Five Ways To Update Your Room Without Spending Barely Any Money

So it's almost the Summer holidays and tbh, I can't wait.  The kids have finished all of their end of year exams, maximum whinge levels have been reached, their school shirts have turned a shade not dissimilar to Pavillion Grey and I am sick to the back teeth of bloody packed lunch making.  Or pack up's, as we call them here in Yorkshire, a phrase that caused mass confusion for me when we first moved here and thought that people were permanently going on holiday.  I would never win an award for my pack up making.  Yesterday I ran out of crisps and bread and had to give Leo a whole packet of Cheddars for his lunch and a Penguin biscuit.  If Jamie Oliver were ever to catch sight of my efforts he would immediately arrest me for crimes against nutrition.  Every day in his pack up, Leo has an apple.  That apple has been in his pack up now for three weeks as I refuse to remove it.  Much as I can't wait for the pack up hiatus, I am also aware that I might as well relocate to Asda for the entire six week break in anticipation of the constant refrain of 'we haven't got any food in this house to eat'. What they actually mean is, 'we haven't got any crisps, ice lollies, Dairylea dunkers, Nutella, chocolate yoghurts or any of the other shit that we eat within three minutes of it appearing in the fridge and we have no intention of snacking on anything that doesn't have at least five spoons of sugar or fifty e numbers listed on the packaging'.  Bring it on.

 My courtyard which is where I wish I could spend my entire Summer instead of being a taxi service or canteen assistant.

My courtyard which is where I wish I could spend my entire Summer instead of being a taxi service or canteen assistant.

Another thing that the Summer generally brings is lack of spare cash.  For me, it's because my kids have the ability to eat more than Augustus Gloop and if they're not doing Summer Camp courses that cost the same as a week in Malaga they are constantly hounding me for money to go a) shopping at Primark, b) trampolining at Energis (wtf) or c) hanging out in unspecified park areas or street corners like mini drug dealers eating Greggs sausage rolls.  However, my passion for room changing and interior updating continues unabated during this sabbatical and therefore, I always need to think of other ways to get that interior fix that doesn't involve me spending money on myself.  I know, I'm selfless.

So how do I do this?  Well, I've learnt over my years of transient decorating that there are plenty of ways of doing this that don't cost the earth.  With only a small outlay - and often no outlay at all - it's possible to give yourself that interior uplift and the feeling that you've made a little bit of difference to your space.  Here's my top five tips.


1.  Do A Room Edit

Look around your room and work out what you actually really like about it.  Many are the times that I've held on to accessories purely because I've had them for years but don't actually like them.  Take everything off the shelves and look at your belongings with fresh eyes.  Divide your accessories into three piles - one pile of things that you love, one pile of things you like but don't want in the room anymore and one pile of things that have had their day and need to be sold or recycled.  The same applies to your wall art.  It's easy to pass something every day that has been on the wall for years but actually you no longer feel any love for.  Be ruthless.  

 Wham bam super glam at the home of Kimberley from  Swoonworthy .

Wham bam super glam at the home of Kimberley from Swoonworthy.

 A perfectly styled and edited corner in the home of  Melanie Lissack .

A perfectly styled and edited corner in the home of Melanie Lissack.

 Shelley of  Hilary & Flo  shows how to do a perfectly styled space.

Shelley of Hilary & Flo shows how to do a perfectly styled space.

 This curated selection of items in the home of Ruthie of  Design Soda  looks gorgeous.

This curated selection of items in the home of Ruthie of Design Soda looks gorgeous.

Consider your furniture.  Do you still love it?  Do you need it all?  Have you got too much going on for one space?  It's often hard to justify getting rid of furniture.  I did a blog post last year about updating my kitchen which was brand new (to the previous owners).  I took off the wall units and replaced them with oak shelves.  I sold the wall units on eBay for a good sum, effectively making the new oak shelves half price.  The same applied to all my old pine furniture.  I'd painted it at least seven times and had lost my love for it.  Stuck it on eBay and everyone's a winner.


2.  Get Focused

Once you've sorted your pile of things to keep, have a quick trawl around the house to see if there are any other bits that you can add and rearrange them.  It's a sad fact, but one of my favourite pastimes is shelfie styling.  It's actually really therapeutic although to my family, it always confirms my status as an obsessive mentalist.  Stack books in different ways, use different heights of accessories together.  It's good to group in odd numbers - three is perfect.  Use small prints and unusual objects - I've got fossils (seriously) that I'm always restyling in different places.  In my book, if it stays still, it can be styled.  Greenery is a winner when it comes to upping your styling game - my plants are in a state of constant trauma due to being moved all over the house.  Whether it's faux or real (slightly harder work, obvs), they really lift your scheme whether you favour light decor or dark.  Oh, and always keep a bit of edginess to your decor, something that's unexpected or quirky.  Interiors shouldn't be too serious.

 The coffee table tray taken up a level by Bianca of  French For Pineapple .

The coffee table tray taken up a level by Bianca of French For Pineapple.

  Tina Archer 's home is a great example of having lots of focal points in your space rather than just one.

Tina Archer's home is a great example of having lots of focal points in your space rather than just one.

 Simple but effective - using books to create height and adding a bit of much needed quirkiness with the Chinese cat, tied together in gold.  Jess Hurrell of  Gold Is A Neutral .

Simple but effective - using books to create height and adding a bit of much needed quirkiness with the Chinese cat, tied together in gold.  Jess Hurrell of Gold Is A Neutral.

  Ciara Elliott  proving that a focal point doesn't need to be an obvious one.  Prints, greenery, texture and even a hat and shoes adding interest to this corner.

Ciara Elliott proving that a focal point doesn't need to be an obvious one.  Prints, greenery, texture and even a hat and shoes adding interest to this corner.

Last year I went on the Abigail Ahern Masterclass with Dee Campling and Tina Archer and one of the things that I came away with was that there is no such thing as one focal point.  Rooms need a few focal points to add interest for the eye.  If you've got a fireplace, it's easy to focus everything around the mantle, or in my case, a TV (electrical items are considered akin to godliness in my house).  But rooms have lots of areas that can be styled to draw your vision.  A side table has a wealth of possibilities - add some prints above, some books, a few ornaments.  Before you know it, you've got the perfect vignette.  Coffee tables are another often unused source of attraction.  Use a tray to place interesting objects on, a small stack of magazines, a candle.  The possibilities are endless.  


3.  Recycle & Upcycle

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that upcycling is my absolute passion.  With around 90% of the furniture in my house being thrifted, I am a huge believer in the fact that furniture should be recycled and that if it's made 50 years ago and it's still going then it should be given a new lease of life.  There's a few ways of doing this that I've done myself in my own home.  Wallpaper is a brilliant way of giving a sideboard or cabinet a bit of oomph.  B&Q have seriously expanded their range recently and there are plenty of excellent choices around the £10 mark that are a perfect project for a piece that you've lost love for.  Painting is another excellent option.  I was at the amazing home of Julia from Suburban Salon the other day (Styling Your Home venue for October) and she'd painted an old dark wood high sideboard with a bright, almost neon yellow.  It looked fabulous and just showed how it's possible to transform what was an old, slightly stuffy item of furniture into something that looks cool and contemporary.  Last week I went to a Bloggers Day for Frenchic Furniture Paint (see blog post here) who are complete experts in this field and have a huge range of colours to choose from.

 Wallpaper takes this cabinet up to another level.   Marcie K Designs .

Wallpaper takes this cabinet up to another level.  Marcie K Designs.

 Perfect upcycling transforms this old dresser.  Sophie of  Bourjois Biscuit .

Perfect upcycling transforms this old dresser.  Sophie of Bourjois Biscuit.

 Julia at  Suburban Salon  has given her room a yellow colour pop with this upcycled cabinet.  Plus her use of wallpaper on the ceiling gives the whole space an edge.

Julia at Suburban Salon has given her room a yellow colour pop with this upcycled cabinet.  Plus her use of wallpaper on the ceiling gives the whole space an edge.

 An old bookcase upcycled with wallpaper from B&Q on my landing.

An old bookcase upcycled with wallpaper from B&Q on my landing.

Furniture doesn't have to be used for just one purpose, either.  I have drinks trolleys all over my house (yes alright, I know that's slightly predictable) that I've utilised in different ways.  I've got one as a bedside table, one as a hall table, one in the lounge as a side table.  They're hugely practical.  Joe's bedside table is an old trunk that belonged to my Great Grandmother.  My desk is an old Pieff smoked glass 70's dining table that I picked up for £50 on eBay.  Make your furniture work for you by moving it around your house, it doesn't have to be static.


4.  Get Creative

Now, to all the purists that say feature walls are a thing of the past, I hasten to disagree.  For a quick update they are absolutely perfect for adding that extra layer to your room. Whether you do this with paint or wallpaper, it immediately refreshes the space and opens up new ways of styling it.   For the creatives out there, check out Cowboy Kate and Jen of Blissfully Eclectic who have drawn their own wall murals with amazing results.  From a cost perspective, doing one wall is much cheaper than doing an entire room and gives just as stunning an effect.  Feeling creative?  How about making your own art for a gallery wall?  Click here to see what I did last year with a can of spray paint and a very dodgy canvas reduced in the Sales.  Framed wallpaper samples have long been an excellent way of creating your own art and with wallpaper companies becoming more and more experimental with what they are producing, there's some fab ones out there which are really effective.  

 An amazing hand drawn mural by Jen at  Blissfully Eclectic .

An amazing hand drawn mural by Jen at Blissfully Eclectic.

 Charlotte from  The Gables  has used an old Pirelli Calendar and framed pages.

Charlotte from The Gables has used an old Pirelli Calendar and framed pages.

 Fabulous wall mural by  Cowboy Kate  inspired by the street artist  Retna .

Fabulous wall mural by Cowboy Kate inspired by the street artist Retna.

 My shelves which are lined with vintage finds, album covers, old invites and photographs.

My shelves which are lined with vintage finds, album covers, old invites and photographs.

Old postcards, photographs and even record albums look great framed as wall art.  Get all word arty on the computer with favourite quotes.  They'll look fab in a frame.  I once gave Joe a running quote from Forrest Gump (his favourite film) that I'd printed in two Courier font colours on the printer and framed for our wedding anniversary.  An economical present. Which was lucky because I'd already bought myself a Marc Jacobs tote bag for him to give to me.


5.  Hit Those Charity Shops

So my kids just LOVE it when I go on a charity shop trawl in the holidays.  My solution?   The bakery cafe.  If you live locally, you will know that all our best charity shops are in Acomb so I leave them in the bakery with a cake and a drink and spend half an hour happily wandering and pretending they are still at school.   Until they ring me arguing and complaining that they are bored out of their heads and being told off by old people.  Charity shops are FULL to the brim of brilliant stuff to update your home, plus you can be smug in the knowledge that you are recycling something that somebody else doesn't want anymore and creating less landfill.  Personally, I'm always drawn to coloured glass and vintage plates, all of which can be picked up for a few pounds.  Vintage kitchen pots and pans are also a good buy.

 My kitchen shelves are full of charity shop buys, including this floral print.

My kitchen shelves are full of charity shop buys, including this floral print.

 Julia from  Surburban Salon  has an eclectic mix of vintage oil painting and plates on her kitchen wall.

Julia from Surburban Salon has an eclectic mix of vintage oil painting and plates on her kitchen wall.

  Karen Watson 's living room is nearly all charity and thrift purchases, including the three carboys at the back.

Karen Watson's living room is nearly all charity and thrift purchases, including the three carboys at the back.

 My glass collection which is ever expanding every time I visit a charity shop.  Even the bamboo tables were a £4 bargain from the local community furniture store.

My glass collection which is ever expanding every time I visit a charity shop.  Even the bamboo tables were a £4 bargain from the local community furniture store.

Don't stop at accessories though - make sure you have a look at the fabric and the blankets.  I'm an avid collector of what the kids would term 'smelly granny blankets' *insert raised eyes emoji* but what I would call 'folk knits'.  Old books, Penguin editions or Companion novels are way more attractive than many of the modern paperbacks and look good stacked on a shelf.  And vintage oil paintings look fab teamed with more modern prints on your walls.  


So there we go.  Five ways of updating your space without having to take out a bank loan or better, without your partner complaining that you are spending all your money on home improvements.  All of these are just small changes but they can be really effective, plus give you that interior fix during the long summer holidays.  No pack up making required.