I’ve found a great new place to shop for my home. It’s close and convenient, and the bargains are fabulous. Where is this new “It” store, you ask? It’s my own home. Making the most of what we have certainly makes good sense in this economic climate, but I say this philosophy makes good sense regardless of the financial state of affairs. Most of us have many possessions of which we grow weary, that we store away, that become so entrenched in a room that we don’t think they can work anywhere else. But seeing our belongings with fresh eyes and giving them a chance to inhabit a new space can reinvigorate our décor—without costing a thing. And think of it this way: Maybe all the money we don’t spend on accessories we don’t really need can go toward a significant “wow” piece for our homes.
But how do we do this? We have to begin by changing the way we see our furnishings. Ask yourself whether a lamp that’s been in your living room for five years will work in your foyer, or if a collection of paperweights anchored to your bookshelf for an eternity could liven up a sofa table.
The key is to remove pieces from their old positions so you can see them in a new way. Begin by emptying the rooms you want to refresh of smaller furniture like occasional tables and side chairs, and all accessories including lamps, pillows, artwork, plants—the works. Think of it as creating a blank canvas.
When you’ve cleared your rooms, the next step is to work on creating subgroups of items, like special collections of antique plates or treasures purchased in a foreign country on vacation. You could also group pieces in the same color palette, like a large green moss ball and a sleek green hand-blown glass vase. Add a silk scarf of greens and chocolate browns, a few branches from your garden, and a mottled-gold candlestick lamp to complete the grouping. You can also take your color-pairing inspiration from nature, and try combining the green-yellow and red of tulip poplar blossoms or the sparkling reds and rich greens of an apple tree. Be deliberate in not putting together accessories that have been paired previously; this will help keep you from sliding back into tired-out combinations. And don’t worry about formal verses informal. An antique bread bowl filled with pine cones or fruit can look great between a pair of silver candlesticks.
Open your china and silver cabinets and add special pieces to the mix. Champagne buckets are perfect for potted plants and silver trays work on a bar in even the most casual rooms. A silver coffee pot can hold large flowers like hydrangeas or peonies beautifully, and a punch bowl with a shell collection from a summer beach trip looks fun on a large buffet. Even crystal goblets can be used to hold small soaps in a powder room or single blossoms on a mantel. Many of us only bring out these treasures for special occasions, but why not enjoy our most special pieces all the time?
Next, group everything you’ve collected in a separate staging area like a foyer, and invite a friend or two with a knack for accessorizing to help you restyle your rooms. Set the shopping mood and make it fun by pouring steaming cups of tea or glasses of chilled wine, and offering hors d’ouevres to nibble as if it were a store’s grand opening or seasonal open house.
When it comes to moving smaller furniture, start by separating matched sets of chairs. Try combining a wing chair and a cushioned bench with several side chairs in your dining room or breakfast nook for an eclectic and comfortable look.
What should you do if you don’t use everything you’ve pulled? Select a sturdy storage bin and pack the items away. The next time you feel like making a change, you have a ready-made home accessory shop.
Here are a few more tips for redesigning your home with your own furnishings:
- Keep special collections in separate boxes and rotate them seasonally. Seashells look great in a glass vase during the summer, while a grouping of hand-made candles may be just the thing for the winter.
- Move tassels hanging from window treatments or lamps to chair-backs or drawer pulls.
- Throw a shawl or large silk scarf around a chair or over a sofa.
- Divide a handful of tall branches among an assortment of clear glass vases. Just a few stems of each at different heights will make a striking and simple arrangement.
- Try stacking books on entrance tables or under vases and frames.
- Don’t forget to rearrange your lamps. Changing the lighting in a room can alter its feel dramatically.
- Consider swapping accessories with friends who are also looking to freshen things up.