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.
A kitchen boasting restaurant-design pedigree
Trendy meets traditional in this family home built from scratch.
Homeowner Tanya Krpan (pictured here) saved on accessories by loading the family room sectional with an assortment of ready-made toss cushions.
Tanya isn’t afraid to play with negative space, as seen in the home’s grand entryway. “Normally, you’d expect a mirror or big piece of art hanging above the wainscotting,” she says. Leaving the wall blank and layering small pieces on the console allows the millwork to shine.
Black casement windows and decorative accents create contrast in the neutral space. Tanya scored the vintage coffee table when her office was being redecorated.
The family room’s classic-cool mix feels right for a young family.
The kitchen, of course, is the true star of the show. Tanya’s restaurant-design pedigree shines through in the room’s floor-to-ceiling tiles, mix of open and closed storage and high-end appliances. She opted for white Shaker-style cabinetry and warmed up the space with a walnut island and brass hardware statement lighting and fixtures.
Another bistro-inspired touch was her choice of dark honed-limestone tiles for most of the main floor. “The tile grounds the space since there’s an abundance of white everywhere,” Tanya explains. “And it’s proven great for hiding dirt.”
Everything in the Krpans’ home is designed for everyday life and entertaining, from the large sectional in the family room to the round tables in the dining room and the kitchen’s eat-in area. “It’s more social to sit at a round table,” says Tanya. “You see everyone’s faces.”
Cabinets with glass doors allow Tanya to display her favourite serving pieces and special glassware. She had the back of the kitchen cabinets tiled to highlight this focal point of the kitchen.
Tanya and Jure – with their sons, Ivan, 3, and Cruz, 2 – have recently welcomed a baby girl named Belle.
The living room’s crisp white, grey and black scheme gets an energy boost from fresh greenery, pops of pink and plenty of pattern – check out the Moroccan-style rug, the ikat-print and chevron-patterned toss cushions and the graphic stool fabric.
To offset the costs of the more expensive permanent elements, Tanya was meticulous with her decorating budget. She incorporated secondhand pieces, such as the family room coffee table, and sourced inexpensive art for the living room mantel. Affordable colourful accessories add youthful edginess to the living spaces. “I love the femininity that the splashes of pink add to the living room and family room,” she says. “Plus, by the time I got to the decorating, I was living with three boys!”
In the dining room, Tanya likes the juxtaposition of the modern Sputnik-inspired chandelier with the traditional coffered ceiling. The artwork was a DIY project Tanya and Jure painted together on her 30th birthday.
Though this house has been well loved for years, there’s a sequel in the works: Tanya and Jure are in the process of building a new home. “We’ll keep some of the same elements but go a little more modern in the kitchen,” says Tanya. We’ll definitely stay tuned.
Personalize your wall with $1,000.00 credit to Minted prints!
+ Take an online style quiz
+ Upload photos of your wall or room
+ Access a Minted stylist for professional recommendations and renderings of your wall
Prize Value: $1,079.00
Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.