Insider Decorator Advice on How to Refresh Your Home for Nothing

A couple laugh as they lift their couch with their daughter on it.
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If you think you don’t have the time or the money to refresh your home this season, think again.

You don’t have to tackle every room, but it’s easy to refresh one, two or three rooms. It only takes a few hours a couple of evenings or a Saturday afternoon to get a new look and a new feel. You can refresh something in every room without even leaving the house, except maybe to fetch a can of spray paint or a new shower curtain.

‘Shop’ What You Already Have

“I always tell people to ‘shop’ in your home,” said decorator Stephanie Everhart, owner of So Be It Interiors in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Redesign and refresh your rooms using the items you already have.”

Joseph Marini, an interior decorator and owner of At Home With Joseph, is also a proponent of keeping original pieces when redecorating. Rearranging a room with the same furniture can make a big difference.

“Say you have a sofa and two easy chairs that are kitty corner to the sofa,” Marini said. “Try taking them and facing them across from the sofa, or putting them beside each other at a right angle to the sofa. Just changing the angles of furniture in your living room can give a room a whole new look.”

Re-Evaluate Your Current Layout

Consider rearranging a piece or two to refresh your home. Try placing an upholstered chair in a corner of a kitchen so the cook can enjoy the company of a grandchild or friend when prepping all that food. Add a side table or arrange it next to a kitchen table to hold a glass of wine or mug of hot chocolate.

Or make that kitchen table into a game table between meals. Stick all but your essential cookbooks in a box in the attic or coat closet, then fill the shelf that formerly held the books with a stack of Rummikub, Checkers or Candy Land. It’s also fine to fill a laundry basket with boxes of games and stick it under the table.

Yet another idea is to move the kitchen table into the family room where folks gather around the TV to stream a movie or watch a game and make it a puzzle table. Move the coffee table into the kitchen next to that easy chair or loveseat. You’ve got a cozy sitting area in the kitchen and another form of entertainment in the family room that brings all ages together.

If you aren’t hosting guests, you can still create new spaces that give you a change of pace. A puzzle table for one is a meditative treat while listening to music, a podcast or watching a movie.

Clear out a bookshelf and make it into a hot chocolate bar or holiday tea cabinet. Assemble some fun flavors, honey and toppings next to a few favorite mugs.

Whether it’s rearranging heavy furniture or stashing some books in a closet to create a special little space, revamp something big or small in a few rooms for a new feel and look this holiday.

Professional remodeling is expensive, but we’ve got low-budget ideas to update your kitchen and give your bathroom a new look.

9 More Free Ways to Refresh Your Home

Here are some more suggestions from Marini and Everhart:

1. Create an inviting outdoor area.

A string of lights and a few potted plants can make for a fun, festive holiday space. Whether it’s in your own yard or on a shared back stoop, fresh air is good. Take potted plants, a little evergreen from inside to a space outdoors to enhance a sitting area. If you don’t have outdoor furniture, move a kitchen chair and end table outside for a couple days if rain isn’t in the forecast.

String the lights on the little tree or gather them in a circle within a pot. If you don’t have battery operated lights or an outside outlet, let the stars and sun illuminate your special spot.

2. Try a different way of making your bed.

Fold the duvet or bedspread down to the bottom third of the mattress and drape a blanket over the upper portion. (Think hotel style.) If you usually layer pillows against the headboard, place them flat on the bed stacked on top of each other. Or try moving throw pillows from the living room into your bedroom.

3. Break out the paint and brushes to refresh furniture.

“If I get bored with furniture, I never mind painting it,” Marini said. “Take some paint you have lying around. Most furniture can be painted really nicely with two coats. If it’s really, really glossy, you can sand it.” Picture your brown coffee table as white, cornsilk yellow or a bold orange.

4. Tend to window treatments.

“One thing I always find that refreshes a home is labor-intensive washing,” Marini said. “Take curtains down and wash them, dry them and iron them. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.”

5. Bring the outside in.

You don’t have to have an elaborate rose garden behind your home to make a holiday centerpiece or fill a vase on a bedside table for you or your guests.

“Just go out and pick some greenery from your bushes or your trees if you don’t have flowers,” Marini said. “This always freshens a room and adds a personal touch.”

6. Redo your bookshelves.

Everhart shared some ideas, including:

  • Use a spare quart of paint sitting under the laundry room sink to put a new coat of paint in a contrasting color on the back of the shelves.
  • Arrange books by color. “I love taking those slick jackets off of books so you can see the real color and texture of the books,” she said. “It’s really nice to see their spine. Especially older books.”
  • Place some books vertically, but stack some on their sides. Now you have a little space for a picture frame or favorite memento. “Your bookcases need to have items that tell the story of your life,” Everhart said.

7. Highlight collections by gathering pieces in one place.

Take your father’s cufflinks out of the felt bag in your top drawer and place them in a small glass dish. Line your favorite  snow globes up in a window sill. String your grandmother’s old cookie cutters on a piece of ribbon and hang it from a doorknob. These are collections that tell stories and make old memories into new memories.

8. Rework frames and photos.

Photos are a key part of the home., Replace a few of your older photos with a few newer ones. Put a smaller photo in a frame and use fabric as the background. If frames are crowding a shelf or desk, try hanging a few on the wall.

9. Re-cover a chair to give it a new look

You can refresh your living room or den by updating just one piece of furniture. Add a soft cozy blanket to a sofa or recover a chair  You can do this if you have a staple gun and a couple of yards of fabric a cloth shower curtain or vintage tablecloth. For more home decor tips, follow Everhart (SoBeItInteriors) on Instagram and Facebook and Marini (AtHomeWithJoseph) on Instagram and Facebook.

Contributor Katherine Snow Smith covers ways to make money, save money and other topics. Her work has appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Charlotte (N.C.) Business Journal and Greenville (S.C.) News. She is the author of “Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps & Lessons Learned.”