Next Score View the next score

    Small changes make big difference

    Michael J. Lee
    Alli Arnold for The Boston Globe

    Paint the front door a bold color. Rearrange the furniture. Pop in a new rug. There are lots of ways to spiff up your home for the holidays.

    These days, with the trove of HGTV shows, magazines, and home decor bloggers out there, it’s easy to find yourself dreaming of a home makeover. Perhaps especially at this time of year, when friends and neighbors drop in for the holidays and your home’s “lived in” look will be on full display. But local designers say you can revitalize your home in small ways that will have a big impact. Now get busy.

    Design a gallery wall

    Homeowners tend to have artwork displayed on several walls in the house, says Robin Gannon, who owns the Lexington-based home accessories shop Haven. She suggests gathering several pieces from various rooms and creating a collection that is displayed on one wall in a main living space. “The pieces don’t have to particularly relate to each other,” Gannon says. “All the frames can be different, and it’s good to include a variety of horizontal and vertical pieces.” Before hanging, make a map on the floor that will translate to the wall. “Lay all the pieces on the floor and move them around until you are pleased with the way it looks.”

    Play with paint


    Adding new color to a space is one of the best, easiest, and lowest-cost ways to transform a room. “Don’t be afraid to go outside the realm of colors you would normally pick, because you can change it again,” says Jessica Klein, a Boston interior designer who has her own blog, Oh I Design. Gannon likes to paint interior doors to create unexpected flair. “You don’t have to paint doors the same color as the trim,” she says. And steer away from safe colors like black or white. “A beautiful red door can be a really fun, unexpected thing,” Gannon says. She also suggests painting the inside of a front door bright lime or orange for a quick project. “The entry hall has the least amount of furniture, so you’re not trying to match a lot of different things. Go bold, be kooky.”

    Rearrange furniture and accessories

    Get The Weekender in your inbox:
    The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    “People tend to think there’s only one way to arrange furniture in a room,” Gannon says. “But go into a room with a fresh eye and try to consider other possibilities.” One idea she offers is to turn a rug on an angle to give a room a fresh look. When Klein feels bored by her living layout, she takes everything off her shelves and tables and puts it in the middle of the room. From there, she assesses how each accent, accessory, framed photo, and book could be arranged and thinks where else it could go.
    “I completely redo what I have going on and the room feels different,” she says. And it’s free.

    Enliven furniture

    with accents

    It’s possible to make the dreary sofa you’ve had for years look more exciting by replacing throw pillows with more stylish colorful ones that call for attention. To go a little further, find a textile or blanket to put over the back of the couch to tuck into the cushions. “An antique textile like a suzani can give a space a fresh uptake of color and is a great way to bring in pattern,” says Gannon. She also suggests adding colorful table or floor lamps to brighten and invigorate a space while adding visual interest. “People usually have neutral lamps, but lamps are an exciting way to add a fresh pop of color.”

    Bringing in a new rug is another way to enhance an existing furniture scheme. “Rugs really define a space,” says Klein, who suggests that if a room has had a solid rug for a while, buy a new rug that has a fun graphic pattern or vice versa. “And you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a custom rug — there are great places to find really cost-effective rugs.”

    Wow with wallpaper

    “Wallpaper is so the rage these days,” says interior designer Julieann Covino, who runs her own Boston-area firm, Jace Interiors. “It can make a room feel completely new and transformed.” The offerings for wall coverings are endless: patterns, prints, and textures in every hue imaginable and a variety of price points. Rather than sheathing all the walls in a bedroom with wallpaper, use it on just one wall to create a focal point, which is currently a big trend and less costly. Or, suggests Gannon: “Use wall covering in a tiny powder room or front hall. It adds so much punch to a small area and won’t be a budget breaker.”

    Add a new light fixture


    Changing out an old light fixture goes a long way toward updating a room’s aesthetic, says Klein. A poorly lighted room looks small, dark, and cramped, while a brightly lighted one appears open, airy, and welcoming. “Most light fixtures came with the house,” says Klein. “If they are older, they don’t typically scale correctly.” And they’re probably not what you would pick, adds Covino. “You want your house to look like you, not the people who lived there before.” Unless you are particularly handy, pendant lights and ceiling fixtures will require an electrician for installation, but Klein says it’s not prohibitively expensive to bring one in to change out a few fixtures.

    Install a new kitchen backsplash

    For a slightly bigger project, look to the kitchen.

    “You should put your money where you spend the most of your time, which tends to be the kitchen,” says Covino. “Your bedroom is great, but you’re really only in there to sleep for eight hours a night.” To refresh and add interest to your kitchen, she says to focus on the backsplash. “A backsplash can make a world of difference. It changes a sterile background and creates so much warmth.”

    Subway tile is one of the most common materials used for backsplashes these days. Instead of opting for the usual white, Covino suggests using variations of gray subway tile. “Gray is still simple and classic, but it’s a little more modern,” she says. “And if you sell your house, it will appeal to a range of buyers.” Bead board and tin ceiling tiles are other low-cost, relatively easy to install materials that work well for backsplashes.

    Jaci Conry can be reached at