New Year, New Look

See how to restyle a room with money-saving slipcovers and different accessories.
Julie Feagin Sandner

Warning: You're about to start seeing double. Inside the home of Jim and Lela Smith is a family room that takes on two very different styles. Sometimes it's filled with rich colors, and other times it's punched up with a lighter, brighter palette. The secret is making simple switches to create fresh looks--and it's so easy to do.

Lela wanted to swap her decor for a different appearance some months of the year. You might think that switching around styles would cost a fortune, but not in this case. Twenty-five years ago, Lela had slipcovers made from inexpensive white cotton duck material to provide a cool, crisp look--and she's been using them ever since.

As an interior designer with a passion for the English look, Lela has a way of combining fabrics in a variety of patterns and textures. During cooler months, each piece surrounding her fireplace is covered in a different fabric. One chair features toile and one stripes. Lela uses colorful pillows to add prints to the sofa and love seat, which are covered in solid fabrics.

Come warm weather, however, durable slipcovers replace the rich upholstery and dramatically brighten the room. Lela avoided a sloppy look by adding a shirred skirt and individual seat covers. A collection of cheerful pillows completes the change. During the springtime, she adds fresh flowers from her backyard.

To keep the slipcovers clean, Lela throws them in the washer and then dries them on low. She removes them while slightly damp so, when fully dry, they'll conform to the furniture.

Changing Your Look
Here are a few more tips to master a decor switch.

In Cooler Months:

  • Move furniture around. Create an intimate and cozy group surrounding the fireplace in the fall and winter.
  • Accessorize with candles to provide a warm glow.
  • Make the most of your mantel. Fill containers with dried flowers or plants for a fresh look during drab months.

 In Warmer Months:

  • Swap out heavy draperies for a lighter version. Inexpensive ready-made sheers will allow in sunshine.
  • Pull the rug, or just exchange it for natural sisal or sea grass.
  • To ensure items will be ready for the next season, be sure to store them properly. Use airtight bags or containers.

This article is from the January 2005 issue of Southern Living.