Different cultures welcome springtime in different ways.
The Chinese celebrate Spring Festival (also known as Chinese New Year) as their most important festive event of the year, similar to Western Christmas. Families gather, exchange gifts and share food and drink. The color red, embellished with gold, in addition to lights, fireworks and symbols of good luck, serve to wish everyone wealth and a bountiful new season.
In Japan, cherry blossoms with clouds of tender pink buds herald the arrival of spring.
In Europe (predominantly Germany and Russia), mothers and children collect eggshells for the traditional painting of Easter eggs, a ritual that marks the beginning of spring.
I remember it well. We racked our brains to come up with recipes that included lots of eggs so that we could harvest the eggshell as a whole. The trick is to bore the tiniest hole in the bottom of the egg, but it has to be big enough so that you can blow the raw egg out into a bowl.
Then we washed and dried the fragile shells. As soon as we had a good amount, we began one of our most beloved activities: painting and decorating the eggs with fabric trims, glitter and beads. We hung the finished product artfully on a bundle of pussy-willow branches.
Don’t you love it, when the days are lighter, the sun brighter and the air warmer? Spring holds the promise of summer. We stow the winter blankets. We take deep breaths and feel energized.
And we are inspired to undertake some spring-cleaning – or maybe not. Following are tips to get the winter blues out of the house.
Start with one room only, heeding my advice to work from small to bigger projects. Buy a large, white file box from an office-supply store and fill it with decorative items from your chosen room – anything that covers horizontal surfaces. You might need two or three boxes – don’t hesitate to go for it, because you can always replace some of the items. When you’ve finished packing, look around the space and note your response. I bet it feels good. Label the box and put it in storage for the time being.
Reward yourself with a big bunch of spring flowers in your favorite colors. Distribute them in three different sized and shaped vases around the room. For example, find a tall flared vase, a medium tall globe-shaped vase and a short bud vase, cutting the stems accordingly.
Nothing changes a room’s mood as quickly as a couple of coats of paint in a wonderful color. There’s no better way to get the most bang for your buck.
For inspiration, visit www.benjaminmoore.com, a site chock-full of product knowledge, advice and ideas. Click “Explore Color,” then “Get Inspired.” Check out the link “Wall Tattoos” for stylish stencils that are available for purchase online.
Before you paint, test the color(s) in your room. Benjamin Moore stores sell many paint colors in small jars, so you can make your own swatches. Ask for brush-out paper – sometimes the store has large brush-out sheets available for purchase. South Bay Paints (www.southbaypaints.com) sells some colors in large samples, so there’s no need to paint swatches.
Tape the swatches on your walls and live with them for a couple of days. Observe the colors in different lights before selecting the final color.
Another effective way to change a room’s look and feel is to slipcover sofas and chairs in white or cream cotton duck or linen. This American tradition protects upholstery from sweaty hands during hot summer days.
Purchase fun pillows with bold patterns and colors to toss on your sofa. Voila! Spring has moved into your home with a fresh breeze.
Updating or adding crown moldings, window/door jambs and baseboards offers your room another layer of sophistication, much like a frame for a painting.
You may want to go even further and change the bare bones of your space: moving walls, raising the ceiling or adding niches, doorways, windows and more. Such an extensive overhaul calls for careful planning to avoid costly mistakes and achieve the look you want.
Invest in professional help – hire an interior designer. The American Society of Interior Designers’ Web site (www.asid.org) allows you to scroll through designers’ portfolios and review their approaches to design work.
Magdalena Bogart is an interior designer who works in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. For more information, visit magdalenabogartinteriors.com.