You’ve cleaned and disinfected your home and have taken a few trips to the dump with the fruits of your decluttering frenzy. Yet your home feels more cramped and tired than when you started the quarantine. You feel frustrated and stressed.

With cooler weather and more indoor time around the corner, now’s the perfect time to plan your attack. There are lots of smaller things you can do to make a big difference. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot.

At the end of the day, it’s all about function, says interior stylist Red Barrinuevo of Redesign4more in Toronto.

How has the way you use your home changed during these challenging times? What purpose or purposes do you need each room to serve? Reassess each space to see what works and what needs to be improved. Determining the function is the jumping off point, he says.

What furniture do you need to meet everyone’s needs? Curate the existing room and remove anything you don’t need. You can put items in storage for future use if you’re not ready to toss them.

If you need furniture, shop your home first and see if you can repurpose something from another room. For example, a bedroom dresser can serve as a media console in the living room or as a server in the dining room. In the kitchen, it can provide extra storage space (maybe a place to stash craft supplies, schoolwork or baking supplies).

Take an extra easy chair, a lamp and a small table and create a quiet place to read or work in the corner of a bedroom, a nook or bay window space.

If it’s a room used primarily for gathering, do you need to add more seating to accommodate those in your bubble? 

Think about furniture layout to maximize your space. Before you move the actual furniture, measure larger pieces and tape off the measurements on the floor so you know how much space each item will take. If it’s a couch, for example, make sure there’s enough room for a coffee table or enough room to walk around furniture.

Measuring and taping is especially helpful if you’re buying new. Barrinuevo says furniture stores are large so furniture tends to look smaller. If you don’t measure, you may find it’s too large for your home or may not fit through your front door.

When you’re looking at your room, also look at its focal point, often an architectural feature such as a fireplace or window. But in these COVID-19 days, it might be the TV. If you don’t want it to be, Barrinuevo says, move it to a less prominent place. Or if the TV is on a big wall and the location is practical for everyday use, leave it there but hang artwork around it. This allows you to showcase your art, make the TV less prominent and create a more attractive focal point.

Pull a few colours from the artwork for accessories to tie the space together.

Another way to create a focal point is to gather up family photos from around the house (removing small clutter will make a room feel larger) and create a gallery wall. Or print travel photos and frame them to create a statement wall.

If you have matching frames, that’s great, he says. But the frames don’t have to match. “Placement and commonality of subject, such as travel, kids, family, makes it work. They don’t have to match; they have to go together.”

Kids are creating a lot of artwork while at home, so reduce the clutter. Have the kids pick a half dozen of their favourites, frame them and hang them together in their rooms so it doesn’t look cluttered or messy. When they have new favourite art, simply change it up.

For an immediate refresh, paint the walls and trim. Neutral wall colours, such as light grey or off white, are a great way to make a room look cleaner and tidier, Barrinuevo says. “Paint walls with an eggshell finish. Paint the doors, trim and baseboards glossy white. This frames the wall and makes it more of a feature. White trim can also make windows look bigger.”

For anyone who doesn’t like neutrals, he says, “Choose a colour that makes you happy since you’ll be seeing it every day.”

Paint can also be used to upcycle mismatched furniture and give the space a more polished look. In the bedroom, mismatched night tables (they should be the same height) can be painted or stained to match. 

Barrinuevo recently painted his home office walls navy blue and his desk and other furniture white. He added a media console behind his desk to provide storage space and printed black-and-white images and put them in a variety of metallic frames.

Another easy trick: move curtain rods up as close to the ceiling as possible to give the impression of a higher ceiling and a more spacious room.

Tidy up the clutter – clutter eats up space, he says. “You’ll be amazed at how big a room looks when you start editing it.”

Consider proportions. Make sure artwork isn’t too overwhelming for the space, and that furniture isn’t too big or too small. In a condo, he suggests using low-profile furniture, with a maximum 35-inch height on the back of the sofa and chairs so sightlines aren’t blocked.

The reward – a more functional, beautiful and calm space. Your work will be worth it.

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