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Mediterranean Spring Revival

After a long winter sojourn, most of us are ready for a spring rejuvenation. A week or two in a Spanish villa, sunbathing on a Greek isle or touring Tuscany would do the trick nicely, but if that's not on your calendar in the foreseeable future, do the next best thing: bring the warmth of the Mediterranean into your home. A few well-placed decorative touches will revitalize your home like a sunny sea breeze.

Get it together

Start by getting organized. Spring is the time for getting rid of the old and bringing in the new. Laura Byrne, director of marketing at Michaels Arts and Crafts Stores, says, "Why not kill two birds with one stone? Being organized can also look great! Use faux leather storage boxes in warm colours, reminiscent of sandy beaches, to do double duty. They are great problem solvers for rooms where space is at a premium." Use the boxes to tidy up all the random items scattered around the house. Once they are filled, stack them against a wall and top with small, framed photos or an arrangement of dried flowers. Or pile two of the same size and use as an end table. To customize them, stencil a few olive branches, pears or kumquats onto the faux leather boxes. The palest sage green or a delicate apricot, applied with a feather light touch, will add a hint of colour that will make them even more appealing. Don't be intimidated if you aren't artistically inclined: stencilling is easy, even for beginners. Your local arts and crafts store can provide you with everything you'll need to make your finished boxes look like they were done by a pro.

International Flair

"Cultural collectibles are some of the hottest items in home fashion trends this year," says Celeste Morales, senior buyer for home décor at Michaels Arts and Crafts Stores. Bamboo, leather, wood and rattan pieces from distant countries add international flare to any setting." Rattan also provides another opportunity to combine form and function. It evokes images of sultry destinations with cool drinks, whitewashed stucco walls and cloudless azure skies. But you don't have to spend a fortune on expensive furniture to add the tropical allure of woven wicker. Instead, sprinkle your living area with rattan storage baskets and magazine holders. A trunk made of bamboo rattan is spacious enough to store extra blankets and pillows for unexpected guests and sturdy enough to use as a coffee table ­ and looks wonderful doing both! Arts and crafts stores offer storage pieces that will fit your décor and your budget nicely.

Heavy Metal

Ornate iron gates, bronze statues tinted green with age, decorative metal grilles ­ the countries of the Mediterranean are replete with the work of metal artisans from centuries past. Ornamental pieces will add an element of that solid old-world craftsmanship to your home. Arts and crafts stores often have an offbeat selection of iron wall décor and resin sconces with architectural details perfect for the task. Group a selection of five or more on a wall painted a rich colour (golden wheat, persimmon red or sage green) and you'll feel as if you've wandered down a Venetian alleyway. Metal wall pockets in an ochre or green patina are ideal for dried flowers in skinny hallways. Or hang one near the front door to hold mail or car keys. An additional bonus of iron ornamental pieces is that they can be used indoor as well as out ­ so you can carry your Mediterranean theme right onto your back patio.

It's All in the Lighting

Candlelight enhances any setting, but is particularly effective combined with a Mediterranean theme. Don't be afraid of having too many candles ­ it's not possible! Place them wherever you have an empty spot and light them all at dusk ­ the many flickers of soft light play on colour and texture and cast romantic shadows about the room. Mix and match different shapes and sizes for an eclectic feel and look for unusual holders. Cream pillars in black wrought iron candelabras will resonate nicely with other metal pieces you may have in the room. Miniature ceramic pitchers and vases make charming holders for tapers and are reminiscent of Spanish pottery. For a truly dramatic effect, create a candle garden using an elaborately carved wooden picture frame. Remove any hangers on the back so it will lay flat on a table, like a tray. Pour tinted sand (available from craft stores) liberally over the glass surface. Fill the picture frame with an assortment of candles. Arts and crafts stores offer a variety of different shapes and sizes - tall, chunky pillars are particularly stunning. Candles arranged in the same colour offer the most impact.

May Flowers

Look to dried and quality silk flowers to add the finishing touches to your spring revival. Choose colours that work well with the Mediterranean theme such as olive green, sand and sienna, rich reds, aqua-infused blues and all shades of white and cream. As with candles, look for unusual containers to hold your flowers and unexpected places to put them. A great way to put winter away and welcome the warmer days is to reassign your fireplace screen to the attic and replace it with an over-sized springtime bouquet. Wall pockets can be stuffed full of a natural array of dried flora. Comb local thrift stores for offbeat ceramic dishes and fill them with faux fruit and silk lemon leaves. Look for faux fruit, including gorgeous olives on the branch, kumquats, figs and that can be used in shallow bowls, pedestal dishes or in more formal floral arrangements. Let your imagination run wild.

Once you've finished your home's spring makeover, light the candles, pour yourself a glass of Chianti or Sangria, put on a little flamenco music and enjoy your own private piece of Mediterranean magic.

Courtesy ARA Content

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