Warming Your Home

10 mini-makeovers that can put a fresh face on your place before your guests arrive
As temperatures start to drop, anxieties start to rise. The holiday entertaining season is right around the corner, but is your house anywhere close to being party-ready?

You may not have time to complete that major kitchen renovation you’ve been dreaming about, but there are plenty of small projects you can tackle that will yield noticeable improvements in your home’s functionality and style. Here are10 mini home makeovers that will have your holiday guests oooh-ing and aaah-ing.

  • Create a true guest room. Take a cue from the last hotel you stayed in and lend some comfort to your guest room with amenities. Interior designer Diana Hudson Kresnye of Devine Designs suggests using a slender guest room closet (or part of a bigger one) to create a butler’s pantry stocked with a small microwave, coffee maker, dorm-size fridge and a basket of assorted teas, coffee, hot chocolate and microwave popcorn. Get an inexpensive length of countertop and a cabinet to fit your opening, and ask an electrician to add an outlet. “When we have guests, we always stock the fridge with their favorite beverages, and it’s always nice to have a bottle of wine from our local Ohio winery chilling when they arrive,” says Kresnye. “Print out the local channel listing and create a DVD library of holiday movie classics they can watch during down time.” Leave a few seasonal magazines out, she suggests, and pack a small basket of personal items they may have forgotten, such as razors, lotion and a hair dryer.

  • Create a just-for-kids space. Hopefully last year’s living room dodgeball game convinced you that your grandkids need their own space to safely enjoy this year’s holiday gatherings. The solution? Use a themed wall mural to create a kid-friendly zone in a spare bedroom or corner of the basement, then stock it with art supplies, toys or video games. “A mural creates atmosphere and holds their attention more than bare walls,” says Nicolette Capuano of Beyond the Wall Mural Design. “It’s about creating a space they will want to hang out in.” Choose a timeless theme that isn’t too juvenile, she suggests, and add some seating, a small TV and a drawing table. If a wall mural is too permanent for your tastes, Capuano recommends a folding screen mural — your décor on one side, theirs on the other — to create an instant kid-friendly room that can be stored away when they leave.

  • Give your windows some jewelry. You’re headed to a fancy event wearing a fabulous little black dress and expensive shoes, “but without the necklace and earrings, it’s just not the same,” says Barbara Krantz of K Design Associates. “It’s the same thing with window treatments.” Too often, she says, homeowners invest in magnificent furniture, rugs and wall décor but neglect the windows. Now’s the perfect time to finish off a room with the jewelry —er, window treatments — it deserves. Krantz recommends staying away from ready-made curtains in favor of quality custom window treatments that are properly lined to prevent sun damage to furniture and curtains. If budget’s a concern, she suggests not cutting corners on the drapery but instead installing lower-grade hardware that you can move to another room when you’re ready to upgrade. You may be surprised at what a difference quality drapery makes in a room. “It’s the finishing touch,” says Krantz. “Drapery absorbs sound, and when a room sounds better, you’ll tend to use it more.”

  • Shop at home. No, we’re not advocating a QVC shopping spree. Rather, take a stroll through your house with an objective eye to see how you can use things you already own to create a completely different look for a room. “There are a lot of jewels in people’s homes just waiting to be discovered,” says interior designer Nancy Benjamin of N Benjamin Interiors and Transformation Today. The first step, suggests Benjamin, is to remove virtually everything from the room and put each thing back strategically. “When you have a collection of 40 different things on a bookshelf, it doesn’t work,” she says. “You have to decide what will be center stage.” Keep those things that are important to you or which fulfill your needs for a room, says Benjamin, and arrange your display items in odd numbers according to a general theme. “Whoever said that less is more was totally right,” says Benjamin.

  • Boost your kitchen capacity. It’s a predicament anyone who has cooked for large groups has found themselves in: how to get five different dishes —all requiring different cooking temperatures — to come out perfect from the same oven. “At least two ovens are a must for holiday entertaining, but most people are limited on space [to install a second oven],” says Sharon Bennett of Lyndhurst’s Snow Brothers Appliance Co. Now there’s an answer — double ovens that fit in standard-width openings. Among Bennett’s recommendations for a capacity-boosting oven upgrade are the Maytag Gemini 30-inch Double Oven — one’s a convection oven while the other’s conventional — and the GE Profile 30-inch Double Wall Oven, which fits in standard cabinet openings either above or below your counters.

  • Dismantle your mantel. Mantels are often a focal point for holiday decorating, but there’s nothing those stockings can do to cover up an ugly one. There’s still time to tackle a mantel update, says Pat Hurst of Hurst Design-Build-Remodeling. “You can drywall over an outdated brick wall and completely redo your fireplace for a different look,” he says. “You can even install natural stone or even tile over the brick if you build out the wall properly.” Mantels can also be a quick update if you select a prefabricated kit, Hurst says, which can be found in stone, wood or other materials.

  • Create a striking entryway. It can be as easy and affordable as a fresh coat of paint and a new rug. But interior designer Marianne Minogue, store manager of Arhaus Furniture in Legacy Village, also suggests adding a storage bench that can serve as a place for guests to sit while removing their boots and a spot to stow everyone’s shoes during a party. For a more dramatic entryway change, Hurst recommends putting in new flooring and replacing your front door. “When you’re entertaining, this is the place everyone is going to see,” Hurst says.

  • Update your powder room. Major bathroom renovation might not be feasible between now and the holidays, but a powder room is one place that can get an entirely new look with just a weekend of work. “A lot of powder rooms have a very small square-footage, so you can replace your flooring with something high-end like natural stone or porcelain tile and get a lot of bang for your buck,” says interior designer Bridget Kline of Hurst Design-Build-Remodeling. Off-the-shelf options abound for new vanities, sinks, counters and lighting, says Kline, but skip the standard bathroom mirror in favor of a decorative framed mirror. Be cautious of dark colors in a small powder room, she says. Instead, opt for light, earthy tones. “A lot of people are tending toward natural stone these days and pulling colors from that,” she says.

  • Add some sparkle to your décor. “When I think of the holidays and gatherings, I think of sparkle,” says interior designer Sandy Varelmann of Weave Ideas. “Sparkle is created through the use of mirrors, lights, reflective surfaces and shiny colors such as silver, gold and bronze.” Take a trip through your home to see where you can position mirrors by lamps or candles to create some holiday sparkle and make rooms appear bigger. “Mirrors placed throughout a home open up the space and bounce the available light, creating interest and excitement,” says Varelmann. In particular, consider adding a large mirror at or just above the height of your dining room buffet (or wherever your holiday food staging area may be) to give the appearance of a spread that’s — in Varelmann’s words — “overflowing with tasty treats.”

  • Dress up your dining room. Create an atmosphere that will have your guests lingering over your holiday meal for hours. Fabrics are the starting point for a fast upgrade, says Arhaus’ Minogue. “It’s so easy to just switch out the fabrics on your seat pads.” This year’s most versatile décor item: bell jars. “You can line up four of them on your table with seasonal items from your yard or an antique kitchen piece,” she says. “We’ve even used ribbon to hang them upside-down from the ceiling and filled them with lavender or rose hips to add a good smell to the room.”

Holiday Resource Guide

Here’s how to reach the local experts featured in our story:

Devine Designs, devinedesignshome.com

Beyond the Wall Mural Design, beyondthewallmurals.com

K Design Associates, (216) 831-8287

N Benjamin Interiors, (216) 346-6232

Snow Bros. Appliance Co., snowappliance.com

Hurst Design-Build-Remodeling, hurstconstruction.com

Arhaus Furniture, arhaus.com

Weave Ideas, weaveideas.com
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