Designers' simplest makeover ideas
Paint lampshades with pattern
For a bedroom in this New York apartment, designer Eric Cohler had the lampshades custom-painted to echo the vibrant suzani throw on the bed. On another project, "I had a client with a small lighting budget, and we blew that on two overscale glass lamps from Hollyhock, Suzanne Rheinstein's great shop in LA," he says. "The accompanying shades were anticlimactic, so I painted them with a bold eggplant-colored starburst pattern in a nod to Matisse. Fast and fun."
Liven up a room with textiles
"I was filming a reality show in England and had to live in a Winnebago for over a month! You don't find interiors more standard-issue blah than a mobile home. But I packed some of my collection of old quilts, colorful alpaca throws, pillows, and some pictures in an extra suitcase. By the time I unpacked, it looked like home. I even hung some fabric at the windows to make quick curtains. I always travel with a staple gun and clippers. I was so happy in that caravan, I’d do it again," says designer Kathryn M. Ireland, who has this antique suzani from Uzbekistan on display her California home.
Discard transition pieces
"It always helps to get rid of 'make-do' furniture," says designer Connie Beale. "Temporary solutions have a way of becoming permanent. A client squeezed an enormous armoire into an entrance hall. It sat there for years, overpowering the space. I replaced it with an antique chest, a mirror, and a nice lamp. It all made a much more welcoming impression."
Add character with wall coverings
"In an apartment that had no architectural details, a cookie-cutter layout, and dead-white paint in a postwar building, we covered all the walls in the public rooms with chocolate brown grass cloth," says interior designer DD Allen. "It was a total transformation that brought the art and furniture to life. The color was really rich and warm, and the subtle texture was great."
Install light dimmers
"Being able to adjust the mood of a room really enhances your enjoyment of the space, and it doesn't require a fancy or expensive lighting system," says designer Arthur Dunnam. "Just a simple $20 dimmer or two will do the trick. Dimming the lights a bit makes a room — and everyone in it — look much better!"
Update the color palette
"In one of my bedrooms I changed the white, silver, and light gray color scheme to white, navy, and gold. It went from cool to cozy," designer Mary McDonald says. "The white curtains, bed treatment, and odd pieces remained white and the basic layout was the same, but the whole room felt new."