Living Room Before: A drab wall color and motel style pleated curtains make this room depressing even without the clutter. Poorly framed photographs crowd the mantelpiece while a clock in the living room means this can never truly be a place to relax (you and your guests will literally be "watching the clock").
Living Room After: Swapping the dull curtains out for white curtains that allow for privacy while still letting the sun filter through means that you can still throw a deep color or pattern on the walls (here, grasscloth adds texture but paint would be another, cheaper option) without losing the brightness of the room (The Aina or Merete curtains from Ikea are both good options). Painting the fireplace white makes it pop as the room's focal point. Atop the mantel, candles and simple vases don't detract from the fireplace while the photographs have been culled and reframed (if you're going to share photographs in the living room, treat them like art: pick your best, blow them up and/or crop them and put them in simple frames to reveal their beauty.). Replacing the clock with a mirror works to bounce light around the room; its resemblance to the sun reinforces the brightness. A few good pieces of furniture -- a simple couch, a basic coffee table (the only new pieces), an end table with a lamp with a big, simple shade, bright chairs -- and a sprinkling of colorful accessories (Ikea, Ross, PIer One, and Target are all good places to find simple accessories) complete the transformation. Notice how nature, in the form of a bowl of oranges, a terrarium, a easy care plant in a simple pot, large leaves in vases, help bring life into the room. The oranges and the orange throw pick up the orange of the chairs and really pop against the blue walls. Keep the palate simple; the orange chairs, which were already there, provided a jumping off point for choosing the other colors. White, grey, and varying shades of deep greyed blue act as neutrals against the bright orange while gold (in the mirror, a frame, a pillow, the andirons) and silver (the candlesticks) act as bright complementary accents.
Dining Area Before: A dated lamp fixture, those drab walls and pleated curtains and a table piled high with stuff do not invite relaxing meals.
Dining Area After: A new simple light fixture (try the Eden from CB2 for a good modern light fixture that won't put a dent in your budget) puts the spotlight on the table and the meal. Simple art, a colorful vase of flowers and new curtains keep the focus on the purpose of this area.
Bedroom Before: Clutter's not the only issue here. Old bedding, no night tables or bedside lamps, an open closet and a desk don't invite relaxation. The lack of curtains means this room gets no privacy and too much light.
Bedrom After: Neutral walls, white curtains, a nightstand (with a drawer to hide a book, medicine, hand cream, glasses and other necessities) and a lamp on either side of the bed speak to this room's new focus on relaxation and rest. A lidded basket under each nightstand adds extra storage.
Bedroom (other side) Before: Piles of clutter, a chair heaped with more stuff and dark walls make this room depressing. The wood furniture is not only depressing, but provides little storage.
Bedroom (other side) After: A bright white credenza adds storage, floor to ceiling curtains let the windows read as "modern" rather than "bunker," and a comfy chair set up across from the TV is not only a place to curl up with a book or put on shoes but speaks to the reality of kids piling into the master bedroom in the morning to hang out with their parents and watch morning cartoons.
Images: Laure Joliet