The days after the holiday guests have gone home and the decorations have been put away can be clarifying. Suddenly, rooms that have been crowded with people and gifts have empty space and breathing room.
There's something about the quiet weeks after New Year's that can be perfect for rethinking basics like the location of living room furniture or whether bookshelves should be reorganized.
You can harness the same energy and mindset that people bring to moving into a new home, but without the trouble of moving, says designer Betsy Burnham, founder of Los Angeles' Burnham Design.
Here, she and two other experts — New York-based designer and crafter Meg Allan Cole, and HGTV.com managing editor Camille Smith — suggest redecorating projects than can be tackled with little or no expense on a January weekend.
MAKE A NEW FLOOR PLAN
Burnham suggests measuring your furniture and sketching out your space on a sheet of paper, trying items in different locations. It's essentially the home-decor version of emptying out your closet and reorganizing your wardrobe.
"Think about your rooms empty first," says Burnham.
"Go on Pinterest," she says, "and enter search terms like 'creative living room layouts' or 'unusual floor plans,' and just see what kinds of things come up."
Don't be afraid to move items into different rooms or eliminate them completely.
"Maybe no one is playing the piano anymore and it's time to pass it on to your friends," Burnham says. This is "rethinking space from a macro point of view, not just moving a chair."
As you assess your rooms, rethink storage as well.
"Now that you've cleared out the room, consider which items you need to keep handy and in plain sight and which can be tucked away," says Smith. "In the family room, a storage ottoman or coffee table can be a sanity-saver. A hinged lid makes it easy to tuck kids' or pets' toys away in a snap."
And don't forget art: Walk around your home and make note of all framed or hung items, then consider moving them to a different wall or room.
CREATE INSPIRING ART
This time last year, Cole created framed art for her home office by painting words like "Simplify" and "Good Vibes Only" on canvas. The process was simple: She put down letter stickers spelling out the words, and then painted over them in a cheerful mix of colours. When she peeled off the stickers, the letters were visible as blank canvas within the colour.
The words aren't "a New Year's resolution that can be daunting. It's like a mantra, and you can keep returning to that every day," says Cole. This project and others like it can be found on the Meg Allan Cole Crafts channel on youtube.com.
You can use any colours or words, and if the final result isn't Pinterest-perfect, that's just fine, says Cole: "Accepting the mess-ups is part of it."
INCREASE WARMTH AND LIGHT
Cole suggests combatting the dark and cold of winter months by adding thick throw rugs and faux-fur blankets to your living space.
Smith agrees: "The holidays may be behind us, but there are many months of winter dreariness ahead." She suggests filling rooms with natural light by place a large mirror opposite a bank of windows.
Burnham suggests upgrading your lamps by changing the lampshades.
"Designers generally buy lamps and shades separately," she says. "Maybe you want to go more bohemian this year, or modern and cleaner."
Smith recommends estate sales for all kinds of antique and vintage finds, including lampshades. Hunt for one that's your style, and don't worry if it needs a bit of fixing, she says. She found a 1950s paper drum shade that was damaged along the bottom, and "in less than 30 minutes, and for just the cost of a bit of upholstery trim and some glue, I gave my old shade a trendy new lease on life."
GET BEAUTIFULLY ORGANIZED
January is a great time for eliminating clutter and getting organized. Cole recently added a corkboard to the back of her office door, decorated with pastel-painted paper. She created a space for "to do" lists and recipes she'd like to prepare, and made sure it added some fresh beauty to her workspace.
Burnham plans to reassess her bookshelves and tabletops this winter with an eye toward streamlining.
"We're so attached to the way things look now," she says. "I think there's a certain freedom in separating yourself from that attachment" and realizing that everyone you own doesn't have to be displayed.