If your living room doesn’t thrill you anymore, you can make it new and inviting with an inexpensive facelift rather than a major renovation. While new paint is a familiar fix for a dull and dowdy environment, we think you’ll find these 14 “fast fixes” a bit more creative, but just as doable with only a bit of work, a small budget and a weekend or less of your time. Have a look:
Go graphic with words. Buy or make (if you’re handy with woodworking tools) some oversized letters to serve as wall art and display shelving for your books or collections. Spell out “LOVE,” your name or another word that has meaning to you, paint the letters and accessorize to your heart’s content.
Create an entry. If your front door opens directly into your living room, create the effect of an entry hall by adding a half wall. You can do this by purchasing cubby boxes, or by building an open divider that can serve as display space. If you find a glass-shelved étagère at an auction or estate sale, you won’t have any work involved: Simply set it at a right angle to your front door and enjoy the illusion of a separate room.
Replace an old light fixture or outdated ceiling fan. Look for a fan to echo your decor; perhaps one with clear acrylic blades or a slightly exotic flavor that complements your interior. New fan prices are totally reasonable if you shop smart – you’ll find bargains online! Be sure to buy one that is reversible so that you can use it to force warm air downward during the winter. It will not only look good but it will lower your energy bill as well.
Add a built-in bookcase wall. Bookcases don’t have to be filled with books. They can corral collections for a stunning effect, be a home for art and sculptures, hold an eclectic mix of personal memorabilia, and add interest to a plain vanilla setting. If an entire wall of shelving seems like overkill, collect paint grade 1×8 or 2×12 pine and build a 36- or 42-inch high bookcase. Attach it securely to the wall. Paint it the same color as the wall or keep it the same color as your room’s woodwork. This is a project you can easily accomplish in a weekend, and the skills needed to complete it are minimal.
Reface your fireplace. Redoing a fireplace doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Reface a brick fireplace with natural or synthetic stone, or face it with travertine tiles or slate. Be certain that the new material is suitable for use near heat and open flames. You can accomplish the work on a DIY basis, but you might want to consult with a knowledgeable home store before beginning your project.
Paint the ceiling dark. If you use your living room primarily for evening activities, paint the ceiling charcoal or stormy dark blue. You’ll have an intimate, warm setting for evening gatherings. Just be sure you have plenty of ambient lighting in the form of interesting lamps. An uplight or two hidden in the corners of the room will add drama and keep the darkness from feeling heavy and oppressive.
Add striking appeal to one wall. Thanks to the Internet, you can find wall murals that are pre-pasted and ready-to-go — anything from world maps to wild animals to reproductions of old masters or graffiti art. You might make a mess if you’ve never applied wallpaper before, but the results can be remarkable, and the look will be yours alone.
Redo with found objects and recycled materials. One of the best ways to find budget items for a home facelift is to hunt local garage and yard sales, flea markets, consignment shops, auctions and estate sales. In addition to looking for usable furniture, look for other items that you can adapt, recycle and redo. Look for items with personality that “speak your language” and make your heart sing.
Rethink your art. Not all art needs to be dramatic, but it should be personal. Why not hang a bicycle on your living room wall? If you have a penchant for old cars and automobile artifacts, hang antique highway signs, old hubcaps, steering wheels and side mirrors. Or display classic hood ornaments and gear shifters. Recapture your childhood with old metal toys; then fashion a coffee table from a rusty old wagon by adding a glass top to it. Embrace whimsy and enjoy your refreshed surroundings. You’ll have as much fun shopping for your new living room as you will have putting it together.
Add dimension with moulding. If your room is currently just four walls and a ceiling with no distinctive details, why not make it a traditional English parlor with raised moulding and individual panels for family portraits or distinctive art? If you can measure accurately, use a level and have the patience to work out details, you’ll be just fine.
Incorporate a media center. It depends, of course, on how much equipment you have, and how you use your living room. But if you and your family are into music, movies and togetherness, it certainly makes sense to unify your audio-visual life into one place and display it attractively. Plan it out before you start installing it, and don’t forget to include storage space for your DVDs, accessories, earphones and cords.
Unify by dividing. Living rooms don’t have to serve a single function. Add a game table for cards or jigsaw puzzles, a coffee table that’s large enough for an informal dinner party, a reading corner that has a chair and ottoman, as well as a dynamite floor lamp and cozy afghan for late night reading. Explore the rest of your home to find pieces that you can move into the living room to add personality. It might not cost you anything more than a few hours of your time!
Look to the past. If you have old furniture in your living room, make it new with paint. You might not want to paint over the beautiful wood of a bonafide antique, but if you have inherited pieces or flea market finds, spiff them up with paint. Be as bright or as subtle as you wish. Give those exposed wood arms and legs of a vintage upholstered chair a bright new lease on life with a coat of fire engine red, citrus yellow or kiwi green enamel. If you’re artistic and love the shabby chic look, consider painting a design on your chest or table. Have fun with it and wait for the compliments.
Move it all out. This may be counterintuitive, but the best way to refresh your living room may simply be to start over. Some of the best, most successful interior designers simply redo their rooms periodically by moving everything out and starting over with the same furnishings and accessories and a fresh set of eyes. If you’re tired of your room, but love everything you have, try this approach. It’s similar to what our forebears called spring cleaning. It works! Before you move things back in, do that thorough cleaning, then check the condition of everything you bring back. Rearrange as you go, and you’ll have a brand new room! It really works.