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Quick-Fix Design Ideas for Your Home

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Instant gratification. It's what we all want but so often don't get. That's because there's so much in life we have no control over. When it comes to our homes, though, we're in charge (or, at the very least, second-in-command). While many decorating or do-it-yourself projects are pretty time-consuming, there are a lot of things that can be done in an afternoon – or even an hour – that will really perk up a room.

In a Minute

Kelley Taylor understands this burning desire to change it now. Taylor, founder of Creating Home Decor.com, is a freelance designer and stylist. She is also the author of Holiday Decorating for Dummies. Taylor has a special little place in her home she calls her "stylist's stash." There she keeps pillows, knick-knacks and any other accessories that may have caught her eye.

"About once a month or so – or whenever I feel like changing things – I go around the house and put things in a box, and exchange them with things in my stylist's stash," says Taylor. "These things cost practically nothing. I get them on clearance sales when they're closing out seasonal merchandise or buy them with coupons, and they just perk things up."

Decorating expert Marney Makridakis, co-author with Michael Holland of an excellent collection of decorating e-books available at Home Decorating Made Easy, also suggests easy fabric changes to spruce up a room in less than an hour.

She recommends picking a single color from something in the room that you want to refresh – preferably a bold color – and making quick, no-sew covers for your throw pillows. If you have more time, make some new window toppers. There are even many techniques for no-sew furniture covers to quickly change the look of your sofa or a chair.

"This is particularly effective if you have a neutral room because a bold color will make it look dramatically different right away," says Makridakis.

Another way to change the look of the room is with plants. Makridakis says that hanging live plants in a corner not only complements any décor, but softens the look of a room.

In an Hour

Taylor recognizes that a big difficulty in sprucing up a room is that often families are trying to live in that room. That's why she discourages painting as a quick room change.

"A lot of people think of re-painting a room as a quick change, because it's relatively inexpensive and can often be done in an afternoon or a day, but it can be too disruptive if you're actually living there," says Taylor. "Also, then you get into a dilemma of what to do with the kids while you're busy. That's why I like projects that only take an hour or two and can involve the parents and the kids."

One great idea Taylor has is to get the whole group involved in rearranging a room. She suggests having children help choose a focal point from items that are already in the room. (A television is a common focal point, but it could be a favorite table to play games on.) Then, give the kids pencil and paper and have them sketch out a new room arrangement. It can be as simple as squares representing chairs and a rectangle for the couch. They can also help measure to see if something fits in a particular spot. Once the plans are on paper, try out some of the ideas until you find something that everyone likes.

"The bonus, of course, is that you end up moving furniture around and looking under pillows and cushions," says Taylor. "It gives you an opportunity to maybe find some things that were lost and to get rid of some of the cobwebs."

Top this family project off by tossing the curtains in the washing machine and running throw pillows through the dryer for about 10 minutes to get out any stale odors or dust. In just an afternoon, your room can have a whole fresh view.

In a Weekend

Sprucing up a room with fabric and accessories can be done in an hour or so, but there are a lot of other projects that, while they take a little longer – maybe a day or even a weekend – are extremely easy, inexpensive and rewarding.

Home improvement expert Danny Lipford, host of Today's Homeowner, a weekly, syndicated TV show devoted to home projects, has a myriad of great suggestions for quick home-improvement projects – both inside and outside the home. Try one of the following for a terrific new look that won't take long to execute, but one that you'll enjoy for a long time:

On the Inside

  • Install new cabinet hardware. It's quick and easy – especially with cordless screwdrivers and drills. Look for ways to be more organized, such as installing roll-out trays in cabinets.
  • Install a chair rail. As Lipford points out, this can really change a room. Today, chair rails are not just for dining rooms. People install them even in halls to protect the walls or to provide a relief point for two different paint colors or contrast for paint and wallpaper.
  • Install crown molding. Lipford notes that crown molding is now sold with miter-less corners, making it very easy to use.

On the Outside

  • Build a simple walkway or path, perhaps where the grass is worn because people use it as a cut-through. Lipford suggests using patio stone.
  • Paint the shutters, either with a new color or just to refresh the existing color.
  • Build a simple trellis using five strips of treated wood, and plant it behind a vine.
  • Install low-voltage landscape lights. Lipford says they're very user-friendly and look terrific around a front porch or along a walkway.
  • Clean and stain a deck or patio.
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