New Year, New Look

Experts share budget-friendly tips for updating your home 

By Kamala Kirk

The beginning of a new year signifies a fresh start, and for many of us that includes updating our homes for a refreshed look. Right after the holidays, budgets can be tight — but fortunately there are many ways that you can upgrade your home without breaking the bank. 

“A new year is all about a fresh start, and after all the holiday décor comes down, your room can feel dark and empty,” says Amy Peltier of Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home in San Marino. “By refreshing your space, you’ll be able to bring your room back to life. Organize and declutter. Re-imagine a new room layout. Add some color and some greenery. Romanticize your refresh and fall in love with your living space again.”

Sarah Barnard, a WELL and LEED accredited designer and creator of environments that support mental, physical and emotional well-being, adds, “The new year is an excellent time for a fresh start when many people set new goals or want to examine their lives for opportunities for improvement or change. Refreshing our spaces can help us break from routine and familiarity, which may encourage a shift in perspective and mindset. These changes can be beneficial on their own or supportive of introducing new habits. For someone who wants to cook more at home, making changes to a kitchen space, improving storage or finding new ways to open up counter space may help encourage those habits by helping to optimize those routines.”

The new year is a good time to refresh your look because, even in California, it’s a time of year when we are going to be spending more time outside, says Christine Kobervig Munger, vice president of merchandising and sourcing at Fernish, the rental furniture subscription service on a mission to make it as effortless as possible to create your home.

“Everything looks beautiful when there’s a ton of light streaming through and there’s a fresh breeze coming in from an open window,” Munger says. “When it’s a bit darker you tend to make choices that are a bit less frivolous and more evergreen. While you may be more inclined to buy ice cream or a convertible on a sunny day, when it’s a bit chillier your purchases tend to be more about comfort, which is advantageous when you are thinking about your home. It’s also a good way to help kick-start resolutions to say, get more organized or read more. 

From decluttering and organizing to sourcing vintage items and renting furniture, experts share budget-friendly tips for updating your home in 2023.

Elevated items

“If one of your goals is to elevate your home without spending a lot, I recommend focusing less on updating high-ticket items like furniture, window treatments and rugs,” Peltier says. “Focus more on updating your style and color palette through accessories, throw blankets and pillows. In fact, we’ve recently launched Pillow Addict to help customers with this dilemma. Pillow Addict is an eCommerce pillow cover subscription service that allows you to change out designer pillow covers every three months so you can refresh your home every season. Choose from different collections; mix and match as your heart desires; then, when the new season hits, return and swap out ‘last season’s’ pillow covers for brand-new ones. This is the simplest way to elevate your home without having to pay those luxurious price tags.”

Barnard also suggests choosing a few pieces that will enhance the overall look of a space.

“Selecting a few elevated items can help upgrade a room’s entire aesthetics,” Barnard says. “A beautiful, well-made throw blanket can enhance a bedroom, or a well-crafted rug can tie together a living room space. A beloved work of art can transform a wall or help specific colors in a room become more vibrant or recede to create more balance. Investing in a few eye-catching items with a significant visual impact helps shift the overall look of a space without needing to upgrade every piece of furniture or décor.”


“Sometimes the biggest impact you can make is not by what you add, but by what you get rid of—and oftentimes that’s clutter,” Munger says. “Two areas that tend to benefit the most from low-budget organizing solutions are the entryway and kitchen.”

Benches are one of Munger’s favorite pieces for the entryway in a home. 

“For the entryway I’m a big fan of benches—they’re great for pulling off boots, setting down groceries, neatly tucking shoes in underneath or at the very least, creating a central deposit zone for things that need to go elsewhere. Fernish has some great benches with integrated storage like the Brucia bench, which has an upholstered seat and is one of my go-tos for anything multi-functional. If you want people to sit on it, it’s got to be comfortable. Bouclé is super on trend right now, comfortable and works beautifully on an item like a bench. So if you want something a bit more modern, the Briar bench is a great option which also looks quite elegant placed at the foot of your bed.”

When it comes to kitchens, Munger recommends streamlining your culinary clutter.

“Kitchens are such high-traffic, high-use areas that it’s always a challenge not to have items stack up on counters — especially if your cabinet space is limited,” she says. “We use our kitchens so much that it’s sometimes hard to notice how seriously cluttered they’ve become. For kids’ art or important reminders you want to display beyond digitally, I’m a big fan of your mother’s old trick of Scotch tape on the fridge. Get it off the counter and onto a wall somewhere.”

Bottles of liquor or nonalcoholic spirits or mixers can take up a lot of space, especially after the holidays, and it’s amazing how much can fit in a bar cart. There are a ton of great options out there that will multiply your counter space immediately. Some are open; others have an armoire-like design. Even a low-profile addition like the Perrier Bar Cart, which is a classic bar cart with wheels, can be a great piece to help clear space. We’ve also seen a lot of customers combine it with plant storage. For something more substantial, the Cheney Bar Cabinet has a great, midcentury ‘Mad Men’ vibe and has plenty of room including a fold-down surface area for mixing drinks.”

Barnard adds, “Reorganizing is one of the simplest and best ways to make your home feel more open, functional and refreshed. Taking time to tidy and develop new systems will help minimize clutter and create more space to enjoy. Organizing can also make time and opportunity for updates like rotating toss pillows or swapping out linens and textiles to introduce new colors and patterns to the home throughout the year.”

Wall upgrades

“It’s amazing what artwork can do, and you absolutely don’t need to break the bank to make a wall look fabulous,” Munger points out. “A gallery wall looks a lot harder to do than it actually is, and there are plenty of tutorials on social media to get you started. You can throw kids’ artwork, photos, album covers, concert posters or even pages from an old magazine into a collection of inexpensive frames to create a cohesive, eye-catching collection. Opt for matter frames and avoid images on glossy paper for a more elegant look.”

For those who are feeling more adventurous, Munger recommends some fantastic eclectic wallpapers from places like Chasing paper, which can create an incredibly luxe feel and can often be installed with peel and stick.

Indulge in comfort

“In my opinion, inviting and comfortable is synonymous with luxurious,” Munger says. “You can easily update your space in this way with new throws and pillows. It’s amazing what a difference a pop of color, some new texture and a bit of fringe can do to an older sofa or chair. Plus, there’s nothing more inviting than a soft new blanket. Some of my favorites to create layers of textures are the Candace Throw Blanket, Onyx Throw Pillow and Everly Camel Velvet Pillow.”

Give your items new life

“Refreshing existing items can be an excellent way to update the home without investing in new items,” Barnard says. “Reupholstering a favorite chair, painting a table (or stripping paint and staining) can give the home a new look. Replacing the legs or feet of dressers and tables, and hardware like knobs and handles, can be a small change with a big visual impact.”

Sourcing pieces

When it comes to finding the perfect pieces for your home, there are many different options, from vintage shopping to furniture rentals. Peltier says visiting local showrooms is the best way to see items in person and assess their quality.

“Of course, the internet has brought all kinds of manufacturers and vendors to anyone’s fingertips, but it can easily feel overwhelming,” Peltier says. “If you’re looking to see good-quality items in person, tap into your local showrooms. For example, our showroom in San Marino has wonderful fabrics, décor and accessories that are perfect for any room refresh.”

Barnard is also a big fan of buying vintage and shopping local.

“Many high-quality vintage items are available at a lower price than their contemporary counterparts,” Barnard says. “In addition to often having financial benefits, buying vintage items is a sustainable way to make home updates. Vintage shopping usually involves more organic browsing than when buying new, which may lead to more opportunities to stumble upon unexpected items for innovative design. Many artist fairs may also feature craftspeople who offer furnishings and décor for specialty items made locally.

When shopping online or through distant shops, many people neglect to factor in shipping, handling and assembly costs, which may minimize any perceived deals from shopping from these locations. Buying from local vendors can help save on shipping costs and offer more flexibility when purchasing items. Local craftspeople or artisans may be more likely to provide support or customization, which can make a big difference in long-term costs. While upfront pricing may not always be less, building relationships with local artisans may be beneficial when the pieces eventually need repair or updating and can avoid the need to replace certain items.”

Another option that doesn’t always immediately come to mind is renting furniture. Munger says that she came to Fernish because she believes that rental furniture is the future.

“There’s so much waste and expense in moving, and I love the idea of finding pieces that work for as long as you need them and returning them when you move or your tastes change,” Munger says. “Because our model is about refurbishment and reuse, I’m a big fan of vintage pieces and have found some of my favorite pieces that are a little more unique that way. 

Most people might not know that like fast fashion, fast furniture creates a tremendous amount of landfill waste. Nearly 10 million tons of furniture end up in landfills every year. We need to break ourselves of the habit of buying cheap, disposable items that won’t last and end up curbside. We do a year-end report every year, and in 2022 we’ll have saved 522 tons of furniture from landfills with people choosing rental over buying that’s equal to the weight of the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood Sign and an airplane combined.”

Munger shares that there are five main aspects to furniture: upfront cost, delivery, assembly, moving and flexibility. In terms of upfront cost, with Fernish you are only paying for the item for as long as you need it, and Fernish also offers free delivery in as soon as seven days and free assembly.

“In 2022 we saved customers $3.1 million on delivery fees and $400,000 on assembly,” Munger says. “Moving furniture, once you get past the age of bribing a friend with a truck, pizza and beer, is expensive and one of the most arduous tasks to deal with at a time in your life when you are going through a lot of change. If you are living in a market we service, we’ll move your Fernish items for you. We also have free three-day swaps, so if you bring something home and decide for whatever reason it doesn’t work, we’ll take it back. 

The other big piece is flexibility. With more people working remotely and especially Gen Z and the rise of the digital nomad, more and more people can work from anywhere. That leads to some pretty tremendous flexibility, great experiences, and lots of time to experiment and try out different places you may want to live. There’s an incredible simplicity in renting for as long as you need it and returning when you don’t. You get to be comfortable and flexible.”

Finding inspiration

For those in need of ideas and inspiration when giving their home a refresh, Peltier looks to various sources including magazines, Pinterest and Instagram.

“Design inspiration is everywhere,” Peltier says. “Instagram is great for beautiful photos and different themes for spaces. Pinterest is also amazing for browsing product ideas as well as beautiful photos.”

In addition to designer portfolios, design magazines and antique stores, Barnard also loves to look outside of traditional design venues for home inspiration.

“Seeing images of designed interiors can be inspiring for envisioning different layouts or combinations that would not have been previously considered,” Barnard says. “Seeing the familiar silhouette of a favorite chair in a new context while flipping through a design magazine may spark ideas. On walks, hikes or in the garden, there may be a color, texture or pattern that is striking or beautiful, and finding ways to replicate that in the home can be an exciting and enjoyable process. Looking at art can also be a great source of inspiration for considering colors, patterns or textures that work in harmonious and surprising ways. Seeking unexpected sources of inspiration may lead to more exciting or unpredictable design solutions for the home.”

Munger is also a big fan of Google Lens as another source for design inspiration. 

“You can literally search anything you see and it will guide you to shop for it,” Munger says “The accuracy of the technology is just incredible, and it opens up tremendous possibilities in terms of how you can bring what inspires you into your living room. In my experience, if you see something you like anywhere — someone’s home, a restaurant, etc. — people are very flattered, and if they remember, they are usually more than happy to let you know where they got it.

“Social media is also a great place for inspiration and ideas, so I follow a lot of interior designers on Instagram, like @chrislovesjulia, Kate Marker Interiors and @studiodiy. I also use TikTok to search for items I’m thinking about, like ‘storage bench,’ and you can find all kinds of great ideas including relatively easy DIY solutions.”

Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home


Sarah Barnard

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