You spend time poring over the gorgeous interiors on Houzz, but then life gets in the way of you making your own place look perfect. Sound familiar? Lack of money, energy and time can mean you never quite get around to your spruce-up paint job, that new flooring gets put on hold, you’re still lounging on that unloved old sofa … I could go on. However, while you wait, there are small things you can do to cheer up your space, and that don’t require entire weekends spent constructing flat-packs or prowling the DIY store. Whether it’s a messy desk or a grubby hall, take 10 minutes out to subtly improve them and you’ll feel much better.
Much of the art of creating a stylish home is about stopping to consider what you already have and how best to display it. So don’t leave your most beautiful books tucked away on high shelves. The pile of arty hardbacks on a coffee table might feel something of a homes cliché, but it can actually be a rather effective way of adding personality to a living space.
Three objects arranged in a small cluster are instantly interpreted by the eye as a carefully edited group display, rather than a random concoction – be they on a mantelpiece or a table. These two ceramic containers teamed with a simple glass bottle vase are a case in point. Try objects of subtly different lengths or widths for maximum effect.
TIP: Some blowsy white blooms in a glass vase is another instant update that works pretty much anywhere. Hit your local florist’s or get busy with your secateurs in the garden.
It may be tempting to stuff your shelves full of books so you utilise every storage centimetre. But by reserving part of a shelf to display interesting objects, you not only create a sense of space in a room, you also turn what could be a workaday piece of furniture into an eclectic style statement.
If you have a wall that’s looking dull or bare and you have young children, there’s really no need to spend a fortune on limited editions. Kids’ drawings are colourful and characterful, and can look lovely displayed en masse, as this gallery wall proves.
Mix tacked-up sketches with a few of your children’s favourite compositions in simple white frames. You’ll cherish them for years to come.
Is your home office a mess of torn envelopes, half-forgotten bills and old supermarket discount vouchers? Take a few minutes out to tidy, clean and polish your desk. If you don’t have a system, create one, assigning different drawers and in-trays for urgent and non-urgent paperwork. Gather stray pens together; recycle an old tin or use a favourite mug as a holder if nothing else is at hand.
Finally, if you have more time, you could copy the above trick and hang clipboards on a wall for a low-cost, utilitarian display, then use different clips for different to-do lists. The result: clearer desk, clearer mind.
Few things change the look of a living room so easily as a variety of interesting cushions. A tired sofa can be revived, a neglected armchair brought back into use or a plain bed given the hotel factor.
Take a look at the cushions you already own – could they be combined in a more interesting arrangement, as seen here? Experiment with them on different chairs in different rooms, to see whether they’d work better elsewhere.
If you don’t have cushions you love to hand, treat yourself to some new ones – many stores sell great designs for reasonable prices these days.
Tea towels have become the cushions of the kitchen. Easily changed around, a bright design can instantly lift a plain white room and, left on display, as here, cheer you up on gloomy mornings.
Build up a collection of pretty designs – there are gazillions around – so that when one is in the wash, you have another on standby. Hang one over the back of a cupboard door or oven handle to lift a run of boring units. And if you find one you really love, then why not frame it?
If your hallway coat pegs are a monstrous tangle of hats, scarves, coats and tatty cloth bags, take 10 minutes to strip back to basics. Pack away (or give away) anything that’s out of season or out of fashion, leaving just a few lovely things on display. The result will vastly improve the look of your hallway.
If you want to go further, treat yourself to a stylish coat hook, such as this design classic Eames Hang-it-all rack, or one of the many other quirky, cool designs around nowadays.
Lovely things are meant to be enjoyed – and can distract the eye from an otherwise unspectacular space. If you have a collection of colourful ceramics, don’t hide them away. Instead, create an eclectic display on an open shelf in a kitchen or on a sideboard.
Nothing says ‘home’ like a dining table laid out for a meal. So clear away the toast crumbs and the pile of junk mail and use what you have to hand. It doesn’t have to be fancy – a plain white tablecloth, that rustic breadboard you use every day, your much-loved battered Italian coffee pot. Finish off with some flowers in a vase. Doesn’t that look better?
Is your hallway a riot of muddy skirting boards and grubby fingermarks on walls and banisters? Hallways get more of a battering than nearly anywhere in the house, especially if you have bikes, buggies or children, and can often be neglected. However, a few minutes with some all-purpose cleaner, a duster and some serious elbow grease can make a difference.
Scrub grimy woodwork, mop every corner of the floor and take time to tackle oft-neglected areas, such as in-between balusters on the staircase. If you have spare paint, get a small brush and touch up chipped boards and dirty marks, too.