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Cover story: Small changes give feel of new season
Although you may not want to be that neighbor who decorates every available spot for every holiday, you can acknowledge seasonal changes in more subtle ways. Whether shifting from spring to summer, summer to fall or fall to winter, you can change accessories and switch some fabrics so your home's ambiance matches the weather.
"Homeowners who want to change the feel of their home with the seasons sometimes get stuck in the execution," said Sarah Willis, a design consultant with California Closets in Fairfax. "The trick is in figuring out how to make your home look and feel like the pages of Southern Living or Martha Stewart, versus it looking like a bad run-in at the craft store. Less is more. Remember that subtle changes to a room can have a big impact on the space instead of on your wallet."
Ms. Willis suggested decorating with in-season items from the local farmers market or grocery store, such as pumpkins, corn husks and squash in the fall; evergreens, pine cones and holly branches in the winter; tulip and daisy arrangements in the spring; and lemons and limes in the summer.
"A big part of feeling the seasonal changes in your home is to bring elements of the outdoors in, which can be very inexpensive if you collect things from your walks or your yard," said Liz Levin, owner of Liz Levin Interiors in the District.
Ms. Levin suggested making an arrangement of branches with colored leaves in the fall and keeping small, flowering indoor plants on entry tables, kitchen tables and powder rooms.
"When changing from summer to fall, I update those fading summer blooms with fresh plants in varying shades of orange," she said. "Begonias come in a beautiful coral-orange color. Highlighting the fresh things from the season is a constant reminder of cooler weather to come. Color is a big cue for me of being present in the moment and season."
Ms. Levin said colorful food items, such as miniature pumpkins, eggplants or red pears placed on a dish or in a basket can be pretty and seasonal.
Tracy Schlegel and Kelcey Huff, owners of Waterlily Interiors in Bethesda, suggested cutting the purple and white plumes off ornamental grasses in the fall for a dramatic and free addition to a foyer or dining room.
"Add small twigs, evergreen plants and plants with berries to indoor and outdoor floral arrangements for a seasonal change," said Iantha Carley, owner of Iantha Carley Interiors in Silver Spring.
Jessica Bonness, an interior designer with JBG Interiors in the District, said placing a decorative item, such as a bowl of pine cones, in front of a mirror so that you can see it reflected from multiple angles will maximize the impact and make the object appear larger.
"One of the most versatile household objects ever is the clear glass vessel: Fill it with acorns, candy corn, ornaments or even a string of lights. Instant seasonal appeal," Ms. Bonness said.
Shanon Munn, an interior designer and principal of Ambi Design Studio in McLean, said she displays seashells in the summer in a big bowl in her living room and then makes the switch to acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkins and gourds in the autumn because of their beautiful colors.
Ms. Bonness said she uses pillars of varying heights that are designed for candles to hold miniature pumpkins or other objects in the fall.
"You can put this arrangement on a table top or flanking a fireplace," she said. "It's a bit of an unexpected application, and it's also very safe for families with pets or children."
While the visual impact of colorful items can indicate a change of season, Ms. Munn said, homeowners should remember to address their sense of smell.
"I love the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg, but they seem out of place in the summer," Ms. Munn said. "Cinnamon sticks tied with ribbon or pine cones soaked in extract and discreetly displayed or candles placed in strategic places help to bring you into the holiday spirit."
Ms. Willis said she uses jasmine and vanilla incense sticks in spring and summer, and then brings out candles for fall and winter with scents such as pumpkin spice, apple cinnamon and evergreen.
One of the most common methods of switching a home's seasonal feel is through the use of colors and textures in fabric. Although having your sofa reupholstered on a seasonal basis is impractical, you can change pillow covers and throws more easily.
"If your sofa is beige, a fiery orange or beautiful brown throw will add color and is ready to snuggle up in," Ms. Schlegel said. "We're seeing a lot of plums and deep teals with warm grays in the market this fall. Change the covers on your pillows to move from summer light hues to the golden amber colors of fall. You don't need to buy inserts. Just reuse the old ones, saving space and money. Think about adding texture like in a Mongolian lamb pillow cover. Also consider richer fabrics like velvets or knits. Any color in velvet looks much richer than when it is in linen."
Besides shifting fabric colors in your living areas, Ms. Carley said, you also should switch duvet covers, comforters and blankets in the bedroom seasonally.
"Change up your color palette," Ms. Willis suggested. "In the spring and summer, opt for pastels and hues with bright undertones. Think yellow, pinks, lavender, china blue and brighter greens. In the fall and winter, switch these out for more muted and subdued hues like oranges, reds, plum, burgundy, chocolates and gold. If you want to take it a step further, go for a floral or prints in the spring and summer and tweeds and plaids for the fall and winter."
Ms. Huff recommended switching the white shades on a chandelier to a fall color.
"This small change will draw the new fall colors up to the ceiling and will change the light in the room, softening it for cooler weather," she said.
Ms. Bonness said fall may be a good time to swap energy-efficient CFL bulbs for incandescent bulbs.
"In the cooler months, we tend to adapt to dimmer lighting, but we crave glowingly warm light," she said. "Incandescent bulbs give a warmer feel to your space and head off any negative effects of the darkening days. It's not particularly energy-efficient, but you can't deny it 'feels' better. Try to cut back on energy use in other ways."
Most of these seasonal suggestions are relatively inexpensive, but Ms. Carly offered a suggestion that is completely free.
"If possible, rearrange the furnishings in your home," she said. "In the warmer months, I sometimes move my living room furniture away from the fireplace, which creates a more open feeling. During the cooler months, I move it toward the fireplace to create a cozier feel."
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