It is important that we don't remain static. There must be a constant process of reinvention to keep ourselves excited about life and interested in living it. That goes for our homes, too.
You don't have to spend a fortune. Just switch out your throw pillows periodically or by season. Have plants or silk flower arrangements that you rotate through your various rooms, constantly freshening up the look. You can even rearrange the furniture in your primary gathering room occasionally.
These subtle bits of reinvention keep us vital.
And if you can afford to change your flooring, buy some new furniture or paint your walls, do so occasionally because it gives the psyche more of a lift than you can imagine.
Two Daily Herald readers recently had the opportunity to freshen up their primary gathering rooms and brighten up their lives because they won our Room for Living makeover contest, each winning a makeover prize package valued at more than $10,000 each.
Sharon Brown and Kelsey Burck, both of Palatine, took the top two prizes and Nancy Rinker of Grayslake won a makeover package valued at $2,500.
One for the history books
Brown is a single mother of four who has lived in her vintage home for 15 years without ever changing anything about her family room.
In her entry letter, the insurance liability claims adjuster talked about an ancient hand-me-down orange couch, marred by white-out, a borrowed television, nasty old carpet and other unmatched secondhand pieces of furniture. She also mentioned that she works full time, sometimes up to 50 hours a week, and is the caregiver to her 80-year-old father, who lives in the basement.
"Entering the contest was so much fun and when we won, I was just so excited. When I saw it in the newspaper, I just ran upstairs screaming for my daughter," Brown recalled. "This has been really exciting for all of us. I was especially thrilled about the furniture. I have never before had any new furniture."
"Sharon was an absolute sweetheart who had a difficult room to decorate and was looking for suggestions from us. She brought her daughter and son with her and was here three or four times. We offered to go out to the home, but she just brought in photos for us to see," recalled Gary O'Reilly, owner of O'Reilly's Furniture in Libertyville.
"She chose a brown leather sectional with four power recliners, complete with cup holders, along with contemporary-style wood end tables and a matching cocktail table in a dark reddish-black merlot stain with smooth copper inlaid tops which will stand up to punishment," he said.
"She took a lot of time to choose what she wanted and she and her teens were so pleased. It felt really good to be able to do this for Sharon," O'Reilly said.
In addition to the furniture, the Browns chose a beige carpet with little speckles of other colors from Century Tile and had the walls painted in a warm light brown on the top and a darker version of that same color on the lower part of the walls. The Sherwin-Williams store in Palatine supplied its Duration Home interior paint. Alger Decorating of Palatine provided the painting services.
Littman Bros. Lighting of Schaumburg was the source of Sharon's dream lighting.
"She was very excited to be able to choose handcrafted wrought iron transitional-style lamps -- a table lamp and a torchere floor lamp -- from Hubbardton Forge in Vermont," said Lisa Cauldren, manager and lighting designer. "These are very high-end lamps and she complemented them with oiled bronze wall sconces made by Murray Fife for a modern look. She was also interested in energy efficiency, so she chose LED bulbs."
The Browns also received a flat screen television, donated by Porte-Brown, LLC; an Xbox One from the Microsoft store in Woodfield; a $350 gift certificate from Treetime in Lake Barrington, which she used to purchase a pre-lit Christmas tree; and gift certificates from Crate & Barrel and Silk 'N Things at Deer Park Town Center.
Sharon used the Crate & Barrel gift certificate to purchase throw pillows for the sectional and is still anticipating a trip to Silk 'N Things to purchase a nice year-round accessory for the room.
"I have pulled a few other things from other rooms to fill in the space and have the new television sitting on an old cabinet. But the old carpet and furniture went straight into the garbage," she said. "In addition, I went out and purchased some light-filtering cellular shades for the windows. They have been great, particularly with all of the cold weather this winter."
Kelsey Burck was tired of the drab living room that her mother had been enduring in her 1950s Palatine home since they moved there 12 years ago.
"For as long as we have lived in our house, my mom has dreamed of making our living room into a room she loves," Kelsey wrote in her entry. "She wants to really be proud of our home. And every time she starts saving up to do just that, something happens and the living room makeover is postponed."
Kelsey talked about the ripped-up old couch, the coffee table that no longer had its glass top, the ancient carpeting and the boring and bare walls.
"The living room was so ugly for so long, but other things always came up that were more important," she explained.
Her mother, Terry, a full-time deli employee at the Jewel store in Elmhurst, had no idea that Kelsey had entered them in the contest until she noticed her living room's picture in the Daily Herald one Sunday last fall.
"I have cried lots of happy tears," Terry said. "Even if we hadn't won, just the fact that Kelsey cared enough to enter the contest for me made this a 'win' for me. I was beyond words."
"I did this because I love my mom and believe that she deserves something like this. Life has been hard for her and what did I have to lose by trying -- other than a couple of hours writing an essay?" Kelsey explained.
The first thing the Burcks did after learning of their good fortune was to take a trip to Steinhafels Furniture in Vernon Hills. A niece with a keen eye for design went along.
"Terry chose a traditionally styled sectional in a neutral durable polyester tweed fabric. It has a power recliner on one end and a chaise on the other end and seats up to six people," recalled Liz Bruckner, senior design consultant for Steinhafels. "They also chose a storage ottoman, which we custom covered in a mushroomy-colored fabric to tie into one of the colors in the sectional."
The Burcks also chose a birch media console in a medium-dark finish and two coordinating end tables in a slightly darker finish, as well as a colorful abstract painting, framed in black, and a 49-inch Howard Miller gallery clock made of aged black wrought iron.
"They were extremely excited and grateful and in disbelief about winning," Bruckner said.
At Littman Bros. Lighting Terry chose an eclectic assortment of contemporary lamps to complement her new furniture, said Lisa Cauldren, manager and lighting designer. There were two stainless steel table lamps with black drum shades, an oiled bronze buffet lamp with a champagne shade and a brushed nickel floor lamp with a gray shade that arches over the sectional to offer light to those sitting there.
"She was looking for an ambient-light feel, nothing too bright, understanding that when you shop for lighting, you want to choose based on look, style and items that will be able to light a room properly. The lighting elements are the jewels of the home," Cauldren said.
The furniture and lighting is set off by the new wide plank, wood-look laminate flooring that they chose from Century Tile, complemented by an area rug in two shades of tan.
"We were so pleased to have the old green shag carpeting replaced by a dark wood laminate that our two dogs' nails won't be able to scratch and which will be easy to clean," said Kelsey.
The Burcks also had major work done on the walls. First, a wall of faux brick paneling was covered with drywall and then Alger Decorating came in and painted all of the walls with Sherwin-Williams' Duration Home in a warm taupe with a hint of green in it. And when they brought in the furniture, they arranged it opposite of how the previous furniture had been set up.
"We flip-flopped everything. Now when we are in the living room, we feel like we are in a totally different house," Terry admitted. "The difference is night and day."
The gift certificate from Deer Park Town Center was entirely spent at Crate & Barrel, purchasing the finishing touches including throw pillows, picture frames and floating shelves for the walls, Kelsey said.
"In addition, my cousin made a straight, fitted valance for the window, using striped fabric in dark green, burgundy, light brown and white," she added.
The Burcks are looking forward to using the new Xbox One that they recently received from the Microsoft store in Woodfield and also to shopping next fall for Christmas decorations at Treetime in Lake Barrington.
"We need all new Christmas stuff to go in our beautiful new room," Kelsey said. "It will be another adventure!"
Basement 'wreck' room
Nancy Rinker of Grayslake received a $2,500 package from HomeStory Chicago, which included interior doors, hardware and installation after she wrote to nominate her 1972-era basement, which still reminds one of the Bicentennial, thanks to its color scheme.
"Our basement had louvered doors that were very difficult to paint and freshen up, so HomeStory Chicago came in and replaced all of those doors with solid panel doors and heavy duty hardware that look wonderful. We are just thrilled," Rinker said.
"We replaced a number of doors, including sliding closet doors, a door going into her garage, and bi-fold doors," explained Dan Teuscher, president of HomeStory Chicago, based in Elk Grove Village. "Because of our wide variety of styles, she was able to find a style that matched her other doors upstairs. They really brightened up each room and made the closets more accessible."
A couple of Rinker's doors were not working properly because of the settling of the home, he continued. "Since all of our doors are custom cut based on our digital measurements, we were able to get doors that fit into each opening without tearing up her trim. Nancy chose a nice shade of white, and we painted the doors with a nice factory spray."
"Most carpenters wouldn't consider just replacing a door in an older home," Rinker explained. "They want to rip out all of your frames, too, damaging the walls around the doorway. With HomeStory's technology, they were able to only replace the doors and they all fit perfectly when they arrived. This is great technology for an older home."
"It is always exciting to see how much of a difference new doors make in a home," Teuscher said. "People see an immediate and drastic difference, so we often hear people say 'I can't believe I lived so long with the old doors.' "
"We still need to renovate the basement, but this is a great start and we really appreciate the prize," Rinker added.