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Don’t get stuck in the winter doldrums: there are plenty of ways to brighten up your living space. (Credit: David Benthal)

There’s a certain magic about the early days of winter. The first snowflakes fall as friends and family gather for the holidays and cheery decor brings joy into your home.

Come January, that magic subsides and it’s not long before cabin fever sets in and you’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring.

We’ve all spent a lot of time at home over the past 24 months, so the dead of winter can be particularly difficult to handle. 

Three North Forkers offered these tips for fighting the blues with attainable home projects.


Jamesport-based professional organizer Susan Emory takes a spiritual approach to helping her clients achieve a less cluttered, more minimalist lifestyle.

“Life can be so chaotic. We can’t always control what’s going on, so coming home and having a clean countertop or organized closet just makes you feel better,” Emory said, noting that she favors functionality over perfection.

Regardless of where you decide to start — a drawer, closet or an entire room — Emory says you should first assess whether that space and its contents are serving a purpose.

“A lot of people struggle with letting go of items like out-of-date decor because of the money they’ve spent on it. There’s the emotional attachment as well,” Emory said.

She shares this tip with anyone who’s not sure where to start.

“I have people pack up boxes of items they’re unsure about and not label what’s inside. Then, put a date on it. A year from then, if you never went looking for anything that was in that box, don’t open it. Just take it directly do a donation site.”

Emory offers consultations for those who need help decluttering and said her clients often feel a sense of relief that they can be more present after she’s through. “I can come in and help clean up and make it look nice and presentable, but if you’re not doing the work and the desire isn’t there, it’s just going to go back to the way it was.”


As a professional designer, Amanda Giuliano of Nicolette’s for the Home knows firsthand that lead times on everything from cabinets to furniture and appliances are a challenge, with wait times between six and eight months for certain pieces.

With that in mind, she recommends giving new life to pieces you already own with a fresh coat of chalk paint, which is forgiving for first-timers, or even sanding down a piece to raw wood for the more daring DIYers.

February is a good time to start thinking about refreshing your everyday home look.  “We’re over the holidays and you want a refresh from the year before,” Giuliano said.

Earth tones of olive greens, mustard, dark blue and clay are currently trending, she said.

“They’re making a comeback,” she said, also suggesting layering those dark, moody colors by mixing materials like plaids, flannels and crushed velvets for winter. “You don’t have to be super matchy-matchy as long as your colors blend.”

Changing out certain elements of a room like curtains, area rugs and throw pillows or blankets are simple ways to transform a space without buying new furniture.

And though this last tip will make some nervous, updating light fixtures can also transform a space. “Not many people want to tackle that; they’re nervous to work with lighting,” Giuliano said. “But there are YouTube videos for everything!”


Wading River artist and stay-at-home mom Lauren Fuller is proof that you don’t need to be a pro.

Her home is defined by pops of color and plants that evoke a tropical oasis. Houseplants add a bit of greenery and also provide a natural way to cleanse the air and add oxygen to any room.

After her fiddle leaf fig plant sprouted a new leaf, Fuller was hooked. She recommends monstera, philodendrons and pothos plants for beginners — just do some research if you’re a pet owner. 

Her best advice for newbies? Don’t get too down on yourself if a plant dies. “That’s part of plant ownership,” she said. “It’s not because we aren’t great plant parents. Sometimes it’s just because some plants are super difficult to keep alive indoors through the winter.”

Some of her favorite spots to peruse for plants are the Peconic River Herb Farm in Calverton, Fowler’s Garden Center in Southampton and the Bayport Flower Houses.

Fuller also loves connecting with local plant enthusiasts to swap cuttings of more exotic species.

Throughout her home, Fuller favors bold color, though — surprisingly — she leaves her walls white to reflect sunlight coming in. Instead, she relies on artwork and other accessories to add dimension.

She recently painted a magenta accent arch on a living room wall, a trend that’s enjoying a viral moment. And while some pros discourage trends that quickly come and go, you can always paint over it!

“Original art really elevates your space,” Fuller said. “Buying art can be intimidating and expensive but there are so many great artists out there who are just getting started, reasonably priced and you’re supporting their dreams by buying from them.”