No-Cost Makeover

Add style to your home without spending a dime. Follow these spruce-up tips for success.
Robert Martin; photography Jean Allsopp; styling Rose Nguyen

One way to restyle a family room.

Plan Key

A. rolltop desk
B. leather wing chairs
C. skirted circular table
D. sofa
E. coffee table
F. traditional wing chairs
G. child's rocking chair (removed)
H. club chair
I. matching ottoman
J. reading table
K. rug (re-centered in room)
L. big-screen TV

If you're like most homeowners, accumulating more stuff isn't hard to do. But arranging and displaying furniture and knickknacks can be a challenge. Well, guess what? Someone understands your plight. Meet Frances Short and Joni Tyler, two professional organizers who are willing to share their know-how on breathing new life into tired spaces.

Putting Things in Place
Based in Cleveland, Mississippi, Frances and Joni's business, It's All Arranged, helps homeowners organize hodgepodge rooms. "We felt that people needed a way to achieve warm, inviting interiors by relying on what they already own," Joni says. "The main request we receive involves giving a home an updated look that doesn't cost a fortune."

Such was Bill and Emily Morris's dilemma. They needed more focus in their family room's decor. So, Joni and Frances set out to give it a well-deserved update. Here is their step-by-step guide to restyling a space while tackling common mistakes.

Avoid the Wallflower Syndrome
Bill and Emily's family room, which contained attractive furniture and artwork, was a tad disorganized. On their own, the individual pieces of furniture and accessories were fine; together they seemed cluttered. When the organizing team first surveyed this spot, they noticed that all the furniture lined the walls, leaving a blank center. This common wall-clinging approach does little to add interest to a room.

So what's the solution? Not all furniture has to sit against a wall. Sofas, chairs, and tables can be placed more in a room, rather than around the perimeter, to fill space and add depth.

Determine Focal Points
Zero in on the attention getters. "In this family room," says Joni, "the fireplace and hearth were on one wall, a TV sat in an alcove on an adjoining wall, and all the furniture faced nothing in particular."

Using the fireplace and TV alcove as the must-see elements, Joni and Frances repositioned the furniture around them. First, they moved the sofa away from the wall and centered it along one edge of the existing rug. Next, the leather chairs and a skirted table were placed along the wall opposite the fireplace. Frances then moved the club chair and matching ottoman closer to the sofa, which would enable the Morrises to congregate near the fireplace. (Compare before and after plans below.)

Set Up Multiple Seating Areas
Joni and Frances created smaller, more intimate furniture groupings. The large rolltop desk stayed put, and two traditional wing chairs were placed on either side of it, behind the sofa. Now the room offers three distinct seating areas; before, the options were less defined.

Highlight the Strong Points
Grouping similar items and colors together creates a cohesive look, but too many knickknacks clutter the effect. You can help matters by deciding what's most important for you to display. "It was crucial for us to keep the Southwestern look of horses, saddles, and art," says Frances. Joni advises homeowners to carefully consider any furniture they're eager to throw out. "Don't get rid of something until you're sure it will never work," she suggests. "We're able to revive many items by painting, stenciling, or faux finishing them."

Remember, just because something's been in the same space for years doesn't mean it's stuck there forever. "Bill owned a wonderful painting by his maternal grandmother of three horses, which we moved to hang over the fireplace," Frances says.

Above all, the duo stresses that you should trust your own tastes. "We encourage homeowners to reuse their things," Frances continues, "because if an object or piece of furniture already exists in your home, then you must have liked it in the first place."

How to rearrange Your Stuff

  • Raise the height of a lamp by placing a pile of inexpensive books underneath it.
  • Prop a favorite plate or heirloom piece of china on a cabinet or bookshelf. Using pretty dishware as accessories can add much-needed appeal to a dull-looking row of books.
  • Switch out side tables from other rooms, or use an unexpected piece, such as an old trunk or crate, for a table.
  • Swap bedroom throw pillows with those on the sofa for a quick color change.