10 Small Changes That Will Make A Big Difference

As Lockdown drags on the motivation is hard to find isn’t it? I found this list the other day and think I was preparing it for a book but not sure it made it,  so I’m posting it here as it’s a list of suggestions for small things you can do that will improve your living space and, therefore, your life. I mean clearly not in the way that ending lockdown, winning the lottery or getting a pay rise and a promotion might, but it will help.

You know when you buy a new scarf or top and suddenly everything in the wardrobe feels rejuvenated? It’s that. Some are small, some are more labour intense. Have a look and see if any appeal to you.


holy wafer handles by superfront
holy wafer handles by superfront comes in five colours

This is a simple job but will really make a difference. We always remember the touch points and texture and touch is one of those details that can be overlooked but shouldn’t be. There are so many different places to look these days. I have included a list of places over on Design Storey but, as regular readers will know, I am a huge fan of Superfront and have bought their handles before. The nude leather ages beautifully, the brass acquires a lovely patina or you could use the opportunity to add a splash of unexpected colour to a white or grey kitchen.


padded doors at bbc television centre in apartment designed by Bella Freud and Maria Speake of Retrouvius
padded doors at bbc television centre in apartment designed by Bella Freud and Maria Speake of Retrouvius

A bit more like hard work this but don’t despair if you hate yours there are options. One of my neighbours lived with some horrendous purple lacquered affair for years before she got round to changing it and now they’ve moved. So do it now! You can paint – use a primer like Zinsser Bin 123 and Rustoleum paint. You can remove and hang some amazing fabric – if you do this make sure you hang it from the ceiling and extend it from wall to wall so it looks entirely luxurious. I have also been looking at padded doors recently. There are tutorials all over the place but essentially it involves making a baton frame, adding some foam and stretching material over the top. Katy Orme from Apartment Apothecary is currently in the process of cutting out the middle of her Ikea Ivar wooden doors and replacing them with cane. You can read how she did it on an earlier post at the link above.

ikea ivar cane hack by Katy Orme of Apartment Apothecary
ikea ivar cane hack by Katy Orme of Apartment Apothecary


before: unpainted flat radiator at the home of Tania Urban, @thegarden.edit
before: unpainted flat radiator at the home of Tania Urban, @thegarden.edit

This is so simple, so fast and makes such a difference. I have to admit to there being some debate on this very subject in The Mad House at the moment. We have painted them in most rooms apart from the sitting room where I am keen to wrap the dark brown round the corner and The Mad Husband thinks the flat fronted radiators won’t paint as well as traditional ones. I’m adding this picture from my friend Tania (find her @thegarden.edit and if you need some garden work get in touch) and resting my case….

after: painted flat radiator at the home of Tania Urban, @thegarden.edit
after: painted flat radiator at the home of Tania Urban, @thegarden.edit


I have spoken about this before but big rugs (and you should always buy the biggest you can afford) can be earbleedingly expensive and you can’t always layer smaller ones. That tends to work if you already own several that are broadly similar – Persian for example – but can be tricky to get right. There is lots of patterned carpet around and I have used this trick in my own house as well as advising others. A large piece of carpet (and ask the shop about hemming the edges) will always be more affordable.

my first home office with a large carpet remnant edged in pink to match the fireplace image by James Balston


British bathrooms are small. Most of them have a shower over the bath unless you have been able to convert a bedroom or cut up a larger one. But if you don’t use the bath and find climbing in over the bath somewhat stressful then think about removing and replacing with the largest shower you can fit in the space. The plumbing will always be there and any new buyers can always reinstall the bath. However, if that’s not a goer then think about whether you have space to install a second basin or to replace the one you have with a larger one so that two people could use it at the same time.

my large shower in the corner of a converted bedroom


Staying in this room, we can probably all agree that there isn’t enough storage. If there’s no more floor space (trolleys are good for this as you can wheel them out of corner to where you might need them) then you have to use the walls. Make sure that mirrors have shelves or consider adding some narrow shelves if you can – don’t forget they only need to be as wide as a bottle of shampoo.

demsa mirror with shelf from Nkuku
demsa mirror with shelf from Nkuku


Once again there are various ways of doing this. We had a padded headboard that was a very cold shade of grey. We also had a huge velvet bedspread that was taking up cupboard space. It was the work of an hour to marry the two and completely change the look and feel of the room. Again, if you want something more permanent (and less Heath Robinson) there are tutorials around. Try Melanie Lissack for advice and ideas.

DIY headboard makeover by Melanie Lissack Interiors
DIY headboard makeover by Melanie Lissack Interiors


This is on my permanent list of jobs. I have one in the bathroom but I really need to add one in the kitchen. The other rooms in the house are mostly lit by lamps but those are the two rooms where it can really make a difference as you don’t tend to have lamps in these rooms so it can be hard to create atmosphere. If you don’t already have kitchen lights on different circuits (so you can turn them off over the sink while you eat dinner at the table for example) then putting the whole room on a dimmer can help.


Two things I don’t have and wish I did in my shower room. The former is self-evident (and I write this as the snow is falling past my window) the second is much easier to clean around not to mention the oft-cited argument that the more floor you see the bigger the room looks.


sitting room at
sitting room at

If you don’t want to get the electrician round to sort the lighting then add lamps to your spaces. Tall ones, table ones, floor ones. Turn some of them on all the time and leave others for different times. There’s nothing wrong with allowing a corner to recede into the darkness – it can make a room look bigger when you can’t see the edges. And ring the changes with new cushion covers – they’re easy to store so you refresh seasonally or as the mood takes you and keep them for years greeting them like old friends when you bring them out from the drawer.


Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I’ve never seen a flat radiator like Tania’s. It looks so much better painted. It could look like a piece of artwork for the immensely talented.

  2. Thank you! Couldn’t be more timely as the top of my current list is “cover headboard.” It’s now a black number that gives the place an “American Psycho” bachelor- pad vibe, I’ll spare you the story of why it is in our bedroom, and why the “statement wall” behind it is painted an atrocious dark brown-plum that looks like dried blood (also scheduled for a re-do).

  3. Thank you! Great list and you have prompted me to do at least 3 of these! Quick question do you need to prime radiators with anything first or can you add eggshell straight on?

  4. Very good ideas as always. I have a few in place and am going to investigate Superfront and doing something with horrible fitted cupboards. I too would like to know where the long armed, angled wall light is from. I’ve looked at your ideas on Design Storey and like some but I really want one I can angle in different directions. Any idea welcome!! Love Design Storey by the way!

    1. I am currently redecorating the second bedroom to double as a craft room and the first thing i did was remove the architrave on the build-in cupboards doorframe! Turning it into a feature wall.
      Regarding the cane fronted doors: that works well for hiding electronics in the living room too, since wifi, bluetooth and infrared (from remotes) will all work through it.
      I have been collecting light fittings to replace the whole house in one go and i already made 2 mistakes. Some of the energy efficient bulbs i got was not actually dimmable. And after spending a lot of time looking for a chandelier for the landing, discovered last night there is a watertank right above where i wanted it to go!
      And once that craft room is ready: cushion covers!
      This post has given me so many ideas, thank you!

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