Take 10 minutes away from your garden planning and do something little that has a huge impact: "For a spring update, I always recommend a new doormat or entry area rug," says interior designer Karen A. Carpino, owner of Karen Carpino Design in Chicago. "Sometimes we stop seeing everyday eyesores that are right in front of us—like that winter-weary doormat." Changing it out is a cinch: Inexpensive options in cheery colors and designs are as close as your nearest discount store.
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Skip the weekend-ruining spring-cleaning and try these 16 sneaky spruce-ups instead. Instant spring!
Spring Fake-Out: Welcome!
Fake-Out: Let the Sun Shine In
Instead of overhauling your home with new paint or lighting, brighten the whole indoors instantly with quick window cleaning. You'll be surprised how much light comes in and what a difference clean windows can make, says Julie Reynolds, a residential real estate expert for Realtor.com. Spritz them with the Queen of Clean Linda Cobb's mixture of 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 1 quart of water (the green way) or ammonia. "And then wash your windows with yesterday's news," says Reynolds: "The texture and inherent qualities in the newsprint make for a streak-free finish."
Spring Fake-Out: Add Front-Door Color
Instead of the arduous task (or expense) of painting your whole home, "How would you feel about a coral-colored door on your gray Cape Cod?" asks Ian Patrick, owner of Ian Patrick Interiors in Los Angeles. "Or Kelly green on your Georgian manse? Or azalea pink on your white Federal?" The front door should be a bulls-eye, he says, and paint can really heighten the impact. And, he points out, "If you hate it, it's only a quart of paint and another Saturday afternoon."
Spring Fake-Out: Smells Good in Here
Instead of polishing every surface with a lemon-scented cleaner, open the windows for a half hour and everything will instantly smell fresher, says interior designer Pat MacKay, owner of Pat MacKay Interior Therapy! in Caldwell, New Jersey. Then take about 10 drops of lemon or orange oil, place them in a diffuser or a pot of hot water. Your house will smell like a (clean) citrus grove.
Spring Fake-Out: Chime In
Love the sound of spring breezes wafting through wind chimes? "Why not bring wind chimes indoors?" asks designer Kelly Porter, owner of Porter House Designs in Ellicott City, Maryland. She hangs a royal blue wind chime made from translucent shells in her stairwell. "Others are made from colored or stained glass, crystal, or acrylic," she says. "So they reflect sunlight in a rainbow of colors that bounce around the room."
Spring Fake-Out: Force a Little Cheer
Take flowers by force. That's what interior designer Cecilie Starin, owner of Cecilie Starin Interior Design in San Francisco, recommends for a burst of instant spring. "Force a 16-inch pot of branches—lilac, forsythia, flowering almond, or cherry—or bulbs—narcissus, daffodils, using an odd number, which is always more interesting. It's all about bringing the feel of outside in."
Spring Fake-Out: Think Centerpieces
A beautiful focal point, like a spring centerpiece, can take attention away from the fact that you haven't deep-cleaned. For a twist, use succulents—agave, aloe, sedum, and others—says Cecilie Starin. "They add a burst of green as well as pops of red or purple, and they look great combined with white roses in a centerpiece," says the San Francisco designer. "The succulents keep the arrangement looking great for weeks. Refresh the roses as you need to." For another spring pick-me-up: "Fill an antique tray, rusted urn, or glass apothecary jar with green apples, lemons, limes, oranges, or pears for bold color, perfect for the season," she says.
Spring Fake-Out: Lighten Up
Using white in your decor helps you believe that warmth is around the corner. "Try adding crisp white linens to your bed, white throw pillows to the couch, and new fluffy white towels to the bathroom for a clean look and feel," says interior designer Marlaina Teich, owner of Marlaina Teich Interior Designs on Long Island, New York. "Add white hydrangeas with green leaves in a glass Mason jar on the bedside table. That will brighten up any morning."
Spring Fake-Out: Gloss the Sills
Sneaky, sneaky! Painting just your windowsills may feel like cheating, but why not do it? "Give them a fresh coat of semigloss paint," says home design expert Lauri Ward, founder of Use What You Have Interiors in New York City: "That bit of paint makes the space feel as if everything has been touched up."
Spring Fake-Out: Venture Out
Break out the outdoor fire pit to advance the spring season, says interior designer Barbara Ince of the Susan Fredman Design Group. Even if it's still chilly out, hanging out on your patio or deck reminds you of warm-weather good times past and gets you thinking about the future. "Have plenty of warm throws to share with friends so you can cuddle up," Ince says.
Anthony Masterson Photography
Spring Fake-Out: Sheer Genius
Although you might love to replace everything in your living room with more spring-y furnishings and accessories, that's rarely possible. Instead, simply swap out heavy drapes for inexpensive sheers or curtains in new colors such as pastels or neutrals, says Melissa Smith, a decorator at Decorating Den Interiors in Springfield, Missouri. This small change can have a dramatic lightening effect, she says, and let more sunshine in.
H.K. Gilbert, a children's book author and illustrator and mother of one in Bossier, Louisiana, refreshes her curtains in spring with tiebacks made with dried flowers: "It's just the right touch to give that window a new look," she says.
Spring Fake-Out: Echo the Outside
You may not have an entire outdoor room to relax in, but you can make your indoor and outdoor spaces feel more seamless. It's easy, says Purvi Padia, founder of Purvi Padia Design in New York City: "To evoke continuity throughout your residence, use the same planters on your porch and entryway as in your foyer and kitchen." Matching the planters is something you can do in advance of summer. Plant with hardy herbs or spring flowers.
Spring Fake-Out: Flower Children
Every spring, Carrie Woleben-Meade, a landscape architect and mother of two in Lake Bluff, Illinois, takes her kids to the local garden shop to pick out seeds. "I have old radiators, so we use them as warming benches to start the seeds. Sunflowers are their favorite."
Kids enjoy learning to arrange and care for cut flowers, too, says Melissa Dietel, mother of one in Winter Park, Florida, who teaches flower arranging. "We pick the flowers from the garden and then use a Blossom Crown arranger tool to show off our flowers in a vase. The best part is that even if there are only a couple of stems, the tool keeps the flowers straight." The children learn a new skill and we have instant flower power.
Spring Fake-Out: Flower Power
There's nothing like a burst of living color or scent to cheer us up when spring hasn't quite sprung. To get that little boost, plant your favorite spring flowers somewhere you can't miss seeing: on the kitchen windowsill, the front porch, or window boxes.
Landscape architect Woleben-Meade buys forced hyacinths and daffodils at big box stores to plant in front porch pots as early as late March: "I love the fragrance, and I'm desperate for color."
Spring Fake-Out: Dress the Fireplace
"Out of season, the fireplace can look like a black eye," says designer Patrick. "First, give it a good cleanout. Then dress up the opening with a large, full plant—real or fake—so the leaves take up most of the space. Or try a smart fire screen made from an antiqued mirror. It gives lots of sparkle and light. Or place stacks of uniformly cut birch logs in the fire box—a lovely effect."
Spring Fake-Out: Bring Nature In
"When our boys were younger, we always had a 'nature' table (the bottom shelf of an open cabinet) to house anything they collected—shells, blossoms, pine cones—anything but bugs," says Lisa Ferraro, a marketing director and mother of three on Long Island, New York. "It was a wonderful way to celebrate each season and a practical spot for special things the kids brought in."