The spring zhuzh

My absolutely favorite sight and smell of spring!

By Caitlin Kelly

I see flowers!

I hear birds!

The days are longer and brighter!

And so….time for the zhuzh! (A word that means to spruce up or make prettier).

The boring (but useful) stuff:

CLEAN all of it!

Weird, easily overlooked things like every light-bulb you can reach (they get dusty)

Every lampshade, whether paper or fabric — they’re big dust-collectors; both of these, left dirty, are diminishing the light you get

Rugs. I used to wash my kilims in the bathtub but now send them out to a professional rug cleaner. Not cheap but worth doing once a year.

Same for every bit of upholstery — a steam-cleaning service can do wonders.

I take a fabric lint-roller and use it on the arms and backs of our two sofas and our fabric headboard. Everything gets dusty!

How about the top of every cabinet, anything framed, bookshelf?

Here’s a smart, comprehensive guide to cleaning your living room from the British design magazine Homes & Gardens.

Then…wash/dry clean all of it!

Duvets and covers


Make-up bags and dopp kits, backpacks and cloth bags…anything you use often and take for granted

Polish! (Ok this is my personal obsession, as I keep silver and brass polish and use it a lot on our silver-plate cutlery and tray)

Replace — anything broken, torn, stained, bent. Repair when possible. It’s depressing to see things in poor condition day after day.

Paint touch-ups are also worth considering — all those dings and scuffs.

The fun stuff:

Maybe time for some fresh new linens?

Pillow protectors and new pillowcases

A few new towels?

Fresh tea towels for the kitchen (We love ours from Le Jaquard Francais. Lovely designs and very good quality; here are some on sale.)

(Donate any used towels, blankets, etc. to your local dog shelter. I have. Keep those doggies comfortable!)

Some new throw pillows, for indoors or out (Perigold has 14,000 on offer. I love this one in crisp green and white, and this one, koi fish in blue and white…we own several.)

A picnic basket and blanket for warm days

A new paint color for one of your rooms (or your only room). A color you absolutely love being surrounded by is a guaranteed cheer-up on even the gloomiest days. Our sitting room is this color and, yes it’s strong, but we love it.

A pretty new throw rug; one of favorite sources is Dash and Albert (named for her two dogs, of course.) This one, in cream and brown, is a best-seller.

Some flowering plants

A pretty new set of napkins — love these, in blue and green, six for $32. Or these crisp neutrals, four for $44.

Get those kitchen knives professionally sharpened!

7 thoughts on “The spring zhuzh

  1. Jan Jasper

    Oh dear, you’re making me realize how dirty my house is! I can live with it so long as the dust bunnies are kept at bay. Truthfully, I call them “Dust Bison” as they were too large to be bunnies. In my defense it’s a 6-bedroom Victorian house, so it’s a lot to keep clean. What bothers me more than dirt is clutter build-up, I’ve worked on that One thing I really should do is have my windows professionally washed. It’s complicated, as my storm windows are large and hinged at the top, so the window washer would need to hold the storms out to wash underneath – likely a 2-person job. Over the past several months I bought antique sconces and a chandelier, which my electrician mounted in the stairwell. I recently had the halls and stairwell painted with Farrow & Ball’s “Ringwold Ground” – closer to a light, almost buttery color than to white. OMG and I know you’ll understand this Caitlin because we’ve discussed F & B – the newly-painted walls look like they’re covered in velvet. Today at an estate sale I found a stunning Japanese print of grasses against a huge harvest moon. Thanks, as always for your decor updates and tips!

    1. ooooh. that all sounds gorgeous!

      I have dreams of (when???) owning a house but the upkeep is scary….we are in a one bedroom with no pets or kids and it all feels endless just in one small space!

      That print sounds lovely!

      1. Jan Jasper

        You seem to have done a fantastic job of making a wonderful home in your space with lots of beautiful touches. I think your training in interior decoration has probably been a big help.

      2. Thanks!

        I was lucky to grow up in a pretty stylish family and my maternal grandmother used Toronto’s top interior designer for her apartments, so I saw a lot of this growing up.

        The design training helped me better understand some of the basics and gave me more confidence in my choices. But I also read shelter magazines (British. mostly) and am a fiend for auctions and flea markets and antique shops, so I keep educating my eye as well.

        Two of my go-to fabric sources are The Cloth Shop (affordable linens in amazing colors), in London, and Fabrics and Papers, who offer the most spectacular stuff.

    1. It feels so good! We’re irrationally exuberant now at how organized our pantry is — it sits inside an antique armoire in the living room.

      Even a few new things can feel so great.

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