Refresh & Renew Your Home and Garden

Eleven easy ways to reinvigorate your home and garden for the season.

At last, it’s May in Madison, time to open your windows and let the fresh air sweep through your home. Spring symbolizes renewal, rebirth and revitalization after a long, cold winter—even this winter, which by Wisconsin standards wasn’t so bad—making it the perfect time to revamp your living space. We’re not talking about tearing out carpets or knocking down walls, but rather making a few easy, creative tweaks to freshen up your home and capture the spirit of the season. Here, five experts offer ways to enliven your abode inside and out.


1. Color Cues
Want to perk up a white or mostly muted room? Paint an accent wall a standout color or pepper in accessories that pop—throw pillows, slipcovers and vases are easy additions. Cindy Bentley and Jeri Hinkley, co-owners of Willow Creek Home Décor, also encourage adding a few small, colorful area rugs, even atop carpet, and running a vibrant ribbon lengthwise down your dining room table. They say that moving items from other rooms in your house, such as a throw blanket from your bedroom or a cool lamp from the den, into living and dining spaces can yield a nice temporary change. Colors that evoke nature, such as sky blues and grassy greens, easily make a splash.

2. Accessorize Your Space 
Adding one unconventional or interesting painting, sculpture, lamp or chair can completely change a room’s look—and get your dinner guests talking. Hatch Art House in Madison carries a cornucopia of “wow” pieces big and small, made exclusively by Wisconsin artists. There’s the lamp with a vintage cheese grater shade by Bryan Richgels, nature-themed reclaimed-metal wall hangings by Liv Aanrud and Spring Awakening, a stunning watercolor set in a wooden frame made from upcycled house siding, by Hatch owner Tammy Schreiter

3. Lighten Up
Interior fabrics can also get a springtime revamp. Replace heavy twill orvelvet curtains with lighter-weight drapes and swap out that warm, fuzzy throw for one made of chenille or cotton. Bentley and Hinkley love burlap for spring décor, because it’s earthy, inexpensive and multifunctional—think placemats, table covers and ribbons.

4. Pick Plants
To bring color and life inside, grow pansies or other early-season flowers in pots or window boxes. Or you can combine a few different plants in one large container to make a dynamic display. When selecting plants to pot together, Tibi Light, a Madison-based garden and plants specialist, says to pick species with the same light and water requirements and make sure you have a thriller (the focal point, usually the fanciest or tallest plant), a spiller (drapes over the container) and a filler (complements and gives the arrangement depth).

5. Getting Warmer
For an accent hue, Cathy Driftmier,  principal at Driftmier Design in Verona, likes red—with a few rules. “Steer clear  of bright red, which screams in your face, but don’t go too light or you’ll have pink. Aim for a muted brick or orangey-red,” she explains. Driftmier also says go ahead and mix patterns, just not too many or you’ll create chaos. “Stripes and florals can work well together if they’re in the same color scheme, and geometric designs fit with many motifs,” she says.

6. Clean Sweep 
Refresh your kitchen by sprucing up cabinet doors and exteriors. First, give them a deep clean. “It’s amazing how dirty cabinets get from everyday use,” says Driftmier, who specializes in kitchen and bath interiors. For an even bigger impact, change out the hardware. “Find fun new handles or add a decorative back plate,” she says. 

7. Simplify, Simplify!
Next, inventory your cabinet and drawer contents. Throw out or donate duplicate items—who needs four whisks?—and gadgets you don’t use, like the spinning spaghetti fork. As for the cooking utensils you’re always grabbing for, Driftmier says it’s okay to leave them out on the counter—as long as they look good. Replace your burnt-edged plastic spatula and punch-stained ladle with attractive new ones, and display your tools in a beautiful crock. And take stock of what sits on your countertops, keeping out only those appliances that you use frequently. 

8. Grow up
If you’ve never grown veggies or herbs, let this be your year to have fresh tomatoes and basil at your fingertips. You can even mix edible plants in with flowers and shrubs in your garden to maximize space. “I plant kale, fennel and dill right in with my annuals,” Light says. 

9. Plan Ahead 
Didn’t get to planting perennials last fall? Use this spring to inspire the next. “Once everything is green and filled out, look around your yard and suss out where you’d love to see tulips, crocuses or daffodils next spring and plan to plant them in September or October,” Light says. 

10. Take a Chance 
Go crazy in the powder room! It’s small and people move in and out of there quickly, so why not take a risk? “Paint the walls a dark or vibrant color you might not choose for a larger space,” Driftmier advises. “Or experiment with metallic paint or hang large or unusual artwork.” 

11. Create Structure 
Give your garden added zip by thinking beyond plants. “Incorporate architecture, such as trellises, tuteurs, arches, arbors or small sections of fence,” Light suggests. Either purchase prebuilt structures or fashion your own from recycled wood or building materials and then paint or adorn them with found objects.

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