Just like a new haircut can bring a fresh personal outlook, even small-scale projects in home redesign or redecoration can have an impact on lifestyle and perceptions.

For any project, whether choosing new paint colors or making two rooms into one, and whether you choose to go it alone or hire a professional, it’s smart to look first at clutter in your space.

When a room is cluttered, “there’s no place for the mind and eyes to take respite,” says Tracy A. Davis, founder and principal of Urban Dwellings in Portland and New York City. “Take an inventory of what’s important and what’s not.”

Clutter might include “extraneous furniture, such as that extra table in the corner,” as well as accumulation of everyday objects, says Leslie Curtis, owner of Leslie Curtis Designs in Camden and on Cape Cod. “This is an issue for most people,” she adds.

Curtis has had clients for whom de-cluttering and re-evaluating window treatments, to make the space feel less closed in, have been most of what was needed to achieve a new home environment.

Once you can see your space more clearly, you can better visualize changes you want to make, including choosing a color palette. “Before that, there’s too much distraction,” says Curtis.

Move forward by thinking globally. “Look at the space as a whole instead of as fractional details,” Davis advises.

“When you walk into a room, you want the overall feeling to envelop you, not for one thing to jump out,” adds Teri Kiefer, formerly of Saco and now design consultant for The Royal Standard in Baton Rouge, La, where her recent work has included d?r for the famed Nottoway Plantation in nearby White Castle.

Kiefer asks clients, “How do you want to live in this space? Not how you live in it now, but how you would like to live in it. Hold on to that vision.”

Be realistic about your lifestyle, she adds, taking into account whether you need your home to be ruggedly family-friendly or dog-friendly as well as beautiful.

Think creatively about how you use both your furnishings and your space, Kiefer continues. For example, the family might not eat at a breakfast area but tend to sit there for a quiet cup of coffee, so that an occasional table and comfortable chair make more sense than a dining set.

Painting is an inexpensive and relatively easy way to freshen your space. Davis and Curtis strongly advise sticking with lighter, neutral hues.

“Light colors provide more sensory stimulation and make the room appear much larger,” says Davis. “Some people want to liven the room up, to make it brighter, with paint. If you long for color, do your trim,” Curtis adds.

Neutral colors also highlight the beauty of rugs, paintings and other decorative pieces more effectively than trying to match their colors, Curtis advises.

There are thousands of color options to explore both online and at home improvement stores. Most suppliers will make up sample-sized cans of paint, which should be applied and evaluated before making final choices. Even among light, neutral colors, the array of choices is vast enough to be overwhelming, at which point Curtis suggests seeking a color consultation.

Davis also advises paying attention to the emotional impact of different hues. “Certain colors evoke certain emotions,” she says, which should be matched to your personality and goals for a room.

After choosing your palette and considering your target ambiance, look closely at your existing furnishings and decorations.

“Don’t limit yourself to one vision of a certain piece,” Kiefer says. Especially if you’re on a tight budget, “do a walkthrough, think of pieces you aren’t really using and ask yourself where else in the house you might use them.”

For new purchases, she advises combining practical considerations with more personal desires. “If you fall in love with a piece of furniture or a fabric, it will work in your home. Sometimes it’s like buying a new pair of earrings” for a room, she adds.

There is a common misconception that hiring a decorator or designer will involve giving someone else a free hand to use their own taste in your home. In fact, professionals are available for every level of service, from brief consultations to do-it-yourself planning to full renovations.

“Don’t be afraid to call a designer to ask for a consultation,” Davis urges. “Just a few hours can encourage you to move forward.” Urban Dwellings handles complete projects but also provides plans that “you can chip away at,” she adds.

Working with a professional can help you avoid mistakes that could be costly and frustrating, Davis says, and provide alternatives you might not think of on your own. “We might come up with different options so that the client can make educated decisions and informed choices,” she says.

“It’s always good to have fresh eyes, whether you hire a designer for the whole project or have someone come in, take a look at problem areas and give new insight,” Kiefer adds.

Although some designers have specific styles, typically they work to bring out your own taste, not inflict their own. Moving from Maine to Louisiana helped Kiefer understand how regional differences come into play with personal taste. “Maine tends to be clean-cut with a fresh-air feeling, sometimes that ‘L.L. Bean’ feel,” she says.

Before choosing a professional for consultation or project management it’s important to note their differences. According to Davis, the terms “designer” and “decorator” may be used interchangeably, but a true interior designer has specific education to understand elements such as architectural drafting for renovations that involve construction.

Depending on the client’s needs, Urban Dwellings handles everything from creating a schematic design to developing that design into a workable plan, engaging contractors and doing site visits to supervise and “finesse.”

For color and decor, you may be able to find valuable advice, either professional or amateur, at no cost. Visiting a specialty store can be a great way to get new ideas and even informal consultation.

Like many consultants, Kiefer is on hand regularly to listen to customers’ needs and provide insight, as well as helping them navigate The Royal Standard’s vast selection of French and English antiques, reproductions and accessories.

Curtis enjoys advising customers at her own store in Camden, where she offers antique, new and custom-made furniture, textiles, accessories and artwork.

“I really like dealing with the public,” she says. “I’m happy to share my experience — I’m not going to give it all away, but I will share. It’s important for people to get support,” even if they don’t have a large budget, she adds. Besides professionals, “bring in a friend whose taste you like.”

Stores run by designers or decorators are a valuable resource for furnishings and accessories that have been selected with an experienced artistic eye. At Studio Elements, on Fore Street in Portland, Davis offers antique furniture and other pieces along with modern furnishings, lighting, textiles and artwork, with a focus on Maine artists.

Whatever your choices, never lose sight of your ultimate goals for making changes.

“When I walk in that door I want my home to just embrace me,” says Kiefer. “I want it to feel like home and I want to feel good about being home.”

Jennifer Brewer is a freelance writer who lives in Saco.