Spring may be the season of cleaning out clutter and brightening up the home, but fall can be equally inspiring.
You can feel it in the air: Bright yellow school buses have returned to the roads and store shelves are stocked with crisp, fresh notebooks and pencils. Whether you're a student or not, a new semester filled with possibility is upon us.
That back-to-school energy motivates many homeowners to freshen up their space. Interior designer Betsy Burnham of Los Angeles' Burnham Design, says the phones at her office ring frequently in the fall. The summer entertaining season is over and people are excited about making fresh decorating decisions.
She and two other design experts offer advice on fast and easy end-of-summer projects to spruce up a home for fall:
Tackling wear and tear
Look around, says Burnham, especially in rooms that have gotten a lot of indoor/outdoor traffic this summer. Do door frames or walls need touchup painting? Do floors need polishing or carpets need cleaning?
After a busy summer, she says, "right now my kitchen table is out being refinished." This kind of refurbishing project is an expense that some people prefer to skip. But Burnham says it will bring a polished look to your home and can keep quality pieces in great shape for years, saving money on replacements.
Embrace the outdoors
Although summer is heavy on outdoor fun, many of us don't open the windows until September.
"My favorite part about fall is turning off the air conditioning and opening up the windows," says Sabrina Soto, host of the new series "The High Low Project" on HGTV. "I love to have the curtains blow in the cool breeze and see the leaves starting to change color."
Soto uses fall flowers to bring a burst of color to her home. "Mums are perfect for hanging baskets and porches," she says, "and come in fabulous, bold colors. I also like to add fresh flowers inside as well; sunflowers are great for their bright color and longevity. Maple branches also add a dramatic touch."
Create a study space
Even if you're not a student right now, you can create a space for reading or pursuing a hobby. Any quiet alcove or area will do, says designer Brian Patrick Flynn , founder and editor of decordemon.com.
One option is converting the lower part of a reach-in closet into a study space, he says. Use a piece of lumber to create a deep shelf at desk-level. Add a basket underneath to keep study-related materials organized and out of view. When it's time to study or work, just open the closet door and pull up a chair.
Soto suggests keeping light in mind: "A window seat can make a perfect reading niche," she says.
If you don't have one, pull a large, comfy chair up near a window with a small side table that can hold your laptop or a book and mug of hot coffee. If the table has a drawer, you can keep necessary items on hand. Otherwise, keep a decorative bin or basket nearby.
"The days are getting shorter," Soto says, so you may need artificial light. She's a fan of lampshades in warm fall colors like gold or scarlet.
Colors and patterns
When September begins, Flynn loves bringing out plaid and argyle fabrics. "It feels collegiate," he says, and can work especially well in children's rooms.
Burnham suggests bringing in a dash of classic fall colors such as gold, burnt orange or muted brown. You can bring in just one or two shades through accessories like pillows and throws. Or go all out and paint with fall colors.
Another idea: To make part of a room feel truly study-worthy, Flynn suggests visiting a flea market or used bookstore to buy vintage books with beautiful typography. Carefully remove the pages, then spray the back of each page with adhesive. Press them firmly onto the wall in a random pattern, with some overlapping. You can seal the pages with polyurethane or leave them uncovered.
"It instantly gives a space meant for studying or reading a custom-designed feel," he says.
Prep for the events
Beyond signaling the start of the school year, fall also reminds us that the holidays aren't far away, says Soto. "So get your dining room ready for entertaining by polishing your silverware and cleaning the fine china," she says.
One last touch: To make things more appealing for guests in the coming months, "create a more relaxed feel at the table by adding pillows to dining chairs," she says. "Perfect for guests after a feast!"