Looking for free design inspiration? Tips on how to rearrange your room and reusing furniture for key pieces..

Looking for free design inspiration 

It’s easy – strip the room back to basics. This two-step trick gives you an interior decorator’s insight without costing a penny.

1. ‘Edit’ a room by putting everything that isn’t furniture out of sight.

Remove personal items, linens (leave the curtains if it’s a pain to take them down), cushions, rugs, lamps, artwork, electronics, books and magazines.

2. Look at what’s left.

By getting down to the bones of a room, you will gain a better perspective on what you have and whether it works for you. You will probably decide to reposition or eliminate some furniture. Perhaps applying a fresh coat of paint or adapting your existing window treatments is all you need. Or it may have been all the ‘stuff’ that was making an attractive room look dowdy or overcrowded. With the room stripped down to basics, you can envisage the space and its contents anew, see fresh possibilities and improve the room – and at no cost whatsoever.

New furniture from spare chairs

Nobody ever seems to have enough small tables, but many of us have too many chairs. If so, think about converting those extra chairs into something more useful. In most cases, straight-backed armless chairs with hard, flat seats are the easiest to work with. Paint two chairs of different designs in the same colour to make an attractive pair of bedside ‘tables’. Refinish or paint a straight-backed chair that has arms and put it in the hall as a catch all for hats, bags and umbrellas.

Make a coffee table substitute with two or three wooden chairs; they don’t need to match as long as the seats are about the same height. Saw off the back of each one at seat level and sand well; you may also need to trim off any corner protuberances that rise a bit above the seat. To guard against stains, paint the chairs with water-resistant gloss. When the paint dries, line up the little tables as a unique and practical coffee table.

Don’t destroy, redeploy

When renovating a kitchen, don’t throw away or break up old units before considering how to reuse them somewhere else. You could: 

  • Hang wall cabinets in a workroom, removing the doors for open shelving. 
  • Put two single or one double wall cabinet (standard depth approximately 30cm) in a child’s room to hold toys and clothes or use as a hall cupboard for storing seasonal items. 
  • Add casters to a base cabinet to make a rolling laundry bin. 
  • Make a study desk or work table with a couple of base cabinets topped with a plain, smooth surfaced old door. 
  • Stack two single- or double-top cabinets to make a useful storage unit for sewing and craft supplies.

Create a strong focal point in any room

The focal point of a room is the first visual element to which the eye is immediately drawn. Rooms without an obvious focal point can look bland, disorganised or incomplete, regardless of the style or quality of the furnishings. To add flair to an unfocused room, a quick and inexpensive fix is to use items you already have. Decide on the logical focus of attention and then go through your storage cupboards and garage or attic for things you may have tucked away or forgotten. Bright throw cushions or a quilt can add impact to a dull bed. Frame a beautiful silk scarf or lace shawl that you haven’t worn in years and hang it on the wall behind the bed. If your fireplace and mantelpiece are a bit lacklustre, use leftover paint to set them off with a floor-to-ceiling background panel of a different colour. Hang a large mirror or a display of eye-catching plates above the mantelpiece. Get rid of clutter to draw the eye to a focal point: remember that less is more, so rotate collectibles instead of displaying all of your treasures all the time.

Shelving from odds and ends

Instead of spending lots of money on shelving, look around you. Perhaps you have some wooden trays you never use? A shallow drawer from an old dresser or desk? Or the sturdy intray box someone at work was about to throw away? Perhaps the decorated drawer fronts from a baby’s old chest would make fun shelves for younger children. The size and weight of a makeshift shelf will determine the kind of brackets and hardware you need when attaching it to a wall, so take your ‘shelf’ to a good hardware shop and ask for advice. If you plan to load heavy items such as books onto the shelf, make sure it’s on a load-bearing wall.

Photo: Apartment Therapy - Leah & Rich's Evolving Patina

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