Decorating A Home

Published on 20 March 2024 at 16:43

Decorating A Home

Decorating a home is a substantial matter – quite literally. The materials we choose to live alongside inform our understanding and enjoyment of spaces, which is something we’re quite invested in. As such, we’ve got pretty good at seeing the wood from the trees. Here, we’ve rounded up a handful of houses built and decorated with materiality in mind.

From painting and flooring, to fabrics and furnishings — our guide to making your first home feel like a showhome

SJ says modern laminate floorings are a good option. ‘Limed-oak finishes look especially well,’ she says.

When it comes to fitting out a home, interior stylist and colour consultant SJ is a big fan of preloved. She encourages buying from vintage and charity shops and rooting in the family attic to find hidden gems and items that need just a little love to become like new once more. She does not just talk about the preloved path to clients; she practises what she preaches in her home.

SJ set up her interior styling business after a few years of working in London. She took out a mortgage to buy a home in Winchester, but between the price of the house and the cost of setting up a business she had few coppers left over for decorating. “I had nothing extra, so I had to be clever, but I knew I had a lot to work with in the cottage,” she says. “When I viewed it, I noticed a lot of pine, which is great because it can be painted, and I knew I could save money by doing it myself.”

The stylist had time on her side, something that made working on a budget easier. “I didn’t have a deadline, I could take my time and look out for good value items. It was an organic thing. I worked room by room,” she says.

Painting the house was key to making it her own. “It’s the most transformative thing you can do for a home, with the least outlay. I asked for paint as house-warming gifts. I believe in using expensive paint — it is better quality and makes for a richer colour. It’s the one thing I never skimp on.”

Furniture was next on the list. “I had always rented before buying, so I didn’t really have any furniture. As an artist, I had an amazing collection of art — artists often trade work with each other — so I had art, but no couch or bed,” she says.

You spend years saving for a deposit for your first home. You trawl websites, drool over glossy magazines and, finally, you find your dream home. After weeks of poring over paperwork you sign on the dotted line, get your keys and waltz across the threshold. You are elated. You have done it, but how are you going to furnish it or dress it?

SJ Interior designers believes in the importance of planning. “Have measurements of every space to hand, in case you see something in the shops but are not sure whether it will fit. Plan what you hope to achieve, keeping paint, fabric and flooring samples and magazine cut-outs together for each room,” he says.

Some jobs, such as painting, can be done by yourself, but SJ advises asking for advice. “You can destroy a well-finished room if you don’t know what you are doing. Take advice from family, friends, your local paint shop and the internet,” she says.

Preparation is key

SJ warns against making  rash decorating decisions. “If it is not a new house, it is nice to give a quick lick of fresh white matt paint everywhere, with a view to painting it properly after you have lived in the house for a  year,” she says.

“It is  important to know where the light hits and what rooms you are drawn to at certain times of the day in each  season. This will equip you with answers for when the time comes to consider your colours and the depth of tone that will work best for each room.”

“Don’t be afraid to paint the whole house the same colour,” says SJ. “You will save money by having 10 litre tubs tinted, rather than buying smaller quantities. If your home is second-hand, take advice before taking off wallpaper, it may be easier  to paint over it.”

Getting the showhouse look

SJ believes creating a  show-home look on a shoestring budget is achievable. Keeping it simple can help your design project stay on budget. SJ is a fan of laminate flooring for a budget revamp.

“It has improved hugely over the past few years, is  easy to install and easy to maintain, but avoid traditional wood  colours — limed-oak finishes look especially well. I would advise taking the  skirting off before laying  — when it goes back after the laminate goes down it looks like a real floor.” If laminates are not an option, lifting old carpets may “uncover original boards that can be sanded and varnished, stained or painted”, according to SJ.

Combining old and new

Mixing the old with the new is vital to staying on budget. SJ recommends rooting in the family attic, with their permission, in the hope of finding a new treasure. Something your granny may have stopped using will be new to you, with the bonus of providing nostalgia and provenance that will help this new house become your home.”

SJ also recommends going on to recycling websites. “One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure and all that,” she says. Bric-a-brac and charity shops can be a great source of lamps, but check that they work before buying. “They can be painted or embellished and given a new lampshade and will help light your new home in an atmospheric way,” says Mac Gowan.

When it comes to kitchens, SJ suggests painting it rather than replacing it. This applies to both wooden and non-wooden kitchens. “With specialist primers, even some PVC kitchens can be painted, or the PVC can be removed and the MDF base painted.”

Budget buying is not always advisable. SJ  says you should not “scrimp on fittings such as built-in shelves, fireplaces and any permanent features”.

SJ, offers an interesting take on sofas and couches. “Buy one sofa and then pick up little chairs or armchairs. Upholster them yourself to save money or upcycle them with paint. Adults don’t like to be squashed up on a sofa, so this is a great way to achieve affordability and comfort,” she says. If your budget allows, l would recommend sofas from Home Fix Boutique


Accessories bring a home to life and provide colour and personality to an otherwise neutral room. “Allow something in your budget for cushions, throws, posters, prints, objects, rugs and plants,” says SJ.

She adds that there are many budget options for curtains. “Roman blinds are a more economical option, if you are having window coverings made up, as they require less fabric than curtains.”

SJ believes windows are important to the overall look of a house. “Curtains can be an expense, running to an average of £500 to £1600 a pair. If you can’t afford those prices, a lovely cheat is to buy sheers — thin linen or voile panels — add a pleat to them and pop them onto a wooden pole, this look is very on trend.”

Art is a fantastic way to decorate the home, but there is no need to blow your budget on pictures. SJ advises choosing prints and getting them framed. “The Jam Art Factory, in Dublin 8 and Temple Bar, does great, affordable pieces, starting at about £25. Make sure you buy a set of three, it looks more dramatic and expensive.”

The same goes for accessories. You can make a statement with affordable products. “Buy five candles and display them in a row. One looks miserable, but shops such as Home Fix Boutique make it affordable to buy in bulk. “Five or seven candles give the best impression,” says SJ.

Don’t forget the garden

Those lucky enough to have a garden shouldn’t forget to make it their own. SJ says you can turn your outside space into an outdoor living room using candles, outdoor rugs and some throws.

SJ agrees that the garden is important. “Start by stocking the beds with plants that will give you cut flowers, such as roses and hydrangeas,” she says.

“If it is an old garden, the plants might already be there hiding behind the brambles. Otherwise, you can get cuttings or divide plants from the gardens of family and friends. Perennials make great house-warming presents, too.”


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