Sneaky interior style secrets

Easy ways to improve your living spaceCreativity, not cash, can get you the interior you’ve always dreamed of. Try these no-cost ideas for improving your living areas.

You think there’s no such thing as a makeover that doesn’t involve spending wads of cash on the latest trinkets and designs at the store! Think again. Here are some ideas to freshen your interiors – and your life.


A good ol’ furniture shuffle will do wonders to make you think you have an entirely new house. As the sun becomes harsher in summer, it can be worth moving upholstered furniture out of the line of the sun to prevent fading. You might also want to think about new positions for coffee tables or side tables.

A simple declutter and clean out could give you all the extra space you’ve been hankering after. Clear surfaces, unstuff shelves and be ruthless about what you really need to own. Less stuff means more space and more attention for your most personal treasures. If you’re worried that other family members won’t co-operate with the de-cluttering, simply give them their own box to keep their ephemera and general mess in rather than allow it to reside on the coffee table or floor.

And to keep the zen in place, install your own de-clutter box near the front door or the recyling bin. Any time you come across an item you no longer need, simply place it in your  “re-homing” box and deliver it to a charity bin or op shop each month.


Let there be light! Giving your windows a good clean does wonders to spruce up a room, allowing more natural sunlight to penetrate living spaces. Sunlight not only improves mood, but UV rays can actually help disinfect and freshen a space. Opening the windows and doors for at least four hours a week to allow the air to be naturally recirculated also helps.

There are plenty of commercially available window cleaners, but why not embrace home-made housecleaning products? Windows can be cleaned with vinegar and microfibre cloths, or a spray mix of methylated spirits and water. Oh, and a top tip is to wipe the inside of the window in one direction (say, up and down) and the outside in the other direction (say, side to side). That way, if you see a smudge, you know whether it is on the outside or inside.


Most rooms have an overhead light fitting of some kind, but what about planning new places to put lamps and candles to completely change the atmosphere of a room? Lighting a room well is about planning to create mood and atmosphere.

Experts like John Ghetto from Brightlights Solutions says great lighting is more about consideration and design rather than buying more stuff. A lamp on a side table will wash a room with soft, atmospheric light, while a floor lamp can be an excellent task light for reading. The Scandinavians always have three candles burning on a window sill to enliven dark winters and cast a warm, flickering light into a room. Placing a lamp behind a sculptural piece of furniture such as a chair in a corner can also be a way to highlight pieces and create new dimension in a room.

Simply get creative with where you place lamps, lights and candles and you could be amazed at the results. Oh, and don’t forget to regularly clean any CFL bulbs (they are the energy-efficient curly globes) you have installed – when they become dusty it can reduce the light output by as much as half.


One of the least-understood tools of interiors, colour is an easy way to make a room sing without spending a cent. There’s no need to paint or buy new things to make colour work for you – simply start looking at the room with a new eye for the clash, calm or creativity of the colours you already own.

Do colours in the room work together? Colour is affected by light and shadow, so have you moved around lamps and opened the curtains to really look at what you have? There are two rules to understand – one, is that grouping similar colours together creates calm while contrasting complementary colours creates a splash. Decide which colour style you prefer, and go for it.

If your room is awash with the zen of blues, greens or neutrals, add design impact by removing anything with a colour that doesn’t fit or seem right – take that bright red cushion into the bedroom or move that orange lamp into the dining room. Grouping similar-coloured objects together in a display or adding patterns or texture in similar colours can add oomph to the colour schemes you already love.

If you like the power of complementary colours – wild patterns and bright hues – then work with them. Stick to one or two complementary colour schemes using cushions, curtains or ornaments but keep the main furniture and floor coverings in the room fairly neutral so that your colour choices deliver maximum impact. Learn to love the mood, harmony and combinations of colours you are attracted to.


Some makeover ideas take a little cash rather than dash – here’s some cheap ideas to try:

  1. Paint your front door. A new lick of paint will brighten up everyone’s first impression of your home.
  2. A brand spanking new doormat will lift even the dullest entrance, making every step count (it’s great for keeping dirt out, too).
  3. Change your curtains over – invest in cheap sheers for summer to let the light in and brighten up bedrooms and living areas.  Freedom has the Dali sheer available for $9.95.
  4. Make good instead of just making over and fix all those broken bits and bobs that make your home look tired – oil that squeaking front gate, replace the holey old fly wire in the windows and give your outdoor furniture and clean and oil.
  5. Building biologists are a new breed of home heroes that believe good interior design enhances health and wellbeing – and that starts with harm-free cleaning techniques. Gradually replacing your harsh home-cleaning chemicals with gentle cleaners that rely on elbow grease and essential oils to deliver fragrance or add shine and polish. Try microfibre cloths, vinegar, lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda in place of traditional sprays.


This article was first published in Sydney Morning Herald’s Essential liftout.