10 Affordable Ways to Update Your Home Decor and Furnishings
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
I love to update my home decor every now and then, and as much as possible, I try to do so without splurging on a new piece of furniture or buying a lot of new decor items. Over time, I've found a few ways to update my home decor with just a few little changes and tweaks. Some of these ideas cost nothing except your time and effort. Read on to find out my top 10 affordable ways (including photos where possible) to update your home decor.
*Posts on DecorRefresh.com may contain affiliate links. Please read the full disclosure policy here. Where relevant, I have provided links to products below each photo. Where the original product is no longer available, I have provided links to similar products.
1. Less is More
Sometimes, all that's needed to update a room is to remove every object on every surface and then add back the pieces that you really like, one piece at a time. Think about how to group items together to make a visually interesting vignette. There may be a tray stored elsewhere that you might be able to use. You may also find that you don’t like any of the objects that you have removed! Don’t worry, and don’t throw anything away. Just store it somewhere if you can, and look around your home to see what you might like to use instead. The concept of ‘shopping you own home’ is not a new one, but it works really well. And it’s completely free. All you need is time! I store a few of my ‘put away for now’ decor in a tall cabinet above the fridge in the kitchen. Click on the arrow on the right to see 'After' photos!
2. Update Lamp Shades
Changing lamp shades is a very easy and affordable way to update your table or floor lamps. Lamps can look brand new with new shades. My favorite stores for new lamp shades are Target and At Home. Below is an example of how changing the lamp shades can really change the look of a table lamp.
The lamps in the first photo below came from The Bombay Company around 20 years ago. I still love the overall design and the crystal prisms around the top. The original empire lamp shades were a little dark and a little out-of-date for my taste, so I bought new lamp shades (from At Home) and also updated the light bulbs from incandescent to soft white LED light bulbs. Finally, we added new wall art above the bed, and two mirrors, one above each nightstand.
3. Add Slipcovers
A while back, I was attempting to make some slipcovers for my breakfast room chairs, and if I had been an accomplished seamstress (which I am not!), I may have made some nice off-white tailored slipcovers that go all the way to the floor. However, during my endless search for a nice protective cover for my dining chairs, I found some stretch covers on Amazon that are really pretty, practical, launder well, and are affordable. Most importantly, they protect my chairs and bring a bit of color to an otherwise neutral breakfast room. There are many colors and patterns to choose from and they fit most dining chairs, even slightly larger camel-back chairs such as the ones in the photo below.
4. Update Wall Art
New wall art can make a striking difference to a room. You may be able to use existing picture frames, and replace the art with a photo or a new art print. Dark frames can be painted or spray-painted. There are many ways to update wall art, without spending a fortune. My favorite botanical wall art set (see photo below) comes from Target, and goes with just about everything!
Product Sources: Target Framed Wall Art Print Set | Blue and White Ginger Jar Table Lamps | Pottery Barn Sydney Palampore Duvet Cover and Shams | Blue Madison Park Quebec Quilt (Queen Size) | Mirrors Above Nightstands
Target also has a very versatile picture frame that can hold photos or art prints. For the wall art in the photo below, I used 3 frames from Target, and found some really pretty modern art prints from an Etsy shop. If you have never shopped on Etsy, then definitely check it out! Etsy shops sell original merchandise that they have produced, or vintage items that are hard to find elsewhere. My prints are 11" x 14", but the same design is also available in different sizes and colors.
5. Reposition Furniture
Moving a piece of furniture to a new location may be all that’s needed to update a room, in a surprisingly impactful way! Repositioning a large piece of furniture is not always easy, not even when you are moving the piece from one spot to another on the same floor! I have a couple of visualization tools that I use before moving any furniture. First, I draw the change I want to make on a sketchpad, and draw everything in the room as it might look in the finished scene. Secondly, I use an App called PicsArt to approximate the look of the piece in the new location (using the ‘Add photo’ feature to overlay and the eraser tool on parts of the added photo). Below is an example of furniture repositioning when we moved our buffet table from the sitting room to the dining room, and moved our china cabinet from the dining room to the sitting room. These pieces are actually quite interchangeable and work in both spaces, but right now, I like the furniture in their new positions.
6. Update Throw Pillows
Changing your throw pillow covers is another easy and affordable way to update your home decor. The most practical way to buy throw pillows is to buy standard size pillow covers and separate inserts. Most of my pillow covers and pillow inserts are from Amazon and Etsy. The secret to being able to change throw pillow covers easily is to buy consistently-sized covers that will fit your existing pillow inserts. For example, I have 4 (20" x 20") pillow inserts that I use with my 18" x 18" pillow covers. I have another 4 inserts (21" x 21") that I use with my 20" x 20" pillow covers. So, when I search on Amazon or other sites, I usually buy these two sizes for the throw pillows covers on my sofas. The standard size for lumbar pillow covers is 12" x 20". However, for some of my chairs, this is not large enough, and I usually buy larger lumbar pillow covers from Etsy.
Below, you can see 2 photos with different combinations of throw pillows on my sitting room sofa. The lumbar pillow in the first photo below is a 14" x 24" pillow cover with a 14" x 26" pillow insert. Most Etsy pillow cover shops are very accommodating if you need a slightly different size. Contact the shops directly if you want a custom size.
7. Paint Furniture
This is not the easiest way to update your furniture, and requires a little patience, but it can look great. And please think twice before painting an heirloom piece! I think that painting vintage furniture is a great way of ‘upcycling’ perfectly functional and often well-constructed pieces that might otherwise end up in the junkyard. I have a couple of pieces that I painted from pine to white. I have a piece that was painted from mahogany to white (read more about that here). Painting furniture a different color can really change the look of your room, and is very inexpensive compared with buying new furniture. However, it does require a little more time and effort.
8. Add a Mirror (or Two)
Mirrors can be very useful in changing the look of a room. They can also make a space appear larger and add light to an otherwise gloomy area. Adding a decorative mirror above your bedroom nightstand is not only practical, but it can also look beautiful. Adding two may be even more aesthetically pleasing (as seen in above photos). There are some Feng Shui thoughts on where mirrors should (or should not) be placed, such as not positioning a mirror opposite a window (adjacent is fine), or above a bed. Personally, I wouldn’t have a large heavy mirror above a bed, mostly for practical reasons (the thought of a mirror falling on your head while you’re sleeping!). I love my oversized mirror above my mantel and above my guest room dresser. When hanging large, heavy mirrors, it is easier (and safer) to have two people helping.
Product Sources: Distressed Arched Window Pane Mirror | Lumbar Pillow (mine is 14" x 24" | Similar Plaid Pillow Cover (20" x 20") | Farmhouse White Vase | Off-White Throw Blanket | Similar Cream Throw Blanket
9. Update Window Coverings
When we moved to our home seven years ago, we had to get new window coverings for almost every room. Most of the windows had white faux wood blinds that had seen better days. In the master bedroom, there was also a heavy valance above the blinds that had not been dusted or cleaned for a very long time! Actually, I really like wood blinds, and we now have these in many rooms. The main difference is that I prefer real wood and I always add ladder tape, which is practical as well as attractive. I also like natural shades, and we have those in our master bedroom along with drapes that elevate the design of the whole room. You can see photos of our master bedroom bay window drapes here. Below, we added drapes from IKEA as a backdrop to the queen bed in our basement bedroom. The drapes really add style, and nicely hide a very small window above the bed!
10. Add or Change Area Rug
Area rugs are a great way to add color and warmth to a room. They help to define and anchor the space within a room, and make it easier to position your furniture around the area rug. Nowadays, it is not too hard to find a nice rug at an affordable price. We have a dog, so I am always mindful of how easy it is to clean a rug. Also, pets with long nails or claws can easily ruin a rug, so the weave or texture of a rug is always a consideration. Sometimes, just moving a similar-sized area rug from one room to another can freshen things up in surprising ways. You can see an example of this in the two area rugs in the 'Before' and 'After' photos of my sitting room in the 'Reposition Furniture' section above.