1. Clear out your present space and look at the big picture. That advice comes from Anne Ruby, professional interior designer at Reflections Interior Design in Cleveland. She suggests clients look at their space stripped of knickknacks and decide what story they'd like the room to tell about them.
2. Think in color. If you're leaving the white walls of apartment living behind, head for the nearest paint store and let your imagination run wild. Color is one of the least expensive ways to update a room. Try gentle hues, bold colors or two tones to bring excitement to your room. Your paint professional can recommend techniques, including roll or leaf patterns.
3. Choose a focal point. The eye is drawn to a fireplace in a living room. In other rooms, it can be a bookcase or the bed. For a picture window, choose a treatment to highlight the view. Frame the focal point with accessories such as photos, a picture or any objet d'art.
4. Use lighting to add character. Replace plain lampshades with colorful patterns or beaded or wicker designs. Choose a lamp base that will enhance your room's theme, whether it's gothic, colonial or contemporary. Ceiling and floor lamps add dimension. Create moods with varying bulb wattage.
5. Pile on the pillows. Throw pillows add warmth to a room, especially when they're covered in your favorite fabric pattern and color. It's best to use only a few pillows so guests don't have to "share" the chair. Vary the pillow shape and remember: Larger pillows make a bigger design impact.
6. Design your table setting. Here's where the items for which you've registered come in handy. A well thought-out table design is a great way to reflect your style. Contemporary, classic or eclectic, your table can be the focus of your dining area for a minimal cost.
7. Look at the walls. Mirrors are often used to make a room appear larger and framed art can add depth. You can really personalize a room (and save money) by framing concert tickets, calendar photos or travel maps and plane tickets from your honeymoon or favorite vacation.
8. Bring on the blooms. Fresh flowers instantly add beauty to a room and they don't have to be expensive. A single flower or a bouquet from the supermarket can brighten a room. You can also use longer-lasting flowering plants, including African violet or Easter lily.
9. Don't forget the floor. Area rugs can highlight intimate conversation areas. Contemporary designs with geometric shapes or classic Oriental designs add dimension to any room. Consider octagonal, square or circular rugs to draw interest.
10. Completely rearrange your furniture. Or simply angle the sofa, chairs or entertainment center instead of backing each piece against a wall. This can instantly give the room a fresh perspective.