Throw open the curtains, let the breeze in and brighten your home decor.
With springtime comes a sense of renewal, and a desire to clean, organize and refresh — especially if you’re spending a lot of time at home. Get your creative gears turning, and whip your space into shape. You’ll be surprised how a few simple changes can give you a whole new outlook.
1. Embrace natural light
With warmer days comes more sun, so open those blinds and bask in the natural light. Instead of flipping on your lights in the morning, pull back the curtains and let sunshine light the way. The simple act of opening your windows can help lift your mood, and you’ll save a little on your electric bill too.
Don’t have many windows? Fake it by using large mirrors to reflect light and brighten up your room. Bonus: mirrors also give the illusion of a bigger space, making your home feel brighter, larger and clearer.
2. Give your furniture a clean slate
Spring is the perfect time to break out all of your lighter and cooler clothes — and this also goes for furniture. A white, beige or light gray couch is the perfect nesting spot.
Light neutral chairs set the tone, reflect light and keep you from getting too warm. If desired, you can keep these pieces out year-round to invoke springtime memories and stave off wintertime blues when skies are gray. If you don’t want to commit to white furniture, invest in slipcovers that you can use seasonally and remove once colder temperatures return.
3. Let nature be your guide
Incorporate lightweight natural materials into your decor — think wicker, woven baskets, light wood grain and cotton curtains. Keep it airy and light, leaning on nature to inspire you.
Switch out heavy blankets for summery throws, and pack away heavy, dark decor items in favor of woven baskets paired with colorful or nature-inspired accessories. By adding earthy materials to your home, you invoke nature inside and out for a fresh and renewed feel.
4. Pack some punch with pops of color
Spring is the perfect time to ditch all those moody blacks and grays of winter, and trade them in for something a bit cheerier. Oranges, pinks, yellows, purples, blues and greens are all colors that recall spring and sunshine. Pick your favorite hue from the rainbow and run with it. Try a few peachy throw pillows, springy green candles or periwinkle decorative bowls.
Step out of your comfort zone and try a bold statement, or keep it cool with subtle hints of something you know you love. You’ll be surprised how much your mood lifts when you’re surrounded by a sea of pretty shades.
5. Go green and breathe deep
Adding potted plants, bouquets of flowers and herb gardens to your home is a great way to bring the outdoors in. Not only do they provide beautiful focal points and improve your mood, they also give off little hits of oxygen — so breathe deep.
Hit up your local farmer’s market for pretty blooms on the cheap, or grow herbs in windowsill pots. And for all those black thumbs out there, faux plants will still give off a fresh green look, but without all the hassle and maintenance.
Whether you’re looking to freshen up a couple of rooms in your house or overhaul your whole space, there are easy steps you can take to get your home spring-ready. Give yourself a new outlook and a fresh perspective by taking the time to rejuvenate your space and your mindset.
From mixing up colors to looking to nature for inspiration, you can completely transform your home into a sunny, light and airy space.
Smart upgrades for the kitchen and bathroom solve pesky problems
When Ryan, an editor, and Sophie, a paralegal, envisioned their renovation, they knew they needed to address the problems they inherited from the “quick and dirty reno” completed in 2009, the year Ryan bought the apartment. The advantage of waiting years to renovate? “It was abundantly clear how we utilized the kitchen,” says Ryan, adding “I had 10 years to save up because even a modest renovation like this one isn’t cheap in NYC!” In their 750-square foot, prewar one-bedroom on the Upper West Side, the partners agreed that the odd-shaped kitchen needed rearranging to take advantage of every square inch; and the bathroom required rescuing from a “South Florida Grandma aesthetic.”
To tackle the project, they posted on Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, and chose their contractor.
Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner Ryan
Whoever designed the last renovation really did not think things through. In the kitchen, which is an odd trapezoidal space, the priority was maximizing both storage and counter space, and minimizing clutter. For instance, there was a 24-inch soffit between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling that was just empty space. So we knew we’d need cabinets extending to the ceiling.
The sink was on a diagonal resulting in a large dead space. And the refrigerator was a huge obstruction at the back of the room and the first thing you see when you enter the foyer. Its positioning made the kitchen seem smaller and it just needed to find a new spot. We weren’t sure if that was possible.
The bathroom was small and dark with very little natural light. The vanity was made of builder-grade particle board that had swollen with moisture, and the medicine cabinet protruded. We were intent on transforming the look and feel of the bathroom—even the toilet was pink! The living room got a refresh with repainted walls, a replastered ceiling, and new sconce lighting.
The contractor’s millworker was about twice the cost of Ikea and Cabinets.com, but still about $5,000 less than the cabinets in the next price tier.
For the kitchen, I paid for a one-hour consult with Clare, a designer at 121 Studio, while still planning everything out. While she was expensive at $450 an hour, the cost was well worth it. The designer suggested moving the refrigerator to the corner and relocating the doorway to accommodate the fit. That might seem obvious in retrospect, but to me, it was a revelation.
We went with custom cabinets so everything would look integrated. The odd-shaped kitchen space came with difficult angles, pipes, and protrusions. We went to Ikea to experiment with a layout, but couldn’t get their premade boxes to fit in a satisfactory way. I also tried Cabinets.com, which had more options in terms of box sizes, but I worried the boxes wouldn’t be delivered in time.
The contractor’s millworker was about twice the cost of Ikea and Cabinets.com, but still about $5,000 less than the cabinets in the next price tier. He was able to build boxes that accommodated the kitchen’s unusual dimensions.
The kitchen floor tile came from the designer, during our consult. I asked her specifically what I should get since I was stumped by all the options. She recommended black slate tile: durable, attractive, and cheap. Her basic ethos was “make it look expensive without being expensive.”
The backsplash, on the other hand, was a splurge. We always wanted scallop tiles. Initially, we envisioned a teal color but we realized it was just too loud. So we went with a scalloped tile in muted but varied gray tones. The countertop was another more expensive finish: Empira White featured veining we really liked that complemented the backsplash.
Sophie wanted slab cabinets without any pulls, and I agreed. By then, I was really suffering from decision fatigue and didn’t have the wherewithal to evaluate the merits of different cabinet hardware!
Sophie chose the kitchen to be clean and streamlined, whereas I wanted the bathroom to have quirkier touches. I put together a sort of mood board where we considered a bunch of looks like intricate marble mosaics, but marble stains and needs a lot of upkeep. Plus, our contractor recommended we get large-format tile, due to some peculiarities of the wall.
We ultimately chose 36”x36” glazed porcelain tile that looks like marble at about $4/square foot, which was pretty reasonable, especially since we tiled up to the ceiling. It also worked well on the floor given the bathroom’s size constraints.
The vanity was more of a splurge, but I justified it because I hadn’t seen other vanities quite like it. And it fit. A 25-inch vanity would have been too small, and a 30-inch vanity would have been crammed in. The Goldilocks vanity needed to be between 25 to 30 inches, but powder room vanities sit comfortably within that range. I just had to pay twice what I’d initially budgeted.
The renovation itself mostly went off without a hitch, from getting board approval to designing it to seeing the project through to completion. Our contractor helped a lot with the paperwork. Between the management company and the board, there were A LOT of forms that I needed to put together. Luckily, the contractor had worked in the building before, which is one of the reasons I hired him.
The contractor was really good at keeping me in the loop and letting me know what was happening and when. Managing and communicating expectations is a big part of a successful partnership. Have a plan before you hire a contractor, know what you want and why you want it, so you’ll have a better idea of where to compromise with your decisions and where not to.
During the renovation, my downstairs neighbor was particularly helpful. She winters in Florida, and let us stay in her apartment, meaning we didn’t have to find a place to crash. I work from home most days, so I could stay in the building and check out the renovation throughout the day to make sure we were adhering to the plan. Also, I didn’t have to find a place to board my cat, Titus.
Besides the clean look, I love how our new kitchen is all integrated. From a functionality standpoint, I’m very pleased with its usability. It easily accommodates two people working at the same time, has tons of storage space and counter space, yet still seems open.
Thank you, Sophie and Ryan, for sharing our journey with us!
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Cabinetry: Custom by general contractor. Cabinet hardware: Amerock. Countertops in Empira White: Caesarstone. Backsplash in Ogee Drop: Fireclay Tile. Sink: Kraus. Faucet: Moen. Refrigerator: Bosch. Stove: Bertazzoni. Microwave: Whirlpool. Flooring in Montauk Black Slate: MSI.
LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Paint in Sweet Spring: Benjamin Moore. Light sconces: Restoration Hardware.
BATHROOM RESOURCES: Wall, floor, and shower tile in Antico Ivory: MSI. Vanity and sink: Restoration Hardware. Faucet, shower fixtures, and medicine cabinet: Kohler. Light fixture: Shades of Light. Toilet: Toto.
Sweeten founder and CEO weighs in on what to know before renovating a brownstone.
Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.
A renovator redoes her bath out of necessity and finds the beauty in it
Project: Fix leaky plumbing in a Manhattan co-op and while you’re at it, renovate the entire bath
Before: When commercial photographer, Veronica, moved into her Upper West Side apartment in 2014, she considered it move-in ready. “All I had to do was paint and tile the kitchen,” she explains. “I hoped to redo the bathroom one day, but it seemed like an overwhelming and big job—and especially expensive in New York City.”
Cut to a few years later. She received a complaint from her neighbors directly below and after investigating, it turned out her tub was leaking into their apartment. “I had a plumber check it out, and he confirmed I’d have to get the tub replaced to fix the leak,” says Veronica. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), that meant the attached surrounding tile would need to be replaced. “It kind of became a domino effect of redoing everything, but I figured it was a good time to make some upgrades,” she says.
Veronica was more than happy to get rid of the outdated beige tile and grimy old jet tub and posted her project on Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects. “I was really looking forward to designing a bathroom that had a walk-in shower with a glass door,” she says. The light fixture didn’t work and the vanity was small and crammed in next to the shower so it was a no-brainer to replace those as well.
After: The bathroom was transformed from a basic beige bathroom into a rich, modern space. Through Sweeten, Veronica found the contractor who would renovate her space with her vision in mind. “The bathroom got very little light to begin with so I decided to embrace the cave-like atmosphere and go dark,” Veronica says.
She added matte brass fixtures for warmth as well as marble floor tile for texture. “My favorite thing is the walk-in shower,” says Veronica. “It’s so much easier to clean, it makes the tiny space feel more open, and it gives a modern look and feel.”
Having a wall-mounted sink without a vanity also opened up the room. Veronica was “glad not to have crammed in an 18-inch vanity that doesn’t hold much anyway and visually disrupts the room.” Initially, the plan was to install a wall-mounted toilet but found out that it was out of the budget and required permits.
Bonus: A cabinet above the bathroom door serves as added storage for towels and other supplies.
Style finds: Metro collection floor and wall tiles in graphite: Nemo. American Standard Decorum 20″ sink: Build.com. Kohler exposed hardware, #K-9018-BDG p-trap with long tubing outlet; set of two npt angle supplies; Glassware House frameless fixed glass panel, #GW-SFP-35.5-PB; San Souci elongated one-piece toilet: Wayfair. Mirror: Pottery Barn. Dewdrop Globe vanity light: Shades of Light. Paint in Day’s End: Benjamin Moore. Cabinet above door: Ikea.
Thank you, Veronica, for sharing your new bathroom with us!
Check out another stunning renovation born out of a water leak.
Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.