & printed onto canvas. Snapfish allows you to create your own canvas photo art starting at $39, and it’s the perfect way to show off your favorite family photos or pay homage to your favorite vacation spot as a reminder to get back out there!

One Word: Ikea
I have somewhat of an Ikea obsession, and their “decoration” department is no exception. Between their extensive collection of artistic prints, frames, and accessories, you could truly find something for every room in your home — and still have money left over for those Swedish meatballs on your way out.

Joss and Main
Clicking around on this website is like digging for treasure – except you always find one .. or two, or three. This site is beautifully curated with discounted art, furniture, rugs, bedding… you get the idea. The best part? You can browse by style, so if you’re going for a certain vibe – coastal, bohemian, rustic – the site will only show you items that align with that style.

DIY
One of our favorite pieces of art in our home is one we made ourselves. I find my inspiration for these projects on – you guessed it – Pinterest! It’s not only a great way to add something totally unique and special to your home, but it provides a great excuse to gather up your art supplies and enjoy a relaxing day of creativity. You can see a few of my favorite Pinterest DIY projects here, here, & here.

Need more home decor ideas? Click here to discover 12 ways to make your home even more awesome!

6 Great Ways to Integrate Nature into Your Home

If you’re starved for the sounds, textures and moods of the great outdoors, bring the outdoors in!

Guest post by  Lauren White

We live in a fast-paced, plugged-in world. Many of us don’t have the time to get outside and enjoy nature. This is unfortunate, as studies show that nature is an important part of our health and well-being. If you’re starved for the sounds, textures and moods of the great outdoors, bring the outdoors in! You can integrate the natural world into your living space with plants, raw and natural materials, and even art.

In the Woodwork

Wood can be a fantastic and high-impact design element. A solid piece of wooden furniture which shows the grain and has a natural finish can create a calm, grounded atmosphere. Wooden chairs, like wicker and bamboo, can do the same. Chunks of treated wood make for great floating bookshelves, and whole tree stumps can be used as seats and end tables. You can even turn slices of wood into custom-made coasters.

Functional Flora

Growing indoor herb gardens is a popular, functional way to incorporate plants into your home environment. There are a great number of herbs which thrive on small amounts of water and sunlight, like rosemary and chives. If you’re not sure of your gardening skills, you can start with one hopeful herb on a windowsill. If you’re ambitious, you can plant up to 16 herbs in a shoe organizer or try growing vegetables indoors.

HomeAdvisor’s helpful guide to gardening breaks down the needs of individual herbs, vegetables and fruits. It’s important to do your research and know before you buy, so you don’t waste time cultivating a weepy indoor garden.

Succulent Art

Succulents and terrariums are a low-maintenance option, as they require minimal attention to thrive. For a big-impact project, you can use succulents to create a living picture or wall. Living pictures are collections of succulents fitted into picture frames and held in by hardwire cloth. If you take this on as a DIY project, you can choose coordinating colors and arrange them however you like.

Found-in-Nature

Perhaps somewhere in your house, there’s a Ziploc bag full of seashells or a box of unique rocks you’ve collected during your travels. Out in your yard, there’s a beautifully twisted twig or a perfect bunch of baby pine cones. Every one of these items is an opportunity to bring nature into your home. Incorporate twigs, branches and seashells by placing them among books and picture frames. Place stones, rocks and sand in vases and pair with a freshly plucked wildflower.

Pictures as Places

Hanging nature prints and art can make your room design more cohesive. A print of never-ending redwoods will draw attention to your forest-themed accents. A vast picture of the ocean or the view from a mountain-top will make a confined space feel more open and inviting. Take your own pictures from favorite places and vacations and have them enlarged to hang throughout your house.

Sound Therapy

The noises within a home are rarely natural. Your microwave beeps, your laptop whirs, your coffee pot sighs and your refrigerator hums. Perhaps the only natural things you hear throughout the day are your children’s laughter and the rush of water in the shower.

The sound of moving water can have a calming effect and even lower stress levels. Find a way to integrate a fountain or small waterfall into your home, particularly where you need it most. A fountain by your desk, where you pay your bills and rifle through your emails, can help you focus and better manage anxieties.

 

You can use as much or as little nature as you need, in your decor. You may only want one tall, elegant houseplant in the corner of your living room, or you may want your home office to feel entirely like a beach. Whichever your preference, bringing these natural elements into your home can turn it into the relaxing escape you need at the end of a long work day.

Find the Right Focal Point for Your Room

Not sure what element to make the attention getter in your room? Find some great choices here.

Houzz Contributor, Gabrielle Di Stefano

Well-designed rooms often have a focal point — the first thing your eye sees when you enter. Choosing the right item to emphasize sets the tone and mood for a space. Whether it’s an architectural feature, a texture, a color or a light fixture, putting the spotlight on one of these elements will help create a visually interesting and pleasing interior. But what’s the best way to do this? Here are some ways to create a focal point that doesn’t dominate or compete with other objects in a space.

 

Architectural feature. A central element, like this fireplace, can help you position your furniture in a room. Notice how the furniture in this space revolves around the fireplace. The stone surround also sets the color tone for the sofa, chairs and drapes.

Getting the size of the architectural element right in the room is vital. If it’s too big, it can look and feel uncomfortable. If it’s too small, your furniture will become the focal point, taking away from the main feature.

Read more about scale

 

Artwork. This painting is positioned perfectly — centered between the two doors, above the console — to create an instant focal point that allows the rest of the room to shine.

The size and tone of your art are important. Choose a painting with the appropriate scale for your space, in tones that stand out and draw the eye in but don’t clash with the rest of the room. One large, bold piece of art looks fantastic against a neutral wall and furniture. A series of prints can make an impact too, whether they’re framed identically or have an eclectic mix of frames.

 

View. When you have a view like this, use your home’s architecture to emphasize it and make it as big and grand as possible. This oversize window instantly makes the forest view the best focal point this room could have.

Choose simple furniture to complement a dream view like this. The minimalist bed and furniture allow the window to truly shine.

Revamp your space with a new bed

 

Texture. Add texture to create a focal point in a monochromatic color scheme, giving your room character and depth. Smooth, shiny objects will give off a cool vibe, while soft, raised textures add more warmth. This kitchen’s neutral, minimalist palette immediately draws the eye to the texture and color of the counter-to-ceiling backsplash. The tile finish glistens against the stainless steel appliances.

Find new tile that makes a statement

 

Pattern. Pattern can be a striking focal point. If a room is lacking in architectural features, use a more permanent, patterned finish — like tile or stone — as a bold statement.

The organic, flowing pattern and subtle color of the granite feature wall carries this powder room — no need for other decorative elements. Clever backlighting highlights the stone and emphasizes the floating vanity top.

Highlighting the ceiling with wallpaper adds interest and character to a room. Directing the eye upward also makes the room look bigger.

 

 

Color. Narrow hallways can feel dull, but painting the doors a gutsy color and adding texture with studs created multiple focal points in this one.

Pay attention to how you can use color on your home’s architectural elements to draw the eye to or away from certain parts of your home. Notice how emphasizing the skirting in this hallway with bright turquoise leads the eye from door to door.

One bold item, such as a colorful striped rug, instantly sets a playful mood. This look works particularly well in contemporary rooms with little or no architectural detailing.

How to Organize and Beautify Your Entry Hall in 7 Days

Take your entry from scuffed up to spiffed up, restoring total cleanliness and order in just a week.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

A neat, chic entryway gives visitors a positive first impression and makes coming home a pleasure. But between the daily influx of mail and a household’s worth of coats, shoes and bags, this space is often one of the most challenging to keep clean and clutter free. Give your entryway a fresh start with this weeklong plan to clean and declutter from top to bottom — and learn to maintain a serene space long-term.

Day 1: Address the outside.

Cleaning tasks: The entrance to your home really begins outside your front door, so let’s start here. Sweep your porch or stoop, including the siding, and wash the exterior windows at the front of your home. Using a soft cloth, wipe down your mailbox, doorbell, porch lights and front door.

Decluttering tasks: Remove everything that doesn’t belong on the porch and find another home for it. Toss dead plants and store empty pots elsewhere.

Day 2: Clear the decks.

Decluttering tasks: Think of your entryway as a busy but temporary holding area — like a train station, not a permanent storage area. Scoop up all of the mail, shoes, coats, scarves, cell phone chargers, tote bags and so on, and move them away where you can deal with them more easily.

Find a permanent home for the items you remove from the entry — you should be able to do this for nearly everything, except perhaps your keys. Even if you think you can’t find another place to store that jacket or bag, challenge yourself to find a place … anywhere but the entry!

Cleaning tasks: Once all of the stuff has been removed, cleaning will be much easier. Vacuum and mop the floors, vacuum cobwebs from the corners, clean mirrors and wipe scuff marks off the walls.

Day 3: Bring back the essentials.

Decluttering tasks: Rather than keep all your shoes and coats by the door, try keeping only the one or two you use most often. Store the rest elsewhere.

The same goes for bags, sunglasses and other accessories — if you find this difficult, try taking a picture of your entryway looking fresh and clean with only the absolute minimum amount of stuff in it, and use it as a reminder of why it’s worth the effort.

If your entry has room, your essentials may include a rug, a boot tray or bin to corral shoes, a surface for mail and keys, hooks for coats and bags, a place to sit while putting on and taking off shoes, and adequate lighting.

Day 4: Tackle a problem zone.

Decluttering tasks: If you have a large household, consider adding extra closed storage — piles of coats out in the open look messy, even when the coats are neatly hung on hooks. If you have children, make sure the storage is easily accessible and clearly marked.

Cleaning tasks: The biggest cleaning challenge in the entry is dirt tracked in from outdoors. Rugs are your first line of defense against street dirt, so make sure yours are in good shape. If your area rugs are dirty, launder them; if they are getting worn out, consider buying new ones. Instead of choosing a typical doormat-size rug by default, consider if a larger rug or runner would better suit your space — a larger rug has more dirt-trapping power.

Day 5: Improve the flow.

Decluttering tasks: Step outside your home for a moment and come back in through the front door, taking the time to really notice how you naturally move into the space. Is your furniture arranged in a way that is convenient, or do you nearly bump into something on the way in?

Would it be easier to toss your keys on a floating shelf by the door instead of taking four steps to a bigger table down the hall? Today is the day to try something new.

Day 6: Beautify.

Cleaning tasks: Wipe down surfaces; polish wood furniture.

Decluttering tasks: Pay attention to what is kept out in the open in your entryway and what is behind closed doors. You can choose to keep your cutest rain boots and cheery umbrellas on display, and hide the less attractive gear. Add something fresh and pretty, like a bouquet of flowers, to bring your space to life.

If you don’t have a closet or cupboard for hiding utilitarian items, use baskets. But beware of going overboard and providing too much storage — it will only get filled up and then overfilled.

Sometimes a minimalist setup actually helps reduce clutter, because it forces you to put things away where they actually go instead of plunking them down in the entry. Strike a balance that feels right to you.

Day 7: Master a daily routine.

Cleaning tasks: A quick daily sweep will help keep dirt from accumulating in the entry. Storing a broom and dustpan or a small stick vacuum in the closet nearest the door will make things easier.

Decluttering tasks: Get in the habit of opening your mail as soon as you walk in the door, while standing over the recycling bin. At the end of each day, put away anything sitting around in the entry that doesn’t belong.

Tell us: What is the biggest cleaning or decluttering challenge you face in the entry?

9 Must-Haves for Low-Maintenance Kitchen Cabinets

Save valuable elbow grease and time with these ideas for easy-to-maintain cabinets.

The heart of the home may also be the toughest room to keep clean. Every surface in your kitchen is susceptible to crumbs, dirt, stains and splatters. This is especially true of cabinets. Fortunately, there are practical ways to keep your cabinet maintenance on the lighter side. With ideas like choosing fewer decorative details and picking the right color, these nine tips will make your cabinets easier to maintain.

1. Choose a door style with minimal detail. Raised-panel door styles have nooks and crannies that are magnets for dust and dirt. Shaker-style and slab door fronts don’t, so you won’t have to spend time scrubbing every recess of your door fronts.

If you’re designing a traditional kitchen and want a more decorative door style, select a stain or paint that has a glaze. The glaze will fill the doors’ cracks and corners and better hide the dust and dirt that your cabinet doors will collect.

2. Opt for flush cabinet ends. You normally have two options for finishing the ends of your cabinets: flush ends or matching ends. Flush ends (above) are plywood ends that match the color of your cabinets. They are smooth and sleek, which means you can run a cloth over it with a few swipes. They can certainly speed up cleaning.

Matching ends feature a panel with the same style as the door fronts, and while they can bring elegance and character to your kitchen, you face the same maintenance issues with matching ends as you do with raised-panel doors. There’s simply more to scrub.

3. Cut the trimmings. Designer details like crown molding, corbels, decorative legs and light rail molding add more to love but also more to clean, especially ornate styles.

There are other designer touches you can use that require less maintenance. Try a colorful cabinet paint, eccentric lighting or colored bar stools, like in this modern kitchen.

4. Pick a stain instead of a paint. Stains and paints have pros and cons. They can both show crumbs and fingerprints, and paint definitely shows food stains and splatters.

That said, a stain is easier to touch up than paint. You can give a scratched cabinet stain a quick spruce-up with a matching permanent marker. It’s often harder with paint for two reasons. First, it’s hard to find a marker that closely matches a specific paint. Often a touch-up kit from the cabinet manufacturer is needed. Second, paint doesn’t take touch-ups the same way that stains do. You’re more likely to notice a touch-up on paint.

5. Go for a grain with a dark stain. If you’re set on a dark cabinet stain, select a wood species that features the grain, such as oak or hickory. Grains don’t show scratches, stains and crumbs as much as a clean wood species like maple does. It’s also harder to tell that a cabinet stain has been touched up when the surface has grains.

6. Invest in hardware. If you want fewer fingerprints and less wear and tear on your door fronts, purchase door pulls and knobs for all of your cabinets. They help preserve the integrity of your cabinets’ surfaces.

Steer clear of stainless steel and chrome hardware. They show fingerprints and water spots and are harder to clean. Oil-rubbed bronze, satin bronze, polished nickel, brushed nickel and white hardware are the cream of the crop as far as easy maintenance goes. Choose the look that best suits the style of your kitchen.

7. Avoid glass door fronts. They may be windows to your kitchen’s soul, but they’re also extra surfaces to clean. They manage to attract their fair share of dust, dirt and smudges. Dirt can build up easily on glass door fronts that feature mullions. You also have to keep whatever is behind those glass doors tidy.

One benefit to glass door fronts is how inviting they can make your kitchen space feel. Luckily, there’s more than one way to design a warm and welcoming kitchen. If you want a low-maintenance alternative to glass door fronts, stick with lighter cabinet stains like golden browns. They can make your guests feel just as cozy as glass door fronts do.

8. Reduce open shelving. Open shelving is a great canvas for displaying your favorite decor and cookware, whether it’s on a wall, on an island or at the end of cabinets. But it takes more time and effort to ensure that these spaces are dusted and organized. The upkeep can become overwhelming along with your daily tasks.

To shorten your to-do list, place your decor on necessary surfaces like dining tables and countertops instead of unnecessary cabinet shelves. You can also use pillows, chairs, bar stools and lighting as decorative touches.

9. Protect your sink cabinet from moisture. This is more of a preventative measure — it will help you avoid issues down the road. There are a couple of ways to help protect your sink cabinet from moisture. You can order the cabinet with an all-plywood construction (most semi-custom and prefabricated cabinets are constructed of a mixture of pressed wood and plywood). An all-plywood construction makes the cabinet less penetrable. You can also purchase a cabinet mat, which looks like a tray and is placed at the base of the sink cabinet. It will serve as a moisture barrier and catch any liquid leaks or spills.

How to Live Big in a Dorm Room

Transform any dorm room into a bright, organized, spacious home away from home.

Guest Post by NorthStar Moving Co-Founder Laura McHolm

Sending your baby off to college this month? I am sure your home is full of dorm room boxes and you are full of emotions! One way to ease your worry is to ensure your college student is living comfortably. Let’s face it; traditional dorm living is often bland, overcrowded, messy and cramped. That’s an idea we can simply throw out now!

The “less is more” rule is especially true when you are living in a dorm room.  With the latest creative approach to making small spaces more livable, we can transform any dorm room into a bright, organized, spacious home away from home.

Here are some bright ideas on how to make your dorm room big livin’:

Raise It

If you have watched any of the tiny house TV shows, you know that they find storage in every corner of the space to make the most of the space. The same goes for a dorm room. Purchase bed risers to add more storage space. A lofted bed will give you more space for your shoe collection, storage containers, study desk and more.

Functional Accessories

Most dorm rooms come with the basics such as a desk and dresser. Enhance the space by adding in functional furniture and accessories such as funky storage ottomans, a bench or couch with storage inside and over-the-door organizers. These stylish accents will help keep your dorm room feeling open and relaxed, all without cramping your space or style.

Strategic Décor

With that right décor you can make a space feel bigger. Here are strategies that will open up your dorm room while showing off who you are:

  • Walls: Wall decals are the latest home décor rage, from formal homes to tiny homes. They are beautiful and meet any dorm rules about placing nails in walls, etc. Shop online or in stores for the removable wall decals that speak to you. Another way to add cheer is by draping lights and calming fabric on the walls, softening concrete walls.
  • Mirrors: Hang interestingmirrors around the room. The views and reflected light from the mirrors will make the room feel bigger. Select big and small mirrors with interesting frames to add dimension to the room.
  • Color: Brighten a dark dorm room by using bright colors, but be sure to stick with one color scheme. Too many colors can close in the space. Check in with your new roomie(s) to see what they are planning so you can coordinate. For example, if you both love blue, make sure you choose blues or patterns that coordinate.
  • One POP Item: Choose one “pop” item that really makes it your home and wows guests. For instance, a chandelier, faux fur rug or throw, elaborate throw pillows, etc. Your room will pop with that over the top piece!

Become a Pro Organizer

While you may not be majoring in the art of organization, it is time to study up on professional organization. An organized dorm room is a bigger dorm room. Here are some tips from the pros:

  • Clothing: Lay folded clothes (t-shirts, sweaters, etc.) inside your drawers vertically on their side (not stacked on top of each other). You can purchase wooden or plastic planks to use as dividers. This way you can fit more of your clothes and see them all at once when you open the drawer. Organize your closet and drawers by color, light to dark so you can always grab just what you want when you want it.
  • Laundry: Keep your laundry basket on the floor of your closet if there is room. This will leave more free space in your dorm room.
  • Books: Arrange your textbooks by size and stand them up on a shelf. That way they will take up less room on your desk.
  • Storage Containers: Clear storage boxes can be a lifesaver in a small space and they come in cool colored tints. Use those boxes for school supplies, files, seasonal clothes, phone chargers, electronics, etc. The more stuff you have stashed away the bigger your space will feel.
  • The Big Stuff: If you have skis, snowboard, surfboard or other big items consider getting a storage unit close to the campus. Split it with your roomie!

Now sit back and enjoy your huge dorm room — big space, big character. Oh wait, now you need to hit the books and one more step…. Take photos on your phone of how it all turned out so you can refer to the images if you slip up on the organization and get it back in shape in no time! While you are at it, why not brag a bit and post them for all your friends to admire!

Pare Down and Declutter By Knowing How Much Stuff Is Enough

Play the numbers game to streamline your belongings, for a neater home and a less-stressed you.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

So you want to pare down your belongings. But how much, exactly, do you get rid of? And how can you prevent stuff from simply piling up all over again? Part of the solution to a lasting clutter-free existence may lie in numbers. As in, the number of pairs of shoes, towels, place settings and so on that you decide to keep in the house. By deciding how many items in each category of stuff you really need, those numbers become a sort of fail-safe, preventing your home from free-falling into its formerly cluttered state. Check out these ideas on how to get started, then share your own numbers in the Comments.

The “sometimes” dilemma: What to do if you use something but only occasionally? Fancy china and highly specialized cookware come immediately to mind. If you really do love to have these things when the occasion calls for it, and you have storage space for them, by all means keep them. Just be intentional about what and how much you are keeping, and know why. Try to avoid keeping large sets of anything purely out of guilt — if you’ve inherited something you don’t want, see if someone else in the family wants it, sell it or donate it to charity.

More tips on what to do with sentimental pieces

How much to keep? Set a space limit. One way to keep rarely used items in check is to limit the amount of storage space you afford them. Instead of allowing your entertaining arsenal to multiply indefinitely over time, taking over not only cupboards but basement shelves and the attic too, decide on one space to store these items in and stick with it. For instance, keep all china in one nice china hutch — if you acquire more down the road, give away or sell something to free up space.

The Rule of Three: One in the wash, one in the cupboard, one in use. You may have heard this one before, but it bears repeating because it really works. It can be difficult to come up with what seems to be a rather arbitrary number of items to keep, but sticking with one for the shelf, one to use and one to wash keeps things simple. I follow this rule for sheets (per bed) and towels (per person).

What about guests? Unless you are running a boarding house, two sets of sheets for each guest bed and two sets of towels per guest are plenty.

The seasonal exception: Even minimalists may want to keep extra stuff on hand to rotate in depending on the season — and that’s whether or not there are chilly winters.

It can be a nice change of pace to bring out thicker blankets in warmer hues for the winter and light, airy linens in summer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should double the number of sets you have, if some sets work well year-round. For instance, you could decide to keep one set of sateen sheets for year-round use, two sets of flannels for winter and two cool, crisp sets for summer.

Special case: Clothes. Clothes and shoes may be the most personal (and difficult) category of stuff to put limits on. That said, even those with intense attachments to their wardrobes can find it worthwhile to do a proper inventory.

After figuring out that you actually have 100 pairs of shoes or 20 nearly identical black tops, you may decide to bring that number down … or you may not, but at least you will be informed.

Special case: Kids’ stuff. When a child’s room is overflowing with stuff, it’s hard to focus on any one thing, and pretty soon all of those lovingly chosen toys become just part of the mess. Setting space constraints is a smart way to handle this situation. Dedicate certain shelves, plus perhaps a toy closet (for toys not currently being used in the rotation) for your child’s belongings, and keep it at that. When a bin or shelf begins to overflow, or you notice that stuff is piling up on the floor (because it has nowhere else to go), take that as a cue to give something away.

The everyday stuff: Count it out. Do you know how many basic plates, bowls, cups and wineglasses you own? If you’re not sure, go count them — you may be surprised at just how many pieces of “everyday” tableware you have. Of course it’s nice to have enough of everything that the whole household can eat a meal or two and not worry about getting everything washed and dried, and you’ll want extras on hand for bigger casual dinners with family and friends if you host that sort of thing, but you won’t likely need more than that.

Not everyone wants to stick with one set of white dishes (although for simplicity’s sake, that’s surely an easy way to go). But you can still set a limit at a certain number of sets. If you go over your number, it’s time to start culling.

Special case: Tupperware. What is it about plastic containers that makes them seem to multiply when you’re not looking (but hardly ever with a matching lid)? Start by removing any lids that don’t have mates, then count what you have left. Most of us probably have too many food storage containers — really, how many leftovers are you likely to wrap up at any given time? Three? Four?

Special case: Your passions. Book lovers, athletes, outdoorsy types, musicians, crafters … you know who you are. And more important, you know how easy it is to collect more and more stuff to support your passion.

Being aware of exactly what you already own is a good first step toward reining in your collections — perhaps your yarn stash is in such disarray, you end up buying yarn you already have.

But it’s also a good idea to start paying attention to what you actually use. If you treasure your books, notice which ones you actually pick up from time to time — I realized a while ago that I rarely pick up novels after I’ve read them, so I decided to let go of most books in that category.

Pain-free ways to declutter your library

Just because you have the room to store it doesn’t mean you should. Extra space is deceptive. If you are blessed with large closets and ample storage space, you may be thinking you’re off the hook — but the truth is, everyone can benefit from paring down a little. Having fewer belongings means less time spent cleaning, moving and mending them; less time looking for things; and generally less to worry about. And if you ever need to downsize in the future, the process will be far less gut wrenching if you have already chosen to live with less stuff.

Set your own rules. The point of this ideabook is to help you gain awareness of what kind of and how much stuff you need, so you can tailor your stuff to fit your life. And no one else can really do that for you. It may take a while to figure out exactly the right amount of stuff for you, but once you do, it’s bound to make your life a little easier.

Tell us: What are your numbers? How many sets of sheets, dishes or pairs of shoes are enough for you?

Does Your Living Room Feel Unfinished? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions

Your answers can offer clues to get from not-yet-done to perfectly designed.

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Houzz Contributor, Karen Mills

Have you ever felt like your living room looks incomplete but you haven’t been sure what to do about it? Being your own decorator can be difficult — you get used to your own furniture, and it can be challenging to think of new approaches to a space you’ve been living in for some time. If that’s the situation for you, ask yourself these six questions to jump start a new perspective and take your living room from not-quite-right to beautifully decorated.

1. Do you have a focal point? Many features in a room can be its focal point, including a fireplace, built-in shelves or even a grouping like a chest with a lamp and art overhead. If a focal point doesn’t seem to exist in your living room, think about where your eye goes naturally when entering the room and create a point of interest there with furnishings, such as a sofa table and lamp or maybe a curio cabinet with decorative items. To emphasize your focal point, add finishes or decor that will make it stand out: an accent wall can draw the eye, as can bold artwork, contrasting decor or a stunning piece of furniture.

In this photo, a wide doorway frames the focal point beyond: the sofa and art. The white sofa, light walls and rug create a bold contrast against the eye-catching red pillows and dark tables. The large artwork pulls together the different colors in the room.

In this room, the built-in shelving is the obvious focal point, thanks in large part to its fetching blue paint. The large framed art and contrasting shelf decor further draw the eye to this part of the room. It’s just as important that the sofa, end table, coffee table, gray chair and pillows provide a neutral foreground that doesn’t compete with the shelving.

Keep in mind that not every element of your room has to be special or colorful or unique — keeping some pieces simple allows the items you want to showcase to really stand out.

2. Do you have a cozy seating arrangement that enhances your focal point? Of course a wide range of options exist on furniture placement, but by placing your sofa or love seat facing your focal point with chairs laced in to create an intimate grouping, you naturally draw attention toward that focal point, whether a fireplace, artwork or view beyond. If pointing your sofa toward the focal point isn’t an option or doesn’t look quite right, try flanking your focal point with the furniture grouping instead to enhance it like in this photo.

Here, the bold green chair and colorful decor on the mantel give emphasis to the fireplace, while the yellow pillow and flowers add a cheerful pop of color.

This photo provides a great example of a U-shaped seating arrangement that enhances the fireplace focal point, providing an enticing place to sit. The striated horizontal tile and lit shelving flanking the fireplace call further attention to that wall.

3. Do you have stylish side and coffee tables? Not only are tables practical for holding lamps, drinks and decor like trays, books or flowers, but also they can make a design statement.

These quirky stacked tables are a great example of how to have an impact when mixed with simple furnishings. If you have upholstery that looks heavy — skirted, thick legs or no legs showing — try offsetting them with tables that show more leg for a lighter, balanced feel (and vice versa). In this photo, a gallery-style wall of art adds a personal touch and vibrant color to the room, as do the pillows and plants.

4. Do you have an ample-size rug that augments your design? Rugs not only help delineate spaces in open floor plans but also ground a furniture grouping, or help define it as a contained space. When selecting a rug, ensure that it supports your room’s style and that it is large enough to tuck fully under your seating area. If not, then place front furniture legs on top of the rug, as in this photo, to create a connection between the rug and the furnishings.

5. Have you added window treatments? Window coverings can range from draperies, as shown in this photo, to window toppers and hard treatments like shades, blinds or shutters. Window treatments need to be beautiful as well as functional, providing privacy, darkening, sun protection and insulation from outside elements when needed.

In this photo, the draperies add height to the room and reinforce the color palette, making the room feel more finished.

6. Does your room showcase your style and color preferences? As much as neutral schemes can be calming and beautiful, accent colors and stylish furnishings can bring a room to life. In this photo, bright orange and golden yellow pillows warm up the gray sectional along with the orange and yellow accents on the shelving beyond.

Wall shelves and a coffee table reveal an affinity for clean-lined furniture in light woods, while the rug and gold pillow fabric at the far end of the sofa demonstrate a fondness for graphic patterns.

DIY: Decorating Your Home With Photos

Decorating with photos is an awesome way to spice up your home in a really dramatic way without spending a whole lot of money. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a lot of money; your own photos are probably better than anything you’d buy.

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Dial up the gorgeous drama of your NYC home with a fun photo decor DIY project. Photographs, like art, can help us express ourselves in many different ways. They can help us play up our sentimental side, make important statements, and complete the canvas of our homes. Learning how to decorate with photos, as simple as it sounds, can be quite daunting once you put your mind to it. How exactly should you go about it? Should you hang provocative art in your living room where everyone can see it? Is it cheesy to hang photos of your entire family on your fridge? What’s the right thing to do?

The Right Way Is Your Way

Don’t worry that you’ll end up decorating with photos that people may think are cheesy or that are too much. Photographs are an expression and extension of yourself, so you’re hanging and displaying them to express your vision. Of course, if you have children regularly visiting your home, you don’t want to hang something for mature audiences only in a room where everyone gathers. You know who you invite into your home; use your judgment.

Use Your Own Photos

There are photographic gems you probably aren’t even aware of (or even remember exist) buried inside your very own camera or flash drives. Photos of vacations past, a child’s birthday party, a lonely street at night — any of these could be striking or thought-provoking enough to make perfect wall art. You don’t have to use the whole image; maybe it’s a detail of an image that’s frame worthy. If you don’t have the scene you’re looking for, create it: Your child’s feet as they leap off the ground; your grandmother’s smile the instant she bursts into laughter upon hearing an off-color joke; your cat’s profile as she watches a bird outside the window. The possibilities are literally endless.

 

Display Them In Innovative Ways

You can rarely go wrong with square or rectangular black frames backed by white matte when it comes to framing your pictures, but there are many different ways you can display your photos. Attach a series of photos individually on metallic clips and hang them from a metal wire grid that takes up your entire wall. Put some vintage photos inside of old mason jars. Blow up a favorite photo to life-size stats and hang it front and center in your main living area or passageway.