GateHouse News Service's weekly Home Help, with tips on home decor trends of 2013, staging your home for potential buyers, and gardenias.

The top home decor trends for 2013 are already emerging, and homeowners seeking a fresh look will find a lot to love. Not only can these looks be accomplished in minimal time -- they're budget friendly and easy enough for DIYers to finish in a weekend or less.

Giving your home an updated feel doesn't require a full-scale renovation. Instead, focus on simple updates for the most frequently used rooms in your house. When you're ready to get started on your home's new look, let these trends of the year be your design guide.

In the kitchen

Kitchens need to be functional, but in this hub of the home style is just as important. Upholding practicality while adding visual interest is a top trend this season. Two-toned upper and lower cabinet colors are rapidly growing in popularity as a way to let homeowners customize their kitchen spaces and express their personalities.

- Maple is the style frontrunner when it comes to wooden cabinets, but painted cabinets in white, black and gray tones are also on the rise. Whether you opt to replace your cabinet fronts or paint them, your efforts will give you impressive -- and fast -- results.

- On the functionality front, innovative hands-free faucets simplify cooking and cleaning tasks while requiring minimal effort to install.

- Open shelving is seeing a boost in popularity. Both glass-fronted cabinets and simple open shelves capture this trend, allowing you to put your style on display while creating a sleek, updated look.

In the bath

A luxurious-feeling bath doesn't need to make big demands on your wallet. By making a few on-trend updates, you'll give your room designer appeal guaranteed to make an impression.

- Updating the vanity, often the focal point in a bathroom, provides immediate results. Customizable modular options let you create a storage-savvy vanity that fits virtually any bathroom while also adding functional drawer and countertop space.

- Tiling provides the perfect solution to add extra personality to your bath. Right now, trends offer two different but equally chic directions -- large-scale tile and small-scale mosaics. Tiles with wood-like appearances are also gaining popularity; they create a warm, inviting look, but offer the wet-space practicality of tile. If it's your first time tiling, home improvement experts at stores like Lowe's can provide guidance to get startedwith your tile flooring.

Throughout the home

When it comes to low-effort, big-impact changes, it's hard to beat a fresh coat of paint. For walls that feel drab, boring or outdated, new paint makes a color statement and draws attention to architectural details. Follow these paint tips to make an instant, dramatic impression:

- Alter the dimensions of a space by painting ceilings a slightly lighter color than the walls.

- Create patterns and shapes using painter's tape. Stripes, chevrons and ombre effects are perfectly on-trend.

- Highlight architectural details by painting interior doors and trim in a colorful hue instead of traditional white.

In one weekend or less, these simple changes will make your home feel like an entirely new space. So when the seasonal urge to renovate sets in, don't resist - reinvigorate your home with these ideas.

-- Brandpoint

Home Selling Tip

If you're selling a four-bedroom house in a family neighborhood, decorate to appeal to families. Whether you really have children or not, one of the bedrooms should be shown as a kid's room and one possibly as a nursery. Create a comfortable and welcoming family room. Remember, you want buyers to imagine their lives in your home. If they can't visualize where the kids will play, they'll move on to the next listing.

-- Debra Gould,

Did You Know ...

"Homeowners continue to embrace the trend of maximizing outdoor living space, whether it's an outdoor kitchen or patio living room with a fire pit," says Lonny Sekeres, a landscape designer with Villa Landscapes in Oakdale, Minn. "Real estate experts say that for every dollar you invest in landscaping projects, you could see up to a $2 return when you sell your home."

-- Brandpoint

Decorating Tip

To quickly accent neutral- or solid-colored furniture, add colorful, patterned throws and pillows. The additional throws will provide warmth on extra chilly days and bright pillows will increase the personality of any room. Add festive, seasonal table runners, cloth napkins and placemats to dining and other tables for additional seasonal cheer.

-- Brandpoint

Garden Guide

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) is a popular evergreen shrub across the Southeast, the West Coast and wherever winters are relatively mild. In colder climates it makes a dandy potted plant for a sunny winter window.

Easy to grow

With glossy, dark green leaves and pure white flowers, this heirloom shrub makes a striking addition to the summer garden. The intense fragrance of gardenia blossoms can almost make people swoon with its cloying sweetness, especially on warm, muggy summer nights.

Gardenia grows well in both sun and moderate shade, and can tolerate drought -- I have seen it thriving in old cemeteries with no care at all. But the shrubs require well-drained soil and a nice wide root system. This simply means dig a wide hole and lightly amend it with bark or compost so water doesn’t puddle around roots for long.

Challenges and opportunity

When grown in alkaline soils or areas with hard water, leaves may turn pale green between the veins, indicating a need for an iron fertilizer supplement (ask at a garden center). Also, as older leaves begin to lose their vigor, right before dropping off they often turn bright yellow, which can alarm some gardeners.

Gardenia is also plagued by whiteflies and aphids, which can exude partly-digested sap called “honey dew“ that leaves a sticky residue, and sometimes get covered with black ”sooty mold” (see my blog post on this subject). Just wet it down with soapy water and rinse with clear water, and it will flake off.

Gardenia is one of the easiest shrubs of all to root. Simply cut off the tip end of a branch in mid-summer, strip off any blooms and a few lower leaves, and stick in a bottle of water. Roots will be visible in just days, and the cutting can be planted within a month!

-- Felder Rushing,

GateHouse News Service