Jazz up a breakfast area by bringing in a bench to replace some chairs — look for an old church pew, an odd vintage iron bench, or a wicker loveseat. You may have one outside you can drag indoors. Or, have a carpenter build in a simple banquette for more seating in a tight space. Pile it with colorful summery pillows – make sure they are washable and have a zipper.
Buy just three yards of fabric and a staple gun, and recover your dining chairs yourself. Use an outdoor acrylic and you can wash it with soapy water and a sponge – perfect for dealing with suntan oil and wet bathing suits. Give your lamps a lift – change beige or tan shades to white, and trim plain paper shades with colorful ribbon glued around the top and bottom for a crisp fresh look. If you are stuck with pastel plaster lamps, spray the bases a crisp white to modernize them. Or, add a shade in an interesting fabric to the room for a splash of pattern.
Take down all of your art and start over. Take the ones with outdated mat colors (mauve, blue, brown) to the framer to have just the mats changed to a nice fresh ivory. Then rehang everything in a different room from where it was before. Consider repainting the frames white or black if that will help the art find a new home in a different room. Move your furniture around and create a new floor plan that makes your rooms match the way you really live. For example, moving an unused desk out of the bedroom and into the living area will provide space for a laptop. If your family room is piled with games and movies, look for an unused cabinet or dresser from the basement or guest room that can be brought in to hold clutter. Dresser drawers are great for hiding mail order catalogs, CDs, or hobby supplies. Use a short chest in place of an end table. Give it a colorful coat of paint if necessary. Slipcover one or two pieces of furniture. Look at the room first and decide what will make the biggest difference. If you want a lighter room and the sofa is the biggest dark piece, slipcover it and add some lighter colored pillows around the room. Made properly, custom slipcovers are great for living rooms, as they can be washed and make the home always feel freshly cleaned. Have an extra seat cushion cover made so one can be rotated into the wash if it gets stained. Wood dining chairs should have seat cushions too — if yours don’t, invest in having them made with removable, washable covers — the most elegant vacation homes have them. Plus, if your guests are comfortable while dining, you’ll have long dinners full of lively conversation. Add some new pieces to your bedding – throw pillows, colorful shams, or a duvet in a splashy pattern. We use mattelasse coverlets from Pine Cone Hill - they are easy to wash, light to sleep under for summer, and come in pretty colors. You can mix one into your existing bedding set and fold the old comforter at the foot of the bed for a layered look. This is also a more luxurious look for the bed, and makes the room feel like an upscale bed and breakfast.
Pillows, pillows, pillows! Don’t be shy about mixing patterns — as long as they have some common colors, they all go together. Pillows are probably the least expensive and most effortless way to give a room a quick makeover. Splurge a little on some up-to-date fabrics and the whole room will look new.
For outdoors, we really love the furnishings from a company called Fermob; they make the metal chairs used in the parks in Paris. They have a lot of styles, from traditional to modern. Best of all, they are lightweight and most pieces fold so they can be easily stored for winter. They even have bright colors. The cafe sets are great indoors as well. If you have old outdoor furniture, it is well worth it to have the cushions replaced and recovered with Outdura or Sunbrella fabric. A refurbished wicker sofa is far less expensive than a new one, (and so much nicer than those beige aluminum sets from big box stores that you might replace it with). Wicker will give a very upscale look to your porch.
Outdoors or in, don’t miss the rugs from Dash and Albert Rug Company. They have bright flat-weave rugs in acrylic that are super sturdy and washable. They are great for porches, but also come in large sizes so they are perfect for casual living and dining areas. They are colorful and reasonably priced.
Give your home a summer makeover by looking for little projects like the ones above that can be done in a day. Re-purposing furnishings you already own is budget friendly, and it is fun to use your creativity.
© 2009 Kerry Ann Dame. May not be reproduced without permission.