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How to rejuvenate your home on a budget

Tips from interiors stylist Joanna Thornhill, author of new book My Bedroom is an Office. From tiles to furniture, kitchen cabinets and managing budgets, read all of her best interiors advice...

Chloe Best

Looking to give your home a stylish update for less? Whether you want to put your own stamp on a new property or give your rental home a commitment-free design refresh, interiors stylish Joanna Thornhill – author of new book My Bedroom is an Office – shares her top tips…

Q: Am I stuck with existing tiles?

A: You might be stuck with them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t transform them. If you’re renting and can’t make any permanent changes, then take a look at tile stickers. They can have a reputation as being a bit naff or gimmicky, but there’s a growing selection of on-trend patterns and quirky motifs out there designed for the growing rental market. If you’ve got plain tiles, consider a strip of stickers, otherwise if your tiles have ugly patterns on them, or you’ve not got that large an area to fill, go bold and cover the whole thing with an all-over design.

Slightly more work, though not exactly gruelling (unless your tiles cover a vast area) would be to update grotty discoloured grout with something coloured: grey grout can totally transform the look of otherwise plain and boring tiles, or get adventurous and try a bolder hue (there’s even gold grout around, if you search!) If you’re able to paint your tiles, this can also be a good option - just ensure you use tile-suitable paint and primer and consider a matt or satin finish over anything too glossy. If none of that floats your boat, and your existing tiles are sound, you CAN actually tile on top of them, with the existing tiles acting as a base, to avoid the mess and faff of stripping them out.

Resources: Boubouki (boubouki.de/en) produce some amazing tile stickers, including these terrazzo effect decals.

Photo: © BOUBOUKI / Julia Bunger

Q: Can I modernise my old furniture?

A: Generally, yes! If you’ve got a piece in mind that isn’t a priceless antique heirloom (or it is, but you’re happy to tinker about with it anyway), give it a quick check-over first to ensure it’s sound: superficial scratches or a wobbly leg might easily be remedied, but if there are signs of rot or damp, it might not be worth the effort of renovating. For inexperienced upcyclers, try chalk paint: it’s easy to apply and will adhere directly onto most solid surfaces, including melamine and metal, without the need to prime first (you’ll just need to wax it at the end, for protection). I like Annie Sloan’s chalk paint.

MORE: 18 modern bathroom ideas

Sometimes, simply painting an unfashionable piece of ‘brown’ furniture in a contemporary colour can be totally transformative - you could even play with part-painting, leaving some of the original furniture in its existing wood finish, for a striking contrast. Sewing fitted fabric covers for chairs and sofas definitely isn’t a job for a novice sewer, but if you’ve got an old dining chair with a lift-out fabric seat pad, you could easily recover that with some new fabric, cut slightly larger than the pad. Stretch it across then staple underneath, or cheat and use gaffer tape to hold it in place.

Photo: © Tamsyn Morgans / www. tamsynmorgans.com

Q: How can I customise my chain-store kitchen cabinets?

A: Covering up what you don’t like but can’t replace is a great place to start: painting is often a good first step here. Even melamine or veneer kitchen cupboards can be painted if you use the correct primer and paint - if in doubt, ask your local DIY store for advice, and give the doors a good sand before you start, so the paint has a slightly rougher surface to adhere to. An eggshell paint is generally a more sympathetic finish than anything high gloss. If you don’t fancy painted units, there are lots of cool companies springing up offering replacement doors for standard sized kitchen cabinets, or - if you’re feeling adventurous - visit the builder’s merchants and get some thin wooden boards cut to the same size as your existing cupboards and simply stick over the top using wood glue (pegboard, OSB and plywood are all big in interiors right now). And don’t overlook handles: they’re the jewellery to your cabinet’s outfit, so shop around for something pretty.

GALLERY: Small dining room ideas to make the most of your space

Resources: Superfront do amazing door fronts (which are much cheaper than a whole new kitchen!). Anthropologie have amazing door handles - not cheap but show-stopping and if you don’t need that many it can be a good investment.

© Kitchen by Reform www.reformcph.com / photographer: Karen Maj Kornum

Q: I’ve spent all my money on the boring essentials and have none left for finishing touches

A: Money needn’t be a stumbling block here - seek out items that aren’t strictly ornaments or artwork, for a creative homespun look on the cheap. Nature would be a great place to start: take the dog and go foraging for treasures on your next countryside walk: dried poppy seed heads and thistles, or even unusual feathers or decorative driftwood, could all work wonderfully displayed in old glass bottles or on shelves. For alternatives to artwork, pages cut or photocopied from a pretty book - or even some gorgeous giftwrap - could be tacked to a wall with some decorative Washi tape or hung in a painted charity shop frame. If designer candles are out of your budget, opt for simple pillar candles and give them an individual look by wrapping them in twine, then style them in a cluster of varying heights for a homespun look.

Photo: © Betina Bianculli / @fridaflorentina

Joanna Thornhill’s new book, My Bedroom is an Office & Other Interior Design Dilemmas (Laurence King Publishing) is out now. www.laurenceking.com, RRP £14.99.

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