In a perfect world, renovating would be a straightforward process. Choose a contractor, set a budget, stick to a timeline… and in a few months, you’ll get to sit back and enjoy the spoils of a new kitchen, bathroom or living area. Of course, real-life renovations never quite run so seamlessly, often blowing out in the budget, time frame and logistics—even despite all your best sanity-saving efforts.
If you’re one of the millions who spent the pandemic staring at the same four walls and wondering how to make them more interesting, the thought of renovating has surely crossed your mind. Because despite all the things Covid has taken from us, surely one of its more anodyne repercussions is the renaissance of home improvement and redecoration jobs it’s inspired. But, if a complete overhaul of your home is out of the question, don’t despair, there are tons of budget-conscious and labour-saving tricks that will freshen up a home—no building contract required.
Here, we share the best tips on faking a renovation from six experienced interior designers.
1. In working order
With work-from-home orders still in place for many Australians, Tulsa-based interior designer Mel Bean of Mel Bean Interiors suggests turning your attention towards your study or work space. “With so many of us working from home, it's important to give a home office a sense of style and personality,” she says. “Adding low-cost accessories like storage bins, a plant or whimsical vase, and framed photos keeps things organised and eye-catching.” She also suggests painting a wall with chalkboard paint to use as an inspiration board.
2. Nail your first impression
Entryways are the first glimpse visitors will see of your home, but they’re often vastly overlooked. “An entryway does not have to be grand to be impressive and inviting,” argues Bean. “Consider a colourful stair runner, and bold artwork and accessories to make a real impact."
3. Find a storage solution
Clutter is the enemy of all beautiful homes. Even if you don’t have the means to completely overhaul your pantry, that shouldn’t stop you from improving its organisation system. “Custom pantries are great, but you can do a lot—even in a small space and without spending much money,” says Bean. “Look for sleek hanging shelves and clear glass containers to store food items. Adding some symmetry will make for a beautiful and organised space.”
4. Play with paint
You’ve no doubt heard this one before, but a fresh lick of paint can make a world of difference to a lacklustre space. “The most cost-effective way to fake a renovation is to paint,” says Mary Patton of Houston-based business Mary Patton Design. “The right kind of paint can even be used on tile. Dark tones hide a world of imperfections, as does painting an entire space white from top to bottom.”
Think beyond walls, too. “Instead of painting the walls and leaving the trim and ceiling white, try painting the walls and trim the same colour, in two different finishes,” says Bean. “The effect is really cosy.” She also suggests painting cabinets in a bold colour to make a statement. Lance Thomas from Louisiana’s Thomas Guy Interiors goes one step further and suggests repainting old flooring instead of replacing it. “A bold pattern will draw all of the attention in the room, making the whole space look newly renovated,” he says.
5. Floor it
Hate your floors? “Ugly or dated flooring can be covered with a beautiful rug,” suggests Patton. “This is a place you can invest money—some rugs are like art you put on the door. But you can find also budget friendly option online.”
6. Give wallpaper a go
Yep, wallpaper has made a huge comeback in recent years—and it works a treat in a small space. “One of my favourite ways to make a bold statement is to incorporate fun wall coverings in a powder room, or similar,” says Brittany Farinas from Florida’s House of One. Unsure how to work with bold or patterned wallpaper? “The secret is to keep everything else simple,” she says. “Vanities, mirrors, and light fixtures should not be competing for attention.”
7. Replace doorknobs and hardware
Another common suggestion made by many? Updating doorknobs and hardware throughout the house. “Replacing hardware is an easy and inexpensive way to update your home. Amazon sells very chic modern door knobs and hardware that can easily replace dated ones,” says Patton. “It can seem like a lot of work,” agrees Bean, “but getting rid of the ’90s brass door knobs you've been trying to work around will make such a difference. And since it's an element we touch constantly, it's all the more important.”
8. Counter it
While admittedly a little more drastic than reorganising your pantry or opening a tin of paint, a new countertop is a novel way to overhaul a tired kitchen. “If your kitchen cabinetry is in good condition, switching out your countertops can make a huge impact for your space,” agrees Farinas. “Whether it’s a classic Calacutta gold slab, or an exotic stone—you can fake a full kitchen reno by making this change. Meanwhile, you can give your cabinets a fresh coat of paint to complement your new design scheme.”
9. Look at lighting
New lighting fixtures are another way to tweak your home with minimal fuss. “Lighting can change everything,” stresses Bean. “An unappealing space can be transformed by the right chandelier, or directional can lights that highlight art, and perhaps even a pair of sconces added for architectural interest.”
“Sculptural lighting is always my go-to, as it can add great character to any space,” adds Farinas. She also suggests adding in LED strip lighting for a modern, on-trend update.
10. Consider custom
If you’re looking to revitalise a single room, incorporating some custom built-ins can pay huge dividends. It might require a carpenter, but it’s definitely cheaper than a full-blown reno. “I love to incorporate built-in millwork into our projects,” says Farinas. “Integration is a huge part of what makes a design feel luxurious and feel as though it was planned from the beginning. Whether it’s a built-in stone fireplace for your living room, or a wall-to-wall headboard, building something custom for space will be a huge asset.”
11. Invest in art
When all else fails, art is always a worthy investment. “Oversized art can provide a major focal point and play with scale in a way that revives a room,” states Bean. And you don’t have to spend a fortune either. “Whether an original piece or one of the many affordable prints on the market—it's easy to find your style in a grand art piece.”
12. Make a singular statement
Don’t have the means for a new kitchen? “Sometimes a new backsplash tile can make all the difference,” says Bean. “In a recent renovation, we replaced the outdated and dull backsplash with a geometric marble patterned tile, which became everyone's favourite element.”
Changing one focal point or creating a single statement can revamp an entire room and help draw the eye, agrees Austin-based Sarah Stacey of Sarah Stacey Interior Design. “Even a large, colourful tapestry can make over your room. Or, go all out and cover a space in bold colours, like rich, saturated jewel tones. When you do this, you can’t use any white anywhere. When all colour is used and a space is void of white, the colours will read as a neutral. This is transformational, and [can be] quite calming, even with a vibrant colour scheme.”
13. It’s in the details
Any adjustment, no matter how small scale, can work to refresh a room. “Try changing out your plumbing fixtures,” says Rebecca Hay of Toronto’s Rebecca Hay Designs. With so many different styles and finishes on the market, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to modernise a kitchen or bathroom.
If you’re looking for something that doesn’t require a plumber, “appliance updates in a kitchen can make a space feel fully renovated,” states Thomas. “The bolder the better. Many ranges and refrigerators come in vibrant colours. Opt for a colourful surprise to draw attention.”
Written by Yeong Sassall.
This article originally appeared on Vogue Living Australia.