Cover story: Little changes, big impact on decor

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Ms. Proxmire and Ms. Willard suggested adding trim, ribbon or even some fringe to the top and bottom of lampshades to perk them up. Another option, suggests Jessica Bonness, an interior designer with JGB Interiors in the District, is to switch the lampshade to a different color or style.

“If there’s lots of ivory and mostly traditional shapes, try swapping them out with something different and dramatic like a black drum shade,” Ms. Bonness said.

Mike Johnson, senior designer at Lori Graham Design in the District, said a drum shade adds a modern, updated touch to any room.

Ms. Willard also suggested looking for driftwood at the beach to create a unique and dramatic starburst wall decoration with an inexpensive piece of mirror at the center.

Ms. Proxmire suggested using blackboard paint on a wall or an item such as a tray to be used for messages in the kitchen or hall, which is both practical and pretty.

If you are less creative, you can shop for inexpensive art.

“You don’t have to be a moneyed art collector to be, well, an art collector,” Ms. Bonness said. “There are so many great websites now like [www.20x] and Etsy that sell very affordable, limited-edition and sometimes even original pieces of artwork for an extremely reasonable price. You can choose to purchase them framed or unframed, and you can often choose your desired size of a particular print.”

Another option, Ms. Willard said, is to purchase wall decals, which are inexpensive and easily removable for quick changes.

  • Tiny changes with big impact

Several designers mentioned that switching hardware such as cabinet knobs, door handles and light switches with fresh ones or pretty designs can make a room instantly brighter. Stores including World Market and Anthropologie have interesting designs, as do many hardware stores.

Ms. Proxmire said furniture with keyholes - such as a chest - can be spruced up with tassels. She and Ms. Munn recommended replacing tired house plants and plant containers to add a fresh look. New toss pillows, a quilt, rug or throw can add a splash of color without breaking the bank. Ms. Munn said replacing the pillow inserts with a soft down feather-blend filler can improve the look of pillows.

  • Set the mood with light

Ms. Munn recommended buying new light bulbs to brighten a room and mixing a bright white bulb with other lighting to change the look at night. She also recommended changing light fixtures, such as switching to wall sconces in a bathroom that has the original builder-grade fixtures.

“If your lights aren’t already on dimmers, they should be,” Ms. Bonness said. “The ability to tone down harsh light at night, set the mood during a party, or simply have more control over your surroundings is something that you won’t be able to give up once you have it. Most dimmer kits are available at hardware stores for less than $50 - you can even install one yourself for most types of fixtures and lamps.”

Candles also can add inexpensive drama to almost any room.

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