|Photo: @meridithbaerhome on Instagram.|
Keep it clean. Remember when your mother used to pester you to clean your room? Well, she was right. The easiest way to brighten up your pad is to give it a good wipe-down. Removing clutter is also crucial. Shred outdated paperwork. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit. Toss any knick-knack that isn’t useful or aesthetically pleasing. This is where those Rubbermaid storage bins you see at big box retailers come in handy. They’re cheap, they’re stackable, and they make organization so much easier. If you want to be able to find things again later (think season-specific clothing or holiday decorations), buy transparent tubs. If you want to keep your stuff safe from roving eyes, stick to solid colored tubs. Have a basement? An empty closet? A storage locker? Use it. Live in a shoebox apartment? There’s always the old standby otherwise known as Mom and Dad’s garage.
The grand entrance. The first impression guests have of your home should be a stylish one. Find a small table, storage bench, or other unobtrusive piece of furniture for your entryway. Make it functional by adding a lamp or a bowl for your keys. Display a sculpture or travel memento if you’re feeling fancy.
Let the light in. Everything looks better in natural light. If your window treatments are old and mangy, take them down.
Look alive, living room! Neutral colors and clean lines are the rules of thumb for living room decorating. Arrange furniture to facilitate conversation and make sure to have a coffee table to accommodate drinks. Angle furniture towards the best view, whether that’s a big bay window or a fireplace.
If your living room is the only gathering room you have, you’ll likely end up planting your TV there. Consider a cabinet to cover it up when not in use—yes, they make them for flat screens, too, in plenty of styles. “It’s always good to be able to hide that stuff when you need to,” Baer says. If a cabinet is not in your budget, at the very least, center the flat screen over a solid, quality piece of furniture so the TV blends into the room rather than dominates it. And keep cords in control; there’s nothing more unsightly than a serpentine-like mess of wires on the floor.
Table work when guests come over. If your dining room or kitchen table is multi-purpose (students and telecommuters, we’re looking at you), clear your work away before guests arrive. Laptops, piles of paperwork, and textbooks are not centerpieces. But you know what is? A big bowl of lemons or apples. Simple, inexpensive, and lower maintenance than a vase of flowers.
Deck the walls, sparingly. “For young men especially, less is more,” Baer says when it comes to wall decor. Rather than hurriedly accumulating things to hang up, let the art come to you. “Give yourself a chance to spend your time being out for a walk and finding something you like,” Baer says. Don’t purchase anything that you don’t love, and certainly don’t buy anything just because it’s of-the-moment or provocative. If you’re not comfortable with what’s on your walls, no one else will be, either.
Be a little bit anonymous. If you’re selling your home, you’ll be advised to remove photos, diplomas, fridge magnets, and any other visual “tell” that makes your space feel like an open diary. This isn’t a bad idea even if you’re staying: guests don’t need to see you posing in front of every landmark from your last vacation or huddled together with relatives in matching T-shirts at the family reunion. If those pictures are meaningful to you, great, keep them up. If not, it can be refreshing to live among subtle objects that have private meaning you can choose to divulge or keep to yourself. After all, if someone really wants to see your selfies, they can stalk your Instagram from the privacy of their own home.
The bedroom isn’t just for sleeping. You already know that adult bedrooms require bedside tables and lamps, right? Now take it up a notch and turn your boudoir into a suite. If space is tight, all you need are two small chairs and table where you can enjoy your coffee, read the paper, or put your shoes and socks on. Blessed with a big bedroom? Incorporate a love seat, reading chair, and an ottoman. Regardless of space constraints, remember this: no headboards in front of the window. “That’s the last thing you want to do,” Baer says.
Never underestimate the power of paint. Painting is one of the simplest things you can do to make your space look new again. It bears repeating: stick to neutral hues. Make sure to do test patches before tackling entire walls; the color on the sample card might look different once applied. Always use painter’s tape for a clean edge and protect your floors and furniture with drop cloths.