Freshen up your home this winter with plenty of exciting new ideas.

10 Ways to Brighten Your Home

Baby, it’s cold out there. So as wind and weather wreak havoc outside, we take comfort inside. Then, before long, we find ourselves not only climbing the walls, but scrutinizing them. Sure, some cozy new furniture pieces would be nice, but if you’re just looking to add some pizzazz and wake up your tired décor, take heart. We talked to some of our favorite local designers and home decorators for advice on perking up your hibernation headquarters.

Freshen up your home this winter with plenty of exciting new ideas.
Tom Konopacki, Anastazia, Geneva

1. Bring on Spring

“Think about your spring garden, and try to bring some of nature’s outdoor elements inside,” suggests Tom Konopacki, owner of home stores Anastazia and Eugene-Thomas in Geneva. “Whether it’s a leaf pattern on a vase, or a viney pattern on a picture frame, choose something that gives you the feeling that spring is not far away,” he says. Choose colors in brighter, springtime tones such as yellows and light greens to give the room new life. Show off some new candles in a springy fragrance. Plant some spring blooms in a decorative vase. Fill a birdfeeder outside your window to invite spring’s early birds. Then sit down and plan out this year’s garden. “Even in February we start to bring out some of our gardening accessories to get people to start thinking about gardening and getting back outside,” he says.

2. Accessorize

“When we take down the Christmas tree and all the Christmas decorations, the room looks kind of bare, so that’s a good time to think about accessories,” says Konopacki. “Maybe put a new picture over the fireplace, or buy a new lamp. Just those little changes can freshen up your décor without having to buy all new furniture.” New artwork adds interest to the room, and small accessories such as lamps can add personality. Also consider adding new pillows and throws in bright accent colors to spice up a room and keep you warm and comfortable.

3. Use Flower Power

“A great way to brighten your home is to find things that make you happy. Flowers of any kind can do that for most people,” says Stephanie Haas of Strawflower Shop in Geneva. “It’s amazing how a little ivy greenery or a floral fruit basket full of flowers, everlasting green pears, luscious red apples and even cute little plantains can make you feel a little bit more like springtime hope is on the way,” she says. The designers at Strawflower can craft a springtime centerpiece for your room to your liking. Try out a new flowery print on the wall and put a bowl of flowery potpourri on the table to wake up your senses. Let your ideas blossom.

Stephanie Haas, Strawflower Shop, Geneva

4. Lighten Up

“We tend to forget about how important lighting is until we’re in the winter doldrums again,” says Haas. “Did you know that seasonal affective disorder can be combated by purchasing UV bulbs and popping them into your bathroom or nightstand lamps?” New lamps and light fixtures can recreate a look or completely change the feel of the room, Haas says. “Whether you’re a lamp-only type of person or a crystal chandelier grand-stander, it’s all about finding a way to brighten your home.” Even a stunning new lampshade can make a huge difference, giving your lamp, and room, a new attitude.

5. De-clutter

“Edit all surfaces!” says designer Ellyn Anderson of Walter E. Smithe. “Coffee tables, end tables, sofa tables, fireplace mantels, etc. Too much clutter confuses a room. Take everything off, realize what is truly important to you or what items you still enjoy, and donate the rest,” she says. “Thoughtfully place treasured items back in the room, trying new locations or groupings. Use ‘perches’ such as books or decorative boxes to add varying heights. It is never how many items, but the placement of those items in the space, that makes a room interesting.”

Ellyn Anderson, Walter E. Smithe Furniture

Anderson suggests enlisting a creative friend whose home you admire to help you. “I always buy one new ‘key’ accessory every season, something I would usually never consider and always on the trendy side, such as a funky pillow. Those old pictures in dusty frames that take up so much table surface? Compile a handsome photo album/coffee table book. It’s an easy way to keep those cherished photos at hand to share easily with family and friends. Be sure to keep all framed photos current or vintage, not in-between.”

6. Trees Company

“True or false: trees and plants liven up a space and add visual impact. “Totally true!” says Anderson. “The problem is, most clients I see have picked and skimped on the wrong tree and greenery. And yes, they have plenty of it, but it just does nothing. Most don’t even like it! So, get rid of those dust collectors. Then what? Upgrade!” There are so many options these days. Anderson says that she prefers palms over ficus trees, because they have more shape and ambiance, and can add drama to the room. “Uplighting a large palm in a corner is dramatic but not over the top,” she says. “Try mixing the typical greenery with exotic grasses, shoots, and mosses for a more interesting and organic look.” Clear off the planters (dated!) that line the top of kitchen cabinets (boring!). Instead, group some plants in the corner, then add other textured accessories like wicker, wood and metal. Trail out toward the ends of cabinets – no need to fill every square inch.

Terry Fujino, Honquest Furniture, Barrington

7. Color it In

“A fresh coat of paint is an inexpensive way to make a change, so why not use that wonderful color you’ve been admiring in magazines,” says Terry Fujino, designer for Honquest Furniture in Barrington. “We’re seeing some wonderful chocolates and charcoals that can really create drama in your room. Maybe use the high gloss version, if you dare.” Think about also using a soft, coordinating color on the ceiling, Fujino says, to create a warm, cozy atmosphere.

8. Put a Mirror on the Wall

“Adding a large floor mirror, maybe with antique glass and mullions, will open up a room and reflect some beautiful new artwork you might want to display at this time of year,” says Fujino. Brighten up a dark corner of the room with a long mirror. Or use mirrors to line the back of a shelving unit and show off your favorite sparkling crystal pieces on the shelves. Mirrors add space and dimension to a room and reflect color and light. Use them as a dramatic focal point or to bring in some natural light where you lack a window.


Mary Batson, Out of the Box, Crystal Lake

9. Dress it Up

Television host and home designer Nate Berkus uses cashmere cable knit sweaters found at thrift shops to make pillow covers. And he recently instructed his viewers on how to take their favorite old silk scarves, have them framed, and turn them into wall art. Mary Batson, owner of Out of the Box, a creative home store in Crystal Lake, says that customers have told her they use pashmina scarves for table runners. Look in your closets and drawers for unique items to display and enjoy. Even old Christmas ornaments can have a new life. Vintage silver, gold or colored balls in a glass bowl add a splash of color and bling to your room, says Batson.

10. Use Good Scents

Aroma beads from Aromafloria are the newest way to bring beautiful and soothing scents to your home, according to Batson. Choose from several scents including Lemongrass, Narcissus, and Ocean Breeze. Simply place the beads in your favorite decorative bowl, give them a swirl with your finger, and release their aroma. Or fill a sachet with them and hang it in a closet to give your clothes or linens a fresh scent. The beads are all-natural and eco-friendly, and also come in kitchen scents.

See our design photos in greater detail! Click the thumbnails below.