How to Refresh Your Home’s Look for Free, According to Interior Decorators

A couple spend time on their front porch.
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One way to break the monotony of spending so much time at home is to change the look of your surroundings. 

Yes, money is tighter than ever, and you probably wouldn’t splurge, even if you wanted to go shopping. But you have many ways you can refresh that living room where you now spend countless hours working, eating and watching TV.

If you’re getting tired of the look of your surroundings, read on for plenty of ideas for refreshers that don’t cost anything — and you can do without leaving your house.

‘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, Fla. “Redesign 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, even in the best of circumstances. 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 can give a room a whole new look.” 

Re-Evaluate Your Current Layout

As people spend more time in their home, they’re also realizing what makes them happy and what doesn’t, Everhart said.

That dining room that’s only used five times a year could become a second sitting area or a home office. Take the leaves out of the table, or fold down the sides and put it against a wall. Add a wing chair or bench from other rooms, pull a lamp out of the attic and a desk or end table you moved to the garage. Now you have a new reading room.  

Everhart realized her china cabinet took up a whole wall. She no longer wanted to display dinner plates and crystal, so she got rid of it. Now she has a whole new wall space on which to hang the religious art she collects. 

10 More Free Ways to Refresh Your Home

Here are some more suggestions from Marini and Everhart:

1. Create an inviting outdoor area, whether it’s in your own yard or on a shared back stoop.  Fresh air is good. Take potted plants 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. 

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. 

A woman paints a chair.
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3. Break out the paint and brushes. “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.”

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. Bringing the outside in makes a big difference. You don’t have to have an elaborate rose garden to make a centerpiece and fill a vase on the bedside table. “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 to paint 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. If you have two candle sticks on the dining room table and several stuck in a drawer, arrange them together on the fireplace mantle. 

8. Reorganize a room by switching out a piece of furniture. Everhart pulled out all the small appliances, like a crockpot and a long-forgotten George Foreman Grill, that were crowding her kitchen cabinets. “This made putting dishes and bowls away much easier, but I didn’t want the toaster and the blender and everything up on the counter,” she said. “I went to the garage and found this wooden cabinet painted this God-awful olive green color. I painted it white and put it in my kitchen, where I used to have this little marble table on four legs that wasn’t serving a purpose.”

9. Reframe photos. Put a smaller photo in a frame and use fabric as the background.

10. Re-cover a chair to give it a new look, which you can do if you have a staple gun and a couple of yards of fabric (even a cloth shower curtain).

For more home decor tips, follow Everhart (SoBeItInteriors) on Instagram and Facebook and Marini (AtHomeWithJoseph) on Instagram and Facebook.

Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance writer and editor in St. Petersburg, Florida, and author of the book Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker.