Before buying anything new, try having a go at updating your space with what you already own - or at worst, just spend the minimum - for a fresh, new look. If you don’t have a natural attention-grabber to be the focus of your room such as a fireplace or television, it’s not that difficult to create one – even pairing a mirror or some artwork with a bench or shelves, or a lick of an eye-catching paint can create a point of interest. If all else fails, scour second-hand markets for inspiration!


Paint doesn’t have to be restricted to walls – you can use it to decorate furniture and accessories to update them. Have a go at giving wood furniture a lift by adding a splashy new colour or add stencilled artwork to create something totally new. Chalk-white paint will instantly update a boring piece of pine furniture, and adding new hardware too, such as drawer handles, will give an updated look.

Frame Family Pictures

Print out family photos or other favourite memories for a wall display, buying new frames if you can afford them, or gather up your old ones and paint them all the same colour to decorate what you have - basic black frames with white mats give a beautiful focus point. Another suggestion would be to frame your kids’ artwork or their drawings – these are all perfect ways to use what you have, and instead of stowing away these masterpieces, put them on display in pretty frames. They can be changed up as fresh artwork arrives from your little artist, or just rotate your favourites.

Pile on Pillows

A favourite way to brighten up a room – add a pile of cushions to cosy it up, and can be arranged on your sofa and armchairs to add warmth, and comfort can change the colour scheme easily. Choosing cushions with different patterns in complementary colours will create a pleasing mismatched look, or invest in a selection of new covers to contrast colours with what you have already. If you're handy with a needle and thread, consider making your own cushion covers – perhaps a sweatshirt, or t-shirt, keeping the zipper or buttons as features. Another trick is to fold a bright blanket over the seat, back or arm of a chair to use as a cushion, which could double up as something warm for the knees or shoulders on a cold evening.


I just love mirrors – they add space and reflect light into a room. If you can't put holes in your walls to hang your favourite mirror, you can just prop larger framed mirrors against a wall. A sizeable mirror with a beautiful frame becomes a piece of art, and when angled against the wall, it tricks the mind into thinking the ceiling line is even higher than it is or can reflect the colours of the outside trees or garden back into the house. A mirror can brighten the end of a dark corridor too by reflecting light and giving the illusion of an extra window.

Credits: envato elements;

Rearrange Furniture

Getting comfortable with how to decorate with what you have can give a fresh perspective and change how you look at a room, and it could be as simple as moving your stuff around. Before buying anything new, try experimenting with different furniture arrangements first. Try turning your sofa up against a different wall if you have the space, maybe pull furniture away from the wall or rotate chairs around the room until you land on the ideal placement. If you don't like the final layout, you can always move the pieces back.


Dull shelving can be transformed with a patterned backdrop to add contrast to your room, maybe picking up on an accent colour that exists already in your décor. Fabric, wallpaper and even wrapping paper remnants can work well for lining the backs of bookcases or built-in shelving. Use peel-and-stick wallpaper or use sticky tack if you aren't sure you'll love this idea - you can easily remove it if you don’t.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan