Time is relative. Fifteen minutes may seem like an eternity if you’re stuck in traffic and late for work. Or, it may seem like the blink of an eye when you’re in the zone working on a project. It’s the same quantity of time, and it will pass whether we are sitting still or moving fast.
When decorating your home, you can make an enormous difference in a room just 15 minutes at a time. So without further ado, here are 7 ways that you can start to refresh your entire home. Simply set a timer and work for 15 minutes. You might be amazed at what you can do.
Who says there’s no time to decorate?
1. Clear some clutter
Sometimes refreshing a room is like the old adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” Meaning, there’s just too much stuff in the way of seeing the room and its features and furnishings.
I’m not saying you’re going to completely de-clutter and organize your entire house in 15 minutes. But what can you do? Maybe it’s just cleaning off the kitchen table or the counter. The room will look and feel better instantly!
Nearly every decorating plan starts with cleaning and decluttering—removing anything that is not used frequently, belongs somewhere else, or gets in the way of the room’s purpose. Examples might include shoes, toys, magazines, papers, clothes, dishes and glasses, or even furniture.
Look at your room with an objective eye. What really doesn’t belong there? Unless you belong on a show about hoarding, chances are if you slow down and look at the room from a new, fresh perspective, you’ll see lots of items that can be removed.
When in doubt, ask a neighbor or friend what they see as clutter in your room. (Or try my Clutter Clearing and Organizing audio course.) There’s a great Polish proverb, “A guest sees more in an hour than a host in a year.” Sometimes we just get comfortable with all the stuff. Pare it down and let the room breathe.
2. Let there be light
Light is one of the most overlooked elements of interior design, and yet it’s one of the easiest to acquire and manipulate.
Light makes a room feel larger, brighter and fresher, so take some time to assess the lighting situation in your room. If the room has a window, wash it inside and out to let in more sunshine. Open any shades or blinds during the day to maximize natural light. If there are window treatments, are they too heavy, dark, or outdated for the room? Just taking down drapes—even if you don’t have anything to replace them with just yet—can have a dramatic impact on a room.
Then look at the light fixtures and lamps in the room. Is there enough light to move around the room at night, or if there are no windows? If not, add more lamps to the mix. Check the maximum wattage stated on each fixture and lamp, and install higher wattage bulbs to bring in more light.
3. Rearrange the furniture
Arranging furniture in a room is a lot like a puzzle. And once we think we have it figured out, we keep it that way. For years. (I’ve certainly been guilty of this!)
But what if there was a different way? Switching up the furniture arrangement can shift the feeling of a room in an instant.
Before you start moving anything, play with the arrangement on paper. Create a scale drawing of your room on a piece of graph paper, measuring the walls and noting any doorways and windows. Then measure and draw shapes to represent the furniture pieces and place them on the room drawing, playing with different layouts until you find one that feels right. Pay attention to traffic patterns and how the room is used, and try to create “zones” for each use. I’ve created a design tool that makes it super easy to try this designer trick. You can get it FREE here.
And, it may be that the current arrangement is the best for the room, and that’s great! At least you’ve looked at other options.
4. Get your group on
Have you noticed most of these tips so far have been fast and free? #4 follows that lead with a “use what you have” approach to accessorizing your room.
Shop your house for accessories—objects, candleholders, vases, picture frames, figurines—that have a common, unifying theme or motif. Maybe they’re all red, or they’re all ducks or apples or sailboats. Chances are there’s a collection of something hiding in plain sight around your home. Bring everything together and display items together on an end table, dresser, sideboard, console.
Displaying similar items together gives them more presence and makes the room more personal. Visually link smaller items together by placing them on a tray. This is a heart display I put together for Valentine’s Day a few years ago.
5. Update with textiles
One of the easiest and fastest ways to change the entire look and feel of a room is with fabrics.
Look around your room. What fabric elements could be changed, either by bringing in something new or swapping them with something from another room? Think about:
- Area rugs
- Toss pillows
- Table coverings
- Shower curtain
As a bonus, updating the textiles also means bringing in new (or more) color, texture, and/or pattern.
6. Add life … literally
Live, leafy green and/or blooming houseplants (not silk plants or cacti) are great additions to nearly any room. Their green color is automatically calming to the eye, and they produce oxygen. Plus, they are relatively inexpensive and can easily fill a large area—like an empty corner— if need be. Or, opt for one or two smaller plants placed around the room. If you don’t have much of a green thumb, ask your florist to suggest a hearty variety, or add a self-watering tube like an Aquaglobe®.
Fresh cut flowers are also a great decorating secret. Their color, life, texture and fragrance can be elegant or fun, indulgent or whimsical. And with most supermarkets now selling flowers, they’re convenient, too!
To get the most from supermarket bouquet, be sure to re-cut the stems when you get home and make sure the vase is scrupulously clean to prevent bacteria from killing the blooms prematurely. If it’s a mixed bouquet, consider making smaller arrangements and tuck them all over the house, in the bedroom, bath and kitchen for example.
7. Alter the art
Art can set a mood, reinforce a theme, or be just plain wonderful to behold. Like light, art is often an afterthought in a room’s design plan, but it deserves much more attention.
Art is also fairly easy to swap from room to room and season to season. Think of your rooms like a gallery with an ever-changing collection. Look around your room. Does it currently have or need some art? Is there a focal point piece, for example over the bed or fireplace? If so, is there another piece in the house that could be traded out to give the room a fresh look?
Anyone who’s followed this blog knows that at holiday time, I love to change up the art all over the house. Here’s a quick and easy seasonal tip: Use the same frame and mat, but swap out the image. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from some simple silver frames in the guest bath, with a rotating display of everything from calendar pages to greeting cards and trip photos to scrapbook paper.
Children’s art is also a great addition to any room, and can be updated as the child creates new masterpieces. Nearly anything can be art!
A few tips about displaying art:
- Be sure to hang it at eye level. Not too high and not too low, although most folks hang their pictures much too high. Look at magazines and home catalogs to get a feel for placement.
- If there’s any doubt about how high to hang something, make a template of the art piece with some newspaper or kraft paper and tape it to the wall, then stand back. How does it look and feel in comparison to what you’ve seen in magazines or on design shows?
- As a general rule of thumb, the top of the frame should be no more than 6 ft. from the ground.
- Or, hang up on hanging art and use a gallery ledge instead. By far the easiest way to swap and rotate your favorite works of art.
What’s your favorite 15 minute life or design hack? Share your comments and stories on the Facebook page!