Hello Spring!

Welcoming in the warm season

Is there anyone who hasn’t caught spring fever?
Vibrant color beckons at the mall, home-furnishing stores and nurseries.
But, if you need a nudge, here are 10 ways to bring the best of spring into your home and garden today:

Reinvent your entryway.

Give the gateway to your home an instant and inexpensive facelift by putting a fresh coat of paint on the front door.

If you’re a trend follower, consider a cool aquamarine or the bold yellow or spring green.

If you’re more traditional, try navy; it’s the new red.

But don’t stop there. Coordinate your new look by adding containers brimming with plants that accent the color, along with a fresh door mat, new house numbers and a wreath.

Replace your lawn.

Sick and tired of mowing, pulling oxalis and drenching the spot where your neighbor’s Dalmatian regularly does her business?

More and more gardeners are turning away from broad expanses of lawn and installing native-plant landscapes that reduce maintenance time and chemical use,
save water and attract a multitude of good guys, including butterflies, birds and beneficial insects.

Landscape designer Alrie Middlebrook is such a convert to the lawnless lifestyle that she has established a division of her business called Lose the Lawn, a marketing and public-outreach campaign. Visit www.losethelawn.com for ideas and inspiration.

Punch up your sofa.

The home-décor magazines scream with color this time of year. But if you’re not quite ready for chartreuse walls or a bright pink rug, get comfy with color by adding it in small doses.

Throw pillows in tropical colors can give a room an instant lift. This season, you can find a rainbow of accessories at any price point.

Or, if you’re crafty, visit your favorite fabric store and sew your own covers.
Plant a cutting garden.

You know how a simple vase of fresh-cut flowers lifts a room—and your spirits.
Make this the year you dedicate a small area of your yard, or a grouping of containers, to growing blooms you can enjoy indoors.

Luckily, some of the longest-lasting cut flowers also are the easiest to grow.
For example, alstroemeria produces masses of bloom from late spring through early fall and can be found in cheery pinks, reds and apricots.

Coreopsis will reward you from summer to fall with yellow, orange, maroon or reddish flowers that resemble little sunflowers.

Other good choices: statice, in blues, purples and whites; and Echinacea (coneflower), which can be found in purples, pinks and white.

Install new cabinet hardware.

Used to be, you had to spend an arm and a leg to get really cool cabinet knobs and drawer pulls.

But today, good design can be found even at discount stores, making it easy to give your kitchen and bathroom a mini makeover.

Look for stainless steel and polished nickel to coordinate with appliances in the kitchen, bold ceramics to transform a powder room and whimsical motifs to put your stamp on a room.

Rearrange the furniture.

Has your living room been set up the same way since, oh, the day you moved in?
Could you wake up to a view of your garden if your bed faced a different window?
Changing the way a room is laid out can bring an instant freshness even to pieces you’ve owned forever.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as pulling the sofa out into the room a bit, or cozying up a couple of chairs to make a more intimate conversational area.

If your bedroom is large enough, try placing the bed on an angle.

The best thing about rearranging furniture is that you can always move it back if you hate the new look.

Plus, if you want a no-sweat preview, there are oodles of software programs that let you create virtual rooms based on the measurements of your rooms and furniture.

The low-tech approach, of course, simply involves graph paper and a pencil.

Make a clean sweep.

Get busy undoing a winter’s worth of cobwebs that are hanging from every rain gutter and window frame.

It’s great exercise, and your home will sparkle when you’re finished.
Safety first, though.

If you must get on a ladder to reach some spots, make sure you’re on solid footing.
Even better, wait to tackle out-of-reach areas when there’s someone around who can spot you. An old broom works pretty well, but try tying an old towel or a T-shirt over the broom’s bristles. The fabric tends to snag the webs nicely.

Organize and pitch.

Wouldn’t it be nice to put your hands on the tool you need, when you need it?

Also, wouldn’t it be great if there were a little more space in your closets, medicine chest or pantry?

Take it one little project at a time, and you’ll be amazed how much progress you can make.

Cutlery organizers easily corral frequently used tools, such as screwdrivers, small hammers, tape measures and scissors.

Use the space under your bed to store out-of-season clothing in zippered or snap-lid containers.

Weed out first-aid items that are past their prime and replace them with new supplies.

Check out container stores and office mega stores for more inspiration.
But, before you invest in any sort of storage “system,” ask yourself: Is this something I need to save?

Maybe that stack of twin-size sheets—unused since the kids moved out of the house or since you moved out of your college dorm—is something you can finally part with.

Contain yourself.

Whether you have a small patio or something a little larger, container gardens are a great way to pack a punch of color.

Nurseries and garden centers are bursting with spring offerings in a riot of hues. Some sell pre-potted color bowls.

Planting your own, however, is a great way to unleash your inner green thumb.
Try mixing primary colors for big pizzazz, or employ soothing pastels to reflect your romantic side.

Choose plants with not only great-looking flowers, but also with interesting foliage.
Before planting, scrub out used pots with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Use fresh, lightweight potting mix formulated for containers and incorporate a little slow-release organic fertilizer.

Revel in the season.

"The biggest bling of spring is simply the season itself. Get outside and see the show; look for wildflowers. Take a picnic lunch. Take a camera and a sketchpad. Take the kids and make it a spring to remember.