Spring Forward: 10 Tips to Update, Refresh & Modernize Your Home

lt32312.jpgThe ushering in of spring on Tuesday may have gone unnoticed due to the lack of a proper winter in many regions of the US, but it is here, nonetheless! And with the change in seasons comes longer days, outdoor dining, blooming flowers, and an opportunity to renew and refresh your space. Take a break from preparing taxes and consider these 10 tips for reviving your abode; and please share your tips!

Springtime can encourage a cleaner, brighter, fresher perspective on your space, and it's a great time of year to evaluate how you live and consider ways to update and freshen your home. Often that means "out with the old and in with the new," but for those of you like me, with a little problem of collecting things, this is the time for evaluating, editing and paring down. For others it may mean cleaning, organizing and renovating. These 10 tips run the gamut from simple and free housekeeping tasks to bigger and costlier home improvement projects, all with the goal of modernizing your place. Choose which ones apply to your pad and please share your own spring renewal tips with us!

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  1. Add Dimmers and Replace Light Bulbs. Good lighting makes a world of difference in the look and feel of a space. And switching out static light switches for dimmable light switches is a relatively simple yet hugely rewarding venture. Lutron makes several great dimmers — I like the Maestro, $24.96
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    To complete the lighting update, consider replacing your current incandescent light bulbs with these dimmable LED bulbs, providing a cooler, whiter light while reducing your energy bill. While a bit spendy at $27.74 per bulb, you'll recoup your investment from the energy savings and 18 year lifespan.

  3. Reduce Clutter. This topic is pretty huge, and we can break it down into 3 clutter-fighting categories: collectibles, paper stuff, and cables/cords.

    Collectibles: Our beloved and proudly displayed collection can quickly multiply into an eyesore. Don't discard your collectibles, but reduce clutter by editing the group and displaying the best of the bunch as a tightly-edited group, rather than having pieces displayed throughout the house. I recently pared down the group of vintage German TV towers I collect and hid the most beat up of the group down in my basement — and now I don't even miss the others!

    Paper Stuff: Clean up any piles of newspapers, magazines, books, old mail, items pinned to the fridge door, etc. Take time to consider if you really need to keep each item — and similar to the collectibles, you likely won't miss them when gone. (Try hiding them in piles under the bed and see if you even remember they are there!) Store away the saved magazines and prized books in bookcases, magazine racks, storage stools, etc., and place the keepsakes from the fridge in photo albums.

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    Cables and Cords: Electronic clutter can be the worst clutter offense. Cords tangled up on the floor can be a place where dust and debris gather and can make a home appear messy and unkept. There are several ways to clean up and organize cable clutter; click here for our posts on managing cable mayhem. I like the products from BlueLounge, such as their CableBox; $29.95.

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  4. Update Fabrics. Replacing fabric items with new, clean and brighter options can have a big impact. Consider replacing towels, sheets, the dog bed and comforter covers (things that show wear and tear, fading, staining, etc.) for an easy home makeover. I especially love the Waterworks Studio collection of Turkish cotton towels in crisp white or an array of Spring shades. Perennial bath towel, $38.

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    My favorite sheets are by Thomas Lee, a maker of crisp, smooth sheets in 100% Pima cotton and a sturdy 500 thread count. My bed above is outfitted in pure white; queen set, $199.

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  5. Paint. It's been said time and time again — Nothing gives a space a more dramatic update than a fresh coat of paint. For the cost and elbow grease, this update is the best value for delivering a huge transformation. And it's Spring, so lighten up! Go brighter, crisper and cleaner. I'm a slave to all white walls, and wouldn't change a thing, but if you're more daring, try out small swatches of sunny, bright Spring shades on your wall before committing to the whole room. Many manufacturers and designers reveal their choices of the hottest interior colors of the year; see our picks for 2012, as well as tips for infusing Pantone's 2012 top color choice, Tangerine Tango.

  6. Change Furniture Placement. For no cost and just the effort of some lifting and pushing, a dramatic change to an interior can materialize with just a bit of rearranging. Is there a room or seating arrangement that seems to be neglected and rarely utilized? Perhaps it's because it isn't welcoming and needs to be opened up to invite guests to enter and sit. I used to have my living room configured in a way that, to me, looked great and ordered, with a couch and two chairs aligned around a coffee table. But we rarely went in there and used the space. Once I moved the chair with its back to the entry and opened up the passage to the couch, it created an open and inviting "guide" to the couch and the opposite chair, and became a much used and loved room. Most rearrangements are intuitive and you already know what doesn't feel right, but have been putting off playing with the configuration because of being too busy, believing the task is too daunting, or just needing another set of hands to help move bigger items. Spring cleaning time is the best for trying out new arrangements. For assistance in furniture placement, consider the ancient art of Feng Shui. Even if you're a bit suspicious of this practice and balk at the idea of a starting a "prosperity corner," these 10 tips to create a happy living room are spot on!
  7. Remove/Replace One Piece of Furniture. Along the same lines as the previous tip, most of us have just too much clutter and need to remove at least one item. As years go by, things compile and we love to hang on to it all — for sentimental reasons, potential value, the plan to give it to a relative in the future, etc. During your cleaning and rearranging, see if removing just one piece of little-used or had-seen-better-days furniture opens up a space and breathes new life into a room. And if you're already pared down enough, then consider making the splurge and replacing just one item for a new one. Some people want to wait until they can redo the whole room rather than replace items piecemeal, and months and years continue to pass by. But don't put it off! Replacing just one piece of furniture, maybe that old coffee table or saggy lounge chair, will give your room a boost; and may inspire you to keep making small and rewarding changes.

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  8. Add a "Pop." Now that the rooms are reconfigured into welcoming and inviting spaces, and you've painted, organized and removed or replaced one key item, it's time to add a pop of one, or a complementary palette, of Spring colors. Choose a color or texture that you love and sprinkle it throughout the room, or ideally the entire home, to add a consistent and unifying theme. I'm a neutrals guy, so prefer metals over color, and have chosen brass, chrome and lucite accents for my place. But if you want to add some Spring color, repeat it in your throw pillows, towels, sheets, placemats, picture frames, candles — items that are replaceable, relatively inexpensive and which you can move from room to room as you play with placement. Great tips for adding pops of subtle Spring color are here and here.

  9. Tidy Up the Kitchen. Instead of a daunting and expensive full kitchen remodel, hide countertop appliances, such as the coffee maker, toaster oven, microwave and electric can opener (are those still around?), or consider investing in having electrical outlets added to the interior of a kitchen cabinet or two and storing electronics inside. If you're more ambitious, repainting kitchen cabinets and/or replacing outdated hardware (cabinet pulls and even the hinges, if visible) can hugely transform a kitchen for a fraction of the cost of a full renovation. Check out our how-to guide for repainting kitchen cabinets.
  10. Remove Carpeting. Yes, this is a big and expensive undertaking, and not for new DIYers. But if you're planning on staying in your place for a while, and your carpeting has seen better days, consider taking the plunge and updating the floors to a solid surface. More hygienic, easier to clean, more modern — the reasons to upgrade go on and on and the options are endless. And you can always add an area rug in the living room, next to the bed, or down the hallway to keep that comfort underfoot. If your ambitious, check out this post on one couple's successful carpet-removing experience; but unless you're sure of what you've got underneath the carpet, this is one I like to leave to the pros.

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  11. Bring the Outside In. We've posted about decorating with branches in Autumn and the best indoor plants for winter, but now it's Spring — the best season for livening up a space with blooms. Whether you prefer hanging vases, arranged flowers, or planted varieties, Spring flowers or plants will add fragrance, color and always elicit smiles.

(Images: Lead image,Bethany Nauert/ Laura & Megan's Bright Vintage Inspired Apartment; Others, as linked above.)