Fight the winter doldrums: Small interior design moves can make a big impact |

Fight the winter doldrums: Small interior design moves can make a big impact

Fresh flowers brighten the entrance of a home, as seen here on a distinctive console table in this entryway designed by New York-based interior designer Jenny Kirschner. The flowers are a quick and easy pick-me-up for late winter days.
Ryan Dausch, JDK Interiors | Associated Press | JDK Interiors

Holiday decorating season is long over, yet spring is still far off. It’s cold and still getting dark early, and a lot of us could use some kind of visual pick-me-up.

Brightening your home can definitely boost your mood, but this isn’t the season for big decorating projects, said Florida-based interior designer Andrew Howard.

“Winter’s such a bad time for starting something brand new,” he said. “No one has the energy for it.”

Here, Howard and two other interior design experts — Deborah Martin and Jenny Dina Kirschner, both designers based in New York — offer advice on small but powerful decorating moves that can bring fresh style to a room with little expense.


Decorative lighting is “the single most effective midwinter decor pick-me-up,” said Martin, because it adds the warmth and light we’re all craving.

“A lamp in the window when you come home at the end of a long day,” she said, “signals home. It signals cozy.”

Table and console lamps are a great choice because they’re less expensive than ceiling fixtures and “add a unique cheerfulness and a functionality,” Martin said. “They’re stylish and effective.”

Candles can also brighten up a room and can boost your mood if you choose the right scent.

“At holiday time, we usually put out candles that have sweeter and spicier scents,” Kirschner said. If you’re getting tired of those wintry fragrances, then she suggests switching to ones that evoke spring and summer, such as lemongrass or gardenia.


All three designers mentioned that new throw pillows could easily change the look of a living room sofa.

“They bring in a pop of color and pattern, but don’t overwhelm the space,” Martin said. And because they can be inexpensive, pillows let you take risks with unexpected colors.

“Sometimes I’ll pick a color that’s not even in the room, but somehow it works,” she said, “because you’re introducing an element that kind of adds an imperfection.”

Another easy accessory: Howard suggested swapping out the books on your coffee table for new ones with beautifully designed covers.

“I like to have my coffee table full of books,” he said. Buying new ones changes the look a little, leaves you excited about reading something new and provides conversation starters with guests.


“I just got back from Scotland, where the days are especially short and it’s dreary,” Martin said. In many hotels and restaurants, she noticed “the unapologetic use of color — color everywhere.” Even tartan plaid throws in neon colors, not normally her style, struck her as beautiful and mood-boosting against the gray skies and rain.

Add color with a bright throw blanket, she suggests, and consider painting a focal wall in a rich, energizing color. If that’s too big a commitment, try painting the back wall inside a bookcase. Even better, line the back wall of a bookcase with a high-end wall covering in a rich, textured fabric, perhaps with a light-catching sheen.


Items that are getting little attention in one room can sometimes take on new life if you relocate them. Try swapping a framed piece of art from one room with one from another. Or give a second chance to a framed item you put away in a closet years ago.

“We never have enough walls for everything we love,” Martin said.

Another option: Take smaller items out of their frames and swap in something else, such as postcards or small prints you’ve collected but never framed.

When Howard wants to make a change to a room in his own home, he often searches through items he hasn’t used lately. Don’t be afraid, he said, to give a second chance to decorative pieces that you once dismissed as outdated.

“Decorating cycles so much now,” he said. “You’re seeing trends from so many other years come back.”

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