With a new baby around (and maybe a toddler, too), it can be hard keeping up with the housework, let alone even thinking about decorating and DIY. But if you’re feeling like the place is looking tired and drab, the new year is the perfect time to spruce up your pad. And you don’t have to go makeover mad and repaint everything in sight to do it.
Interior designer Linda Barker (www.reallylindabarker.co.uk) explains: “Making small changes can really transform things, even just moving furniture around can give a room a new lease of life. That’s not always possible (you might have the TV aerial at a certain point), but you could change your sofas from an L-shape, to facing each other.”
1) Setting the scene
Before you start decorating, get things tidy, advises Linda, as that way you’ll be able to see what you’d like to change. You won’t want your newly painted lounge accessorised with an excess of toys, or your new hallway cluttered with shoes of all sizes.
“Having less clutter reduces stress levels, plus everybody knows where everything is once it’s in a certain place,” says Linda. So get some good storage (Ikea is the home of cheap funky storage boxes – www.ikea.co.uk). “Make sure it’s closed-off rather than see-through, so guests still can’t see your belongings. Maximise alcoves and niches, and keep clutter off the floor by having hooks on the back of every door,” says Linda.
The Metropolitan room bathroom
2) Create a colour scheme
Once you’ve got a clean slate, you’ll have an idea of where you want to get re-vamping. Decide if you want to give the whole house a facelift, or just one or two rooms, says Linda. “Think about a colour, and plan the house as a whole, which will give a unifying look. But then concentrate on one room at a time, keeping an overview so you don’t end up with lots of different looks.”
The bathroom’s a good place to give a big splash of colour, says Linda. “It doesn’t take much to paint as there’s not that much wall space, so you can go for it with bright tones. Strong teal blues, lime green or purple all work nicely.” Then you can keep the theme going through the house, with accents in cushions, throws or wallpapers. “It’s especially nice to link the rooms if you’re in a smaller house,” she adds.
3) Hitting the walls
Now you’ve got some colours in mind, it’s time to think about walls. How you use the space around you can make a huge difference to a room. “Choose your biggest uninterrupted wall to cover with wallpaper or paint,” says Linda. “It’s really energising to paint one wall a bright colour.” Too cash-strapped to paper the whole wall? Buy one roll of paper and frame several rectangles of the pattern you like then paper a smaller wall, or do the same in another room.
You could get the kids to cut out their own shapes, or cut out their name for them, and stick to their walls to keep the theme going.
4) Adding texture
The walls are done, the mess is off the floor, now it’s time to accessorise. Yes, it’s our favourite part, too. Bear in mind that little hands will love fussy things, so keep cushion and throw edges tassle- or frill-free, and rugs easy to vacuum, too.
“Choose bold splashes of colour. If you’ve gone for reds, pick oranges too – they don’t all have to match,” says Linda. “For bedding, there are some really inexpensive duvet sets on the high street, and making your own cushions from scraps of material or cheap off-cuts can be a real talking point, and it takes attention away from the skirting boards or banister.”
For the kitchen, coloured accessories are great for breathing new life into tired units. Lots of shops do matching sets which are good value, and you can get tea towels to match the new colour, and they’re cheap to replace.
5) Pictures and photos
“The eye likes to rest on symmetry and order, so the key with pictures on the wall is to have them in a line, rather than all in the same size frame or matching ones,” says Linda. “You can get frames from charity or junk shops and then put family photos or the children’s pictures in them. Kids’ drawings look quite fancy under glass.”
Mirrors are fabulous at making rooms look brighter and bigger, so shop around and use them throughout the house. “Mirrors have the effect of lighting up a space because you’re reflecting back the whole of the space. Put one on the wall opposite a window, and you’ll bounce back the light from outside. You’ll also be looking into the distance when you look into the mirror,” says Linda. “It’s a case of the bigger the better with mirrors, especially over a fireplace. You could even consider covering a whole wall in mirrored glass.” Look for it at DIY stores, in panels of around 30-40cm square, and try shaped mirrors for the children’s bedrooms or bathroom.
6) Light it right
“A dimmer switch can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make in transforming your home,” says Linda. “Lighting is all about setting the mood, so this gives you control. Candlelight is fabulous, too, especially in winter, ” she adds.
If you don’t fancy doing minor home improvements yourself have a look at www.freeindex.co.uk. It’s an online directory for local tradesmen and you can read useful customer reviews of them. You just fill in one form and get five quotes back from different traders.
Get in the spring makeover mood
- Playing designer and creating an idea of what theme and colours you’d like is part of the fun of a home makeover.
- Start by making a mood board or book to keep you focused. This is a cuttings collection of things you’ve seen that you’d like to use in your home somehow.
- Get a notebook, some homes and glossy magazines, and cut out everything you like, from colours, to looks and textures. If you like a red dress in a fashion mag, cut it out, as the red might be the colour of your next duvet. Keep everything you collect in the notebook. The kids will love joining in with this one.
- You’ll soon see a theme emerging, and then you’ll know what to focus on when you’re designing or shopping.
“We’ve just moved into a rented house for six months so we couldn’t decorate, but needed it to be homely. I used wall stickers from Ikea, which work a treat as people think I’ve stencilled the walls myself. Best of all, they won’t damage the paint when you take them down.”
Sarah Veness, 34, from Norfolk, mum to Archie, 2, and Elsie, 6 months