Give your home decor a spruce up with these easy and budget-friendly decorating tips.
Revamping your home decor needn’t always be a major project and you don’t always have to spend a king’s ransom to do it. Here are 25 ways to give your rooms a fresh look in record time, without breaking a sweat – or your budget.
1 Update lampshades with new ones in more contemporary shapes or simply fresh white shades.
2 Paint is the classic makeover potion. Instead of repainting a whole room, just paint one wall in a focal colour or paint a contrasting rectangle over a sofa to use as a “gallery” space. You can also paint the insides of bookshelves in an unexpected colour or paint your ceiling a lighter version of the wall colour. Update your kitchen with paint or any other space in your home.
3 Update your window dressings. IKEA and other home stores have reams of readymade draperies you can hem to the right size (or leave to puddle on the floor), or you can make your own from sheets or lengths of designer outlet fabric. Hang from an attractive new curtain rod, also available in stock sizes.
4 Pull a room together by choosing two contrast colours – black and white, say, or white and one bright colour – and use them as a repeating theme throughout, such as a row of yellow and white pillows on a sofa, or robin’s egg blue walls and all-white furnishings.
5 A simple but effective tip: Edit your accessories. Too much of a good thing is too much. Try taking all your home decor accessories and putting them in a box, then putting them back one by one where they’ll have the most impact.
6 Take down all your paintings and other art and move them around to different walls or different rooms. It’ll be like seeing them for the first time.
7 A classic display scheme ever since Victorian times: Create a gallery wall of family photos and other small pictures in matching (or contrasting) frames, arranged in a collage on a large wall such as a stairwell or hallway. (For best results, first create a plan by arranging them on the floor till you find the right composition and “balance.”) The art of arrangement is always stylish.
8 Inexpensive frame mouldings from the box store can transform a plain wall or hallway into an instant paneled look. Paint the mouldings in a contrasting shade or white.
9 Replace overhead lighting with thrift-store (or box store) chandeliers. (Note: it’s recommended to hire a professional electrician to install them.) A dated-looking chandelier can be painted white. You can also add extra crystal drops, available at lighting stores.
10 Peruse Craigslist, eBay or freecycle.org regularly for finds. It’s amazing what shows up at a bargain or even free – but like any good flea market shopper, be sure to check regularly, as good things go fast.
11 Carpet stores often have remnants of high-end carpet at rock-bottom prices that make a great area rug. The store may bind the edges for you, or you can do it yourself with carpet binding tape and some tidy hand-sewing.
12 Some paint stores sell mixed paint for much less than custom-mixed paint because the colour was off or it was returned to the store. Great if you’re willing to experiment on the colour.
13 Re-tile kitchen backsplashes. Most backsplashes require only a few square feet of tile, so you can treat yourself to a fancy style or use plain porcelain tile for most of the surface. Then intersperse a few hand-painted or high-end tiles as accents.
14 Small details make all the difference: Beautiful coasters, interesting desk frames, a small but exquisite crystal vase filled with fresh flowers.
15 Buy a half-dozen four-inch terra cotta pots and paint in a trio of coordinating colours. Plant with herbs and line the pots up on a kitchen windowsill.
16 Big box stores have come a long way in terms of cheap and chic bathroom accessories and stylish storage options. For a fraction of what you’d pay in a high-end bath boutique, you can often get pretty designs in wood or china, or sleek modern accents.
17 A trick made famous by Woody Allen in Annie Hall: Change the lightbulb in your bedroom lamp with a pink one for a rosy, romantic glow. Or opt for a pink lampshade, which can produce something of the same effect.
18 Replace the drawer and cabinet pulls in your kitchen, bath, bedroom, or on a furniture piece. Inexpensive stylish options can be found at Lee Valley, Summerhill Hardware, IKEA or other big box stores, or you can scour a thrift shop or antique store for vintage ones.
19 Replace your bathroom shower curtain and curtain hooks, for an instant freshener for even the most dingy bathroom. Create a sparkling bathroom makeover.
20 You can now buy ready-made slipcovers that with a few judicious tucks, fit much better than the wrinkly versions of yore. Or, for a little more investment, have loose-fitting slipcovers made.
21 Replacing an ugly old faucet with a new one is a relatively simple DIY project. Many big box store styles are designed for home installers and include all the fittings and instructions in the box.
22 Purchase an inexpensive but attractive frame, or rescue an old one from an antique store or your parents’ attic. Paint flat white and attach small rings to the upper corners. Place hooks on the wall to correspond and hang. Hang a couple of vintage plates or smaller framed pictures artfully inside, or leave the framed space as-is, for an artful and simple focal point.
23 Maximize light in a darker room by hanging a framed mirror directly opposite the window.
24 Take a walk in the park, woods or beach and pick up interesting (and free) seasonal accents for your home. A tray filled with pinecones, a tall vase of dried pampas grass stalks, or a bowl of colourful pebbles, beach glass or shells all make eye-catching home decor accessories.
25 Spruce up your entrance by painting your front door a cheerful colour. Pair it with a new lighting fixture, mailbox and house numbers - all available at the box store.
Get a luxe look in under $100 with these beautiful decor accessories.Looking for big impact on a small budget? We challenge some of Canada’s designers to share how they achieve a modern luxe look for less than $100.
“Splurge on a marble tile backsplash – a small area like this can come in for less than $100 if you do the labour yourself.” - Nam Dang-Mitchell, Nam Dang-Mitchell Design.
“Sheathe an obtrusive bulkhead in reclaimed barnboard to add character and interest. The wood we used here was actually found in an abandoned barn in the country.” - Nam Dang-Mitchell, Nam Dang-Mitchell Design.
“Make a sculptural centrepiece inspired by real cherry blossom branches. Strip the bark from an interestingly shaped branch and remove the buds from a silk flower or two. Glue the buds onto the branch in an organic pattern for an effect that will last for seasons.” - Ryan Martin & Amy Kent, Croma Design.
“A chic way to save money while searching for your dream dining room light fixture is to install an ultra-affordable three-foot-wide Chinese paper lantern. The white globe looks fantastic, plus it glows softly when lit to create a wonderful atmosphere for dining.” - Colleen McGill, McGill Design Group.
“Make a bland room bold by painting stripes on the walls: vertical for low ceilings, horizontal for high.” - Scott Yetman, Scott Yetman Design.
“Luxe up a room by upgrading your toss cushion inserts from fibre to decadent down. IKEA ones are cheap – they’re the best-kept secret!” - David Overholt, David Overholt Interior Design, 416-944-0358.
“When I travel, I love to buy vintage prints and fabrics. Framing the prints in inexpensive frames and creating a collage of photos is a great way to make a big impact. I also love to stretch the fabrics on frames made for canvases as they are works of art in their own right.” - Alykhan Velji, Alykhan Velji designs.
“If the word stencilling conjures images of bad 1980s sponge designs, prepare to be amazed. Royal Design Studio has amazing Moroccan and Indian-style stencils you can use on furniture, stair risers, floors and walls for an ornate, impactful look.” - Samantha Sacks, Sam Sacks Design.
“Why not test out your creative skills and try your hand at some abstract expressionist painting? Grab a canvas and some acrylic paints in your chosen colour scheme and, who knows, you could be the next Jackson Pollock!” - Jessica Kelly, Jessica Kelly Design.
“A ceiling medallion adds instant architectural appeal, formality and elegance to a space. These ones were less than $75 each!” - Trevor Ciona & Curtis Elmy, Atmosphere Interior Design.
“Make personalized art with your own Hipstamatic or Instagram snapshots – the apps have beautiful filters, and smartphones take good-quality photos. Choose an inexpensive frame and splurge on the mat for a high-end professional effect.” - Samantha Sacks, Sam Sacks Design.
"Give an instant lift to your kitchen cabinetry with new hardware. Restoration Hardware’s Duluth pulls in polished nickel make a striking style statement.” - Colleen McGill, McGill Design Group.
Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.
Whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles.
A DIY-inclined couple turns an 800-square-foot two-bedroom bungalow into the perfect home for their young family.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson transformed the secondhand piano by covering it in grey paint, casually accessorizing it like the rest of the living room and softening its bench with a faux-sheepskin throw.
The whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles. “I brought softness into the space with the upholstered pieces, while keeping a farmhouse vibe with the antique rocking chairs,” says Amanda.
Homeowners Jason and Amanda Robinson hang out in the bright living room with their sons, Ethan (left) and Aidan.
While blue hues rock this farmhouse, Amanda also popped in some pink tones as contrast.
A fun DIY project or easily picked up at a gardening centre, terrariums are a great way to keep your home green in small ways.
Durable slate tiles define the entryway in this open-concept space. Practical items in natural tones like the bench, mirror and coat rack are artfully arranged so everything looks pulled together.
The kitchen epitomizes Amanda’s love of pale backdrops punctuated with colour and natural tones. “I made the shelves out of wooden boards from our barn and left them unpainted to contrast all the white and to complement the butcher block counters,” she says. Mismatched hardware picks up on the hits of blue throughout the home.
With their young sons and pets (Weimaraner Tessie and cat Nimble) in mind, Amanda chose tongue-and-groove pine planks for the floors, ceilings and walls. “I didn’t want new drywall with two little boys and pets running around,” she says. “It was the best design decision I ever made.”
Amanda knew she wanted a light and bright space and conceived the decor with colour in mind. “This is still a really small house, so I stuck to a neutral palette for the base: white and cream with natural wood tones throughout,” she says.
Amanda and Jason knocked down walls to create an eat-in area that features a free-standing stove surrounded by stone-veneered walls and a thrift-store dining table and chairs proudly bearing a mismatched paint job. “I painted everything grey and then decided to paint all the chairs blue but got sidetracked after one,” says Amanda. “It’s fun and quirky as is, and the boys take turns sitting in the blue chair at dinnertime.”
“The walls in Aidan’s bedroom were in good shape, so we painted them and added pine planks to the ceiling,” says Amanda. “I like the masculine look of the unpainted wood.” The new blue dressers share the space with a thrift-store wicker chair, a yellow-painted hand-me-down stool and rope-hung shelves Amanda crafted from barnboard.
“Ethan wanted everything in his room swimming pool turquoise.” They settled on a seafoam blue that’s more soothing for a bedroom and then incorporated coordinating accents in every room – even on the front door. “If you keep the big things neutral and then add accents in a single shade, it makes everything seem effortlessly connected,” says Amanda.
A bright screen door frame hints at the pops of blue to be found inside the house. Amanda refinished a hand-me-down pine table in grey paint and repurposed it as an easy-to-access storage unit for firewood. Antique Canadian Pacific Railway lanterns found in the barn and on Kijiji layer in more colour and reference the surrounding rustic landscape.
After a fresh coat of paint and some carefully placed furniture, the Robinsons are set to make this newly decorated farmhouse their home.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson used blue paint throughout her home to liven up the soothing neutral palette and provide a link from room to room. Here are her three favourite shades.