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Spring-fresh homes; The first day of spring is finally on the horizon, and it's the perfect time to freshen up our homes. Gabrielle Fagan finds simple ways to give rooms an affordable facelift.

WE'RE finally leaving winter behind, yet our homes can look as though they're still suffering from its effects. Thankfully, a few changes, small but significant, can spruce things up.

"First go outside, then walk back through your front door with fresh eyes to identify things that could be tidier or more cheerful," advises Amanda Fox, creative director of homeware and gift specialists, The Handpicked Collection. "Have fun by investing in a set of colourful pegs for hanging coats, or identify something you can paint a bright colour.

"Do you fancy bright yellow banisters or an emerald green door frame? If it's a small job, you'll probably only need a few tester pots, rather than a whole litre can of paint."

It's all too easy to get used to cluttered surfaces, especially in the kitchen, so she suggests making a clean sweep and storing away all but the essentials and allowing attractive items, like quirky mismatched crockery or sleek designer gadgets, to star.

Take a similar approach in living areas, by collecting decorative items in one place, deciding which work well together, and then redistributing them in different arrangements throughout the house.

"Try to mix-match heights, sizes, textures and colours to make them visually appealing and they'll look new and different," says Fox.

"Similarly, take down pictures and try each one in a different position. You'll be surprised how fresh existing artworks can look with different light on them and a change of surrounding environment."

Finally, plump up sofa cushions, fling windows wide open for at least 30 minutes a day, and drape a colourful cloth over a table and make fruit a centrepiece.

"A glass vase filled with zesty, colourful lemons and limes whose aroma will scent the room is a stylist's favourite trick," she says. "Most of these changes won't cost a thing but they'll have the effect of putting a spring in your step!" So in time for March 20 and the arrival of the new season, check out the experts' suggestions for spring room projects...

Stairway to heaven Stairs can be taken for granted when it comes to redecorating and may merely get routinely repainted.

Yet a complete replacement staircase, or even simply replacing the spindles, stair baluster and newel posts, can be hugely effective and transform a hallway.

Neville Johnson is one specialist company who will completely replace a staircase, from PS2,000 (www.nevillejohnson.co.uk). Richard Burbidge has a widevariety of stair-part systems, rails, pots and spindles, including contemporary versions in glass and metal. A basic kit starts from PS300 for a staircase of 13 treads (www.stairproject.co.uk).

Window on the world Sitting in a comfy chair basking in glorious spring sunshine pouring through an adjacent window is an easy way to relax.

"Rejuvenate your window space with textiles, plants, vases and lamps, then pull up a chair, have a good book handy and you've got your very own sunshine haven," says Aisha Gibson at Ikea. "Sheer curtains allow sunlight to filter evenly through a room, and if you add layers of textiles in different patterns and materials you can give your space a textured, layered look.

"Curtain finials complete your window dressing and make it even more playful and personal. And you can easily change them whenever you feel you want some variation. Make your own tassel with leftover fabric. Fold it, cut into strips, then roll and bind with ribbon and use the ribbon to act as a tie back."

Snap to it Family occasions are great photo opportunities but it's a visual opportunity lost if they later languish on laptops.

Producing a collage of photos or a themed selection in compartmentalised picture frames is a brilliant way to display them and keep memories fresh. Create a gallery on one wall with a group of frames you'll have a talking point in any room.

Dining delight Easter's on the horizon and celebration meals or informal gatherings will be on the calendar.

"Springtime is all about giving interiors an uplift," says Claire Hornby, interior stylist at Barker & Stonehouse. Breathe new life into a jaded dining area by introducing a few key accessories in bold, zesty colours.

"Update your look with brightly upholstered chairs or new chair cushions, and a statement rug to zone the area. Pot plants hung on hooks, and vases of cut flowers, will add vital touches of greenery."

Alternatively, recreate informal al fresco dining in a kitchen or conservatory with a simple bistro-style table and chair set. Use seat pads for comfort, keep styling simple and display freshly picked garden foliage in pots or containers like jam jars or milk bottles.

Spring scent Just the scent of a warm, spring day can lift spirits. Even if the weather doesn't co-operate, evoke the atmosphere with fragranced candles conjuring smells of cut grass or flowers.

"Treat yourself to a really good scented candle and burn it for 10 minutes each day to fill the room with floral, fresh fragrances," says Amanda Fox.

"It'll last for months if you're frugal with it, making the treat perfectly justifiable. Also, cut up bars of fragranced soap, popped into drawers and linen cupboards, will make bedding and clothes smell sweet."

Patio perfect It can be depressing staring out at garden furniture that's been battered by downpours and winter frost.

Instead of buying new, give it a revamp. Choose a dry day to repaint chairs and the table.

If necessary, rub down with coarse sandpaper to remove flakes or rust. Wash the table and chairs with hot, soapy water to remove dirt. Rinse well with clean water and allow to dry. Spread newspaper in a ventilated area or preferably outside.

Apply two or three fine coats of PlastiKote Outdoor satin spray paint in the colour of your choice, allowing 10-15 minutes between coats. The furniture will be touch-dry in 30-50 minutes and thoroughly dry in two to three hours.

CAPTION(S):

Connock London >Scented Candle, a sensual blend of Hawaiian flowers including gardenia and jasmine blend, PS36.95

Tie-back made >from left-over fabrics from Ikea

Fusion glass stairset, prices start from PS600, Richard Burbidge >

Wooden poster frames, from PS35; top left, PS100; right, PS70; fine triple frame, PS50; memories frame, on floor, 180, The White Company

Round white finial, two pack, PS3; fleur de lis style, >Hogtidlig finial, two pack, PS6; Blast finial, black, two pack, PS5, Ikea

Elements stair set. Prices start from around PS700 for an >average staircase of 13 treads, inclusive of brackets and fittings, Richard Burbidge

Skurar plant >pot, in off-white, PS2, Ikea

English garden candle, PS30 and votive, PS16; fresh herbs votive, PS16; cut >grass votive, PS16, The White Company

Deakin extending table, PS685; Deakin Pop chair, PS115; BB1 pendant, PS162; Bones rug, PS995, Barker & Stonehouse

Ingmarie curtains with tie packs, PS35 a pair; Gulsporre curtains, PS10 a >pair, Myrten sheer curtains, PS12 a pair, Ikea

Multi-flex extending table, PS2,015; Christel >stackable chair, 3105; Fly pendant light, PS159; V plus sdideboard, PS1,580; Dexter floor lamp, PS149; Aztec rug, PS325, Barker & Stonehouse
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 8, 2014
Words:1173
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