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5 ways to freshen up a room this fall

By Barbara Ballinger
Chicago Tribune
Try arranging a collage of artworks, photos and mirrors on a single wall to create impact in a room.

Before holiday preparations overload already busy lives, it’s a good time to freshen up our homes for our guests and ourselves — and that doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Some simple switches and a few purchases can work magic. That sofa that now looks dated can be spiffed up with an overload of chic pillows. If your wood floors are looking blah, change things up with a coat of glossy paint. We asked the pros for a few ways to breathe some new life into your abode.

1. Add more pillows

Because gray has become such a standard color choice in recent years, many homeowners crave lively pops of color. One easy way to do it is to add vibrant pillows in bold graphic patterns and rich textures, says Chicago designer Tom Segal of Kaufman Segal Design. He and others also favor bigger pillows that make a greater visual impact. Chicago designer Summer Thornton likes pillows to be at least 24 inches by 24 inches and blends a mash-up of patterns in florals, animal prints and bold graphics. Look to CB2, Pier 1, All Modern and Restoration Hardware for affordable ready-made pillows.

2. Paint your wood floors

Painting your walls is a quick way to freshen a room, but glossy, chic, painted wood floors and stairs can make a huge visual difference. If spilling a bucket of color onto your red oak living room floor seems intimidating, start with a smaller space like an entryway to create a bold first impression, but the look works best when the color runs throughout the house. Andrea Magno, director of color marketing and development for Benjamin Moore, went with a Scandinavian color theme in an entryway where the floor, wall and stairs create that feeling of contentment, known as hygge.

3. Create a focal wall

To get instant impact in a room, create a focal wall. Try arranging a collage of artworks, photos and mirrors on a single wall, which Chicago designer Rebecca Pogonitz of GoGo Design Group did in a master bedroom. To get the composition right, she suggests first mapping out the wall design on paper or the floor. Scenic wallpaper can also transform a room, and doesn’t have to be a major expense or commitment. Retailer Anthropologie has a wide selection of chic wall coverings like their floral Ottoman, Endless Summer Palm or deco inspired Flapper designs.

4. Install an art ledge

Hanging art — and rehanging it — can leave lots of nail holes and chipped paint behind. Picture rails are a chic way to display artworks and create an architectural detail that allows art to easily be moved around for myriad fresh starts. Alice Zimet, owner of Arts and Business Partners in New York City, uses picture rails in her apartment and prefers those that are a deep 4 1/2 inches to 6 inches. Look for them online at Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware, where they’re available in different widths and colors.

5. Add live plants

Once essential furnishings to fill in “holes” in any room, big plants and trees disappeared for years. Now they’re back as more homeowners understand the value of viewing nature to perk up spirits and health as well as rooms. Chicago designer Laura Tribbett, owner of Outline Interiors, considers fresh greenery the perfect indoor perennial accessory for any climate. “It adds an extra dramatic pop and help complete a space,” she says. So the greenery survives, tap into your favorite garden guru’s expertise — the right plant for your room’s exposure, space, height and decor. In one city loft, Tribbett whimsically went with a “money tree” since her client, a bachelor, had done well in business. The tree adds a strong sculptural accent, as well as softness in the concrete and glass space.