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Welcome to January. The days are gray and dreary, the holidays are history and those festive seasonal decorations that gave our interiors warmth and sparkle last month are now back (or soon will be) in storage boxes.
It's no wonder that we -- and our homes -- have the winter blahs.
So what to do?
You don't have to undertake a major makeover to give your decor a big boost, according to interior designers. Fresh colors and a few new or repurposed accessories can go a long way toward perking up winter-weary rooms.
"January is a good month for this," said Christine Sutphen, an interior designer with Gabberts Design Studio. Minnesotans tend to spend summers outdoors and up at the cabin, so home interiors don't get a lot of time and attention. But during the winter months, "you're caught indoors, and you end up rearranging accessories."
To enliven interiors, she advocates reinterpreting some of the same elements that make holiday decorating so appealing, such as light, texture and greenery.
"The holidays are a very sensory experience," Sutphen said, but there's no reason homes can't appeal to the senses once the holidays are over.
"What do we have in December that we're devoid of in January?" she said. "What can you do for your home to give it the life and sparkle it had earlier?"
Here are tips from Sutphen and other designers on refreshing winter decor:
Take photos of the rooms you want to enhance, then study them to see what's needed. "It gives you a fresh perspective," said Christine Sutphen, an interior designer with Gabberts Design Studio. "The camera doesn't lie."
Rooms are like outfits, according to Sutphen, and can be greatly enhanced by accessories. How many is a matter of personal taste, but in her view, homes tend to be under-accessorized most of the year. "Mantels are so nicely done during the holidays and so neglected the rest of the year," she said. Tabletops, too, tend to be underwhelming during non-holiday months. "People put one little thing on a dining-room table, while during the holidays we feel comfortable putting out more things." But don't overdo it. "A few more important pieces are better than a lot of little tchotchkes," cautioned Christine Harrington, interior designer with Waldenwood, an Eden Prairie-based remodeling firm.
New accent pillows can go a long way toward refreshing your interiors. "There are so many great fabrics, colors and price points," Sutphen noted. Or make your own. Designer Cy Winship recently sewed himself new decorative pillows using "mysterious" colorful African fabrics he bought at a market in France.
Harrington is a fan of creative rearranging. "Redecorating doesn't have to be a lot of buying. It can be re-using things you already have," she said, such as moving your living-room lamps to the bedroom and vice versa, or putting a small bedroom chest in the dining room. "All of a sudden it looks like a brand-new piece," she said. Sutphen encourages clients to "open up the buffet doors" in search of "new" accessories. "What have you inherited but never known what to do with?" she said. "Maybe it's Grandma's plate that has always had the turkey on it. Maybe it's time to hang it on the wall."
"January is such a dark month," Sutphen said. That's why lighting -- task, ambient and decorative -- is extra important during the winter. "Proper lighting will bring a room to life," she said. Try a new chandelier -- they're now popular in just about every room of the house, even over kitchen islands and bathtubs. "It can be a piece of jewelry for the home, and add a little bit of bling," she said. "And adding a mirror to a room can do a ton to bounce around light."
"A fresh coat of paint makes everything fresh and new," Harrington said. Try fresh spring or lime green on walls. "It's very popular and has almost become a neutral," she said. "Especially in Minnesota, it's a fun color that snaps you out of the doldrums." Or try painting a bold color on a piece of furniture, Sutphen suggested. "Tangerine, peacock blue and all shades of purple are some of this season's hottest colors." Winship recently painted a white ceramic deer head emerald green (Pantone's Color of the Year) to display on a coffee table. "I like to pair emerald with a shot of gold," he said.
Try hanging a favorite piece of art in a new spot. Or group artwork in a new way, such as taking two prints with complementary colors or patterns and framing them as a pair. Winship likes to create a "wall travelogue," rotating groupings of artifacts from his travels, such as hooked rugs from Guatemala, vintage French paintings and painted plates from Greece, on two of his living-room walls. "It's surprising, textured and gives a space energy," he said.
"We're so happy to add garlands during the holidays," Sutphen said. "Then we're devoid of Mother Nature in January. I'm a huge fan of plants, real or silk. It's an inexpensive way to add height and interest."
The holidays are abundant with sparkle, Sutphen said. To brighten up winter interiors, she recommends adding a bit of shimmer year-round. Maybe it's an iridescent window treatment, a throw with some metallic threads or an antique book with some shiny gold on the spine.
"A big beautiful, high-contrast patterned area rug is so interesting underfoot," Winship said. "But stay away from trendy chevron and go with a classic or organic pattern." To find just the right size for your space, Sutphen advises spreading a bedsheet on the floor and folding it to different sizes. "That's one of my favorite tricks."
Staff writer Lynn Underwood contributed to this report.