This image provided by Tom Stringer Design Partners shows a kitchen and dining room. Color is a simple way to create an upbeat feel, says John Cialone of Tom Stringer Design Partners in Chicago. The firm recently completed a Palm Springs, California, project where they brought in a vibrant kiwi green. (Jorge Gera/Tom Stringer Design Partners via AP)

Shaking off a dark winter with a spring cleaning, refresh

Shaking off a dark winter with a spring cleaning, refresh

A spring cleanup and décor refresh have always been able to lift moods. But after this long pandemic winter, there’s special satisfaction in clutter removal, extra joy in being creative, particular pleasure in making a space even more your own.

“This time of year, I can often feel buried after so much time indoors, and with many of us working from home, this is even more crucial,” says designer Mel Bean in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Or as New York-based designer Thom Filicia puts it: “Be brave. The new year is a chance to create spaces that allow you to live your most beautiful life.”

Some suggestions from the experts on bringing a sense of harmony and happiness home this spring:

A GOOD CLEAR-OUT

“`Bright and light’ is my motto, and when the days get warmer, I can’t wait to purge and donate some things,” says New York designer Michael Wood. He gives to Housing Works, a New York City non-profit fighting AIDS and homelessness.

Wood takes the change of season as an opportunity to get a professional firm in to deep clean.

“Every piece of furniture is lifted and cleaned by the crew — all lighting fixtures, fans, walls, blinds/drapery and ceilings are wiped,” he says. “They clean the outside, inside and behind all appliances, inside closets, shelving and cabinetry, all windows inside and out. Everything feels new again!”

Hiring pros might not be doable for all of us, however. Thankfully, cleaning can be free therapy.

Organizing expert Marie Kondo says that visualizing what a happy home would look like to you is a good first move on the de-cluttering, cleaning journey.

“Think about what kind of house you want to live in, and how you want to live in it,” she says. “When you imagine your ideal lifestyle, you are really clarifying why you want to tidy and envisioning your best life. The tidying process represents a turning point.”

Decluttering might spark some new ideas for old belongings, says Lance Thomas of Thomas Guy Interiors in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“Heirlooms are a great way to accessorize and bring happiness into a home. Those ancient trinkets and doodads found while spring cleaning could make for a wonderful coffee table conversation piece,” he says. “There’s something special about preserving memories and respecting history that feeds the soul.”

LITTLE IMPROVEMENTS

Not up for anything big? After you’ve done a declutter, reward yourself by bringing home some green.

“Plants are known to boost mood and productivity,” says designer Jay Jeffers. “Add a floor plant in ample natural light to elevate your space, and put smaller plants where you spend most of your time, like your kitchen or your desk.”

There are lots of easy-care options, like succulents (including aloe and jade plants) and pothos. Or try cut flowers.

“Investing in a pretty vase and making a commitment to fresh flowers is a great way to bring happy into your space,” says Houston designer Mary Patton. “Even if you’re Instacarting, you can have inexpensive flowers delivered. Flower arranging is an easy, creative activity.”

Filicia advises paying attention to the pieces you touch most every day. “Your home should not only be a place where you feel inspired and energized, but also where you can kick back and relax. Create an environment that allows you to recharge,” he says.

“Bedding, pillows and throws create those welcoming environments.”

Paint or paper a wall, replace a rug, or reupholster a chair, he suggests.

Colour is a simple way to create an upbeat feel, says John Cialone of Tom Stringer Design Partners in Chicago. The firm recently completed a Palm Springs, California, project where they brought in a vibrant kiwi green. Cialone also likes coral on walls or furniture for “giving you a healthy glow.”

BIGGER FIXES

Changing finishes or buying larger furniture costs more, but packs a punch.

Jeffers suggests drawing inspiration from your favourite destinations. “Think about the places where you feel happiest. Whether it’s a beach with tranquil blue water and warm white sand, or a cozy cabin surrounded by evergreen trees, incorporating design elements from your most-loved destinations will mentally bring you back,” he says.

At-home gyms have been one of his most requested additions this year. Whether you set up a few pieces of equipment or just some mats and pillows, that private oasis can pay off in both your fitness level and your mindset, Jeffers says.

Changing the finish or colour of kitchen cabinets can be a big job, but the payoff, Cialone says, is also big.

As the pandemic waged on, Lisa and Peter Kinsman of Westchester County, New York, got fed up with their kitchen’s dark cherry cabinetry and black countertops. Inspired by a photo Lisa saw of a kitchen designed by Studio McGee, the couple chose a creamy gray paint to cover the cabinets, and changed out the counters for crisp white Silestone. The updates brought more light into the smallish, back-of-the-house space and improved the vibe in many ways, Lisa said.

“The light, definitely, but we’re surprised how much bigger it looks,” she says. “Hard to say if that’s why I find it more pleasant, or if it’s because it looks so much more current.”

Philadelphia-based interiors firm Marguerite Rodgers added a playful, cheery red pocket door to a recent kids’ room project on the Jersey Shore.

“The pop of colour really ties the space together,” says designer Kaitlyn Murphy. “You can easily refresh existing millwork by adding a wallcovering, textile or a fun paint colour.”

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Kim Cook is a freelance writer covering design, décor and lifestyles topics. Follow her on Instagram @kimcookhome.

Kim Cook, The Associated Press

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