Put some sparkle into your house during the dark months

Kim Palmer

The days are gray and dreary, the holidays are history and those festive seasonal decorations that gave our interiors warmth and sparkle last month are now back in storage boxes.

It's no wonder that we -- and our homes -- have the winter blahs.

So what to do?

You don't have to undertake a major makeover to give your decor a big boost, according to interior designers. Fresh colors and a few new or repurposed accessories can go a long way toward perking up winter-weary rooms.

"January is a good month for this," said Christine Sutphen, an interior designer with Gabberts Design Studio in Edina, Minn. To enliven interiors, she advocates reinterpreting some of the same elements that make holiday decorating so appealing, such as light, texture and greenery.

"The holidays are a very sensory experience," Sutphen said, but there's no reason homes can't appeal to the senses once the holidays are over.

"What do we have in December that we're devoid of in January?" she said. "What can you do for your home to give it the life and sparkle it had earlier?"

Here are tips from designers on refreshing winter decor:

-- Picture the possibilities: Take photos of the rooms you want to enhance, then study them to see what's needed.

-- Accessorize: Rooms are like outfits, according to Sutphen, and can be greatly enhanced by accessories. How many is a matter of personal taste, but in her view, homes tend to be under-accessorized most of the year. "Mantels are so nicely done during the holidays and so neglected the rest of the year," she said.

"A few more important pieces are better than a lot of little tchotchkes," cautioned Catherine Harrington, an interior designer with Waldenwood, an Eden Prairie, Minn., remodeling firm.

-- Perk up pillows: New accent pillows can go a long way toward refreshing your interiors. "There are so many great fabrics, colors and price points," Sutphen noted. Or make your own.

-- Move things around: Harrington is a fan of creative rearranging. "Redecorating doesn't have to be a lot of buying. It can be reusing things you already have," she said, such as moving your living-room lamps to the bedroom and vice versa, or putting a small bedroom chest in the dining room. "All of a sudden it looks like a brand-new piece," she said. Sutphen encourages clients to "open up the buffet doors" in search of "new" accessories. "What have you inherited but never known what to do with?" she said. "Maybe it's Grandma's plate that has always had the turkey on it. Maybe it's time to hang it on the wall."

-- Illuminate: "January is such a dark month," Sutphen said. That's why lighting -- task, ambient and decorative -- is extra-important during the winter. "Proper lighting will bring a room to life," she said. Try a new chandelier -- they're now popular in just about every room of the house, even over kitchen islands and bathtubs. "It can be a piece of jewelry for the home, and add a little bit of bling," she said. "And adding a mirror to a room can do a ton to bounce around light."

-- Color therapy: "A fresh coat of paint makes everything fresh and new," Harrington said. Try fresh spring or lime green on walls. "It's very popular and has almost become a neutral," she said.

-- Rethink artwork: Try hanging a favorite piece of art in a new spot. Or group artwork in a new way, such as taking two prints with complementary colors or patterns and framing them as a pair.

-- Add greenery: "We're so happy to add garlands during the holidays," Sutphen said. "Then we're devoid of Mother Nature in January. I'm a huge fan of plants, real or silk. It's an inexpensive way to add height and interest."

-- Add shine: The holidays are abundant with sparkle. To brighten up winter interiors, try an iridescent window treatment, a throw with some metallic threads or an antique book with some shiny gold on the spine.

-- Invest in something new: Perhaps a patterned area rug. To find just the right size for your space, Sutphen advises spreading a bed sheet on the floor and folding it to different sizes. "That's one of my favorite tricks."