"The Big Refresh" by Lyn Peterson

I know, I know. It seems counterintuitive. This is the time of year I should be layering up for fall—adding cozy throws and comfy pillows. But this year, somehow, I find I am stripping away. Well, maybe not so much actual removing but rather tidying, organizing, collating, editing, refreshing. The three grey urns that rested atop a console have been swapped out for a single black almost sculptural vase. Somehow with summer and its memorabilia gone, and more time spent indoors, I find I am looking at my interiors with a cold discerning eye—and thinking, hmmmm, I can do better.

And I find my customers are feeling the same way. It’s not so much about the big redo but rather about making what is—better. I’m aiming for immaculate. I’ll settle for pristine.

Here are some things on my, and maybe your, refresh list.


Let’s start at the front door. Stop bandaiding the foot wipe situation with a series of postage-stamped size doormats. Update and upgrade with a nice one—the polypropelene versions from Motif, Dash and Albert, etc all are stain-resistant. Bigger is always better. Get a 3 x 5 or even a 4 x 6. Be generous. And it doesn’t need to be generic. Pattern works. But not all indoor/outdoor rugs are created equal. The lightweight polypropelene versions buckle and won’t stand up to the daily detritus. The newer PET rugs lie flat and can take a beating. Interesting fact— they’re made of recycled plastic bottles. I.e. indestructible.


Kristin, who lives in a colonial farmhouse, took a fresh look at her family room photo wall, finally acknowledging she had a second child (previously under-represented, photographically at least). We rehung the wall with the feel of a gallery, layering in generations of family-all in black and white or sepia. (Home Fair can convert a photo to b&w or sepia and they also do a great job of resurrecting tattered old photos.) Simple black frames—coordinated but not matching, came from Home Fair as well. We also added a wall-to-wall shelf flush left, flush right in an uncomfortably recessed sofa alcove. The shelf, a simple 1 x 12 piece of pre-primed wood with an added 1.5” lip, was an off-the-rack find at the Depot. It’s a big wow. Kristin’s boys have already layered it up with action heroes and special Lego projects. A modern art installation of sorts.


First, let’s talk bulbs. In just this one instance, I suggest gross overbuying—different wattages (dimmable and three-way), temperatures (cool to warm to soft), diffusions (clear to Edison to frosted). You will never have the exactly right combo unless you have an incredible amount of excess on hand. I stock up at Foleys and Depot. And while you’re at it, pick up plenty of candles. I say this as a generator-less homeowner who has lost power three times in the last month. A week doesn’t go by that we don’t light a beautiful array of scentless white and ivory candles. (After all, I was once the National Candle Association spokesperson.) Both Foleys and Michaels have great inventory.


I am finding a bunch of flowers just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I loved the wildflowers of summer, but the storebought bouquets out now leave me cold. Too arranged and predictable. Rather I prefer foraging. A branch, a beautiful perfect branch. First with leaves, later perhaps barren and architectural. Susan, in a beautiful classic Tudor, has
a distinctive beauty on her mantle in a colored cut-glass vase. Back in the day I cut an oversized fellow, sprayed silver and used on my front porch to create a holiday moment.


I’ve long preached the pleasures of a gas fireplace. But in my country house, it turns out there was no chimney. So, I caved and got an electric model to insert in my chimney-less fireplace. And I bet you can guess the upshot. I am in LOVE. It draws less electricity than a toaster, throws off heat and light, and is intimate and cozy. Every weekend sleepover with my grandchildren starts in in front of the “fire” for sweet tea and Paw Patrol. My longtime client Judy just got a sleek version for her new apartment. There was no mantle, but we built a simple box, a sort of pseudo-firebox, and inserted a cool contemporary version. The architect is bragging on it and the painters and electricians are all talking about it. Sometimes a room just plain needs a focal point. It doesn’t have to be perfect—as the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good. But when something is simple and stylish and the best it can be, I’d say it’s good enough.

Lyn Peterson, designer, author, mother of four and all round busy body is president of Motif Designs, Mamaroneck, NY.

Follow Lyn on Instagram, Facebook , and Twitter and visit lynpeterson.com.