If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the mini-refresh. These usually entail a few changes that make a big impact on the look and feel of a room without having to spend a huge amount of money starting from scratch. I tend to utilise this strategy when I simply don’t have the time, energy, resources or budget to do a complete makeover or renovation on a space and so it comes down to prioritising what small changes I can make for the least amount of money that will give me the biggest bang for my buck.
One of my most successful refreshes was painting my living room fireplace…
Of course, every room will be a little different. I actually have a few rooms in my home that you’ve not really seen much of (Wayne’s office, my office/dressing room, the hallway and our old kitchen which we are using as a utility room), simply because I haven’t even had the chance to make a start on them yet. However, I thought I’d talk you through how I decide what to do and when I feel even a small spend on making a space a touch nicer to be in is worth the investment in my time and money.
Pre-Room-Refresh Questions to Ask
There are a few questions I ask myself before I start any mini-refresh:
- What’s not working for me in this space?
- How long will it be before I can do a complete makeover/renovation?
- What big impact things can be changed immediately for the least amount of money?
- What will offer me the biggest immediate return on changing something?
- Is there anything in the room that I can sell on and use that money to buy something new?
- What do I have in other areas of the home that could potentially work in here?
You may remember when we first moved into our home, the first space I tackled with a mini-refresh was our bathroom. With the above questions in mind, I realised while the tiles, flooring and basic fixtures were fine for now, it was the colour of the space and some of the accessories that were really making me unhappy.
Simply changing the colour of the walls and updating a few smaller bits (like the toilet roll holder and towel rail) were enough to allow me to enjoy the space until we are able to get around to completely renovating the space. A few additional plants (which don’t have to be particularly expensive) gave the space life and I simply used accessories I already had. A quick win all around!
Why Paint is Always My First Port of Call
Ahh yes, speaking of paint, it’s absolutely my first go-to whenever I think about changing a space. You can buy a couple of tins of paint – even good quality paint – for under £100 and if you’re really squeezing the budget, then I think Dulux is a great mid-range brand which I’d always recommend.
A word of advice: Stay far away from cheap paint – it’s a false economy. You’ll only end up buying and using more for the same coverage of a more expensive paint so steer clear of own-brand paints. I’ve personally used Dulux for years and can vouge for the fact it’s a great product for the price. While I know that others have had good luck with Valspar, I find it very hit and miss so wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it. I used Dulux paints in our previous home on multiple ocassions and find it consistently excellent. Earthborn & Little Green Paint Company are two favourites in the higher-range bracket as both have excellent creamy consistency and unbelievable coverage.
The thing about painting walls is that there is a sense of instant gratification. When we moved into our home, the dining room was a sort of mid-blue-grey colour. Perfectly fine for some but for me, it sucked my energy and it felt oppressive. I talked myself into leaving it for far too long, knowing that we would be doing renovations in the future but what convinced me to just go for it was knowing that spending a weekend to give it a refresh was totally worth the few months of living with it for the time being. That simple change made a huge difference to how I felt in the space.
The Inexpensive or Practical Purchase
One other aspect of my ‘cheap and cheerful’ refreshes is that I will sometimes commit to purchasing something for the space that I feel confident will work in future updates but that will make a big enough impact that I can enjoy it for a little while. I’ve made a series of small purchases for our guest bedroom (including a new base to the bed, something we were going to need inevitably anyway) as well as a vintage shelving unit.
If you stick with classic items that can be worked into your future plans and if you are confident you will get plenty of use out of a piece now and in the future, then I see no reason to hold off buying it until the whole room is complete. Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet. Of course, I do find myself seeking these pieces out second-hand if at all possible. While the oak bed base was new (although not terribly expensive, I believe it was around £150 at that time but still good quality), the shelving unit I purchased for the guest bedroom was a vintage find on Facebook Marketplace for £25.
Adding this piece created some much-needed storage in the room – something I was able to appreciate and get the most out of immediately without having to wait. Of course, I also repainted the back wall as well with some leftover paint I had knocking about. So, I’ve essentially been doing mini-refreshes all along, updating this room in small steps, just when I came across something I felt worked or when I had the budget to make some smaller changes.
Prioritising Functional Pieces
Even in a space that you know you will likely completely rip and out and renovate in the future, there’s still some room for updating with a few functional pieces that can create a short-term solution and make the room work better for you for the time being.
Our old kitchen is a great example of this. Yes, there was (still is) plenty about this space that I really don’t like at all and we lived with it for about a year and a half while the new kitchen was being fitted. I didn’t want to make any real changes in here (although back then, I thought we’d have the new space ready before the end of the first year – little did I know how long the whole thing would actually take!) but we were really lacking in functional storage and counter space.
So we added a few things – an old table and a shelving unit we had in our old home as well as hooks for our cups went a long way in making this kitchen just more useable. This kind of ‘refresh’ where you aren’t actually making any cosmetic changes but simply creating more function definitely has a place in here as well. If you know you aren’t going to have a spot to peel potatoes or set down dishes as they come out of the oven, then making due with a few smaller additions will at least make it function better and allow you to live with it just a little while longer.
Where to Spend and Where to Save
At the moment, I’m currently going through this debate with my office/dressing room. The combined functionality of this space and the fact that I use it every single day means that I need to start making plans to allow it to function better and become a room I actually enjoy spending time in. Because right now? I sadly don’t.
*Disclaimer: These pics were taken on a really really good day after lots of tidying and cleaning. I promise it looks a lot worse now so that’s saying something.
While I have functional pieces, the room feels a bit cluttered, there is a wall where I’ve taken down wallpaper (so I’m looking at old plaster and peeling paint), the flooring is a cheap grey vinyl and the walls are covered in holes. It’s not a great place to spend so much of my time. It needs a complete renovation, really and in time, my plan is to have bespoke fitted wardrobes in the room (along that wall you see above), allowing for plenty of storage for my clothing as well as things like my camera equipment, paperwork and craft supplies.
While I currently don’t have the budget for built in storage, it’s having a knock on effect on the entire room. I’m hanging on to a vintage sideboard that I no longer love, I also have a console table in here that I want to sell, there are bits and pieces dotted around and simply clutter I haven’t gotten around to donating to charity or getting rid of. My first step to deciding what’s worth spending on will be a massive de-clutter of the space! I’m hoping to tackle this soon.
With any money I make on the sale of the furniture, I can then move on to the next step. We have yet to update the electrics in this room (long story but we’re updating the electrics in our home in stages for various reasons) so I’m thinking once I declutter the space, I may just prioritise that for now. It’s difficult for me to change the walls or floors without that step and so it’s probably worth the investment to get that out of the way.
The next step will probably be the flooring. Updating the electrics will mean the room needs to be emptied anyway, so I might as well take up the vinyl as the electricians will likely have to lift it to get to the floorboards and get a new carpet fitted.
Finally, once the new electrics and new carpet are in place, then some filling and a fresh coat of paint will make the world of difference. I won’t have the money to invest in new wardrobes to start off with but just making those few changes to me will be worthwhile to give the room a fresh new start. I’ll look out for inexpensive storage options that I can use in the room going forward or vintage pieces that I can sell on once the more permanent storage pieces are in place. Okay so this is sounding a bit more like a midi-makeover (Ha!) but well, I kind of just wanted to let you into my thought process!
As I said, every single room is going to be a bit different but prioritising those things that make the biggest impact – things like painting walls, de-cluttering and selling on pieces to make some cash, looking out for bargains for storage solutions and purchasing items that will make the room function better for you now and in the future are all the things I tend to prioritise when updating a space.
I hope this little look into the way I refresh spaces has been helpful but if you have any more tips to add, I’d love to hear from you! How have you reworked a space to make it more liveable? Let me know in the comments!