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Easy Decorating Tips

Take It And Run: From House To Home

So, you've just moved in. Here are some great tips to help you get established in your neighborhood, organize yourself in your new place and spruce up your new home - all at a minimum cost!

Kitchen Makeover Tips

  • To give your kitchen a makeover without breaking the bank, consider inexpensive laminate countertops. For a bit more money, you can turn the counters into a focal point with clever edge treatments, perhaps in a contrasting color. Don't forget to update your window treatments - another simple yet effective way to update a room without spending too much money.
  • Organize a progressive dinner for your new friends who like to cook or your new neighbors who've never seen each other's homes and welcome them with a pretty welcome mat at the front door.
  • Buy new spices in similar jars and group them in an area that you can get to, so you use and display them. Do not organize them alphabetically since they'll never stay that way. Instead, organize them by how much you will use them to cook.
  • Refresh your kitchen by replacing your old appliances with new ones. Appliances typically go on sale once or twice a year, so shop carefully. What you save at one sale could be enough to purchase another appliance.
  • Hang a blackboard in your kitchen for messages, menus, doodling. Order one as large as possible and buy colored chalk and erasers. Also consider a bulletin board to post the flood of information coming in about your new schools and neighborhood.
  • In your kitchen, a little spice can make a memorable impact. A new sink and faucet or fresh paint cleans it up, while ceramic or glass tiles are inexpensive ways to enliven the backsplash.
  • Have a dinner party and invite friends who don't know one another. Serve wine in new attractive stemware and buy some new colorful dessert dishes that don't match your regular china, but complement it.
  • Bring out your good china, glassware, silver and placemats. Place them somewhere where they are accessible so that once a month you can use them for dinner when you cook a special meal with a theme.
  • To update your new kitchen without a dramatic remodel, consider changing the countertops, repainting the cabinets and changing knobs. If that's too big a job, try a new dish draining rack and utensil jar, for starters.
  • Invest in a sound system that allows you to play music in several rooms, including your kitchen, a den, your bedroom and maybe even your bathroom. Before you paint or wallpaper a new room, wire the sound system.
  • Set up a computer station in a central location in your home, like a corner of the kitchen, family room or second floor loft. You'll be able to watch your children and help them with their homework.
  • Cover old paneling with sunny flat colors for your new family room or kitchen. Pale yellow warms any room and typically doesn't clash with anything.
  • Keep a notepad and pencil or pen by the phone in the kitchen for taking messages from all your new and old friends.
  • Start a tradition in your new home to keep fresh cut flowers from your local market on your kitchen table and in unexpected places, like your powder room or even master bathroom. They're inexpensive, seasonal and will brighten your mood.

The Outdoors

  • Make a welcoming front door patio with a few pieces of outdoor furniture bought at flea market sales, big planters and a simple picket or wrought iron fence.
  • Buy a brass knocker for your front door. Consider having it monogrammed.
  • Buy some outdoor sports equipment so you and your family will be active in your yard. Some family favorites include a basketball hoop, croquet, squash or badminton set.
  • Spend the winter creating a master plan for planting a brand-new garden. Tackle it slowly over the years so you see how the garden develops with color, texture and height.
  • Put in an underground sprinkler system that will water your grass and flowers better, save you time and labor and ease your back strain.
  • Once you've got the exterior of your home settled, consider having it captured in memory with a watercolor.
  • Paint your new front door a new bright color and polish your brass hardware.
  • Scrub and repaint your outdoor furniture and buy new cushions. Check for sales. It will look like a new set for your new abode.
  • Flags can be cheerful additions to your yard. Some companies will make special flags with your family name or address. If you have a big enough yard, consider putting in a flagpole, so you can fly your flag in good weather and on special holidays.

Window Treatments

  • Personalize existing curtains with drapery pins. Insert pins into the window molding at each end, then adjust spacing in between and pucker fabric as desired.
  • Have your curtains cleaned, your windows washed and dust all blinds and baseboards before you arrange your furniture. Your house will sparkle.
  • As you're settling into your new home, invite the sun in. Replace heavy window coverings with light-controlling mini-blinds. Or, in some rooms, remove window treatments altogether.
  • If you're not a curtain person, take down your living and dining room drapes and convert them into pillow coverings or even a special tablecloth.

Living Room and Family Room Decor Tips

  • Add an ethnic touch to your new living room by displaying a handmade cloth as a throw.
  • Convert an old hutch into a television hideaway by cutting out a spot for the plug and removing the shelves. Then, re-stain or paint it a color that will match the mood of the new family room.
  • Find old kitchen chairs (they don't have to match!) to place in your family room. Paint them a bright, lively color. You can buy ready-made cushions or make them yourself with a swatch of inexpensive fabric.
  • Buy a scrapbook or photo album and keep a visual record of the changes you make in your home.
  • Rejuvenate an old sofa or chair by applying a piece of old material to make an ornamental ruffle on a pillow, seat or cushion covering.
  • For a child's playroom or family room, give the walls some character with old movie posters, which you can frame yourself in matching frames. Ask the manager of your local movie theatre if he or she would be willing to give you their posters after a feature has been shown.
  • Buy scented candles in different shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances and put them in a few rooms. For your first fall in your new home, add some potpourri in pretty bowls.
  • In the dead of winter when you're looking for projects, take out all the books in your bookshelves, dust them, give away books no longer of interest. Buy a new book and re-read a favorite novel.
  • Once you're settled in, reframe favorite old photos and create a new grouping on a visible table, shelf or wall.
  • Warm a fireplace wall with family mementos. A big mirror in the center of the wall above the fireplace adds a bright spot of contrast and makes the room appear larger.
  • During warm weather months, place a large empty basket in your fireplace and fill it with dried flowers. In winter, lay your fireplace with dry logs and newspaper, so that all you'll need to do is light it.
  • Don't bring an old broom to a new house. Buy a new one to start fresh. After you use it to clean, change the furniture arrangment in your new living room and rearrange the accessories on your coffee tables.
  • Set aside a writing corner in your new living room or family room, not with a PC but a stash of beautiful stationery, pens, stamps. You will be surprised how much friends and family like to receive mail on a regular basis.
  • If you never use a dining room, turn your new one into a quasi-library by placing a smaller table that can expand at one end, adding bookshelves, comfortable seating, stereo equipment, a soft patterned rug underfoot and good lighting.
  • Start an annual entertaining tradition and decorating theme for a religious holiday, New Year's, Thanksgiving or open house. Soon, everyone will look forward to this gathering.
  • Walk through your new house at night and add better lighting whether ceiling, table, floor or wall sconces.
  • Put out a candy dish and keep it filled – and not just during the holidays.

Other Great Decorating Tips

  • If you have a guest bedroom, spend a night in it so you see it as your guests do. You'll quickly figure out what comforting items to keep handy, such as a fluffy robe, bedside lamp, magazines, potpourri and mints on the pillows.
  • Put out a tray, basket or old-fashioned silver toaster rack in your hall for placing mail for family members.
  • Read up on Feng Shui and follow at least one piece of advice for harmonious living in your new home.
  • Place a small table or stand in your powder room and indulge your guests with pretty soaps, fabric hand towels, a vase for flowers and some potpourri.
  • To freshen a room, repaint it a new color. Or, just do the ceiling or do a border of wallpaper. Do it yourself or pay a teenager to help. With good equipment and paint, it's easy and fun.
  • Don't throw out anything, just stash away in your new basement or storage area.
  • Re-organize your new closets with do-it-yourself shelving, and throw out or give away clothing you haven't worn in three to five years. Get a tax credit for donating old clothes to charity.
  • Take an extra closet in your new home and turn it into a wine closet with shelves.
  • Turn an ugly old tub into a nicer combination tub-shower or just a glass-enclosed shower.
  • Build and decorate a dollhouse that replicates favorites of your new real home, as an heirloom for your children or grandchildren.
  • Buy new bedding for your new home. Change the pillows on your bed and maybe even the mattress, if it is old, and buy a new set of sheets and pillowcases -- maybe even a new comforter.
  • Put favorite family photos in a special box so that you can place them on the mantle immediately upon moving in. For the rest of your photos, order pretty photo albums, maybe monogrammed, and when the cold weather comes, snuggle up next to the fireplace and organize any old photos that may be piling up in cardboard boxes.
  • Once you're settled, get a pet--a dog, cat, fish, hamster, since any animal will add additional life and fun for your entire family.
  • Start a hobby you can work on in your new home--a shop in the garage, an orchid or herb garden, pastrymaking, needlepoint, bridge.
  • Buy a portable phone so you can chat while cooking and gardening. Put a phone or small inexpensive television in the bathroom so you feel you're at a favorite luxurious hotel. If you have a guest bedroom, add such creature comforts there, too.
  • If you dislike the floors in your new home, replace them with wood floorboards. Too expensive? Ask local floor manufacturers if they sell "shorts," leftover pieces of hardwood that sell for less than planks. For ceramic floors, consider closeouts or choose lower-cost varieties such as glazed terra-cotta. For vinyl, shop for simple patterns that sell for less than the latest offerings.
  • Paint your entry hallway a playful color that will convey a warm greeting, such as Mediterranean blue or pumpkin.
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