None of these ideas need to cost much money. What they do cost is time. Time to hunt down the right things that work in your home. Some will cost more than others, of course, but I have tried to give you adaptations on the principle where possible. And sometimes it’s about spending money on one thing rather than several.
1 GO LARGE
This always works. I have always said that you should buy the biggest rug you can afford – see below for why, likewise a big mirror. Even a huge paper lantern – one that is slightly too large for the space – makes everything look better. Don’t do it with everything or it will look odd but a big plant, a big vase – that becomes a real focal point – or any of the above will always, always (can I say that again – always) look better than a collection of tiny dust collecting objects and rugs that look marooned in the space.
2 BUY THE BIGGEST RUG YOU CAN AFFORD
Ok for the rugs in more detail; large rug speaks of wealth and luxury – not just financial but also in a tactile sense. If you can’t afford one that’s big enough buy smaller ones and layer them. Vintage Persians work well as they are so flat and small ones are proportionally cheaper than large. And if that doesn’t work then buy a large piece of carpet, which doesn’t have to cost much, and spend a little more having the edges bound in a contrasting colour. Handmade details look expensive.
3 AND A MIRROR
But make sure you keep it dust free. Mirrors bounce the light around, they bring the light in and they add a sense of luxury to a space. Now large mirrors can be expensive, but you can buy a cheap piece of mirror – perhaps from a local glazier or from ikea – and you can stick it in a vintage picture frame that you can pick up from a car boot sale. You can use mirror tiles stuck to the wall and stick some architrave round the edge to create a frame. As a final point if you have a little more money in the pot then make your mirror foxed – it looks antique and, therefore, expensive. Actually, a final, final, point there are various you tube tutorials on how to fox/antique a mirror yourself. I haven’t tried it so I can’t speak for how successful it might be.
4 GET THE LIGHTING RIGHT
Good lighting is a game changer. You can hide a multitude of sins/cheap furniture with good lighting. A pendant light doesn’t have to be expensive – buy a paper shade but make it massive. If you are feeling brave try one that is actually too big for the space. But don’t stop there, you need to layer lights so they create more atmosphere throwing pools of soft light up walls and into corners. But don’t be afraid to leave the odd dark corner – a little mystery looks good. Table lamps don’t have to be expensive and you can recover a simple drum shade with a small amount of more fabric, which will elevate the whole piece.
5 CHANGE THE HANDLES
This is the single most important thing you can do to transform a cheap piece of furniture. We did it twice on an Ikea kitchen – both times to leather straps – first black (one white) then tan (on charcoal). At the time it was hard to find leather straps (I took the idea from an old issue of Elle Decoration where the Danish designer Tine K said she cut up a an old belt to create hers). But these days you can buy them everywhere. Leather softens and improves with age and brings a patina and a sense of quiet authority to a cheap door. Doesn’t have to be just the kitchen – change door handles – nothing says cheap modern firedoor more than a chrome lever handle – and while we’re at it light switches. People remember the touch points as they are the parts they interact with.
6 MAKE SURE THE PAINTWORK IS CLEAN AND TIDY
It’s a boring job but maintenance does just that; maintains value. It also makes a place look clean, tidy and well-cared for. Which, in turn, makes it look like you have spent money on it, ergo it looks more expensive. You don’t have to use expensive paint but just make sure it’s well applied and that you touch up when it gets scuffed and messy.
7 ADD SOME PLANTS
Houseplants are having a moment, not least because they are proven to clean the air and remove toxins. And, at a time when we are all working and schooling from home and our computers are on all the time, that makes them a vital part of any home. But it’s not just that – an airy room that is clean and filled with plants will automatically feel more luxurious and healthy than a closed space with nothing living in it.
8 SORT YOUR ARTWORK OUT
Now this one might be controversial, but I am not a fan of those sites that sell lots of generic posters at very affordable prices. Don’t get me wrong, affordable is good, excellent even but when you scroll through Instagram and see the same posters again and again it takes away any sense of personality, individuality and style from your own space. I have framed magazine covers, my kids artwork (only once or twice and on a large scale with a proper mount to make it look more expensive) postcards, photographs and exhibition posters. You can frame anything you like that tells the story of your house and your family and it doesn’t have to be the same as anything anyone else has – unless you truly truly love it. Lisa Dawson wants a David Shrigley (don’t we all) and has framed some of his postcards instead to create something bespoke. Other people frame teatowels. Create something invididual that looks bespoke and everything in your room will look more expensive. Good art elevates.
9 CHOOSE YOUR ACCESSORIES WISELY
Like I said – a single big vase that doubles as a great object even when it doesn’t have flowers in will always look better than a small one. Buy cushions in singles rather than a series of matching sets. The thing about a single object is that it looks like you choose it because you loved it rather than just plumping for a pair. And something that looks like you choose it because you loved it looks, in turn, like you knew what you were looking for and hunted it down rather than just adding to cart. Which brings me to the next point:
10 ALWAYS ADD VINTAGE
For the reasons above. A single vintage piece adds character and personality. It tells a story – that perhaps you inherited it from a Granny – who, in turn, had something that was worth inheriting. It doesn’t matter if you inherited it/bought it from someone else’s Granny on eBay. It will make your room look more thought through and more expensive.
And finally clean and open your windows
Nothing says expensive and airy and luxurious more than fresh air and clean windows letting the light stream in. You wouldn’t go out in a fabulous dress for an evening out without washing your hair would you? Because in the end, it all comes down to the details. No-one will notice your cheap sofa if the room is light and airy, smells fresh, is well maintained and tells a story either through the interesting works of art, or the one-off pieces of furniture, or the sense of welcoming luxury underfoot.