If you’ve been putting off decorating because you think you can’t afford it, or the house is feeling a bit cramped for a growing family but you don’t really want to move, perhaps it’s time to think about a small refurbishment. A little refreshing of the current decor. It’s amazing what even a lick of paint can do to transform a room and, if you apply it yourself, it can cost just a few quid. So, with penny-pinching in mind, here are some ideas you can steal for a budget of £50, £500, £5,000 or even for a remortgage of £50,000.


It’s tight, but not impossible. To start with, you can buy a tin of paint, although not the labour to apply it. You can just paint one wall – but if it’s a feature wall then it needs to be pretty spectacular. You can apply the same rule to wallpaper, but obviously at this price you’ll only get the paper – not the person to stick it on. Wallpaperdirect (  has thousands of papers to choose from, from as little as £5.99 a roll. Or buy some wall stickers which you can easily put up yourself. Try Supernice for fabulous trompe l’oeil chandeliers and plants. Not forgetting the lovely minimoderns (, whose paisley crescent is currently featured as the background wallpaper on the site and costs £45.

Harlequin's Persephone wallpaper is £49 a roll in five colourways
supernice chandelier stickers are £25


Tor Vivian, of Dobson & Vivian, an integrated architecture and design practice, says: “Paint the walls in a neutral colour, and do the woodwork in a lighter shade of the same colour. A lighter, brighter shade will give a clean, updated look and make the space feel bigger.”

If the walls are fine, but the carpet’s a bit tired, think about buying a rug.

cotton rug by strawberry hills from


Hugo Tugman, founder of Interior Your Home and its sister company Architect Your Home, suggests spending your £50 on a fabulous lampshade for the central pendant light. “It’s difficult, but not impossible to make a change for £50,” he says. “Changing the lighting will make the whole room feel different. Habitat does some great shades, and you should choose something that will really make a statement.”

Aerial from Habitat for £49
Habitat's Kuja shade is £45

A quick and easy way to change the furniture is to buy a throw or think about new cushion covers. There are hundreds to choose from in all price ranges.

H&M cushion covers are £12.99 each
French Connection jersey cushions are £35 including a feather filling



If the carpet has had its day, you can replace it in one room for about this sum. Or you can rip it up, and sand the boards. It costs around £30 a day to hire a sanding machine, but you will need another smaller one for the corners. Then you can varnish them or paint them in a colour of your choosing and spend any leftovers on a rug.

from via Pinterest

Your local builder should put up some shelves and paint them for this sort of price, and good storage will make you feel like you live in a new house. Consider book and DVD shelves, or perhaps include a cupboard underneath so the clutter isn’t visible.


Upstairs in the bedroom, think about buying some new hangers for your clothes and perhaps building shoe storage.

If you’ve got a bunch of posters and postcards that you’ve been meaning to frame for a while, take them to the local framers and do as many as you can afford. Vivian suggests framing your own black-and-white prints.

by Francesco Lagnese from

Tugman says at this budget you can think about buying some new furniture. “Dwell and Ikea have some good solutions at this budget. But you might also be able to do something like retile the bathroom. Porcelanosa is a really good source of tiles and you can make a feature out of one wall,” he says.

from via Pinterest


This is where it gets more interesting. Tugman says: “With £5,000, you can start to think about taking down walls and rearranging the internal space to get more light, or getting rid of wasted space in hallways.

“You might be able to convert a single door to the garden into French doors, or change a window into a door. The space under the stairs is often wasted – think about installing a downstairs loo or making an office area.”


If you have a large master bedroom but have always hankered after an en suite, now you’re in the ball park. That’s assuming you’re not insisting on gold taps. Moving internal walls isn’t a big job, and you can easily make one room a little smaller so you can create a small bathroom. These days, you can also buy things to fit in a corner, so in a large room you can even box off a triangle shape and buy a triangular basin, loo and shower. The cost of this will vary according to the materials you use, but if you stick to basic white and then add colourful towels to finish it off, you shouldn’t blow the budget.


If you can’t afford a whole new kitchen, think about replacing the doors as the cupboard carcasses are probably fine. sell new doors from about £15 each. Remember that the drawer fronts, and the cost of handles mounts up fast too. Use the leftover money for a new worktop, and any more after that can go towards new accessories.

“You can update the kitchen by painting the cupboard doors and replacing the worktop. Larger wood worktops from Ikea sell for around £60 for 246cm,” says Vivian. “You can also change the cupboard handles. B&Q and Homebase have some lovely ranges, and if you have some money left over then changing the kitchen taps for something more contemporary is a good way to update the look.”

Don’t forget the garden. Proper garden makeovers can cost a lot of money, but for this price you should be able to create a patio and returf the lawn. The other approach is to install some fabulous garden lighting – just as top models rely on good lighting to hide imperfections, so some uplighters and downlighters in your garden can draw attention to the good bits, and vice versa. Alternatively, splash out on some good garden furniture. If you buy well, it should last for years.


With this kind of budget, you’re entering the realms of being able to add another room to your property, and this is also where you start to add real value to your house. A basic loft conversion usually starts from around £35,000, but you will also have to buy the bathroom fittings with that and decorate it too. If you need new furniture, then your £50,000 is pretty well taken care of.

converting the loft doesn't have to mean a bedroom (from
from Jane Feltham via Pinterest

If you don’t want to go up, then how about out? Single-storey side-return extensions cost from about £35,000, but you will have to buy flooring and install a kitchen too, so you will spend all your budget here. Installing a glass roof or full-width glass doors is increasingly popular, but this will send the cost soaring so calculate carefully before you get carried away. As a basic guideline, you can extend up to 3 metres from the rear wall, 3 metres out and 4 metres up within permitted development. Any more than that will need planning permission. Otherwise, you just need to apply for a certificate of lawfulness. But it’s wise to check first, the laws are Byzantine and seem to change on a whim.

by David Churchill from

Tugman suggests you should always buy the best you can afford, though. “I worked on a house valued at £1.35m. We converted a dressing room back into a bedroom with an en suite and added some amazing glass-fronted wardrobes. We spent £60,000 and the house was revalued at £1.7m. That’s a phenomenal return on the investment and was down to the expensive wardrobes. Sometimes, spending that little bit extra really makes a difference.”


Tags : add valuearchitect your homebudgetconvertconvert the loftcreate more spacedon't move improveextendextensionFrench Connection Homeget the money backH&M homeHabitathugo tugmaninternal wallslightingminimodernsoffice spacerugssand floorboardssuperniceunder the stairswall stickerswallpaperwallpaperdirect
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.

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