10 things that are making your home ugly and how to fix them
We've gathered 10 great tips to elevate your space from dowdy to dreamy.
When it comes to our personal appearance, we usually know what’s making us – we won’t say ugly – a little less confident than usual, and we know the fix. A ragged nail means it’s time to dig out the file and clippers. Chipped polish means it’s time to freshen up that manicure. Unruly hair calls for a visit to the hairstylist or barbershop. And so it goes.
But in our homes we can sometimes forget the little things that make a big, stylish impression. Ironically, it’s quite often small, changeable things that can make a big impact and elevate a room from dowdy to dreamy.
We’ve seen dated (and we mean seriously dated) apartment rentals go glam with the addition of the right paint, sofa and accessories. We’ve seen boring boxy bedrooms come to life with a beautiful DIY headboard and fresh new bedding. We’ve seen entrances go from messy to marvellous. It can be done, but you’ve got to be ruthless in tackling the ugly with elbow grease and a little ingenuity to make way for fresh, clean style.
Shoes all over the floor, torn-open mail (utility bills, of course) strewn about, keys and random bits and bobs like lost buttons, and empty gadget boxes on your entryway console are just plain ugly. The fix: The entryway is supposed to be a welcome and tidy place, which is good news. All you really need to do above all else is tidy things up, which doesn’t take that long. It also doesn’t cost anything to neatly line up shoes, recycle boxes and envelopes, and give a console and entryway a dusting. A clean entryway with everything in its place is a must.
Chances are your bedroom walls are in pretty good nick, they are typically low-traffic areas and the paint can stay impeccable for years. But in the living room and dining room and particularly the kitchen, that is not usually the case. If you think walls with dirty streaks or scratches from chairs don’t look that bad, think again. They’re really taking your home’s looks down a notch. Walls also include light switch covers, and nothing is uglier than visible dirt around them. The fix: For a little bit of dirt or grime or even oil, sometimes a good cleaning is all that’s needed. Many paints can stand up to being washed with cleaners, but you can check with a paint store or you can spot test before you try cleaning it up. If the dirt, marks and gouges are everywhere, there’s no getting around it, it’s time for a paint job. Fresh paint makes a vintage-inspired home look fresh and new.
Isn’t it funny how just about anything you bake or roast smells great, from cakes to vegetables, whereas anything you fry, even if it’s as yummy as donuts, smells pretty terrible? And let’s not even get into pet odours. Unwanted smells get into your upholstery, from drapes to sofas to rugs, and the worst part is sometimes you get used to them so you can’t even detect them. Ask a family member or a very honest friend to give you his or her unvarnished opinion on what they smell at your home. The fix: If you’ve got lingering food, pet or just stale smells going on in your home, you’ve got a few fixes available. More often than not, food smells need to be rectified by investing in a good, outdoor-venting fan over the cooktop. Of course, that’s not always possible in which case you’ll have to be diligent in airing out the kitchen by opening windows after you’ve been cooking. Need a quick cover up for a cocktail party? Try a home fragrance solution.
Whether it’s souvenirs, memorabilia, or just random stuff you’ve collected over the years, your collection of objects might be too much, and it might be making your shelves, bookcases and mantel ugly. The fix: Editing is easier said than done, so try boxing up the items on your busy shelf or mantel and live with it for a week. Then decide what you truly miss and what just needs to be put in storage or given away. The living room shelf in Ann Marie Favot’s home is strikingly simple in all-white.
You know when your bathroom is dingy and needs renovating, and is just plain ugly – we don’t need to give you a blow-by-blow account here. But don’t worry, we’re also not going to tell you to renovate your bathroom. Truth is, we’ve seen bathrooms in rental apartments go from grungy to glam, all with the help of a deep clean and carefully chosen accessories. The fix: Clean, clean and clean some more. That means grout, fixtures, floors and walls. Once that’s done, really step back and assess what’s making everything dingy. If it’s a dark space, think about getting a fresh white shower curtain and towels and even a white orchid to enliven the room. Hide all unnecessary bottles and toothpaste containers and everything else while you’re at it and you’ll see how much better the space looks. Your bathroom might never be as glamazonian as this one, but you can help it along by keeping it tidy and choosing crisp white towels.
If you watch home renovation TV shows, you’ll know that outdated kitchens are always high on an owner’s must-destroy list. And yes, they can be really ugly and detract from a home. But a renovation isn’t always in the cards or budget, in which case, you’ll have to figure out how to live with cabinetry and surfaces that have seen better days. The fix: Embrace the kitchen for what it is: you’re not going to make a super-modern kitchen out of a 1960s-era setup. So if it’s vintage-y or cottage-y right now, find a way to enhance that charm. Paint ugly wood cabinetry. Make the best of an old countertop by making it sparkling clean. Add some bright and coordinated accessories, et voila. Painted cabinetry adds immense charm to a cottage kitchen.
A bedroom, especially in new-build homes, tends to be a basic, bland white box. The reasons for this are often practical – a plain box of a room will be easy to place a bed in (no weird angles) with plenty of room left over for side tables and a dresser or drawers. But yes, it can be rather blah and lackluster. The fix: If the walls are white you don’t even have to paint them, you can work with this most versatile of shades. The secret is texture. A tufted headboard, patterned bedspread and layered textiles will bring the beauty to a bedroom. Textures and layers contribute to a stylish, fresh and airy bedroom.
There is a certain aesthetic that makes bare walls the best choice, but for many other homes, it just makes it look like you’ve never really moved in. And looking like you are about to flee the premises is never an attractive quality in a home. The fix: You can’t go wrong in terms of satisfaction if you stick to displaying art and photography that means something to you. How to do it artfully is another matter. When in doubt, stick to frames of the same colour and type (the size can differ), but if you’re more adventurous (and your decor is too) create a display wall of mismatched frames. A collection of antique maps was deliberately framed and matted differently in this gallery.
Has your dining room become a catch-all for everything in your home? Gifts piled up for weeks waiting to be wrapped. Your desktop computer and work papers setting up residence. If making your home beautiful is high on your priority list, it’s time to rethink this strategy. There’s a reason you don’t see dining rooms in the pages of decor magazines all covered with half-empty shopping bags, bills, car keys and stray electronic chargers. It’s because it’s ugly. The fix: You need to make some hard decisions, but they’re not necessarily expensive or tough-to-execute ones. Firstly, you’ll want to move that desktop computer off your dining table – which might mean putting it in the kitchen or bedroom, or trading it for a laptop. Think about why junk is accumulating on your dining room table and fix the underlying causes. It’s as simple as that. A dedicated dining room table is an inviting and relaxing space.
A backyard is a place to have some fun and get comfortable, so if yours is too basic and boring, it’s doing your entire home a disservice. If you have rickety aluminum folding chairs that are always ready to snap shut while you’re sitting on them, or worse, cheap white plastic ones that are suitable for your first post-college apartment, it’s time to step up your game. The fix: Mostly any backyard, even the smallest, can accommodate a stylish pair of outdoor chairs and a stool that can take a turn as a side table. If budget is an issue, midsummer is usually a great time to sweep up steep deals on outdoor furnishings. This beautiful Toronto backyard also serves as an outdoor living room.
Add this sweet apricot-glaze to tonights pork tenderloin dinner.
Add this sweet apricot-glaze to tonights pork tenderloin dinner.
Give your usual pork tenderloin dinner an update by adding a sweet and savoury apricot-glaze.
1 In a small saucepan, stir together the jam, mustard and maple syrup.
2 Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
3 Remove 3 tablespoons of the glaze to a small bowl and set aside.
4 Sprinkle the pork with the salt and pepper; brush all over with the glaze.
5 Place the pork on a greased grill over medium-high heat; cook, turning occasionally and brushing with some of the reserved glaze during the last minute of cooking time, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 160 ̊F, about 18 minutes.
6 Meanwhile, add the apricots to the grill, cut side down; cook, turning frequently and brushing with the remaining reserved glaze, until the fruit is softened and caramelized, about 5 minutes.
7 Remove the pork and apricots from the grill; let the pork stand for 5 minutes before slicing.
8 Sprinkle with the basil and sage and serve.
Take a tour of this cabin-in-the-woods style home.
Take a tour of this cabin-in-the-woods style home.Credits: Carina Olander
An affinity for the outdoors inspired this Swedish couple to create a bright and snug home with a cabin-in-the-woods vibe.
Karin Nilsson and Kristoffer Green live in a cozy, light-filled 1,600-square-foot home on Sweden’s Gotland island with their baby and dog. The couple carefully chose this house near the village of Hemse as much for its proximity to the Baltic Sea as for its nearness to amenities like schools and recreational facilities. Since moving here, Karin and Kristoffer have created a warm and inviting space, complete with white-painted gypsum plaster walls, black window frames and whitewashed herringbone floors, and outfitted it with natural materials and family heirlooms. Here are the top takeaways from this rustic retreat by the sea.
Nestled beside the fireplace of this Scandi-rustic home is a built-in nook holding firewood. It lends warmth and texture to the white wall and is always stocked to help heat up cool nights spent relaxing on the sofa.
Bright and white with doses of black and organic touches, the entryway sets the decorative theme for the rest of the house. The homeowners cleverly repurposed found items into functional organizers, such as the wooden pallet that was transformed into a radiator cover and the drapery rod they converted into a coat rack using rope and hooks.
Homeowners Kristoffer Green and Karin Nilsson (pictured) make the most of their rural locale, whether they’re sourcing food from the nearby farmers’ market or heading to the beach for a long walk with their dog.
The kitchen’s clean-lined IKEA cabinetry is complemented by edgy industrial accents like the pendant lights and stools. A wooden tongue-and-groove backsplash adds a rustic element that’s in keeping with the rest of the home.
The dining room demonstrates Karin and Kristoffer’s knack for blending old and new, using natural materials and creating interest by contrasting black and white elements. Here, inherited pieces sit alongside secondhand finds and newly purchased accessories and artwork, while the black-painted window frame draws the eye to the exterior view.
The space’s white and black envelope is softened with natural materials, such as wood, stone, leather and hemp. In the dining room, a gnarled branch leaning against a wall looks like an effortless organic sculpture.
One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.
One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.Credits: Ashley Capp
A resourceful designer with a knack for all things DIY creates a cozy and contemporary space for her family of four.
For the design inclined, recognizing beautiful pieces is easy enough, but the real decorating challenge comes from knowing how to fit all the elements together in a harmonious way. Designer Sarah Walker has this down to a science. Last year, the reno expert transformed her Oakville, Ont., home’s uninspiring family room into a sophisticated space boasting symmetry and style. “I wanted a modern yet classic room that balances the masculine and feminine qualities of our family,” she says, referring to her husband, Graham, and two boys (Noah, 13, and Tate, 2). Having already installed the hardwood flooring and built-in wall unit with her husband five years prior, Sarah’s next order of business was the furniture layout. “I always pictured this space having a pair of sofas facing each other,” says the designer. “I love the conversational quality the set-up brings to a room.”
So she traded in her existing brown sectional for two handsome black velvet sofas and added a geometric-print rug to further delineate the sitting area. This design choice drew her toward a timeless marble herringbone tile treatment for the fireplace, which echoes the graphic quality of the rug but on a smaller scale (with budget top of mind, Sarah and Graham even installed the tile themselves). Other subtle additions to the fireplace like the contrasting white mantel and the curved screen enhance the unit’s bold and beautiful aesthetic. Next up was deciding what to make of an empty alcove set in the wall opposite the fireplace. In an act of creative daring, the deft DIYer transformed the space into a stylish office nook. Sarah began by making an elegant-meets-edgy pin board out of embossed reptile-patterned velvet fabric and then punctuated the look with antiqued brass nails before adding a floating desk and shelf. “The pin board blends in well with the room’s ikat wallpaper but still makes a visual statement that anchors the work area,” she says. After mastering the layout, the designer reinforced the room’s romantic and rustic feel with tasteful details like luxurious sheepskin pieces and natural wooden elements, ensuring each family member feels equally at home. “We spend just as much time here as we did before,” says Sarah, “but now we enjoy it 10 times as much.” That’s all the evidence we need that this master curator has done it again.
Since this family of four has a penchant for the outdoors, the designer incorporated nature-inspired finds, such as the large print depicting a foggy forest hanging above the fireplace. “The image reminds me of being in the woods and escaping the everyday,” says Sarah. She had the piece stretched onto canvas and then resined to deliver more of an ethereal effect.
Sarah and her husband upgraded their fireplace with a striking custom herringbone tile treatment.
The custom white oak coffee table lends an organic vibe to the family room and calls attention to the tall stack of logs tucked into the wall unit. “With a wood-burning fireplace, you want the logs to be close by so you’re not dragging bark everywhere,” says designer and homeowner Sarah Walker. “The display also has visual impact and adds warmth.”
For Sarah, a beautifully styled bookshelf relies on meaning just as much as placement and scale. “It’s important to tell your story through your space,” she says, referring to objects she added that were collected over time, from a sea urchin found in a quirky San Francisco shop to a sepia sketch purchased on the streets of Paris during her first trip there with her husband.
Playing with contrasting shapes, Sarah created a chic coffee table vignette using curved accents, including a vintage silver tray and a faceted black vase, to temper the sharp edges of the surface. “Bringing in round, soft elements is really important when you’re working with a room that has a lot of hard geometry,” says the designer.
Fashioning an inspiring and orderly work area came easily to Sarah thanks in part to location. “When a communal workspace is integrated into a kitchen, it winds up becoming a clutter collector,” she says. “But in the family room, it’s a bit more removed from that initial drop of mail and keys.”