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Tips to freshen up your home on a budget

Small changes can have a big impact on your home. Ross Neilson, for example, got rid of a free-standing bureau in the bedroom of his London apartment. “It looked cluttered, so I added closet shelves and drawers under my bed instead,” he says, adding: “That freed up floor space and made the room feel more spacious and light.”

January is usually a time for renewal, and your home is the natural place to begin. A redesigned room is a tangible signal of a fresh start—one that will endure long after resolutions waver. It doesn’t have to cost much—or anything at all. It just requires a willingness to see lived-in rooms in a new light.

For ideas on how to refresh your home in 2017, we turned to the pros: Christina Hingham, an interior designer for the Studio at One Kings Lane, and Ashley Redmond, director of design at Decorist. Here are some tips:

1. Get organized

Cleanliness carries real psychological benefits. It helps you sleep better, reduces stress, and increases productivity. At the start of any redesign, think about storage options for clearing visual clutter. Simply gathering earrings or paper clips into a teacup can provide a greater sense of order.

Magazines and books often crowd a well-used living room, so slip them inside a storage ottoman or bench. Hide a messy stack of files on a desk inside a bright lacquer box. In a children’s bedroom, Hingham puts toys in woven African baskets—which can later be repurposed after the kids have grown up and leave the house.

2. Shuffle the art

“You can move a painting from one room to another, and create a completely different feel,” says Redmond. As the new centerpiece of a space, a piece of art can inspire subtle changes to the color of accessories. The cerulean hues of a landscape, for instance, could be picked up in cobalt throw pillows or sky-blue blankets. “Use tones from the picture to create layers of color,” she says. “It makes a room feel cohesive.”

3. Conceal your TV

The television doesn’t have to dominate your living room décor. Rather than hang it alone on a blank white wall, Hingham says, consider clustering framed artwork around it to make the flat screen appear like part of the gallery wall. Play a similar visual trick by nestling it within black bookshelves or painting the wall slate grey to help the television blend in.

4. Incorporate houseplants

“Plants are inexpensive and add life to any room,” says Redmond. Easy to grow, palms and philodendron are classic choices. For a bit more character, however, try the sculptural fiddle leaf fig—a design world darling that can grow several feet tall. 

5. Throw a rug on the kitchen floor 

Vintage rugs can enliven a tired, post-holiday kitchen. “It’s a cool look that adds color and interest,” says Hingham, who likes cotton kilim rugs that are inexpensive and easy to clean. “Just adding a little vintage to your home will give it a lot of character and personality.” Bonus: A long runner helps conceal unattractive linoleum floors.

6. Change your hardware

One of the easiest ways to perk up a kitchen or bedroom is to change knobs and drawer pulls. Costing as little as $2, they usually require only a screwdriver to install. Try candy-colored handles in a kid’s room or brushed gold finishes for a refined office.

7. Add an accent wall

When you paint or wallpaper a portion of a room, it draws the eye and becomes a focal point of the space. “It’s inexpensive to buy a gallon of paint but it’s high impact,” says Redmond. “You could even use chalkboard paint to create a family messaging center.” She also recommends self-adhesive, removable wallpaper as an affordable way to add patterns. You might paste it above the oven as a backsplash or behind the shelves of a built-in bookcase. 

8. Create a calming bedroom

“Think about your bedroom as the relaxation zone where you can unplug,” says Redmond. Bring in neutral tones with a new duvet cover, cozy throw pillows, or soft linen curtains.

Try to banish technology for a better night’s sleep. Hingham suggests buying a retro bedside clock to use as an alarm, instead of your smartphone. “It looks awesome—and you can check your phone in the morning,” she says.

9. Switch the light fixtures

Trade harsh overhead lights for warm table lamps or pendants. “It will make a huge difference in your space,” says Hingham. “People are scared to change lighting because they think it’s expensive, but you can get a fabulous chandelier for around $200.”

Consider adopting the interior design trend of mixing traditional and modern styles, such as a midcentury floor lamp beside a tufted sofa. Such eclectic juxtapositions lend character to a room.


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