Home centers

Hunkering down at home? Add these home improvements for a luxurious stay-cation.
Can’t move? Maybe it’s time to improve. Or maybe you love where you live but want to spruce it up a bit.

“A lot of people have decided they are not going to move, so they want to update and freshen the look,” says Hope

Forchione, a district manager for J.C. Penney Custom Decorating.

More than ever, we want our home to not only accommodate our needs but also to reflect our personalities. DesAnn Collins of Design by

DesAnn calls it “impressionist decorating,” as in, the home is an impression of the person who lives there.

“People want their homes to function for them rather than just be a showcase,” says Colleen McManamon, a designer with Interiors by J&M in

Avon. The formal living room, or front room, is recast as a game room or library. Crafters expand basement laundry rooms into creative workspaces with storage for materials. Home-business owners convert dens into headquarters.

“Rooms should be a reflection of your taste — not the neighbors’ taste, not your mother’s taste,” Forchione says. But many times, home is a mishmash of colors and bad choices that the old owners left behind. Then there are all those DIY projects gone bad. (Remember the bathroom paint experiment?)

Help is on the way. We asked Home & Garden Show designers for ideas you can take into your home. Choose an easy improvement, or get help from a pro and take on an advanced project. Upgrades can cost less than $100 or several paychecks. Either way, these ideas will make an impact on your greatest investment — home.

* = Easy does it
** = Weekend warrior
*** = Hire a pro

$ = $150 or less
$$ = $150 to $400
$$$ = $400 to $800
$$$$ = $800 plus››

A better bathroom

Freshen up an outdated bathroom with paint, hardware and accessories. Coat vanity cabinets in deep brown or black, and replace knobs. Go for brushed nickel or basic chrome — so you can afford to buy a suite of hardware — and choose simple, sleek pulls and knobs for a timeless look.

Replace plastic motif shower curtains with fabric, and opt for metal or decorative curtain rings. “What really pops is a shower rod that curves out into the room rather than going straight across the tub,” says Lynn Koerner of Interiors By Lynn in Cleveland and Akron.

If you’re splurging, replace the vanity with a fixture that has open shelving and a vessel sink, McManamon suggests. Today’s vanity/sink units look like furniture and may contain claw-foot legs or detailed trim similar to that on a dresser or chest. This project may require assistance from a plumber.

Luxury linens and towel bars that match cabinet hardware pull together a rich look that is easy on the pocketbook.
rating: *- **/$-$$$

Color your ceiling

You’ve heard time and again that paint is the least expensive way to make a big impact on a space. But many homeowners forget the biggest wall in the house. Look up: It’s the ceiling. “When a cathedral ceiling is painted white, the room looks like it has a lid on it,” Collins says.

To prevent a two-story room from feeling cold, paint the ceiling a couple shades darker than the wall, and choose warm colors. Lift a low ceiling in a small room by painting it a couple shades lighter than the wall. Veer toward colors with blue undertones, Collins suggests.

When painting a ceiling, wear goggles to protect the eyes from splatters. Use paint rollers with extension handles, and don’t forget to prepare the wall by washing it with a degreaser and lining edges with masking or painter’s tape, which peels away from surfaces without taking the color with it. Have no fear with paint, Collins assures. “Paint is the No. 1 thing people are afraid of, and it’s the easiest mistake to fix.”
rating: **/$

Dress the windows

A bare window deserves special treatment. In the dining room, curtains and drapes set the mood, Forchione says. She suggests choosing the window treatments before other accents such as wall color. They don’t need to be pleated, heavy or overly ornate.

Layers are out, and decorative hardware is in. Think lightweight metals, wood and resins. Wrought-iron rods are back for traditional homes, Forchione adds. As for materials, jacquards and embroidered sheers are common in conservative homes. Balloon shades and roman-style blinds are making a comeback, and window coverings of all styles can make a bold statement in reds, browns and turquoise.

Dressing the windows pays off come sale time. “They make a big impact on the selling price and value of the home,” Forchione says, noting that homeowners are willing to pay more for a move-in ready house.
rating: **/$$-$$$

Carve out shelving

Cut out square sections of drywall in between wall braces and create built-in display shelves. The inserts will be about 4 inches deep, just enough to show off a decorative plate or pictures, Collins says. “The shelves do not protrude into the room, so you don’t steal floor space,” Collins points out.

This project requires knowledge of your home’s electrical layout (you don’t want to cut into a wire or sever a plumbing line) and drywall expertise. You may need to hire a carpenter to complete the job. Once the wall section is cut out, refinish the inside of the niche and paint it. To skip these steps, purchase neoclassical niches to fill the gaps. Collins suggests painting the niche interiors to match the ceiling. (Not white. SeeColor your ceiling.)
rating: **/$$$

Embellish lamp shades

Especially in a child’s room, simple accents such as lamp shades can infuse a space with personality. Merri Karp, an interior designer in Berea, helped her teenage daughters convert a reclaimed lamp shade into a whimsical expression of each girl’s personal style.

Start with an inexpensive lamp shade and re-cover it with an interesting fabric. Collect beads, baubles, fringe and other flair from a fabric store or consignment shops. Karp uses basic fabric glue to secure the fabric to the shade and a little hot glue to fasten adornments.
rating: */$

Crown the room

Crown molding looks rich and polished. “Anytime you add molding, it adds dimension to the space,” McManamon says. The same goes for frame molding, which makes wall art look like architectural detail.

To crown the ceiling, purchase molding at a home improvement store. You’ll need a miter saw to cut accurate crosscuts where corners meet and a coping saw that has a C-shaped frame and can cut intricate shapes.

This is a DIY project for only the most patient homeowners.

Picture frame molding is flat on the back and easier to apply to the wall, McManamon says. Ceiling medallions, a third add-on architectural feature, are decorative disks that add a touch of baroque to the ceiling area where a fixture hangs.
rating: ** - ***/$$

Swap furniture
Are there furniture pieces that could be repurposed? Would a side table in the living room function as a nightstand? What if you repainted it? Recycling can be as simple as moving furniture to places where it’ll get more use, Karp says. Concentrate on small pieces that are easy to move. Edit furniture that looks worn. Repaint, refinish and put it somewhere else in the home. Karp has applied this theory with textiles, as well. “I bought chenille bed covers that I’m now using to create window treatments,” she says.
rating: */$

Super-size tile

Small mosaic bathroom tiles visually shrink the space. Bigger tiles have the opposite effect. Choose 18-by-18 inch tiles with an interesting texture or color variation. “Don’t go with the same size tile for the wall,” Collins advises. “Change it up for interest.”

Remember that you must remove and reset the toilet in the bathroom and cut tiles to accommodate angles by the tub and sink. Many homeowners feel most comfortable hiring a professional for this job.
rating: ** - ***/$-$$

Organize the mudroom

“The most important aspect of a mudroom is storage,” McManamon says. Outfit the space with a chest of drawers to hold winter wear such as hats and gloves, and add a bench for seating. “Wood lockers are also great, and so are cabinets with shelves where you can keep basket drawers,” McManamon adds.
rating: */$-$$

Unify a space with rugs
Rugs make disparate furniture pieces look like a collection, and extra-large rooms can often appear cold if conversation spaces aren’t defined. “If you have a solid floor, put a patterned rug down —don’t mix two patterns together,” Koerner advises.

Place rugs in the center of a seating area or in a master suite under the bed so it peeks out at the foot and either side.
rating: */$$-$$$
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