There is a certain irony to home improvements right now.

On the one hand, our interiors have never been so central to our lives, nor have we had so much time to improve them. On the other, lockdown also means the nation’s purse-strings are tightening, and browsing shops and showrooms isn’t an option.


So here’s a few suggestions for how to improve your home without any ill-advised shopping trips, and without spending a penny.

Get creative

You don’t need to order paintings or posters to refresh your walls. If you have a decent printer there’s a vast array of images online, and if you pop your print-out into an attractive frame we guarantee no one will notice the difference.

Some people spend a lot on shabby chic, but it’s all about upcycling so why not do it yourself? An old teapot can make an excellent vase, a patterned blanket can double as a wall hanging, old doorknobs make fun pegs for towels or clothes, and the humble jam jar does a bang-up job as a pencil pot.

Natural elements are not only aesthetic, but proven to be good for your mental wellbeing. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, consider lifting some shrubs to re-purpose as house plants (you’ll have to research which plants will thrive indoors, but the short answers is ‘lots’).

Channel your inner Womble by making good use of the things you find on walks. Pine cones are a classic component of tabletop vignettes, and if you live near a beach, smooth pebbles and seashells are equally attractive options.

Pressed flowers may seem a relic from Victorian times, but they make lovely decorations and are easy to create. If possible, pick a few blooms (taking care not to take too many – and don’t take from communal gardens!) and lay them between absorbent paper under a couple of heavy books.

It all depends on what’s available to you, but it’s remarkable what a little creativity can conjure. When lockdown lifts, you’ll have talking points aplenty.

Out with the old

If you’ve lived in your home for a good few years, you probably don’t wake up each day thinking, ‘Gosh, we just don’t have enough stuff’. Whether it’s piles of unopened mail, or a 40lb margarita maker that came with instant buyer’s remorse, modern life has filled home after home with things that require organising, cleaning, and stressing over.

You could go full Marie Kondo and judge your possessions by joy, but the charity shops aren’t open and it doesn’t feel like the time for a wholesale purge. Go room by room and start small and simple – old batteries, expired medicines, out-of-date newspapers, unplayable VHS tapes, and an atlas that still lists Yugoslavia as a country. It’s glorified tidying up, but we all need to walk before attempting to run.

Next, move on to surplus materials. You do not need three spades now that you’ve moved to a flat, nor 50 cookbooks, half of which you’ve memorised. Consider items that have outlived their purpose, or semi-functional utensils you’ve long since replaced.

Home refresh
Get rid of never used kitchen items

Finally, evaluate the bulky space-savers. The unused weights bench taking up the spare room, the widescreen too old for your Alexa, the popcorn machine that was fun until you realised how hard it was to clean. These are risk-reward calculations: will you want them again, and what could you do with the extra space?

Redesign your space

So much for adding, and so much for taking away, you can also refresh your home just by rearranging. Few homeowners find time to reconsider their floor plans after those initial trips to IKEA, but it takes time to understand what you need from your living space.

Home refresh
Time to shift stuff around? (iStock/PA)

Think about how you use your home – where do you work, where do you relax, and what are you looking at when you do so? Alternatively, try to see through the eyes of a visitor. Where feels welcoming, and where feels detached? Which rooms seem bright and breezy, and which a bit dark and dingy?

Effective lighting lends a room a whole new atmosphere, and more is almost always merrier. Use your lamps wisely to accent key features, such as tables, desks or cupboards.

Try re-positioning mirrors to bounce light around a room. Place one opposite a window to send natural light cascading across a wall, or hang it behind a lamp for the same effect after dark. Or prop it opposite a doorway to double the room’s visual depth.

Home refresh woman on her sofa
Lighting can transform a space (iStock/PA)

If you have any collectables – display them! Coins, antiques, comic books, ceramics, vinyl records… Get them out of their boxes and enjoy them. This will add character to shelves and tabletops, imprint a room with your personality, and make for conversation starters when guests finally come calling.

If all else fails, just move the sofa to the other side of the room. There doesn’t need to be a reason. It refreshes your perspective, and will feel very new.

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