Small changes can make a huge difference when creating a warm, welcoming look in the pre-holiday season.
So say local interior designers, who agree that a little paint can go a long way in freshening up a home.
But, before one starts, it's always a good idea to clear away the clutter, junk mail and odd paperwork, Mary Pat Killoran-Rondthaler, of Feathered Nest Design, Redwood City, said. Then she'd create a welcoming entry, beginning with a fresh sweep, a new mat and a basket filled with logs, pinecones and oranges.
"I will use three or five pots spray-painted, with greenery added," she said.
Next she suggests a front hallway bench, along with a low basket, to help guests shed shoes.
Jeanette Loretz, of J L Designs & Interiors, Los Altos, and president-elect of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) for 2011, favors a quick coat of paint: "It's fast and it makes a dramatic difference."
Warmer shades -- say, red and orange for autumn -- can be introduced by painting one wall of the living or dining room, then complementing the tone with a runner and napkins of the same color, suggested Deborah Marks, Los Altos interior designer. Or, switch the drapery tiebacks, or even the soup plates, to match.
Accessories could include a tall floor vase with sunflowers or autumn leaves, colorful candles on the mantelpiece or even an interesting art book with photographs of fall trees on the coffee table, she added.
Warmer tones can be used in kitchens and bathrooms as well, with bathroom towels or floor rugs changed.
"A nice flower arrangement with orange and reds would be welcome," Marks said.
Another paint option is to use tape to mark off a geometric design on the wall, making a trellis design or mimicking a chair rail or molding, suggested Brooke Grafstrom, By the Bay Design, Menlo Park.
"After that it's light fixtures. That seems to date a house," Loretz said. She points to polished brass fixtures, suggesting a trip to the lighting store to find something more current.
Top a lamp with a plaid shade for the holidays, Grafstrom said, or trim an existing shade with pompoms or feathers.
Changing the bedspread or coverlet in a bedroom "can make a huge change," Loretz said, with many taking their design cues from luxury hotels. "They say not to have a ton of pillows, but I like a few. You can change those out, and on your sofas as well, to have a splash of color."
Both Loretz and Killoran-Rondthaler favor color changes and are willing to work with clients to find the right mix.
"I like to do a creative palette, and decorate with accessories around the colors, and stay with the palette -- for example, turquoise and white for Christmas or purple and orange for Thanksgiving," Killoran-Rondthaler said.
Marks notes that purple or plum add richness. "If your existing color scheme allows adding this color, it can look very striking and warm."
Loretz reminds that while a "real clean look seems to be in, it all depends on the style of the home.
"If you have a country feel for the rest of the time, you would want to keep the motif the same. Pick a print that matches the motif of the house."
Switching seasonal accessories -- such as introducing ceramic pumpkins in October -- can perk up décor, suggests Loretz. Killoran-Rondthaler would add twinkle and glitz with inexpensive votive candles in low glass holders where guests can see over them at the table.
Changing fabrics, from cotton to more textured velvets and chenilles, for example, can make a home cozier for winter.
And an area rug can both brighten up a space and disguise a worn-out spot. Even a new top treatment can improve a bare window, Loretz said, noting that changing kitchen hardware can dress up that room. Just make sure you find replacements with the same drilled-hole requirements.
To get ready for a flurry of guests, Killoran-Rondthaler suggests cleaning the refrigerator and replacing the baking soda. Then stock up on nice teas and sparkling water. Inventory your glassware and replace any broken ones. Consider renting or borrowing a long table for a large dinner.
Dressing up the family photos is another way to warm up décor for fall. Palo Alto designer Ruth Soforenko suggests enlarging family snapshots and displaying them on a table skirted for the occasion.
Marks takes it a step farther: "Pictures on the wall could be exchanged for others with a theme and colors matching the season. Or one could merely replace the frames in a warmer tone, for example, gold."
None of the designers' suggestions cost an arm and a leg. Killoran-Rondthaler finds many fun accessories at IKEA, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn and Target, she said.
And most designers will consult on projects by the hour, keeping a budget in mind.
A final thought from Killoran-Rondthaler: "Having upholstery cleaned helps to make a room shine."