Every year when I take down my holiday decorations, my house seems a little cold and empty. Stripped bare of all those festive greens, ribbons and shining objects, I see everything I am not so crazy about in my home’s decor, from the nicks and scratches on the walls to the dog hair. While I don’t always like what I see when faced with the naked truth, I have come to look forward to this eyes-wide-open time of year because it spurs me to make much-needed changes in my home. The quieter winter months are the perfect time for many of us reevaluate our home’s interior and make some changes.

But where do you start? Here are some ideas for refreshing your home for the new year from a friend and customer of mine, Tracy, whose company LWP Advisory LLC “flips” homes and is hired by Realtors to stage homes for sale. The photo is from a Kansas City, Mo., house Tracy had just renovated using some furnishings from Nell Hill’s.

Approach your home with fresh eyes

Tracy says we get emotionally attached to the way our homes look, from the floorplan to the furnishings, so it’s often hard for us to see it through new eyes and imagine changes. So she suggests clearing out a room you want to rework. Declutter. Move furniture out of the space. Do whatever it takes to clear your mind and see the room as a blank slate.

Call attention to interesting architectural features

Does your home have interesting architectural elements you can highlight in your re-do? Maybe you have arched doorways, lovely windows or unique built-in cabinetry. In her model home, Tracy wanted to focus in on the reclaimed wood she used throughout, from the ceiling beams to an old barn door she put on sliders. She kept her palette neutral so your attention would go to things like the stone fireplace and reclaimed wood paneling.

Then, she played up her theme just a touch by adding in a few industrial elements, like using rebar as spindles in the stairway leading to the basement. I fell in love with the unique carpet treatment she used on the stairs – alternating patterns on each step, one a plaid, the next a botanical. “You have to use a light hand when working with a theme,” she cautioned. If you overdo, you spoil the effect. So, edit yourself mercilessly.

Create a palette you can build upon

Does your home’s current palette allow you enough flexibility to make changes when you want? Or, are you locked in to a color scheme that you no longer love? Tracy and I both believe strongly in the power of starting your home with a neutral palette, which acts like a blank canvass. When you go more neutral in your flooring and walls, for example, it allows you the freedom to go many different directions with your furniture, fabrics and accents.

Freshen up your paint

Paint has the power to completely transform the look of a space. Every January, we touch up all our paint, and I’m always amazed by how much brighter and cleaner the store looks with a fresh coat. Your home is the same, whether you are repainting with the same colors or going in a brand new direction. When Tracy repaints the homes she flips, she selects a color she likes, then has it mixed in a light, medium and darker version. She likes how using variations on one tone helps the rooms flow one into the other.

Update your furnishings

Take an honest look at your furniture. Do you love it? Is it in good shape? How well does each piece work in your newly freshened space? Maybe this is the time to replace a piece or two. Tracy and I agree that adding an upholstered ottoman is a great way to give a room a B12 shot. If you have a favorite, comfy but worn-out chair, get it reupholstered in a fresh new fabric. Perhaps all you need is a new set of accent pillows on you sofa and chairs.

Create drama

We all need a little drama in our lives, don’t we? When she stages homes for resale, Tracy always makes sure each room has a little shock and awe. Among her favorite tools are architectural elements like columns because she knows that when you bring in height, drama follows. She tops them with urns filled with organic elements. She is partial to decorating with rustic pieces like driftwood and aged wooden dough bowls.

Make a room sing with artwork, area rugs and accents

“Art and rugs can make or break your home,” Tracy says. “You can have all the best furniture in the world, but if you have the wrong art and rugs, you can ruin it. Great art sets off a room.” The art and rugs you pick need to speak to you, because they are at the heart of the space you are creating, she explains. You have to be passionate about them. Never, ever buy a piece of art you aren’t crazy about just because the colors work over your sofa, she cautions. Similarly, select accents that reflect your personality and interests, that tell your family’s story.


When you get in a hurry to redo a room, you make mistakes, Tracy warns. Take your time determining your vision for your entire home and the space you’re focusing on. Instead of picking up pieces for the room here and there, she creates a master plan, then is purposeful about finding the individual elements that will bring it to life. She pulls out swatches and selects the window treatments, upholstered furniture, pillows and trim, and bedding so the fabrics work well together throughout the entire house.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at www.nellhills.com.
She can be reached at [email protected].