How to make your new space instantly welcoming while you plan your 'one day we'll do' renovations.
There’s no need to rush into big decisions (with even bigger costs) as soon as you move into your new house or flat.
Here’s how to make yourself at home in no time - without calling the builders in, or spending a fortune...
You don’t have to put up with that brown swirly wallpaper or boring magnolia walls if they’re not your thing. From day one, a splash of paint can breathe new life into every room - it’s one of the easiest ways to make instant impact, and all you need is a paint roller and some overalls.
Decorative interior specialist Sarah Laming, who has spent several years doing up homes in London and Kent, says experimenting with paint can be great fun.
She recently revamped her daughter’s bedroom by painting a wall bright orange. "Be brave with colour - it’s a quick fix, and it’s transformative. And in the unlikely event that you hate it, you can simply change it." So what are you waiting for?
Rugs to the rescue
An echoey space with bare floors is instantly remedied with a rug (or two, or five...).
Adding something lovely underfoot - whether it’s a family heirloom, a vintage buy or a cheap and cheerful Ikea rug - will muffle sounds and make your space feel cosier.
"A large rug brings everything together and creates a unified space," she says. "If money is tight, buy a piece of carpet and have the edges bound to turn it into a rug. Your local carpet fitter should know a place where you can have this done, and it will work out much cheaper than buying a huge rug."
Don’t be overlooked
If your new pad has bare windows and you’re longing for privacy without shelling out for curtains, frosted window film is your new best friend. It’s easy to apply and gives seclusion without blocking out all the light. And for ground floor windows, it will add more security by obscuring your valuables from view.
Try coloured window films for real decorative impact - check out the gorgeous stained glass effect ones from Pulfrost, or make your own with low-tack, self-adhesive contact paper and paint your own patterns using oil based paints.
A soft touch
Soft furnishings such as throw pillows, cushions and cosy blankets will add instant character, texture and comfort to your new space - and they’re a godsend if you want to update your old sofa without shelling out for a new one.
Layer up with faux fur throws, colourful knits, mohair blankets, patterned cushions - anything that brings you joy.
Sarah Laming, whose instagram page ahometomakeyousmile is full of inspirational ideas, says: "You don’t have to spend a fortune to find lovely soft furnishings - there are loads of amazing, inexpensive designs for every taste, and they will make a huge difference to your new home.” Try H&M Home for gorgeous, inexpensive accessories to cosy up your space.
A kitchen table is the heart of any home - but if you can’t justify forking out for that Heal’s designer piece quite yet, it’s easy to improvise. Dress up an inexpensive trestle table with a colourful or patterned wipeable oil cloth like this one, with its exotic monkey design, and you’ve not only got yourself a dining table, you’ve also created a rather fabulous focal (and talking) point.
Naked lightbulbs are an atmosphere killer. Dim their glare with paper or origami pendant shades - they are inexpensive and provide a jolly good temporary fix.
Lamps are absolutely essential too - you can never have too many. Kate Watson-Smith recommends layering lights to create different effects and perform different functions: "A table lamp for atmosphere and a floor light to throw a soft glimmer up onto your walls, a task light to read by and perhaps a light above a picture to show it off..." There are more ways you can use a lamp than you ever imagined.
Update an old staircase
If you're living in a fixer-upper, a staircase may seem like a daunting project, especially if your budget is tight. But as long as your stairs are structurally sound, you can update them without any hassle.
Rip out the stained, threadbare carpet and paint the treads and backs an interesting dark colour or zingy bright.
These decorative stair stickers are a real find, whether you want to be crazily colourful or classically Victorian. You can even customise your own.
Placing familiar paintings, art and photos around your new home is one of the quickest, easiest ways to make it feel ‘yours’, says Sarah.
"Artwork doesn’t need to be hung; prop it anywhere - lean paintings against walls, mantelpieces or any surface," she says.
If you want to hang things on walls, use command tape so that you can experiment, rather than banging nails in then regretting it.
Don’t forget the bathroom
Nothing says "new house" like a bare bathroom - but a few accessories in colours or tones that you love will jazz it up in an instant. Hang a new shower curtain like this pretty one from Etsy, and use accessories to distract attention: really nice fluffy or patterned towels, bathmats… you’ll be amazed what a difference they make. Add some indoor plants that thrive in steamy bathrooms.
Plants and candles
Every room looks better with a plant in it. A fern or rubber plant in an empty corner, a tumbling sedum hanging from a basket, a collection of succulents on a shelf: you get the picture.
The same goes for candles; dot them about the place, and choose especially scented ones to create a welcoming glow and a comforting, familiar scent instantly.
If you’ve inherited unattractive cupboards in your kitchen or bathroom, it’s easy to update them without having a whole refit. "Sometimes it’s just a question of changing those ugly cupboard doors for more contemporary ones," says Kate.
"You can also make a huge difference simply by changing the handles."
Painting the outside of your cupboard is another option, or simply rip them out. Open cabinets can make a kitchen feel more spacious, and you can paint the insides a nice bright (or white) colour to enhance the feeling of space.
Retiling your kitchen or bathroom is a big job, but a quick way to spruce up your space in the short term is to refresh your grouting with a grout pen, one of the best things ever invented.
Available from your local DIY store or online for as little as £2, you can refresh or recolour completely, making your tiles look much brighter.
And if you really can’t live with the tiles but don’t have the wherewithal to take them down and start again, try these tile stickers.
You may also be interested in...
- Expert tips for using colour in your home
- 9 cheap and cheerful ways to make your space feel like home
- Space-saving tips and tricks for your home