During these chilly and gray days of mid-winter, many of us look to our homes as sanctuaries. The standard advice for cheering up your living space is to add a few splashes of bright, happy color, says designer Maxwell Ryan.
But while that may seem like an easy solution, he says, it’s actually not very effective. To create a home that really helps battle the mid-winter blues, you need more than just a pop of color.
The Associated Press asked Ryan, founder of the home decor website apartmenttherapy.com, and two other interior designers — Florida-based Laura Burleson and New York-based Jenny Kirschner — for advice on small decor changes that can lift spirits and brighten up a home.
BRING NATURE INSIDE
In February, many people are craving time outdoors and missing the natural energy of growing plants and flowers, Ryan says. “We’ve watched our plants die outside or the leaves fall from the trees,” and we’re due for an infusion of healthy, growing life, he says.
So add a few new plants to your home — perhaps succulents arranged in a kitchen window, or flowering branches in a large vase. Or plant flowering bulbs indoors in a large, deep bowl (try paperwhites or amaryllis) and enjoy tending them as they begin to bloom.
“Even if you just go to the corner store and bring in cut flowers,” Ryan says, you’ll be adding a bit of nature’s energy to your home.
SHIMMER AND GLOW
Add “a little glimmer of light” to your living space, Burleson says, by adding shiny elements like metals, cut glass and lucite. These help natural light bounce around a room even when days are short. The goal is to make the most of what light there is. In a home in Colorado, she recently swapped out old kitchen hardware for shimmering clear agate knobs, and included metallic elements in a mix of finishes.
Burleson also suggests adding metals in warm colors that “hint of spring,” such as a copper, brass and rose gold.
All three designers suggest improving the happy glow of your home by swapping out any lightbulbs that offer cold or harsh light. Kirschner says hardware store employees can help you find the most appealing “daylight bulbs” to bring a sense of sunshine in during gray winter days.
Or consider swapping out old lampshades or adding a new lamp. “Spread your light around down at the level you live at,” Ryan says, so that it’s “closer to you, closer to your face. You’ll look better and feel better.”
Designers recommend having at least three points of light in any room. Once you have plenty of light sources, make sure you use them by adding dimmers to control the light, and upgrading so that several lights can be turned on from a single knob or switch. Ryan has begun using Hue bulbs, which can be controlled by smartphone and adjusted for brightness and color.
“My living room has five lights in it,” he says, and they’re now easily controlled via his smartphone. He notes that if he had to switch each one on individually when he arrived home on winter nights, “it probably wouldn’t happen.”
Another way to make a room’s lighting more welcoming: Light your fireplace if you have one, Kirschner says, or create a similar feeling by clustering glass hurricane vases with pillar candles inside. Arrange several together on a coffee table, she says, “and light those when you come home from work.”
FAUX FUR AND FRAGRANCE
It’s easy to create an uplifting sensory experience in your home by adding faux sheepskins, faux-fur throws, and rugs or pillows made of cashmere or soft wool, says Kirschner.
Ryan agrees: Make sure you have pleasing textures around you, he says, including underfoot. Little touches can make a big difference. Try adding a sheepskin or soft blanket over a chair that you use when working at home.
Kirschner also suggests adding pleasing fragrances to your space. Choose organically scented candles, or simply take items from your kitchen (lemon and orange slices, cloves and nutmeg, or other fruits and spices) and steep them in water in a heat-safe container over a votive or tea light candle.
Several years ago, Burleson decorated a home office with the uplifting words “Don’t Ever Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle” printed in a subtle shade of gold in a delicate brass frame. It serves as “a very, very simple, elegant little pick-me-up,” she says.