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How to renovate a living room on a small budget

How can you completely refresh a living room without breaking the bank? We ask the experts to reveal their best budget makeover hacks.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby

Contributor

Living rooms get a fair amount of traffic. From slumping on sofas to eating dinners at coffee tables and wrestling over the remote or games console, they need to be resilient.

We might scroll through Instagram at photos of tidy lounges with plumped-up, stain-free sofas, but not all of us have the ready cash to make them a reality.

The good news is you don’t need pots of cash to elevate your living space. A bit of creativity and a few inexpensive items can work wonders. 

Let’s see what the experts recommend.

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1. A fresh coat of paint

Nothing is more transformative for any room than a fresh coat of paint. 

And in terms of cost per sqm, it’s the cheapest possible way to give your lounge a brand new, clean feel.

Doing it yourself will save hundreds of pounds. And if you’re after some top tips, professional decorator Myak Homberger shares his advice on getting the perfect look and finish in How to paint your home like a pro.

2. Install a feature fireplace

For a real fireplace, prices start at around £500, without the cost of installation, which can be about the same again.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get one on a tighter budget.

If your home has a plastered alcove where the fireplace would once have been, it’s still possible to add a mantel over the top using an attractive wooden shelf, or to install a second-hand fireplace frame, at little cost.

Depending on the state of your chimney, it might be tricky (or costly) to make it function for real fires. But for aesthetic purposes, the actual frame installation can be done relatively cheaply.

Social media marketplaces are a good place to start - and fireplace wholesalers offer second-hand options at discount prices.

Nicole Sage from Sleek-Chic.co.uk opened up the boxed-in fireplace in her living room and instated a salvaged Georgian fireplace she bought for just £50.

“Facebook marketplace was my first port of call. I had to wait a while, but it was worth the wait for just £50,” she says.

“The total cost of fitting the fireplace set us back just under £100.”

3. Buy furniture second-hand

Sofas, sideboards, shelving, rugs and other usually pricey items don’t have to set you back thousands.

Buying them second-hand or ex-display is good for both your bank balance and the environment. Seek out good quality items from smoke and pet-free homes where possible.

Top places to shop for second-hand furniture include Facebook Marketplace, eBay, charity shops, reclamation yards and flea markets.

“If you’re buying second-hand furniture online, never be afraid to make an offer,” says Francesca Toman, interior designer at Chesandco.co.uk

“Often people selling on Facebook and eBay are expecting negotiation. The worst that can happen is they say no!”

Nicola Rodriguez, who writes interiors blog Essex House Dolly, says: “I bought a Chesterfield footstool for £50, when the recommended retail price was £450.’ So there are bargains to be had. 

4. Invest in your floor

If you’ve got a naff fitted carpet, peel up a corner and see what’s underneath. If you discover period flooring or decent floorboards, then you could be onto something golden.

For the cost of hiring a powerful sander and some wood stain, you could completely change the feel of your living room.

Existing solid hardwood floors can be painted or stained, with funky or neutral rugs added to bring comfort and joy. 

As a rule, if you’ve got two sofas, you’ll want a sumptuous rug and coffee table between them.

“Wood floors can easily be sanded and stripped when you’re tired of the aesthetic,” says Sylvia James at HomeHow.co.uk

“Apply a darker coat of stain to give that classic, luxury feel to your home, or go bold with paint to match your décor.”

 5. Use existing furniture 

One way to renovate your living room without spending a penny is simply to move around your existing furniture and furnishings.

“By simply moving your furniture around, you can create the illusion of a new room - and all it will cost you is a bit of elbow grease,” says David Philips, building expert at PropertyRescue.

You can also upcycle or customise your existing furniture to give it a new lease of life at minimal cost. 

Why not give your tired wooden coffee table a sand down and spray it with opulent metallic paint? Rust-Oleum Gold Furniture Paint starts at around £20.

Getting a sofa or armchair professionally upholstered will set you back a fair whack. But if you can have a go at the task yourself you could upgrade for the cost of the fabric.

New cushions are easier to make yourself, and a sumptuous throw will make even the most tired sofa look inviting. So use soft furnishings cleverly, and layer for a luxurious impact.

6. Add an upcycled accent wall

Accent walls are all the rage in 2023. And for those on a budget, the good news is you only need new materials for one wall.

Organic textures and tones are everywhere this year, so think about wood batons or cork or panelling for your living room. 

“We all love an accent wall, but bold colours and fancy wallpapers can only get you so far when you’re trying to update a room – especially on a budget,” says Ivo Iv of Décor Home Ideas.

“A great material choice for a living room reno is recycled wood panelling, something that can be found at community wood recycling stores, local demolition sites, and even eBay. 

“I like the use of upcycled wood for renovations because it holds history and character, as well as being cheap to buy and install.“


We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.