Bright Decorating Ideas for Dull Days

Cheer up with these 17 low-cost ways to ditch the drab.

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Ban the Boring!

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A grey day getting you down? Don't resign yourself to drab, try these budget-friendly ways to brighten up even the dreariest surroundings.


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Plant a Kitchen Garden

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For a natural shot in the arm, line a sunny windowsill with miniature pots of basil, rosemary, and Italian parsley, suggests Amanda Alligood, a home stager and interior re-designer in Philadelphia, who says affordable, attractive pots are available all year long.


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Hang a Mirror

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"To bring in more light and brighten the room, I replace the painting over my fireplace with a mirror wall sculpture," says Karen Hoxmeier, founder of www.mybargainbuddy.com and mother of three in Murrieta, California. Hers is a decorative number with gold circles, but your light-reflecting mirror needn't be expensive. There are lots of decorative options at good prices at discount stores.


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Create an Art Wall

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Cate O'Malley, a marketing professional in Denville, New Jersey, primed a $5.50 strip of medium density fiberboard (MDF), nailed it to the kitchen wall, and opened a rotating art show that includes her two children's artwork hung to the board with large silver bulldog clips. To really turn a piece of art into a masterpiece, transfer it onto a canvas. With vibrant art all around, who can be down in the dumps?


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Paint a Rug

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Is your boring or beat-up floor getting you down? Buy a can of paint and splash some color on your floor, says Jill Goldberg, owner of and interior designer at Hudson, a home boutique in Boston: "Take some painter's tape and create horizontal or vertical stripes. You can change the design every year and you don't have to vacuum."


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Embrace the Season

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When winter doldrums hit, designer Kelly Porter, mother of three sons in Ellicott City, Maryland, gets a paper-snowflake-making contest going: Who can make the best shape? She tapes the snowflake results (made from white copy paper) to the glass French doors in her home. And she echoes the theme, hanging snowflake ornaments on mirrors, drapery rods, and doorknobs. It's a cheerful, inexpensive way to change up her decor, she says.

She also props vintage wooden skis she bought on eBay in her picture window. "I celebrate the season," she says. "Winter can be bright without adding yellow throw pillows to your sofa."


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Change Up the View

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Maybe all you need to brighten your home is to change your perspective. Linda Carlson, a marketing consultant in Seattle, does that during the winter months by moving two chairs and a loveseat over to a curtainless, blindless window. "I look through a greenhouse-style window into a long-needled pine tree. Lovely."


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Make One Thing Really Bright

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You don't need a complete overhaul to get a perk-me-up during the dark days. You can paint or wallpaper just one room (or even just one wall) or slipcover a chair with colorful fabric, says Olga Adler, president of Olga Adler Interiors in Ridgefield, Connecticut: "Be fearless with color. Look beyond the obvious reds and greens to warm chocolate brown, cobalt blue, and burnt orange."


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Add an Indoor Fountain

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The sound is soothing and it offers a touch of humidity to dry winter air, says interior designer Patricia O'Shaughnessy, owner of Patricia O'Shaughnessy Design in Bronxville, New York: "Add a few orchids and other tropical flowering plants for color and some citrus tropical scents, and soon your interior will have a touch of the exotic." And you'll feel more upbeat—like you've had a dose of aromatherapy.


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Change One Little Thing

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Brighten up the knobs on your bathroom or kitchen cabinets or the drawer pulls on your furniture for an instant pick-me-up. You can find a wide selection of knob colors, styles, and designs at many stores.

One really personal option: Get custom knobs at ghostnest.com. Go to the site's "Dreamerator" and upload something cheery like a picture of your kids, your dogs, or your beach vacation. Select the knob you want and Ghost Nest prints your images onto the knobs ($5-$9 per knob).


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Light Things Up

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Put a standing lamp or pendant light in a dark corner behind furniture or potted plants, suggests Michael C. Morris, owner of M. Crisler Designs in Atlanta. Or add a jolt to your stairway with peel-and-stick light strips. Sylvania sells a motion-activated LED Stair & Hallway Lighting Kit for about $55. For your kitchen, put peel-and-stick light strips underneath your cabinets. One 10-inch strip costs about $17.50.

Or simply change your lightbulbs, says Katherine Shenaman, founder of Katherine Shenaman Interiors in Palm Beach, Florida, upping the wattage and using energy-efficient or natural-white lightbulbs that won't cast a yellow glow: "Update your lampshades, too, with classic empire-shape linen or paper ones."


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Buy New Sheets

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"Put brilliant sheets under tame bedspreads so when you turn back the cover—wow!—fuschia sheets await," says O'Shaughnessy.


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Build a Centerpiece

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Head to the backyard with the kids to collect sprigs of pine, rosemary, and berries, suggests Christina Nicole, owner of Christina Nicole Interiors and mother of a 2-year-old daughter. "Not only will you have a lovely outdoor scent but also a fresh look for the table."


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Flourish with Flowers

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Interior designer Kimberly Grigg, owner of Knotting Hill Interiors in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, recommends setting baskets or containers of bulbs like paperwhites in front of a window to bloom. "Or add a splash of color by buying a bouquet of tulips," says Ashley Gouveia, an interior designer in Wilton, Connecticut, and mother of two young children. "Nothing picks up a room like a fresh bouquet."


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Color Your Coffee

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Need a new coffeepot? Make it do double duty by getting one that cheers you up. After all, you do look at it every day, usually first thing in the morning! Kenmore 12-cup coffeemakers come in bright red. Or for a pricier uplift, pick the orange or red Espressione Café Retro espresso machine.


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Remember a Brighter Time

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Dawn Gepfert, owner of Dawn Pasinato Gepfert Interior Architecture and Design in Southport, Connecticut, goes nautical for a midwinter mood-lifter. She fills large glass jars with seashells or sea glass, or places a large piece of coral in a bed of sand to remind her of sunnier, warmer times. "I also like filling bowls with real lemons, limes, or Granny Smith apples," she says. The burst of fruity color and scent provides an instant pick-me-up.


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Think like a Designer

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Switch out accessories from one room to another, suggests interior designer Grigg: "Go 'shopping' in your own home. Then, by adding a few key pieces, such as a new lamp here and there, your home comes back to life."

Declutter while you're at it, suggests Jude Golden, design director of Yankee Barn Homes in Grantham, New Hampshire: "Remove all knickknacks, stacks of magazines, and accessories from a room, then add back just a few. Less is more."


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Perk Up Below

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O'Shaughnessy breaks the routine by putting a bright Chilewich rug under her desk chair. She likes that the mats are colorful and washable. Find your own perky rug and place it in a spot you see often, whether it's under your desk, in front of the sink, or at the backdoor.