It's cold and miserable. That means you're probably spending more time indoors sitting around noticing just how tired and tatty your home is. A complete overhaul might not be within reach. It's expensive, after all. But don't worry - you can revamp a few corners in your home this winter without blowing your bank balance.

"People have unrealistic budgets, especially when they are thinking about ripping up floorboards, moving walls and installing new lights," says Alex Walls, who with her husband, Corban, won The Block NZ last year and now runs Alex and Corban Online, an interior styling business. "Instead, we like to focus on how to improve a room with soft furnishings, accessories and maybe a fresh new paint job, which are affordable.
"Having to stick to a budget is a good thing," adds Vic Bibby, interior designer and partner in Bibby + Brady, a Hawkes Bay design studio.

"It makes you focus on the exact pieces you want and need. Buy only things you're crazy about, take your time and gradually you'll create a place that you're proud to call home."

Read on for 10 thrifty tips from these experts and others for how to roll up your sleeves and glam up your home.


1: Clean up

Any renovation or refurbishment should start with a damn good tidy up, says Bibby. "Clear the clutter and organise your home. Keep only what you "know to be useful or believe to be beautiful", to quote famed textile designer William Morris. Remove any items and furniture pieces that don't work or that you don't love. Get a friend to lend a critical eye if you need help. Once you've finished, you should have a clear idea of what new pieces you would like to introduce."

2: Pick a theme

A room theme will give you parameters to work with, which is a good thing if you are an amateur at interior design.

"Don't try and pull all your many ideas into one home or space unless you really know what you are doing," says Anya Brighouse, an Auckland interior designer known for her work with bright colours.

"Decide which one theme you are working on and put the other ideas aside for later projects. I'm all for dark and moody rooms with touches of metallic, at the moment, mostly because it's a theme that uses lovely, deep colours like blues, indigos, even deep emerald greens.

"Throw in lots of velvets, woollen throws and dark wood tones - delicious!"

"A lot of Kiwis are drawn to the sleek simplicity of Scandinavian design at the moment and the Hamptons style suits our coastal lifestyle," says Bibby.

"Boho, a favourite of mine, reflects a laid-back style, warm atmosphere and plenty of gorgeous global patterns."

It helps, when thinking about a theme, to also take your home's era and size into consideration. "Think about the sizes of the rooms you have, the light and the configuration. There is no use trying for a full-on Scandi feel if your floors are composite wood and you can't paint or blonde them. Equally, a tiny cottage may not suit dark and moody with grand pieces of furniture," says Brighouse.

3: Get out your paintbrush

"Paint is your friend," says Brighouse.

"A new paint job - whether it be the entire house, a room or a piece of furniture - can add instantly to a space. It is definitely my favourite way to change things up, so paint a floor, the doors to your wardrobe, the back door in a bedroom, the ceiling or the joinery in a colour, any colour."

"Painting the walls is usually the first thing we do in our clients' homes, and the result is always positive," says Bibby.

"White instantly freshens a space and is the perfect backdrop to show off artworks and colourful accessories. Dark colours are equally as effective for this, and deep, inky blue is particularly hot at the moment."

But, "if you want to ensure you don't need to repaint in two years' time - colour trends change that often - stick to neutral and white tones," advises Alex Walls.

4: Spend wisely

Work out whether each room is important enough to be getting a makeover before you start spending, says Corban Walls, who is a design engineer by trade.

"It's best, when you are planning to renovate, to think about the value of your rooms in terms of how often they are used."

And, before you pull out the credit card and start spending, ask yourself if the homeware or piece of furniture you are eyeing up is absolutely necessary.

"Don't just buy items to fill a space," says Bibby. "Sign up to the mailing list of your favourite shops, that way you will be notified whenever they have sales or special offers. Allow yourself a small amount each month for home decor. When you make a purchase, include individual pieces that bring personality to a space - a brass turtle on top of a pile of books, a vintage camera for your bookshelf or a classic record cover as art."

5: Stay classy

Trends have their place in home decor but don't follow them on the really expensive pieces and places in your house.

"I advise my interior clients to keep the finishes in their house as classic as possible," says Brighouse. "Keep the doors and joinery traditional. Wander around high-end design stores and see what they are doing. They don't swap trends and ideas as quickly as the cheaper stores. And keep your kitchen and bathrooms classic, too. These are the rooms you will want to live with as long as possible so steer clear of fast-moving trends."

6: Light up the room

"Above a dining table, over kitchen benches, centred in your living space or even hanging as bedside lamps, statement lights are an easy way to create a central focus of a room," says Alex Walls. "And you can get some pretty amazing lights that double as art pieces."

"Recently, I had clients who were on a tight budget," says Brighouse. "The large chandelier in the main hallway was a classic shape but a terrible colour. So I got the clients to take it out into the garden, hang it from a tree and spray paint it. We added fabric caps to it, too. Instantly, it was updated, all for the price of a can of paint."

7: Get crafty

Small-ticket items like cushions are an affordable way to express your personality and update a room. When you get sick of them, you can easily change them. You can even make your own. "Buy a couple of metres of beautiful fabric. Choose a solid colour in a less expensive material for the back, and introduce colour and pattern in a beautiful fabric on the front. That way, you get double the cushions as you flip them to either side," says Bibby.

"I only ever use feather inners, which means you may have to spend a little more in the beginning, but you get your money's worth as your cushions will still look fabulous in years to come."

8: Bargain hunt

"Put some time aside to visit your local second-hand shops, or check out Trade Me," says Bibby.

"It's amazing what treasures you can find, and often for a steal.

"I recently bought a beautiful second-hand brass lamp base for next to nothing and recovered the shade in gorgeous fabric for a stylish update.

"And, in my search for the perfect dining room chairs, persistence definitely paid off. Every day I would get new Trade Me listings emailed to me and one morning there they were - beautiful Italian designer chairs.

I bought all six for the price of a single new designer chair!"

9: Add art

You can get a lot of bang for your buck with a cheap, stylish print, says Alex Walls.

"Large-scale art is big at the moment. It sets a mood and a colour theme for a room and it also does all the talking for that space. The trick is trying to find the right piece. If you have the money, you could commission an artist to make something up for you, but this is a definite splurge item. If not, there are great ideas out there on how you might do it yourself."

"To save on framing costs, you can create your own with washi tape [Japanese patterned masking tape] or hang the picture from a wooden clothes hanger or bulldog clips,"
says Bibby.

10: Bring the outdoors in

"Good things happen when you bring plants indoors," says Alex Walls.

"They reduce stress, improve mental processing and induce good feelings. As well, they are a bit of a fashion statement at the moment and are a super-affordable way to transform a room. You just need to perfect the art of keeping them alive."

Bibby says cut flowers and foliage can be transformational. "Bringing nature inside adds life, texture, shape and colour. But you don't have to spend a fortune at a florist - look to your own backyard. Whether it's a single flower, a branch or glossy leaves, keep it simple. Even a bowl of stones can look stunning."

Modern must-haves

More dash than cash? These cheap-and-cheerful pieces won't break the bank and are in the shops right now:


ironwork children's bed, $249.

2: Bibby + Brady metal poster clips, $8 for two.

3:Mintsix brass candle holders, $29.

4: Endemic World art prints, from $39.

5: Kitchenware from Kmart, various prices.

6: Superette concrete planter, $39.

7: Alex and Corban marble serving board, $59.99.

8: Country Road ready-made picture frames, start at $21.90.

9: Copenhagen three-seater couch from Freedom Furniture, $1699.

10: Shut the Front Door hanging plant bracket, $14.99.