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The Little Things - Principle of Little Things vis-a-vis ABUNDANCE

By Sarah Van Arsdale on December 13, 2009

Designer Monthly's Little Things column places a spotlight on those home accessories that are often overlooked, and we'll show how they can be improved to make a world of a difference. Our pursuit is to enhance the decor through economical yet aesthetically superior measures.

Principle of Little Things vis-a-vis ABUNDANCE

We know you turn to the Designer Monthly "Little Things" column for tips on how to make a room pop by making small changes—whether it's your own kitchen, a playroom for the kids, or a client's living room. Even office space, stores and other public spaces can be enlivened by paying attention to the little details.

This month, Designer Monthly takes on the topic of "abundance"—thinking of how, even in an economic downturn, we can all benefit from focusing on what we do have rather than on what's lacking. Of course, this takes some doing, especially when times are hard.

But if you find yourself thirsting for an entire make-over of the living room, or a completely new kitchen and bath created from scratch, or a skylight in the bedroom, don't despair. While this may not be the time to go all-out in your home remodeling, you can still get a fresh new feeling by adjusting the little things.

First, start with your imagination. Imagine a living room with a sofa in a pretty, solid blue, and a club chair in a blue and white pattern. The floors are bare; the only lighting is an overhead. There is nothing here but the sofa, the chair, and a coffee table.

Now, in your imagination, add curtains on the windows. Put a throw-rug down, maybe something in a blue and white sea-shell pattern. Add a few toss pillows.

See? You didn't have to go out and buy a room-sized rug, or add more furniture. Just the addition of the accessories changes the room—usually for the better. The holiday season, with friends and family visiting for a dinner or a week, is a great time to make those small improvements around the house.

For the living room, the most commonly-used accessories are throw pillows, window treatments, and small lamps. The lighting is particularly important; you can change the whole mood of a room just by changing the way it's lit. You may want to look into floor lamps, some of which can have quite a distinctive look to them. Try experimenting with different kinds of lighting by using lamps from other rooms, until you get the lighting you want. Don't be afraid to play with this; try stringing tiny Christmas lights to outline the window, or hanging some small Chinese paper lanterns along one wall.

While you could spend hundreds of dollars on a lamp, you don't have to. Often discount stores have lamps that will look good, even though they may not last forever.

For the dining room, the little things that make a big difference are the table linens and dining ware. Again, you could go out and buy imported, hand-embroidered table cloths, but you could just as well find some inexpensive cotton placemats and matching napkins. A new set of salt and pepper grinders, a pretty new fruit basket, and you'll notice a big difference.

A quick pick-me-up for the bedroom calls for new pillow cases and throw-pillows, and maybe even new pillows. Pillows are among those things—like toothbrushes and running shoes—that people don't replace often enough. A couple of new pillows, with pretty new cases, and a new bedspread, comforter or quilt, will help give you dreams of abundance and peace.

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You can make a big splash in the bathroom with a few small changes; in fact, the bath is one of easiest rooms to give new life to on the cheap. First, clear out the clutter in the bathroom cabinets, being sure not to neglect the cabinet under the sink. This is a great time of year to divest yourself of old make up and out-dated medications—to dispose of the latter, take them to your local pharmacy for proper disposal so the medications don't enter the drinking water of your town.

And then, the fun part: new, matching towels and bathmat. Maybe a new shower curtain is in order, or at least a new liner. A new toothbrush holder, and maybe some new artwork for the walls.

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Whenever you do a "little things" makeover of a room, you'll get the most satisfaction by doing it all at once. Start by taking a good long look at the room, and then—without changing a thing—visit a couple of stores where you might find what you want. Don't buy anything on that first trip, but bring a notebook and write down the prices and colors.

Once you get home, take another look, and then go back out to do your collecting. This way, you'll be less likely to make impulse purchases that won't work—you don't want to end up with a turquoise throw pillow in your navy and white living room. But when you are ready to do the job, do it all in one day, if you can, for maximum impact.

Take before and after photos to really see the improvement, even if you haven't been able to get a whole new kitchen with sub-zero fridge or a skylight in the bedroom. And then, you can show the before-and-afters to your friends to inspire them in making a room new without over-spending. And that way, you can share the abundance!