DIY Creative Designs: Ideas Are All Around You

Five Easy Ideas From Top Designers

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Decorating ideas are all around you.
Decorating ideas are all around you. (photo: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Buy what you love -- from every era -- assemble it with your gut, and you really can't go wrong.

— Bob Richter of NYC's Richter Design

Want to freshen up your home, but don't have endless hours, money and uber-craftiness on your side? No worries. Five decor pros offer up quick, inexpensive and easy DIY design ideas that can change the look of a room.

Branching Out

Interior designer Gina S. Martelli is based in the tony L.A. neighborhood of Bel Air, and has many personal and corporate clients, including The Four Seasons L.A., Century Plaza Hotel, The Hotel Bel Air, and Shutters Santa Monica, but she has shared a decidedly down-to-earth -- or up-a-tree, as the case may be -- almost, cost-free project.

"Tree branches are terrific, beautiful, decorative devices. Branches can bring the feeling of nature into the home and draw the eye up in a small room, making it seem larger," says Martelli, who was featured on HGTV's "Designer Challenge," and has presented at the Los Angeles Art Show. "Big, dramatic ones may be mounted like a sculpture or simply hung on a wall."

Gilded branches are also perfect for holding back curtains, especially sheers. "When you paint branches a coral color, it adds an exotic feel to any room." adds Martelli.

Set a Vintage Table

Melissa Feldman is a Manhattan-based freelance style editor who concentrates on interiors. In addition to creating photo-worthy decor for such high-profile clients as "Glamour," she also contributes to "T: The New York Times Style Magazine, "Manhattan" and "Coastal Living." Feldman suggests a quick and easy project that will add a dash of flair to your next dinner party.

"Vintage fabrics, which are pretty easy to acquire -- like at flea markets and on eBay -- are a great, unexpected way to bring color and interest to the table," says Feldman.

To make a 15-inch square napkin, mark out a 17-inch square -- to allow for the hem. To prevent shrinkage, Feldman advises washing virgin old fabric in Dreft, drying on a low setting and then ironing flat. You can sew the ends or use the iron-on seam-binding tape, although Feldman notes that stitching makes for a much sturdier napkin.

A fun way to use your kitchy-cool new napkins? Feldman says, "I like mixing them and matching plates -- in the same color family but each different -- and flatware so every place setting is unique. It makes a guest feel special. Also, collect over time glasses that are same height."

It's Alive!

Linda Varone is a Boston-based interior-designer and speaker, and was named the Best Feng Shui Consultant in Boston in "Boston Magazine."

Varone offers a super-simple but potentially life-altering suggestion for any home: Bring nature indoors. Think hanging plants, tall plants, plants on shelves or stands -- even plants in the bathroom. If natural light is a problem, there are lots of plants that thrive in low-light conditions.

"During the winter, we’re semi-hibernating," says Varone. "Your addition can be as simple as one healthy plant or even inexpensive cut flowers. This change adds tremendous positive energy." She tells of a study conducted in a Chicago public housing development and published in "Environment and Behavior" in 2001 that backs up her assertion. The study authors found that women who lived in apartment buildings with trees and greenery outside their windows were involved in fewer aggressive and violent acts against their partners than those living in buildings on treeless streets.

Varone's firm, Nurturing Spaces, specializes in the healthy flow of energy around living spaces. She stresses that "something living, flourishing, in your home can really help boost one's mood throughout the winter, especially." Varone has presented at Women in Design - Boston Society of Architects, Harvard, MIT, IKEA and the International Feng Shui Conference - San Diego.

Highlight One Wall

Milwaukee-based interior decorator DeAnna Radaj of Bante Design LLC specializes in integrative lifestyle design — this means she incorporates feng shui and eco-friendly principles into all of her projects.

Her DIY suggestion is relatively simple and backed up with anecdotal and Eastern philosophy. Radaj says, "Paint just one accent wall -- the wall in the power position, like the one diagonal from the entryway looking into the space -- a bold, new color. This will change up the energy in the space, highlight artwork and collections, and is a quick, inexpensive tip to brighten the look of a room."

Why is it best to paint a wall diagonal from the entryway? Because this is where your eye automatically goes to upon entering a room. As far as color choices go, Radaj says she likes how contrasting colors works for a maximum effect -- green with red or yellow with purple, for example. You can also use a different texture, such as plaster, or a wallpaper pattern, which can work just as well, as long as it's different from the other three walls and stands out.

Radaj adds more on hues. "If you have a primary cool color scheme -- one with blue undertones -- you have to stick with this in your wallcovering and paint as well, otherwise the room will be off and the colors will not be harmonious. Conversely, if you have a warm color scheme, stick with a pink or yellow undertone in wall colors. This is one of the biggest mistakes that DIYers make, thinking that all colors are the same. They're not."

Finally, Radaj,who was featured in a 2012 decorating trends feature in the "Wisconsin Journal Sentinel," advises DIYers to "make sure that you look at all colors and patterns in natural light and the light that the room gets where you are decorating at all times of the day. What looks good at 7 a.m. can look horrid at 7 p.m. Know when you will use the room and if you would normally use lights at this time."

Light Bright

Pam Faulkner, the Virginia-based owner of Faulkner House Interior Redesign specializes in one-day room makeovers. Her best hint for a DIY quick fix is to concentrate on lighting.

"If the lighting is poor," says Faulkner, "the room won't function well. Colors may appear to be blah and it will be less than welcoming. To combat this, I suggest adding layers of light. Use can-type floor uplights to blow out dead corners and niches and to highlight accent furnishing or plants."

You should also make most wall switches dimmers to help balance overhead lighting.

Finally, Faulkner says, "Update and upgrade lampshades to give new life and light to table and floor lamps. It's a simple fix that can immediately change the look and feel of a room. If the lamp is the right shape and height, paint finishes and other embellishments can easily be added."

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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