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The tray's the thing: Small decorating projects can make a huge impact

Small decorating changes often make an enormous impact, and you can use trays to do just that, easily and inexpensively.According to Better Homes and Gardens magazine, the satisfaction of do-it-yourself decorating is that you can personalize your room, apartment or condo with DIY touches that make over a living space without the time or budget requirements of a full-scale remodeling job.Tray the walls One such project involves using trays on your walls to perform the same function as artwork, which is to add appealing and visually interesting accents to a space.You can wall-mount an assortment of silverplated serving trays, for example, in any way you like, perhaps accenting the look with complementary plain or fancy metal switch plates and plug covers. The trays themselves should not cost much since there's no need to buy them new. Instead, comb the thrift shops, garage sales and free item ads for the trays you find most engaging. That won't be difficult, since many people received them for wedding gifts, only to find them marginally useful as they downsize or eliminate clutter from their homes.Another great decorating tool is a printer tray, also known as type tray, used by printers of old to store various typefaces. These are typically not very deep, but they come in all sizes and allow you to showcase memorabilia like match book covers, small toy cars - perhaps representing the Mercedes you plan to own one day - and seashells or other items that hold meaning for you. To keep items from spilling out, if that's a concern, just cover with a sheet of Plexiglas, easily installed with a drill and screwdriver.Top the tables Silverplated trays were, after all, meant to sit tabletop, and their charm and reflective nature make them an ideal base for a colorful vase of flowers, a grouping of candles or a collection of small framed photos. When it comes to using trays on tables, think centerpiece. Country Living magazine suggested filling apothecary jars with pinecones for a striking centerpiece. Not only is it a no-wilt version of the cut flowers option, but it is not strictly a holiday centerpiece: It can reside peacefully all year long, with jars of various sizes adding interest. Set on a tray, they have the cohesiveness of a single item.Instead of putting fruit in a bowl, you can top the dining table or kitchen counter with a wooden tray topped with a scattering of pears, apples and oranges - any colorful fruit that your family enjoys.

Ideas for decorating an apartment without paint

Apartment dwellers may feel limited in their decorating efforts because they can't always paint their walls, but there are plenty of ways to beautify without paint.It might seem daunting at first: You want to give your rental apartment a fresh look but the lease won't allow repainting. Walls are typically white, eggshell or perhaps light gray, and you'd prefer to see more vibrant colors in the living space.Actually, the neutral wall color is good news, since you now have an easel, so to speak, for expressing your taste and personality. For example, if you cherish a lovely wall hanging of the tulip fields of Holland, you can rest assured the light gray or white paint will accentuate the piece and present it in its best light. This is true of all artwork, which is rarely improved by hanging it on a green or orange wall. You don't have to own or buy expensive artwork, either. Besides combing flea markets or garage sales for watercolors or prints that you find appealing, you can also create your own art by framing a length of fabric that works with your space and with the other items, such as personal photos, that you choose to include.Don't overlook the small details: Decorative switch plates and plug covers, available in literally thousands of materials, themes and colors, can be just what you need to customize a cookie-cutter space and are easily installed with a screwdriver. When you move, take them off and replace them with the original standard switch plates.Cover the carpet with area rugs If yours is like most apartments, you have serviceable carpeting that's functional but hardly fashionable. Real Simple magazine suggested topping the carpet du jour with a vintage oriental rug, which manages to be faded and richly elegant at the same time. You can, however, use any area rug to achieve the look you're seeking.Southern Living magazine recommended laying area rugs over carpet for the textural advantages. Not only does the right area rug add texture, but it helps define a space: For example, a living room area might be topped with a braided jute rug and the bedroom with a charming needlepoint version.Open up with mirrors Finally, consider adding mirrors wherever you can, since they open up a space, add interest and reflect light beautifully.Somewhat under-appreciated as a decorating tool, a mirror, perhaps set in an antique picture frame, can help transform the uniform square footage of your rental apartment into a satisfying and lovely living space.

5 quick, simple ways to add style to your home

You don't have to have a degree in interior design to create a fashionable home. While you might not be an expert at mixing prints, colors and textures in your decor, that doesn't mean you have to settle for boring spaces that lack personality. You don't have to spend a lot of time or money designing your home, either. Try these five quick and easy ways to add style to your home without the stress involved with major projects.1. Change your switch plates They may be small compared to other accent pieces in your home, but switch plates can make a big impact on any room's vibe. Instead of the cheap plastic covers your house probably came with, go with decorative switch plates and outlet covers that can add color and style to your design. From fancy metal options to colorful, playful choices, you'll find a switch plate that matches your vision.2. Add a headboard to your bed Beds with lackluster or missing headboards aren't doing your bedroom any favors. Add some interest to your sleep area by creating a headboard yourself out of items you might already have. Real Simple magazine suggested draping a colorful quilt over your plain headboard for a simple upgrade, or try making your own headboard out of found wood, a shelving unit or even a square of paint.3. Undo a little balance People tend to decorate in pairs, but odd numbers that aren't balanced are more visually exciting. House Beautiful magazine recommended taking a few pairs away if your design uses several different ones. This could mean putting a lamp, sconce or side table in the attic for a while.4. Slap on some paint Anything can be radically transformed by a simple coat of paint. Whether it's an entire room, your kitchen cabinets, the beat-up hardwood floor or a thrift store shelf, a fresh paint job can update it to match any design you're going for. If something looks old or worn, a new coat of paint might be all it needs.5. Use a slipcover If any of your furniture has seen better days or you're just itching for a shot of revamped style, slipcovers are the answer. Find a color or print that works with your space, then place them on your sofas, armchairs or even dining room chairs for a fresh take.

Secrets for using splashes of color and light to brighten any space

Changing lighting changes color: Here are some ways to use paint and lighting to make breath-taking changes in any room of your home. Have you ever chosen a paint color in the store, only to bring it home and find that it looked totally different? It's sometimes called the "chameleon effect," but you can think of it as a decorating tool for brightening and transforming your home.Changing the color of paint has always been one of the simplest and least expensive ways to make a major change in the look of a space - that's true leverage. When you add the component of light, whether it's natural light or light from wall or overhead fixtures, lamps or even candles, the difference can be spectacular. Paint is an essential decorating tool, and re-doing a space refers not only to walls but also to tables, benches and everything else that can be improved with a fresh coat of paint.Begin with a vision Start by visualizing what you want to create - How will it look and feel? What is the space used for, and who will be using it?Eve Ashcraft, color consultant and founder of Eve Ashcraft Studio told Elle Decor that the first step is to ask yourself what the room is for. She added:"I had a client who only used one of his rooms at night so he wanted it to look best then. This made all the difference in picking out the right color."The color choice: Warm chocolate brown."It looked great with lamplight," said Ashcraft.Her general principle is that if the space is cool and dark, add warmth, and if it's bright, use cool colors.Light it right Once you've chosen the color of paint, you're ready to add the internal lighting components. Select chandeliers, track lighting and table lamps that not only reflect your taste but also add the level of additional light you want to achieve. There's a wealth of ideas for decorating with light, from using suspended lighting or lamps to accentuate sculptures, paintings or even fireplaces, and then you can add accessories that fit the mood and the purpose. For example, you can add decorative switch plates in a huge choice of styles and colors, some in reflective metals like antique brass and copper that will contribute to your pairing of color and light or unusual outlet covers that turn ordinary items into decorating tools.Whatever your choices, you can use the chameleon effect with ease and with astonishing results.

Improve your home's smell with essential oils

While decorating your home, every small detail matters. For example, you don't want to forget about switch plates and plug covers, since it's tiny things like this that some people may notice when they enter your house. Another thing you don't want to neglect is the way your house smells, since this will likely be the first thing that people notice when they first walk through the door.One way to make your space smell great is to infuse it with essential oils. Not only are these scents natural, but they each evoke different feelings in the people who breathe them in. Some good-smelling sprays available to purchase could actually be filled with harsh chemicals, which is why using natural, essential oils instead can be a great option. Furthermore, candles and other air-fresheners can be expensive and run out fast. Luckily, it only takes a few drops of essential oils for them to have a powerful effect on each room in your home. If you want people to walk into your home and feel as though it's bright and airy, consider using scents like eucalyptus, peppermint and lemon. These smells can be very calming, just like the odors of chamomile and lavender. If you prefer a more earthy, in-the-woods type of aroma, you may want to go with patchouli and myrrh. During the colder months, you may be feeling a little gloomy and be in search of a scent that can remind you and your guests that warmer days are on the way. Essential oils such as citrus and peppermint can help you accomplish this, so be sure to pick these up now that the holiday season is over. Other ways to make your home smell perfect Reader's Digest recommended that one great, all-natural way to make your home smell great is to use rose essential oils. However, nothing beats the smell of fresh roses, so if you have a little extra cash, consider picking up a few dozen roses and place vases of them throughout your home right before having company over. Another thing you can try is infusing your pillows with the scents of lavender and hops. These smells may help relax you while you're setting down and going to bed: You just may fall asleep faster. 

Tips for lighting your outdoor spaces for function and fun

Lighting your outdoor spaces for function and for funOutdoor lighting means many things to many people, but it always goes well beyond lights for safety or holiday decorating. These days, outdoor lighting is downright fun and creative, and can include string lighting, unusual switch plates, and exquisitely backlit trellises.Better Homes and Gardens magazine recently pointed out that, outdoors, a little light goes a long way. The reason? Your eyes need less light outside than inside for seeing shadows and patterns.Take a walk She recommended beginning your outdoor lighting project by simply walking around your space at night, taking in the existing grounds and imagining how you want your outdoor space to look. Remember that the way you see light in the daytime is quite different from the way you see it at night, which is a critical safety issue when lighting pathways or doorways.According to Better Homes, outdoor lighting operates on principles such as focus on function, which then defines three types of lighting: overall, task and accent. Overall lighting illuminates a general space, while task lighting addresses a specific purpose, such as illuminating a pathway, and accent lighting focuses attention on a particular object or area.This Old House magazine, addressing outdoor lighting  issues, recommended putting light where you need it. Lighting the outside of your home isn't difficult, as the article pointed out, but if you stroll around your neighborhood after dark, you'll see how easy it is to make mistakes, such as front doors hidden in the shadows or walkways that are unsafe after sunset. Or you may spot the home of an overlighter, where, as the Feldmans noticed, the driveway looks like a landing strip and the yard is so bright the place resembles a maximum-security prison."You don't have to light objects directly in order to get enough light in an area," Alicia Kapheim, lighting application manager at Philips Lighting Company, told Better Homes and Gardens. "By using reflected light, you can achieve a nice balance of esthetics and security."Have some fun Keep in mind that outdoor lighting isn't just about wattage - or even electricity. Chinese lanterns can beautify a deck, and battery-operated candles can add sparkle to a gazebo. And here's an inventive tip from Real Simple magazine: For a budget-friendly trick that won't involve an entire patio makeover, focus on a few decorative elements such as lampshades or chairs that strategically weave a splash of red throughout the dining space. Even simpler, use red light bulbs to add the color.

Day and night, lighting can alter a mood beautifully

Day and night, lighting can alter a mood beautifullyWhat do candlelight and roses have in common? They set a beautiful mood, perfect for a romantic dinner.While this isn't the only way to create a mood, romantic or otherwise, lighting is an excellent place to start, since it covers everything from dimmer switches, to switch plates, to chandeliers and sconces.Since we've mentioned romantic dinners, let's start with the dining room. Candles can range from high-quality beeswax to man-made and battery-operated, and how you use them is determined by the proportions of the room. An elegant candelabra, for example, might look lovely in a large, elegant dining room but rather silly in a small one.Dimmer products, on the other hand, make a statement regardless of the room or its size."People's biggest mistake with the dining room is getting all their light from overhead sources," New York City-based interior designer Bunny Williams told Real Simple magazine. She recommended softening the mood and adding intimacy by dimming chandeliers. Another mood-brightening idea is to replace standard switch plates with versions that are fun and whimsical, a trick that works in virtually any room of the home.Light at night Now, have you given a thought to your night light? A new study shows that the color of your night light can make a huge difference in your mood. The study used hamsters, and researchers found that blue light had the worst effects on mood, followed by white light. Red light, however, made the hamsters happier, with less evidence of depression. Randy Nelson, Ph.D., is a professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience at The Ohio State University Medical Center and co-author of the study that appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience, and believes these findings could have important implications for humans, especially those who work night shifts and are prone to mood disorders."Our findings suggest that if we could use red light when appropriate for night-shift workers, it may not have some of the negative effects on their health that white light does," Nelson said. Study co-author Tracy Bedrosian, a former graduate student at Ohio State currently doing postdoctoral research at the Salk Institute, concurred, and has found that research suggests these light-sensitive cells also send messages to parts of the brain that play a role in mood and emotion."Light at night may result in parts of the brain regulating mood receiving signals during times of the day when they shouldn't," she pointed out. "This may be why light at night seems to be linked to depression in some people."

Simple ways to decorate for the holidays

Simple ways to decorate for the holidaysThe holiday season is here, and it's time to get your home ready for all of the celebrations ahead. If you're the kind of person who likes to go all-out for the holidays, you may even want to consider getting some new festive switch plates. Decorating for the holidays may seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. There are many simple ways to turn your home into the perfect place to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, all you have to do is be a little creative.Utilize ornaments Ornaments aren't just for Christmas trees - you can put them throughout your entire home. For example, consider getting a decorative bowl, filling it with different ornaments and using it as a centerpiece on your holiday table. Better Homes and Gardens magazine suggested using ornaments to create a wreath to hang either inside your home or on your front door. You can also use some ribbons to hang ornaments from the ceiling and create a chandelier look. Decorate with fruit Fruit is both colorful and festive, and Real Simple magazine recommended that you use it as an inexpensive way to decorate for the holidays. For Christmas, you can fill a bowl with red and green apples, or use oranges, which are very popular during the holiday season. Get some lights You can't decorate for Christmas without holiday lights. Good Christmas lights can be used for years to come, and they aren't just for the outdoors, either. You can wrap Christmas lights around your banister or even place them around the mantel.Look for a ladder Better Homes and Gardens suggested purchasing an antique ladder from a flea market and putting it to good use during the holiday season. You can hang Christmas lights around it, hang ornaments on it or wrap red, green, silver and gold ribbons around it for a holiday decoration that is sure to catch the eye of all your family and friends. Don't forget about the outdoors While it's important to make the inside of your home sparkle, it is just as important to focus on the outdoors as well. Consider picking up some bright red and green plants to place in front of your door, hanging a wreath of flowers and even hanging some ornaments around your mailbox to show off your holiday spirit to the whole neighborhood. 

Make your smaller rooms feel larger with these DIY projects

HardwoodHaving a small room can make you feel cramped, but it can be easy to make the space feel open and breathable again. Here are a few tips that you can do right at home to inexpensively and beautifully redefine your small space without breaking the bank.Make your own art Hanging something right in the middle of a small wall space can make the entire room feel bigger, but you don't need to go to an art or decor store to find your perfect piece. Real Simple magazine suggested framing some fabric, or even just securing it directly over a frame. By using a patterned fabric, you can use virtually any color in any style that you want, so you'll be able to find a hardwood switch plate to match without a problem.One way that you can do this project with a simple framed canvas is to just use a staple gun. Lay your fabric with the pattern facing down on your workspace and place the canvas on top. Use the staple gun to secure the top left corner with a staple just inside the frame, then pull the fabric tight and do the same for the top right corner. Keep repeating this process until you've stapled all four corners and, just like that, you've got your own DIY art that will expand the style and scope of your entire room.Hang a long, narrow shelf Hanging a shelf in a smaller room will immediately draw the eye across it, making the space feel much larger. Shelves offer great opportunities to display all sorts of fun things to match your switch plates and other accessories, whether they're decorations or family keepsakes. Either way, a new shelf can bring tons of possibilities into your home, and making one is quite easy.First, simply measure the space across the room from wall to wall. Second, find a style of wood you'd like - for the purpose of making a smaller room feel bigger, you'll want to use a shelf that's thin vertically, but it can be as wide as you want. Once you've measured the distance between the walls, go ahead and cut your wood - remember, measure twice, cut once. While there are many ways to secure a shelf in place, one of the easiest will be to use hangers. Make sure to use a stud finder or tap the wall to make sure you secure your shelf in a sturdy part of the wall, noted the Washington Post.

Cottages can be chic, too

Switch plateIt's often assumed that your cottage getaway, whether it's in the woods of Maine or the beaches of California, has to be rustic and traditional. While that classic look is fitting for many cottages, you can revitalize your space with chic new color schemes and a modern decor that will make your home away from home feel more current.New trends in decorating your cottage While cottages have often been designed with certain themes  - like homespun curtains and matching throw pillows that harken back to the days of old - new styles can come in and taken over. Mix and Chic noted that newer trends are more focused on soft colors, feminine flair and furniture that's more vintage and antique. One idea is to use furniture that looks like it may belong in a 1950s home rather than a pioneer's log cabin. Try using the low levels and dual-layered designs of furniture that were popular in the mid-twentieth century to give your cabin a new look. By giving these items a fresh coat of paint, you can totally change the look of your space. Try using light yellow or blue against a white backdrop to create an effortless vibe to encourage relaxation. These vintage furniture items can look just right alongside other items that showcase the same era. Consider using chrome switch plates since the material was so popular in the 1950s. Since the switch plates are small, the gleam of the chrome won't overwhelm your newly redesigned space. Make your small space as cozy as possible One of the main ideas of a cottage is that it's a small and intimate setting. By embracing the smaller size of your cottage living room, you can make for an environment that will foster conversation and spending time together that many larger dwellings can't.Southern living magazine suggested packing your cottage's living room with color, whether it's a rug on the floor, drapes on the windows or switch plates on the wall. Choosing one color theme, like light blue, can make sure that everything matches while still providing enough leeway to use unique items, like a mid-century coffee table in the center of your room. Once again, you can use a switch plate that is pure chrome to reflect more color back in the room, or one that's bursting with energy to help the room feel more alive.


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