Real Estate Envy

5 Tips on How to Elevate Your Home: The Experts Weigh In

Scaling furniture is just one way to enhance your home.

Personal tastes may vary among home dwellers, but there are a few things everyone can keep in mind when they want to enhance and elevate the feel of their home. Whether you live in a studio or an apartment o a townhouse or a mansion, your home is a reflection of you, and it should always look its best while also showcasing your life and interests.

ESTATENVY spoke with two professional interior designers -- Shannon Gatewood, owner of SJL Interiors in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Deb Reinhart, owner of Deb Reinhart Interior Design Group in Wilmette, Illinois.

“I’ve encountered a lot of people who tend to get overwhelmed when they think about decorating and the simple truth is that styling your home is not that different from styling your body,” Gatewood said.

Decorating a home and keeping it looking fresh doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s quite likely you even already possess items that will give your home an enhanced look and feel.

“The secret is to get your personality to be highlighted in the architecture and the furnishing,” Reinhart said, adding that a “big box store” look can be impersonal and lack the magic of wanting to pull in guests and the owner. “That is the number one mistake I think a lot of homeowners make, is that they buy into a programmed design concept,” she said.

Without further ado, here are five tips on enhancing the atmosphere of your home.

Remember the basics

Enhancing a home comes down to five major points for Gatewood: fit, color, texture, shine, and print and patterns. She takes these from her love of fashion and encourages home dwellers to think of the mood they’d like to create.

Fabric, she noted, is a good way to elevate the look of a home, whether updating rugs, throw blankets, wall hangings, lamp shades or floor cushions, and home accessories such as pillows and throw blankets are an easy way to integrate texture, print and pattern, while also creating a cozier, more welcoming space.

“In theory you want people to feel as if you really want them there when you’re hosting them in your home and I find that throw pillows and blankets do some of the work for you,” Gatewood said.

Reinhart noted that couch slipcovers are an inexpensive way to change out a library, den or living room.

“It’s a fun way of changing the character and the color and the look of a room, either seasonally or just because you’re tired of what you have,” Reinhart said.

And you don’t have to be a carpenter or electrician to make hardware changes.

“Lamp bases and sculptures are the perfect decorative accents that come in a variety of metallic finishes,” Gatewood said, adding that the hardware on kitchen cabinets, media stands and other closed storage units can easily be swapped and updated.

And when it comes to painting walls, it’s all about testing colors until you find the right one.

“Samples, samples, samples will save a lot of time and frustration on the back end when it comes to picking out color choices,” Gatewood said, adding that it’s important to test the colors at different times of the day to see how lighting affects those colors.

A great thing about paint, Gatewood noted, is that it’s a relatively easy change to make if you don’t like it, whereas wallpaper is more difficult to remove.

“Keep those kinds of things in mind when you’re selecting paint versus some kind of wall covering,” Gatewood said.

Size matters

When it comes to choosing furniture and accent pieces, make sure they’ll fit in the room for which they’re destined.

“The number one rule in making a wow factor is scale,” Reinhart said, adding that she often sees DIY people take huge pieces of furniture that are not scaled to the floor space of the room. “If you are purchasing furniture, make sure the scale works to the size of the room.”

The same way that you’ll want to buy clothes that fit you, Gatewood noted, it’s the same with furniture and accent pieces.

“You want to make sure they are scaled for the size of the space you’re working in,” Gatewood said.

Accessories should be about Y-O-U

Accessories that represent you and your interests are a surefire way to enhance your home.

“Make sure the accessories and artifacts in your home represent your soul and represent your personality,” Reinhart said, adding that “Maybe you have a mirror from your grandmother. Maybe you have a bowl that was your mother’s. Maybe you have your dad’s war memorabilia. There’s something that is valuable to you. It doesn’t have to be an antique, but it does have to be meaningful.”

Walls are a terrific opportunity to display personal items. Movie and concert posters that are significant to you, for example, should be framed nicely “because we are all adults here and that tape and masking tape are not going to cut it,” Gatewood said. She noted there should be something besides a television to capture people’s attention.

“Whatever the case may be, putting something up on your walls is an opportunity to not just create visual interest in your home but can also lead to some great conversations about where you are, where you come from, where you’ve been, the kind of things you’ve seen or done, and what matters to you most,” Gatewood said.

Budget. Budget. Budget.

Setting a budget is key to home-enhancing projects. Lacking a budget often leads to confusion, as it won’t be clear what takes precedence on a project, Gatewood said.

“You can prioritize your improvement from there,” Gatewood said, adding that it’s crucial to know the style and mood you’re trying to achieve “before you spend a dime.”

Gatewood recommends that home dwellers looking to enhance their home start out by purchasing three to five new items, trying them out in the space they’re meant for, and seeing how they work together in that space. If you feel you need more products, she said, then you can purchase more until you have achieved the look and the feel that you want.

“The last thing that you want to do is overspend on all of your finds,” Gatewood said. “I don’t think anyone really wants to eat ramen on a really nice, expensive couch because they’ve overspent on that couch and on other things.”

She cited budget-friendly options such as Target, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx as preferred places to pick up accents for the home, and advises home dwellers to frequent antique, consignment and thrift shops, as well as flea markets and estate sales. By doing so, consumers can find items that come in at various price points and will maximize their budgets.

“You might be willing to splurge on a couch or a coffee table - some of those larger foundational pieces that will anchor your space - but you don’t necessarily have to spend luxury-level money on your accessories and accents,” Gatewood said.

Don’t forget the great outdoors

Enhancing your home can also involve sprucing up your outdoor spaces - think porches and backyards - and bringing some greenery indoors.

Creative lighting can go a long way in an outdoor space.

“Candles, torches, and solar-powered lights are a really wonderful addition that will enhance the ambiance,” Gatewood said.

One major suggestion Gatewood had as far as enhancing an outdoor area is to add a firepit or a fire bowl to the backyard - provided, of course, that it meets all of the necessary building codes.

“There’s just something welcoming and cozy and fun about being able to sit around a controlled fire,” Gatewood said.

Gatewood noted that people tend to overlook plants, and said they’re a great way to liven up an indoor space, as they “give us an overall sense of well-being.”

And if you don’t have a green thumb?

“Go faux,” Gatewood said. That said, not all hope is lost for the plant-challenged. Per Gatewood, “Succulents are by far the best option for anyone who doesn’t have a green thumb.”

When it comes to the outdoor decor and furniture, Reinhart noted that natural light “changes the drama of what you have out there, so mix up your color.” Incorporating more color can work wonders in an outdoor space.

“On the outside, you can be more daring in the contrast,” Reinhart said, adding that outdoor decor can be really fun and playful. “Don’t be afraid.”