Tweaking, rearranging, freshening up, reinventing — styling is more about out-of-the-box thinking and less about spending money. Here are 10 creative ideas for reworking your rooms using what you have on hand.
1. Use a colorful quilt as a table cover. A quilt on the table is delightfully unexpected, bringing rich color, pattern and warmth to the dining space. Here, a kantha quilt (usually made from old saris and scrap fabric) was used, but you could use any sort of beautiful textile, quilt or blanket — just be aware that you shouldn’t actually serve a meal atop an heirloom quilt or one that could easily be damaged, so choose a machine-washable version if you plan to use it at mealtime.
2. Cut down a tall table. An old wooden side table (or even a dining table) can become a cool new coffee table when the legs are shortened. If you don’t have a table you want to change, keep an eye out at flea markets and yard sales for wooden tables with imperfect or broken legs — ideal candidates for being cut down. Just be sure to measure carefully and saw straight or you’ll have a wobbly table! If you don’t want to do it yourself, a handyman should be able to complete this job for you in under an hour.
3. Group small mirrors. Have a few small mirrors lying around? Instead of using each in a different spot throughout your home, collect them in one place and display them as a group. Don’t worry if they have different finishes — a mix-and-match look can work well here.
4. Write on your mirror. A poem or song lyrics written on a mirror can transform a plain bit of decor into a conversation piece. Use chalk markers or erasable window markers for a temporary effect, and be sure to test them (and try erasing) on a tiny corner of your mirror before completing the whole thing.
5. Update a light fixture with paint and pattern. A bit of masking tape and paint (well, and some patience) are all you need to change a plain white lampshade into a fresh, modern accessory. Carefully tape off triangles in a pleasing pattern, paint the exposed areas with fabric paint, then carefully remove the tape. This sort of experiment is best undertaken with an inexpensive lampshade, so if the pattern doesn’t come out the way you hoped, you won’t be heartbroken.
6. Give old accessories new life with paint. If you have a lamp base, vase or other decor item that has a great shape but ho-hum color, give it a new lease on life with a coat of paint. Choose the type of paint appropriate to the material of the item. Objects with lots of fine detail will get the best coverage with spray paint, used carefully outdoors (with a protective face mask and plenty of tarps).
7. Toss fuzzy blankets over patio chairs. Cozy up a tiny patio with super-soft faux fur or snow pattern faux fur throw over the seats. The warm look and feel makes even the most compact outdoor space inviting — and makes simple folding chairs more comfortable to boot.
8. Put unused containers to work on your shelves. Bring focus to random collections of objects on your shelves by grouping them with purpose: Peek inside your kitchen cupboards to find unused cake stands, ice buckets, serving trays and vases that can be used to corral items on display. Use the different heights and shapes to bring interest to your shelves, placing some objects atop stands or on stacks of books and filling spaces with sculptural objects and vases. Stick to items within one or two colors for a cohesive look.
9. Cover your headboard with a beautiful textile. A Moroccan wedding blanket, kantha quilt, kilim rug, wool camp blanket edor simply a neatly folded length of lovely fabric can make a quick and easy cover for your headboard, changing the look in a matter of seconds. This works best with headboards that have a simple rectangular shape, either upholstered or solid wood.
10. Make your own "wallpaper". Removable decals, or even neatly cut electrical tape, can be used to create the look of wallpaper without the permanence (or high cost). If you’re DIY-ing it, stick with a simple shape, like the plus signs seen here, for the best results.