How To: Easily Update a living room (on a budget!)

As I mentioned in my DIY faux marble table post, we have given our living room a bit of an update recently and it got me thinking about ways to quickly and easily liven up your space, on a budget naturally, here are my top 6 'quick fixes'.

1. Add or change textiles - With the upcoming change in season, it is the perfect excuse to add or change cushions and rugs in your room. Maybe make an impact with darker colours or more textured and luxurious materials such as wool and sheepskin, simply switching out some of your cushions can transform the feel of a room. As you may know, or will become aware, I am obsessed with rugs, I believe they can completely alter your space and add interest, pattern and colour. Remember, rugs aren't just for floors, they could be used as wall hangings or draped over sofas or armchairs too.
ebay, Etsy, flea markets, car boot sales and charity shops are great places to find textiles and rugs at reasonable prices.

Easy updates for a living room
This Kilim rug defines this reading nook space. Image via pinterest.

2. Candles - This is such a simple thing to add and may not seem like much but when dusk arrives, which is getting earlier and earlier now, I light the candles in my living room and the space comes to life! Everything (including people!!) looks so much prettier by candlelight and it adds a cosy, atmospheric feel to your room. If you are worried about candles with children or pets then battery candles or fairy lights can work just as well. Turn off your overhead light, flick on some lamps, light some candles and sit back with a glass of wine....perfect! If they come in pretty containers, they will look great in the day too and if they're scented they will fill your room with a lovely smell!
You don't have to go all out and buy expensive candles, you could try dotting tealights around the room, even an old glass jar can look really pretty filled with a candle or battery tealight.

How to update a living room on a budget
Candles on my mantel
How to easily update a living room on a budget
Candles on my mantel
3. Update furniture - We all know that painting furniture is a great way to change the look of a piece and the room it's in, but I've lost track of the items on my 'one day I'll paint this' list! If, unlike me, you are motivated enough to actually paint your furniture then brilliant. If not, there are other, slightly lazier ways to update your furniture! How about changing the knobs or hardware or using fabric, wallpaper, or even wrapping paper to update the back of a bookcase or shelves? You could place a piece of mirrored or non-mirrored glass on the top of a piece of furniture and maybe display some photos, postcards, wallpaper or fabric underneath? Back in the days when I was obsessed with Cath Kidston I recovered the top of an old pine desk with some of her oilcloth, if I'm honest, it looked a little strange but it was a really practical, wipeable surface, maybe with the right furniture and oilcloth combination I could have something - if you try it and it works for you, please send me photos!!
Hardware including knobs and handles can be picked up cheaply from places like homebase, photos can be printed from your computer and wrapping paper could be used instead of old paper. I have even been known to scan a favourite fabric or wallpaper into the computer and then print it off on paper!

My DIY faux marble coffe table
4. Update your seating - Playing around with seating is a great way to update your space, but furniture can be very expensive and we all know the feeling, you're bored with your sofa or armchair but don't want to get rid of it or can't justify buying a new one. Re-upholstering is an option but it can often be expensive, unless you can source your own cheap fabric and the sofa or armchair is structurally sound. You could have a go at upholstering yourself, there are country wide courses if you fancy learning a new skill! There are other little tricks that you can use to change the look of chairs and sofas without the hefty price tag. I have an old cream Ikea sofa in my living room that was a bargain when I bought it but is now looking slightly worse for wear, I used a striped throw that I've had for years and tucked it over the back and seat area of the sofa but have left the arms uncovered so it looks more like part of the sofa and less like a student digs! This could be done with any blanket, textile, throw, rug or sheepskin and can completely change the look of your seating. Blankets and throws could also be draped over the arms of chairs and cushions piled up to disguise ugly fabric. Another great way to change the look is to recover the back or seat cushions but not the actual sofa, this is the perfect way to add a splash of colour or pattern too. If you have an armchair that doesn't have a cushion, you could add one with a cover in your favourite fabric. Charity shops, ebay and etsy are great places to find fabrics, thinking outside the box helps too, an old pair of curtains or bed linen could be cut up and re-used.
There are websites such as Bemz that make slip covers for Ikea furniture, although not the cheapest, they do give you a wider range of fabrics that Ikea itself. You could also try ebay for second hand slipcovers for your Ikea sofa.

William McLure's apartment. He's recovered the sofa cushions in a blue and cream fabric and added co-ordinating scatter cushions for a chic, smart look.
5. Add Artwork - This is a case of do as I say and not as I do unfortunately, as I've mentioned before, we are currently renting our house and while we can put things on the walls, I'm too lazy to re-paint them when we leave! In the rooms that will probably need re-painting any way I have added some art but my living room is pretty bare unfortunately. So, if you can add art to your walls, it can be so transformative, it creates a focal point, adds drama and the subject matter can change the feel of a room. Art doesn't need to be expensive either, there are so many sites out there now selling all kinds of artwork for really reasonable prices. Etsy showcases lots of upcoming artists, Photos.com features a huge array of prints to suit all tastes and offers framing too and markets and auctions can be brilliant places to pick up both oil paintings and watercolours for hardly any money. You don't even have to buy art as such, you could print photos, use pages ripped out of magazines, frame postcards and mementos, get crafty with box frames, display plates on walls, frame fabric or wallpaper, there are loads of sites that let you print your instagram photos too. My husband brought a flag back from a recent trip to visit his family in Turkey, now, I'll be honest because he won't read this, I wasn't overly excited, I worry when he wants to introduce things into the house and red isn't my favourite colour but he does live here too so some compromises have to be made! We decided to frame the flag in an old black frame which had been knocking around for a while, this was when I started warming to the flag as the frame sort of calmed it down a little and made it look older. We then hung it in our kitchen above our trolley, which has some red accents, and now, I actually quite like it. See, anything can be made into art.

Framed Turkish flag in my kitchen!
6. Finally, introduce plants - I feel like I have mentioned this a lot but plants and flowers really breathe life into a room, their organic shapes break up and soften uniform lines and they also just look pretty! If you have the room, go big, add a palm tree or cactus in a gorgeous pot, you could even buy a fake plant if you're not the most green fingered person. If you don't have the room, smaller plants or just vases of flowers dotted around the room will really make a big difference. If you don't have surface space, a problem in my living room - I blame the huge TV my husband insisted on, you could even introduce hanging planters with little succulents in. You don't need to spend a fortune on plants and flowers, you could just pick some grasses or wild flowers on your next walk or from the garden, supermarkets do great flowers now at reasonable prices, garden centres and Ikea have ranges of palms and cacti and even ebay sells plants, we recently bought a palm tree off ebay for our dining room!

How to update a living room on a budget
This side table arrangement in my dining room is bought to life by the succulents and cacti
I hope this post gives you a few ideas, if you guys have more suggestions of budget friendly updates I'd love to hear, so please share. Happy sprucing!

We are off for the weekend tomorrow to stay with friends, if you'd like to follow along with our adventures I'll be posting updates over on my instagram. Have a great weekend!


  1. I love the Turkish flag idea! Also now I'm looking at reupholstering courses!