Decorating on a budget

Posted on Monday, January 15, 2018

Julia Kendell, BBC’s DIY SOS guest designer and spokesperson for The National Homebuilding & Renovating Show, shares her tips on how to decorate a home on a budget:

Panel power

If you’ve got a small budget but big ideas for your interiors, one of the money-saving tricks I’ve used in the past is to create panels of wallpaper. It works really well!

Rather than papering a whole room or a whole wall you can choose to use just one single roll that you really love – and, as you’re only using the one, this could be a relatively expensive one if you wish.

Once you’ve found the right design for you, create panels on the walls with it. If you’re very practical, construct frames with timber beading or picture rails and then wallpaper within them. Alternatively, if you prefer, you can simply hang the paper and finish off with some kind of border.

If you’re forming large panels on the wall (creating three works the best), they will have almost as much visual impact as if you were wallpapering the whole room... but, of course, the price tag will be much lower. Usefully too, you won’t need to worry about joining the wallpaper together, which is particularly helpful if you’re not that great at wallpapering.

Create some colour

Add energy to your rooms by using colour and, in particular, make use of seasonal palettes too. Thinking seasonally means you can ring the changes with ease.

Generally speaking, most people’s houses tend to be fairly bland as it does take a certain amount of confidence to add colour. However, it’s such a simple way to transform a room. Do this by simply adding brightly-coloured cushions, artwork and other accessories.

Try experimenting with different patterns as well. Without spending a lot of money you can add texture by introducing different combinations of patterns and designs. It’s advisable to get small swatches to see how they will work together before you fully commit to a whole room.

Sale solutions

Another trick that I use is to find out when the designer fabric and wallpaper houses are having their warehouse sales. Most big companies will have a big warehouse clearance at least annually and there are often many bargains to be bagged.

To find out about the dates of sales make sure you’re subscribed to the mailing lists. And, to make the most of the sale on the day, make sure you arrive super early (as soon as the doors open if you can).

You will potentially pick up some tremendous pieces and snap up some really cracking stuff at a snip of their full price.

Vintage finds

One of the things I really enjoy doing is scouring the markets for really interesting one-off pieces that will really focus the attention in a room.

If you’re trying to save money then the fewer items you’re having to purchase the better, so go for larger pieces. Look for those with a lot of height, size or bulk as these will create the greatest impact and transform a room much more efficiently than lots of little ones.

Look out for unusual pieces as these will really draw the eye. It depends what style you’re going for but these could include some sort of 1950s-inspired chair or an amazing hat stand complete with a selection of old hats.

There are all sorts of incredible things available if you’re open-minded in your thinking and creative in your shopping.

Brush up your skills

When decorating, one of the key mistakes that people tend to make is to go for a really pricey paint thinking it’s going to look fabulous and then use incredibly cheap paintbrushes to apply it. Not surprisingly the effect will never be as they hoped as brush quality is essential for the best results.

In fact, if you invest in some really good quality paint brushes it’s actually possible to get away with using a cheaper paint – and if you take the time to prep properly you can actually get a really good finish with paints of all prices.

Today there are more and more high street stores bringing out their own well-priced ranges of great paints so make sure you shop around and you’re clever about what you buy.

Refresh and renew

Painting pieces of furniture and updating their appearance with new knobs, handles or feet is a great way to save. 

Good strong pieces of furniture, especially when it comes to storage items, can cost so much money to buy, but you can upcycle to create bespoke pieces with ease. In fact, there are loads of good furniture paints available now which make it an absolute breeze to get a good finish.

If you have an old chest of drawers that looks a bit tired, for example, or an old pine bedside cabinet that’s looking dated you’ll be amazed at the difference a lick of paint can make. If you’re a creative person you can also add découpage, stencilling or try out other different finishes too.

You don’t need to be highly skilled to update and upcycle your furniture – you’ve just got to have a bit of patience and persistence,” concludes Julia. “You’ll save pounds for your purse... and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve shaped the transformation yourself will be priceless.

The National Homebuilding & Renovating Show runs from 22-25 March 2018 at NEC, Birmingham

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