10 Ways to Update Your Space

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Our readers’ favorite interior designers give their top tips for transforming a room

Photo by Grace O’Hara

Christy O’Hara of Steel Roots Home Decor says:

1 Use What You’ve Got

People are often disappointed when they purchase a sofa and their space still feels incomplete. Staging a room is key – not everything has to be new. I prefer to use items the client already owns, adding a few new items when needed. Invest in high-quality faux plants. They not only add texture and warmth to a space but will last for years to come. I have faux plants in my home that still look new 20 years later. 

2 Rugs and Window Treatments

Although hardwood floors are beautiful, a family room without a rug tends to feel sterile. When adding a rug to your space, don’t skimp [on the size]! A good rule of thumb is that, at a minimum, the front feet of each piece of furniture must be on the rug. [Other] great additions are window panels. Much like a rug, they can anchor a room and are a great way to add pattern and texture to a space. 


Katherine Gianakos and Paula Fullerton of Sew Fine II Interiors say:

1 Analyze the Room

First, decide if the room works as is or if it just needs accessorizing. If the room really doesn’t work at all, you [might] need to start from scratch. If the room isn’t going to seat the number of people that you need, is not comfortable or is done in colors or a design style you don’t like, no matter what you do to try to fix that, you’re never going to like it. The first thing you have to do is make the decision, and that’s usually when a designer can help you. 

2 Bring the Outdoors In 

With people spending as much time as they are indoors, they need to bring nature inside. [Try] some very high-quality botanicals [like] silk floral arrangements and silk greenery, and natural-looking accessories – items made of wood, forged metal and stone.


Photo by Marilyn Peryer Style House Photography

Caroline Shillito of emma delon says:

1 Put Up Family Photos

While we can’t spend time together in person with everyone we would like to see at the moment, we are finding new ways to keep in touch and stay connected. Consider putting up a picture wall to keep family and friends in mind even when you are stuck at home. A classic place for a picture wall is a staircase, but a dining room, family room [or] playroom are great options, too. Your home printer and your iCloud storage of all those wonderful times over the last few years are great ways to DIY this project. Consider all black-and-white images with white or black frames for a classic, artistic look or go with fun frames and colorful images to brighten up a space. Mix photos, paintings and prints – or your kid’s artwork – for a colorful designer look.

2 Don’t Be Afraid of Change

Painting a room is something that you can do with your partner or kids as a family project or by yourself on a weekend. A new paint color can give a room a whole new look with a relatively small investment. A new color also gives your existing furnishings, accessories and window treatments a fresh feeling. Since you will need to move your furniture and accessories to paint, this also gives you a chance to look at the room in a new way. Just because that chair has always been in your living room doesn’t mean it has to stay there. Consider moving furniture to new locations in your home, swapping out accessories and throw pillows and trying out a different layout for your newly painted space. 


Photo by Kevin Babyak

Catherine Clamage and Laura Robertson of Chartreuse Design say: 

1 Tell a Good Pillow Story

High-quality pillows in a color scheme that complements your main furnishings make a huge impact. We typically recommend covers that are at least 20 to 24 inches with inserts that are 1 to 2 inches larger in order to create a nice, full fill. Add some variety by throwing a lumbar or two into the grouping. A good rule of thumb: Use a solid [color], a small pattern and a larger pattern. Mixing patterns and sizing is a foolproof way to get a true designer look.

2 A Kitchen Refresh

When new cabinets and countertops aren’t in the budget, there are many small changes that can spice things up. A new backsplash and a coat of paint on your existing cabinetry can do wonders. New hardware pulls and knobs can instantly give your cabinets a face-lift. Thoughtful styling touches can make the most of your countertop space. Place fruit in a pretty pottery bowl, display a teapot on your stovetop and stack your wooden cutting boards or cookbooks for visual interest without adding too much distracting color.


Photo by J. Sinclair

Cat French of Catherine French Design says:

1 Bloom Where You’re Planted

Now is certainly the time to add happiness to your space wherever you can; adding a bit of nature-inspired decor can completely change the mood, usually with very little investment. If you already have some outdoor potted plants you love, consider giving them a little indoor real estate for the moment so they can keep you company during the day. Or, if it’s in your budget, treat yourself to fresh flowers or those houseplants in the cute pots that have been hanging out in your online shopping cart. Place them in a spot where you will see them frequently throughout the day, such as a kitchen counter or the windowsill over your sink. [Also consider putting them] beside your work-from-home space where they will readily brighten up your line of sight. Accessible and often quite affordable, some bright blooms can go a long way toward lifting the feel of your space and easing some of the cabin fever. 

2 Frame Your Art 

Good quality prints can be ordered from user-friendly services like Shutterfly or Printique and delivered straight to your door. Most of us already have some unused frames here and there, or you could order some simple frames with mats to match and pair your pictures. If you prefer leaving the framing to a professional, we know just the place: Framer’s Market and Gallery in Rams Plaza has been a Chapel Hill staple for decades and has been our go-to for beautiful, high-quality framing for years. 


If you’d like help making these design choices, consider scheduling a virtual or in-person consultation with a designer to talk about your space. “Virtual consultations are a great way to be able to interview a designer and make sure the relationship is a good fit,” Caroline Shillito suggests. “Keep a list of images and ideas for what you hope the space can become, and share these with your designer; it allows us to review your wants and needs before an appointment.”

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Jessica Stringer

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