Some people live in their place for a decade, and it still doesn’t feel like a home. Here are 23 ways to make sure your castle — no matter what its size or age — becomes a place of comfort and joy.
It can happen in the middle of the night. You might pad softly downstairs in your slippers, unable to sleep, and sit in a well-worn chair across from the hearth with a few flickering embers. The place is quiet, as you dash down a mental checklist of what makes your four walls a home: handcrafted furniture, fishing trophies, family portraits and art, a couch purchased from a favorite antique dealer — the list is endless. You smile and drift to sleep.
So, where exactly does an empty, sometimes sterile, space end and a real home begin? Right here, naturally. We’ve come up with 23 options that will satisfy those who’ve been in their home for years as well as folks who are just settling in.
1. Bring the indoors out: If your home has a deck, wraparound porch or deep overhangs, adding outdoor living spaces — like a kitchen or fireplace — is a great way to expand your livable square footage without actually increasing the size of your home.
2. Bring the outdoors in: A coffee table made from a tree trunk, furniture made from twigs or cabinets with bark on them are just a few ways to give your home an organic feeling. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of the colors in your area.
3. Upgrade flooring: Before changing your floors, be sure to evaluate the traffic going through each room of the house. For areas with less traffic, softer woods like fir, larch, and southern yellow pine can accentuate a room nicely. However, for rooms with more traffic, especially those being stomped on by little kids and big dogs, more durable and harder woods like maple and cypress are better choices. Also, consider using tiles in entryways to pick up the dirt from the traffic coming inside.
4. Go green: Adding live or faux plants can add color to your home, and according to Stephanie Gauthier, in-house designer for Wisconsin Log Homes, this contrast is much needed. “Obviously, log homes boast lots of wood, stone and other hard surfaces,” she says. “If you add some greenery arrangements here and there, like a faux tree in the corner of a room, or your favorite plant on top of a coffee table or a display shelf, they bring everything to life and make a space feel more livable and relaxing.”
5. Create a seasonal touch: Decorative items that fit a season can bring color and charm to your home. However, be careful with holiday-themed items — such as figurines with pumpkin faces for Halloween — as they can’t be used year round and can date your space. Instead, inject the seasons with cues from nature.
6. Let evolution take its course: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the decor of your home doesn’t need to be either. Instead of filling your house right away, buy the essentials like furniture — then let each room evolve naturally. Add pieces that are meaningful to you as time passes such as mementoes from your favorite vacation spot or antique frames purchased at a flea market to hold treasured family photographs.
7. Create a country kitchen: Adding a couch and kitchen table to the dining room can give a casual, informal feeling to the space. The area can be easily rearranged when you need a more formal setting.
8. Play with space: If you have a large room, filling up spaces with pieces of artwork or massive furniture can make it feel less like the waiting room of a doctor’s office. (Avoid lots of small knickknacks in large spaces, which tend to throw off scale and balance.) On the other hand, a small room can appear larger by simply adding a decorative mirror.
9. Incorporate stained glass: It’s not just for churches anymore, and some strategically placed stained glass can make your home feel warm and cozy, while adding light to an interior space that doesn’t have a window. For instance, install a stained-glass window between your master bedroom and master bathroom or walk-in closet to illuminate those spaces.
10. Bargain shop: Just because you want to spruce things up in your home doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money. In fact, you can find great and affordable pieces — everything from lamps to unusual picture frames — at flea markets and consignment shops, as well as garage and estate sales.
11. Use what you have: If you don’t want to spend money on decorating, you can still get a fresh new look through a concept known as “interior redesign” — or the art of using what you already have. You can “shop” in your home with existing pieces and by just moving some items from one room to another, can change the feeling of your home. (Good examples of interior redesign include changing the rooms where your lamps, pillows, art and even furniture are placed. You also can figure out ways to use items in your home differently — a basketful of magazines in your living room can find a new home in your bathroom and be used as a space for extra towels, for instance.) Just don’t forget to fill up any large spaces that result from your “shopping.”
12. Create hobby space: If you have a hobby that you love, but no room to accommodate your creativity, find space to make it happen. Hobbies that can get a little messy, like wood-working or pottery, require an isolated space with lots of ventilation. Other hobbies, like sewing or scrap-booking, can occupy a small corner of the main living space — which will give it a defined area that can be easily cleaned up when you need to put everything away. Although basements may seem like good spots to house a hobby, most design pros recommend areas with natural light to promote creativity.
13. Add to your castle: Decks, patios or porches anyone? They’re money in the bank for re-sale and an even bigger asset when it comes to quality time at home. If you already own a log home and want to add rooms, your contractor will need to find a way to bridge the log-settling gap between the existing home and that of the new addition — which can be done by adding a gable wall between the old and the new. Also, address issues like heating, wiring, ventilation and plumbing in the new space.
14. Raise the timber: Adding posts or beams to a wall or hallway boosts the rustic feel of your home. If you’re in the planning stages, ask your log manufacturer about having these timber elements added to your package. If you already own a log home, you can purchase timbers from log and timber wholesalers.
15. Upgrade your countertops: Switching from laminate to a solid surface — such as granite — can give your kitchen a richer look. In addition, granite is much more durable and you can rest warm pots on it without using a pad.
16. Make a splash with color: We love wood and its honey-toned hues, but your home’s color palette needs diversity. Paint a wall, add vibrant pillows or hang artwork that punch up your home’s character and imbues each space with rich color.
17. Dress or undress windows: Adding new curtains is an easy way to change the look of a room. (Make sure they’re don’t overwhelm the room and block precious natural light!) If curtains aren’t for you, blinds are durable and can block out the sun and UV rays while keeping a room warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Live out in the hinterlands where privacy isn’t an issue? Ditch window coverings altogether, have a contractor create compelling trim around each space instead — and enjoy your view!
18. Accentuate curb appeal: You don’t need to have a large, manicured lawn to make the space around your home beautiful. Trees, flowers and gardens can make your yard a lot livelier. If you’re in an area where deer are a concern, use hanging flowerpots to help keep them from munching away at your plants. Also, a gazebo or an arbor can be added easily to your home to give plants a home of their own. You do, however, need to consider if you want one built that will mimic the style of your home, or have a completely different flavor — and don’t forget that, just like your home itself, you’ll need to stain it.
19. Decorate your mantels: Any mantels in your home — like those above a fireplace or a wooden stove — are great places to add pieces that will give a room personality. For example, you can place a mirror on a fireplace mantel in a room that doesn’t have natural light to make it seem brighter, or enormous artwork on a mantel in a large room with high ceilings to fill up space.
20. Throw some rugs: Warmth isn’t always about keeping your tootsies toasty. Sometimes, visual friendliness is just as important — which is exactly what you get with throw and area rugs. They’ll also add acoustical value by cutting down on echoes and by deadening noise. A rug positioned under the dining table in a great room is an outstanding way to delineate where one space ends and another begins. Same goes for the living area where a rug can tie together a convivial grouping of chairs and couches.
21. Open (better) doors: If you want a more dramatic change, splurge on a new front door — which can have the biggest impact on the look of your home. However, the best time to consider a door is during the design phase of your home; if you’re unsure about your doors, ask your designer to make adjustments to accommodate future expansions.
22. Don’t overlook maintenance: Although your home may sometimes feel challenging to maintain (especially staining those logs), the work will make your house more durable. Staining your logs regularly — preferably in the spring or fall — especially in areas where there’s a lot of sun or rain, will keep them in their best condition. Also, if your home has log deck posts, remember to include them in your regular staining schedule. After all, nothing offers a visual homage to the idea of “home” quite like well-maintained logs.
23. Live a little: Warmth isn’t always about keeping your tootsies toasty. Sometimes, visual friendliness is just as important — which is exactly what you get with throw and area rugs. They’ll also add acoustical value by cutting down on echoes and by deadening noise. A rug positioned under the dining table in a great room is an outstanding way to delineate where one space ends and another begins. Same goes for the living area where a rug can tie together a convivial grouping of chairs and couches.
We all want our homes to look their best, but be sure not to keep your house so immaculate that it’s uncomfortable to live in. “I’ve been in some log homes whose owners must think a magazine photographer is going to step through the door and begin clicking away at any second — the places are too pristine. This makes it tough to have a comfortable life,” says John Boys of Nicola LogWorks. “It creates housekeeping stress. It also makes a house feel artificial, where everything has to be perfect — and people are rarely comfortable in a home that’s too perfect.”
In other words, live your version of the log-home dream and create a house that reflects your core values — whether they’re related to art, function or pure enjoyment. Oh, and that messy coffee table? Leave it alone. It just wouldn’t be your home without it.
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