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  1. Life & Culture

Enjoy the change of season with a few inexpensive improvements

Here are a few fall improvements that cost little to nothing but are sure to be noticed by friends, family and, most important, you.

Change your scent

A change in fragrance can have as much positive impact in your home as a change in wall color. (It's the reason real estate agents tell you to boil some cinnamon sticks in a pot of water or bake cookies before prospective buyers arrive.) In the fall I like to switch to a spicier, citrus-based or more musky aroma. In the summer I burn Jo Malone's Nectarine Blossom & Honey scented candle, but come fall I move to her Orange Blossom fragrance ($65 each from jomalone.com).

Let the light shine

You need to wash your windows more often than just during the spring cleaning spree. The best way to freshen a room is to remove the grime and let the sun shine in. Start by vacuuming the sills, screens and window frames with a dust brush. Then clean windows with a squeegee with a sponge attachment dipped in a bucket of warm water that has a squirt of dishwashing liquid. Start at the top left corner and drag the squeegee to the right, drying the scraper after each pass. Remove any remaining water on the edges of the window with a damp, wrung-out chamois.

Play musical chairs (and sofas and tables)

Check whether the layout of a room is working by asking yourself these questions: Does the room look good? Does it seem balanced, in that nothing overwhelms the room? Is there a surface within reach of most chairs? When you sit on the sofa, do you have a nice view? To test whether a room is inviting, have some friends over for a drink. It's the best — and most fun — way to measure your success. Even if you end up moving the furniture back to where you started, it's always a good test to see whether you can change a room's flow for the better.

Be a photo editor

Most people have too many framed photos on display throughout their house. I suggest picking a couple of spots to display your favorites and have at most seven (odd numbers always look better than even) grouped together. Put them in consistent frames (all silver, all wood, etc.), and remember: A single photograph says more than a dozen. To update your collection, rather than adding more frames, swap out old photos or just slip a new photo into the frame in front of an old one.

Revamp light sources

Getting the right mix of fixtures and the right output of light is one of the most important elements of decorating. A beautiful room can turn ugly in too harsh a light, and daily tasks can be hard to complete in rooms that are too dark. Factor in a lack of natural daylight that comes with shorter days, and indoor lighting is all the more essential. There are two ways to solve lighting issues. No. 1: Install dimmers everywhere. Easy and not expensive to install, dimmers allow you to moderate the brightness so that a dining room can be bright enough to complete a school project but dim enough to host a dinner party.

The second way to transform a room is by buying the right light bulb. Bulbs now come in a variety of shades — some bright white, some with a blue or a yellow cast — and each of these colors has a temperature rating measured in degrees Kelvin. The lower the Kelvin number (between 2700K and 3000K), the more yellow the light is; the higher the Kelvin (between 5500K to 6500K), the bluer. White light is usually 3500K to 4100K. I usually suggest a whiter light for kitchens and a yellower light for living rooms and bedrooms.

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