How To Revamp Your Home Without Spending Any Money

It never goes away does it? That feeling that somehow September is the proper start to the new year. I mean of course we all know that technically it’s January, but for anyone who has children and, I’m willing to bet, those that don’t but whose lives were governed by the rhythm of the school year for so long, September has just as much importance for that feeling of starting again.

zebra rug by alternative flooring
move rugs and cushions around your home to ring the changes without spending any money

The French call it La Rentrée – the return – but actually I think it carries more weight in its literal sense – Re-entry. It’s a re-entry to timetables, to that familiar rhythm of routine that governs our days. And with that comes the shiny new pencil case feel of buying the back to school equipment – new pencil cases and shoes, uniforms and bags. But for adults too there is a sense that the new collections are dropping so it’s time to put away the sandals and summer clothes and shop for new winter gear.

Except that this year the charity Oxfam has launched a campaign called Second Hand September. It’s asking us to take the pledge that we won’t buy new clothes for a month. To reduce the weekly toll of 11 million items to landfill and to restyle our wardrobes using what we have and what we can pick up second hand or, as some call it, pre-loved.

zebra rug by alternative flooring
this zebra rug has been all over the house to ring the changes as a way of revamping for no money

And so I thought I would take the same approach to interiors. After all, as the autumn evenings take on that familiar chill and the long summer evenings shorten each day, it’s tempting to want to buy new things for our houses. To swap the linen cushions for knitted, to buy a throw and maybe a new rug in warm earth tones now that the new collections are dropping every day.

That’s not to say I won’t be showing you those new collections because this blog also exists for that. But I thought that today we could have a look at ways to restyle your home for the new season without spending any money.

pink wall and yellow bed
Kimberly Duran used leftover paint to paint the one wall that was visible from the landing

It’s called Shop Your Home and the main principle is about moving things around because by putting them in different rooms they will bring a different feel to the space. So how to do it?

Well, the most obvious is the one that is the most difficult for many of us and it’s about moving the furniture around. Now I get that most of us can’t move the bed or the sofa as they tend to be fixed in the one place they fit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t swap other things. Bring the armchairs from one room to another. Or change the side tables around.

We use stools as bedside tables and have been known to bring them to the sitting room and take small tables from there upstairs. On the subject of tables try re-arranging the coffee table so that it has different books or ornaments on it. Anything that can ring the changes make it look new and different.

gallery wall on pink walls
pink gallery walls at

Another idea is move pictures around. Re-arrange a gallery wall or swap art from upstairs to down so you can see it more. If I’m honest this doesn’t work in our house as The Mad Husband is adamant that once a space has been found for a picture that’s where it lives and you can’t just change it because you feel like it. I don’t entirely agree with him, but we share this house so concessions have to be made. I just buy something new/vintage to add to what is there as a way of changing the feel. We bought these botanical images on holiday this year and the bedroom gallery wall is growing.

I swap cushions around all year from the sitting room to the library and up and down from the bedroom. Likewise throws, which can come out of the cupboard now that the evenings have a chill in them.

colour blocking pink by frenchforpineapple
colour blocking pink by frenchforpineapple

Rugs are another thing that can swap around to change the feel of a room. This is also something you can think about for next year – if you had a pale Berber style rug down all summer now is the time to roll that up and store it under the sofa or bed and replace with one that is more vibrant or warmer in tone. Perhaps you already own something or perhaps you will buy with a view swapping them back when the seasons change. And I’m pretty sure that buying a vintage rug counts towards the second hand September pledge.

Talking of which, the campaign, as it’s run by Oxfam is not completely about not shopping (they have stores too) but about shopping less and more responsibly and also about shopping vintage, used and second hand. I have scored some great pieces from charity shops, junk shops and ebay and it’s always a joy to find things that no-one else has.

Once you’ve shopped your own home and the second hand places you can also see if there’s anything that can be done with leftover decorating materials. I showed you yesterday how Bianca Hall has used a tester pot to paint a coloured square to highlight her gallery wall. Over the weekend Kimberly Duran said she had just enough left over paint to do one wall of her spare room. This means that when she walks past the open door it looks great as she can forget about the other three walls that she hates (and that need completely stripping back) until she has the funds to do the whole room. Alex Steadman, of The Frugality, has just painted her whole spareroom with leftover paint and, Mary Le Comte, who has featured before, used blocks of colours to decorate her son’s room.

use leftover paint to create colour blocking effects
Mosey Home used leftover paint to create an interesting design in her son’s room

When we decorated the bathroom we had some leftover black and white encaustic tiles which I later used on a fireplace hearth which was just painted cement. There were just enough for that. There were also some leftover black slate tiles which have been sitting in the cellar for a few years. But when we redid our ensuite there were a few marble tiles the same size that weren’t needed. The plan is to use them to decorate a table for the garden. I also asked the builder to cut a couple of them into four so we have some marble coasters too.

Finally, think about moving plants to different places to give them a change of scene and even swapping table lamps from one room to another. All these details will help revamp your house and make it feel new and exciting again. We change our clothes with the seasons so why not our interiors?

These are just some ideas and I’m sure you will have many more of your own so I wish you all a Happy New (School) Year and have fun rearranging. Do share your ideas in the comments below so we can gather as many ideas as possible.


Tags : Happy New (school) yearLa RentréeRevampSecond hand septemberShop your home
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. Year in year out, I do lots of changes in the house which costs much and never thought of swapping stuffs but i just got inspired. Thanks for sharing this article.

  2. I end up doing this spontaneously, once or twice a year. It’s usually precipitated by a major cleaning effort & the feeling that things are looking a little grubby, a little tired. When I was single I had greater freedom in this, but as you said, in a marriage, concessions must be made. My husband & the dogs react to moving major furniture with profound suspicion & deep unhappiness, but as long as the important relationship between couch, end table and television are not altered my husband doesn’t seem to mind to much. The dogs are less forgiving.
    I was lucky to have inherited some beautiful textiles & a weakness for them as well. I like to swap bedspreads/duvet covers, slipcovers around. I sometimes hang them on the wall as well. And I love to move artwork around. I find that after a while the eye begins to take things for granted & just slips off a picture on its way round the room. When I find a new place for it, my appreciation is renewed. It’s all good, cheap fun.

  3. What is this thing with cushions on beds? Where do you put them when you get into bed? Our house compares people who cover beds with cushions as being in the same league as those who have poodle crocheted lavatory roll covers.
    Less is best.

  4. I’d say about 90% of my clothes and furniture is second hand I love discovering new old things. I work in a charity shop and the amount of stuff is eye watering ( No we don’t keep all the good things for ourselves) Just bought a rattan table for £5 from another charity shop the other day. It is gorgeous. Well done on promoting this.

  5. I’m really pleased that you are encouraging your followers to salvage, reuse furniture, paint,etc. Too many people seem to find it so easy to throw away perfectly good stuff & buy new just for the sake of fashion. Our family loves visiting reclamation yards for one off pieces that have been previously cherished & will be used by us for years to come.
    My husband’s grandmother had a mahogany dresser that she inherited from her mother & we are hoping to spruce it up for our future barn conversion.

  6. Joking apart having spent 10 days house and dog sitting for our family, I would say that a really good deep clean and polishing all the furniture makes a huge impact!! Nothing bought just blood, sweat and detergent!

  7. I bought two cheap burnt orange colour cushions fromNext ( £12 each) to add to others for tv room sofa which is charcoal. In a cold room instantly feels warmer as they are velvet style. Also Kate you have just prompted me to consider an old chair in my garden hut that just needs a bit of TLC to be allowed back into house. We have lots of old bits of furniture in storage that belonged to now deceased relatives – we don’t need them but there is a huge psychological / emotional bond that remains after many years. I’m hoping to make a real effort this month to pass on rather than skip. Think it will be eased knowing stuff is going to have another useful life and be cherished by others. Find it strange how difficult his process can be.
    Can I also ask have you been watching The Repair Shop on BBC2 – perhaps an idea for your blog? Fascinating to watch the skills used to conserve, restore and repair much loved items in this throwaway age.

  8. I had been looking for an occasional chair to put in our guest room (once pennies have been saved to plaster, paint etc). Having looked online on and off for a few months I happened to pop into my local charity furniture outlet and managed to find the most gorgeous, low cane chair which is just right for the space. A bargain at £20, supporting a local children’s hospice charity and preventing the item going to landfill – win win!

  9. Exactly what I am planning once my student nieces have gone back to uni! So it will be more secondhand September/October for me but can’t wait to refresh my space!

  10. Hi Kate,

    I put down a deposit to buy a 2 bed flat off plan, it nearly completion and I would need help with ordering and decorating the rooms. I have a floor plan but don’t know where to start. Do you have any tips for maximising space whilst creating storage? I love your creative ideas that is why I follow you on Insta.

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