Friday, July 31, 2009

Glamour on a Shoestring

10 Ways to Glamour on a shoestring

With the economy in the doldrums, it seems folly to think about redecorating your home. After all, doesn't that take a lot of money - especially when it is important to trim expenses and cut down on extra spending? However, there is another school of thought that in these troubled times, it is more important than ever to keep one's spirits up, continue to spend (what we can) and keep life going on an even keel.
Do this by bringing some luxury and style into your home. But at the same time, you do not want to overspend. Here's a list of 10 simple things you can do to give your home a breath of fresh air while keeping your expenses low.

1) Paint

The easiest, and most dramatic way to change the look of your home is of course, a fresh coat of paint. Perhaps the walls have been looking a little faded anyway. Perhaps now that you're spending more evenings at home, those plain white walls are starting to look a little boring. Or maybe you're just tired of those pastel shades your mother had suggested the last time.

Why not brighten up your home with a cheery sunshine yellow in your kitchen, a restful yet invigorating green in your living room, and in your bedroom, go for a rich, romantic purple? Blue goes well with the study and red in the dining room will make conversation lively while stimulating your appetite. You don't have to repaint the whole house, of course, or turn the entire house into a patchwork of colours, but even just one makeover in say, your living room, can inject excitement.

For something more unusual, paint stripes! Use two complementary colours, or use different shades of the same colour, and alternate them in vertical stripes. This immediately breaks up the monotony of having just one colour, but to avoid an overwhelming effect, you may want to have this only as an accent, or only on one wall. Other tricks you can do with paint include using stencils or stamps to create the effect of expensive wallpaper, or even (for a touch of luxury) a hint of gold paint. Or more simply, repaint a table, a cabinet, or even your windows - change that you can do in just one day.

2) Floor coverings

You don't have to re-do your floors: just disguise them with rugs and carpets. Inexpensive floor coverings are now widely available, and they can make a world of difference to the appearance of your home. The effect can be as varied as you like, depending on your personal taste and style: smaller rugs placed here and there to give your home an air of casual elegance. Don't just have one: get three or four rugs, and let them overlap on the floor, giving the impression of plenty.

If your budget is little larger, invest in a carpet. Not wall-to-wall carpeting. Think large, pilè carpets that are right out of old houses, that you can place under your living room furniture, or maybe a smaller one just under your favourite armchair. You feel like you've walked into classy hotel room: there is no greater decadence than walking into a deep, plush carpet, and feeling your feet sink into that welcoming softness.

3) Canopy bed

This is a glam treatment specifically for the bedroom. Adding a canopy instantly spices up the bedroom, gives it a more romantic feel and makes the place even cosier. One quick way to do this is to suspend a wooden dowel or a bamboo pole over the bed, and hang long swathes of thin chiffon over it, letting the fabric fall to the floor.

For those of a practical bent, add functionality to your canopy by draping a length of mosquito netting instead.

4) Rearrange your furniture; reuse furniture in a new way

Tired of the same old look of your furniture? You don't have to replace them, but this is a good time to think about rearranging them. Instead of pushing your sofa against the wall, for example, place it at an angle and arrange your armchairs and coffee table to create an intimate space for interaction between family members, just the way those high-class cafés do it. This immediately alters the flow of space in your living room, for example, and gives your eyes a break from the same old pattern. In the bedroom, move the bed away from the wall: let some space flow between, to give the impression of depth.

Or perhaps you might want to move your furniture around to give a fresh look, or give old pieces a new lease of life. Pull your favourite armchair into the bedroom. Your kitchen buffet might look good as a display case in the living room. Mix dining chairs with your sofa. Put your bookcase in the dining room, so you can read while sipping your coffee (put your receipe books there too). That pendant lamp you got for your kitchen could look just as fantastic in the living room. Best of all, this costs nothing.

5) Mirrors

The French monarch, Louis XIV, styled himself as the Sun King and his palace has become famous for - among other things - great halls of mirrors in gold and brass frames. Re-create a little of that luxury by painting the frames of large mirrors gold using paint, and hanging them on the walls. For the full effect, you can fill up the wall. At night, light candles and place them in front of the mirrors, just the way they used to do it in Versailles.

6) Picture frames

When there isn't enough space, go vertical. This applies not just to bookshelves and display cabinets but also to photo and picture frames. One way to create an air of casual elegance is to cover a wall, or a section of it, with frames, large and small, from the floor level right up to the ceiling. Mix round frames with square ones, oval frames with rectangular. Mix wooden and metal frames so that it looks as though it was all thrown carelessly together.

To surprise the eye, vary the size of the frames and the matting. Don't worry about putting a small picture or photo in a large frame. The contents of the frames can be family snapshots, formal portraits, or old postcards, prints, paintings, charcoal sketches, black-and-white photographs... anything you can put your mind to. The eclectic mix will keep things fresh and exciting.

7) Soft furnishings, including curtains, tablecloths, cushions

Soft furnishings such as upholstery, cushions, curtains and tablecloths can alter a home dramatically. Many people, for convenience's sake, use mid-length curtains or even just have blinds. However, floor-to-ceiling curtains add instant drama, as well as adding a sense of height to a room. Perk up a coffee table by using a table-runner, and add a long tablecloth to your dining table (it can be whipped off for meals).

Think about how you are using fabrics: luxury fabrics such as silk and chiffon, with their glow and shimmer, can soften and glam up a room, while solid cottons give rooms a sturdy, country-fresh look.

8) Cleaning and tidying; paring down clutter

After a home has been lived in for sometime, its occupants tend to become careless. Possessions are acculmulated, knick-knacks acquired and often, they are placed haphazardly around the home. The dining table piles up with junk mail. Shoes are shoved into a corner. Old newspapers are stuffed under the coffee table. Instead of glamorous, the home starts to look messy.

Actually, one of the best ways to smarten up your home is to tidy it up. By getting rid of clutter and making sure the shoes go back into the shoe cabinet, cups and plates back into the kitchen cabinet and reshelving your DVDs, your home instantly looks welcoming again. Invest a little time to weed out your holiday souvenirs; dust, vacuum, and wipe up those coffee stains.

After all, one of the reasons that a hotel room looks so nice is that it is free of clutter and random items - and it is clean.

9) Things of nature

Although these seem like minor details, often it is a small addition of nature that provides a contrast to a room full of wood and metal. Instead of artificial plants or flowers, think about using graceful sprays of orchids or large, dramatic fresh blooms. Avoid fussy arrangements or unkempt-looking pots of money plants. Instead, have just one or two small bonsai plants.

Fruits can be used as decor items too. A large bowl of oranges on a plain coffee table creates a splash of colour in a living room, or perhaps a row of green apples placed on a rectangular plate. The air will smell better too, with these fruits adding their perfume - more subtle than scented oils - and you can eat them too. Go for hardier fruits such as oranges and apples.

10) Create a corner

This is a trick that public buildings, museums and hotels do. If you have a spot of low-traffic space, create a point of interest by hanging up an interesting painting or a photograph, or a small mirror. Or place an unuusal vase on a small end table, or just a chair that you particularly like - perhaps even a bar-stool - against the wall. This instantly breaks up the flow of space and, much like the recessed spaces in a church, creates a space where one can relax in.

More generally, invent space for yourself. Remember that your home is not just a functional space to eat and sleep; it is also a place where you can be yourself. Need a quiet spot to read, to play a musical instrument, or to rearrange and catalogue your photograph albums? Maybe a corner of your living room can be transformed, by just setting up a small desk, or or rearranging your furniture to give yourself some privacy and space.

At a time when people are cutting down on spending outside and spending more time at home, it's a fantastic idea to make sure your home is as welcoming and beautiful as possible. Make it a treat to be at home, rather than feeling as though you have been deprived by the lack of say, a glamorous holiday somewhere. Instead, enjoy glamour in your own home - and save money too!