Home & Garden

January great time to rethink your space

Across America, we're busy stowing Santas, putting away menorahs and dragging dried-out Christmas trees to the curb.

In living rooms and dining rooms nationwide, tables and chairs are being nudged back into their normal, pre-holiday positions.

But what if everything didn't have to go back into its usual spot?

January is the perfect time to rethink your living space. After you've put away all the holiday decorations, says interior designer Janine Carendi, "you can look at the same space with a new perspective, which is what the new year is all about."

"What are the things that are cluttering the space?" asks Carendi. "It's a good time to take stock, to ask whether that extra side chair should really be there."

Out with the old

Be bold, Carendi says: If you decide later that you've taken away too much, you can always put a few pieces back.

Meanwhile, the items you've removed can find new life in other rooms.

This purging and swapping out is a relatively simple and cost-free process. But, says designer Mallory Mathison, many people are uncomfortable at the idea of shaking up a familiar layout.

Her solution?

Bring in a fresh pair of eyes. "Put everything in the center of the room and get a friend to come over, or your mom, someone who doesn't live with it every day."

Swap meet

One easy place to start: the walls. Designer Brian Flynn often encourages clients to move their art from one room to another.

Flynn suggests mixing art of varying sizes and shapes, pairing pieces you've never displayed together before. This also works well with furniture.

Think big

Don't just move small things. All three designers suggest trying new locations for the major pieces that anchor a room.

By changing a room's focal point, Carendi says, you can also give the space a new purpose.

If most of your furniture is lining the walls, try moving some pieces further out into the room.

And don't forget to look outside, says Flynn. Outdoor tables or chairs that you pressed into service during the holidays might be worth keeping inside.

Of course, he says, "if it's something that's from Wal-Mart, like those stackable chairs, it won't work. But if it's made of iron or faux bamboo, you can ask, will they play with your existing set?"

In with the new?

Once you're done purging and reconfiguring, decide whether you want to go shopping for just one or two new pieces. "The deals that are out there right now are incredible," Carendi says. "I haven't seen sales like this ever."

But if buying new throw pillows will keep you from moving the sofa around, Carendi says, it might actually be better to skip the purchase. The changes you make with your existing furniture might be much more inspired than what you'd do with new things.

"This economy limits your purchasing," she says, "but it can also make you more creative."