Want some easy, low-commitment ways to spruce up your home for the new year? Here are six tips on how to do a home makeover – in order of the time commitment required to do them – from CAROLINE CHIN GEYLER. She’s the founder and principal stylist of award-winning interior styling firm Arete Culture. The company is a four-time Gold Winner in our Expat Living Readers’ Choice Awards (2017-2020) in the interior design and home styling category. She’s offering a special Chinese New Year makeover offer, too – see below for details!
Caroline’s Makeover Tips
Low commitment home styling
#1 Refresh your throw cushions
- I love cushions in the living room, even more so because they’re so easy to switch out, making a huge difference to how a space looks! The rule of thumb is to ensure your cushions bring together the colour palette of your space. I like to work with neutrals and an accent colour.
- Tip: Make sure the cushions on the outermost corners of the sofa are your largest cushions, and also in a contrasting colour to your sofa.
- Another tip: when in doubt, decorate with three or five cushions. Symmetrical arrangements tend to make your space appear more formal, so having an asymmetrical arrangement offset by either a different number of cushions or different patterns will relax your living space.
- Adding cushions is also important because they add texture to a room. Texture is what warms up a space, especially if your home has a more neutral palette or very strictly adheres to a colour palette. You can also use cushions in the bedroom.
Time commitment: An afternoon of cushion shopping! (Need some expert help? Speak to our in-store stylists and bring along pictures of your home for complimentary advice!)
#2 Decorate your walls
- Renters might raise their eyebrows at this tip, but having your walls decorated can really help a space feel like home. If you’re averse to making holes in your walls, consider 3M tape for hanging lightweight pieces, or draw the eye upwards by putting trailing plants on top of bookshelves. However, we work with many renters, and most landlords will allow holes so long as you putty the holes when you leave.
- Gallery walls can make a big statement, but I’m partial to an oversized mirror, especially in small spaces. I recommend choosing a mirror that mixes textures so that it also doubles as artwork.
- Try placing your mirror opposite a window, if you have one, as it has the added benefit of bringing the outdoors in – perfect if your room is looking a little bare and boring.
Time commitment: One hour
#3 Create a tabletop vignette
- Vignettes make a room feel considered, robust and lived-in all at once.
- An easy way to create a vignette is to theme a collection: items can remind you of you travels, or be grouped by colour.
- Remember that a good vignette holds tension! You want to have a mix of textures, heights, shapes and even colours. (If you’re working tonally, make sure the hues vary.) For example, a round tall vase versus a low, square tray, or soft faux flowers versus a metallic sculpture.
- Vignettes are great on coffee tables, consoles and bookshelves – have fun with them!
Time commitment: One to two hours
#4 Add ambient lighting and scents
- Have you ever really wanted to recreate that hotel room you visited years ago? The magic of that liveable, luxe feel is anchored by multiple sources of lighting, plush textures and a signature scent.
- Now that we have plush textures down, let’s talk lighting. Most rooms rely on general overhead lighting, but this should not be used alone. In each room, there should be three to four points of lighting balanced around the room.
- Use directed task lighting (for example, under-counter lights in the kitchen, a desk lamp in the office).
- Add ambient light with table lamps, candles or strings of lights in kids’ rooms.
- Consider pendant lights or chandeliers to increase the illusion of visual height in the space.
- Add the finishing touch with your own home scent. If you have young children or pets, avoid open flames and opt for a reed diffuser. I like placing my diffusers in the entryway of the home so the home is immediately delineated from the outside space. Placing diffusers in the guest powder room and living room are also easy, luxe touches that can upgrade how your home feels.
Time commitment: One afternoon
Medium commitment home styling
#5 Refurbish your furniture
- You might not want to paint your walls, but you can certainly still enliven your space with colour.
- I’m all for giving an old piece of furniture a new lease of life with sanding, primer and paint. This takes some DIY skills, so don’t use anything too precious if this is your first time attempting to upcycle old furniture.
- I love using a high-gloss paint for refurbished furniture, turning it into a real conversation piece. High-gloss paint also helps to lighten dark wooden pieces, which helps to brighten the space overall.
- Note: Most IKEA furniture is notoriously difficult, though not impossible, to paint.
Time commitment: Two weekends
Potentially high commitment (but essential!) interior styling
- Yes, this could be high time commitment for those of you who have lots of stuff! But a beautiful home always begins with a clean, organised one.
- The idea isn’t to clean out a space, but to create space for only the things you love to be displayed.
- While decluttering, try to group random sentimental objects into a “vignette” (see tips above for creating vignettes).
- If you have too many items, consider displaying objects in rotation, and put other objects away in a box or in the cupboards – you don’t want to clutter tabletop and counter space!
Time commitment: One day to properly declutter each room, including looking through forgotten cupboards and drawers. So, you’ll probably need to dedicate a few weekends to this.
EL readers are entitled to 20 percent off consultancy hours on full-suite home makeovers and interior styling for projects booked before 10 February 2021. (This promotion is not available on other services and packages, including Arete’s Magical Homes, Design in a Day, or Design & Build services.)