You’re finally ready to leave the Dark Ages (the “Brown Phase”) and update to a lighter, fresher color palette anchored by white, cream, or gray.  Hurray!  Time to do some easy redecorating, just to get the ball rolling, and then you can plan on bigger-picture stuff.

As we discussed earlier, limiting yourself to a fresh-but-classic palette of whites, cream, and grays will practically guarantee success.  What should you start with?

I’ll begin with some easy redecorating steps that are budget-friendly to boot.  Well, I say they’re easy… the hardest part may be convincing yourself or your spouse that it’s okay to get rid of something that cost a pretty penny once upon a time.  But if it has outlived its usefulness and no longer brings you joy, it has to go.  And if you see yourself (or something you own) in these photos, please don’t be offended!  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do… but if you update, I promise you’ll be glad you did.  🙂

Easy Redecorating, Step One: Get rid of “Brown-Phase Clutter”!

  • Take down ALL fake ivy throughout your home – over your kitchen cabinets, in the corners around your tub, tucked into your bookshelves.  Donate or trash these offenders:

Example to eliminate fake ivy clutter

  • Eliminate any accessories that feature the old-school accent colors used in the Brown Phase, like burgundy or deep gold.  This means getting rid of that expensive silk flower arrangement with the dark red flowers, and the bronze embroidered runner than it sits on.  You do want to update, don’t you?  (cheeky grin)

too much fake ivy clutter

  • While you’re at it, get rid of those wrought iron scrollwork “accent pieces”!  Like these…  They were “in” once, but not any more.


brown bath with scrollwork

Stop the madness!

  • Take down any heavy draperies, especially valances.  I know they seemed like the epitome of lushness and elegance at one time, but heavy drapes are out of style, and no one does valances any more, period.  This is bad news for the drapery workrooms of the world, but good news for the rest of us, who no longer have to spend an arm and a leg for custom window treatments.  I know you paid quite a bit for yours, but now they’re just holding you back.  Bonus:  your home will seem much lighter and more open without them!  If you need privacy, go with simple panels in lighter tones, or shutters or shades.  You can spot several categories of offenders here, from heavy drapes to fake ivy to burgundy accents:

  heavy draperies


  • This next one is emotionally easier:  replace all your tan lamp shades with new ones in white or cream!  And don’t get the old bell-shaped or flared style.  Lamp shades now are straight-sided, like simple drum shapes or rectangles.  In this picture below, I’d remove the ivy, replace the lampshade with a cream one, and put in cream or off-white candles.  The table is pretty enough.  Paint out the brown walls, and you’re practically updated already!

brown lampshade table vignette

  • Review your artwork with a critical eye, especially any prints.  Do they look like they belong in a hotel hallway?  Out they go!  If you’re keeping any favorites, update the mats to a fresh off-white or cream.  No tan or burgundy mats, please!  Here’s what I mean by prints that have got to go:

brown artwork

more old artwork  outdated artwork


(Have you seen enough brown walls, fake ivy, iron scrollwork and cheesy artwork to last you a lifetime now??)

At this point, most of the “brown phase clutter” should be gone!!

I know I said all this was simple, easy redecorating, but you haven’t done much “redecorating” yet except to declutter.  Until you do that, though, you can’t bring in anything fresh and new  –  where it actually gets fun!   The decluttering was probably painful and exhausting, but your space should be looking noticeably lighter and brighter now.  Give yourself a pat on the back – this was the hardest part, emotionally!

Live with the openness for a while.  Yes, it’ll feel like there’s a lot more empty space on your walls.  That’s okay – interiors are much more streamlined and “breathable” now.   You know how you see the word “curated” everywhere?  It just means that you only display the most meaningful and beautiful, carefully selected items.  Don’t fill space just to fill it!  Too little is better than too much… and probably won’t seem like “too little” to anyone else.

The next step involves replacing some of the larger pieces and doing some bigger-impact changes.

Here’s where you’ll start spending a bit more, and moving from “easy redecorating” to a more thoughtful, planned update.  I know I have a “vested interest”, owning a painting company and all that, but I’m always going to recommend painting  as the first step, once you’ve decluttered.  The simple reason is that your walls and ceilings (and in a kitchen, your cabinets) are the biggest surface area in your home, and painting provides the greatest bang for your decorating buck.  That’s really why Peter and I love doing this… we live for seeing the before-and-after impact that a fresh paint job will bring!  I’ll list some fail-safe paint color favorites in a later post, and of course it’s always a good idea to get a color consultation.

Once you’ve decluttered and painted, you may find that’s enough to give you the update you wanted.  But if you’re still surrounded by brown in your furnishings or are ready for “phase 2”, I’ll list the next steps to take in my next post.

Happy Updating!  🙂