With our disposable incomes dwindling and the prospects of being able to afford a bigger property looking remote, the time has come to fall back on your own resources to do up your home.
It's not all about putting up shelves and tangling with the plumbing though. Sometimes a little bit of MIY, or make it yourself, can go a long way towards creating a more individual and homely touch.
Now that our properties are less likely to be regarded as money-making investments and rather places where we live – it's worth remembering that your home should be a sort of biography of who you are; it should reflect the personalities of the people that live there. This idea is gathering pace as we turn from neutral colours that will help entice prospective buyers, towards more daring shades that reflect who we are and what we like.
You don't have to play it safe any more. After all, you can easily repaint a wall of paper in a day and there are plenty of places to buy cheap cushion covers.
Fortunately, the current trends of patchwork and strong colours all lend themselves well to this trend and there are plenty of websites where you can pick up instructions on making cushions and curtains – involving sewing only in straight lines. It's also fashionable to be "eco" and a collection of mismatched stuff that you have built up is the height of chic. Visit www.plumo .com for a look at their Kyoto bench for £159 for inspiration.
Rockett St George (www.rockettstgeorge.co.uk) can get you started with a tapestry cushion kit that would look good in a contemporary or traditional setting. The Emily Peacock Hug and Kiss kits come with all you need, but take a look at the Button Love one for inspiration. Once you've mastered the art of sewing by hand, it's a small step to making appliqué cushions with your choice of words or patterns on them. If Tracey Emin can do it...
The advantage of this is that the matchy-matchy look is over. These days it's about contrasting prints in toning colours, which means you can raid the remnants bin at John Lewis and create an individual, set of cushions for a relatively small outlay. Moving on to knitting and visit www.gervasoni1882.it for a look at Paola Navone's Sweet collection. Her giant knitted cushions (sweet 40) encapsulate this look and might give you some fresh ideas. Try www.learn-to-knit.com for help as well as www.sewlike apro.net. There are masses of places to pick up cheap sewing machines (Argos, for starters) but remember, if you are a beginner you don't need to spend money on a fancy one that will do embroidery and different stitches. Stick to something basic that goes forwards, backwards and zigzags.
You can buy a cheap set of plates from Ikea and paint decorations on them. Look at Emma Bridgewater. You can buy ceramic paint from craft shops and while the long summer holidays grind on – you can give this to the kids to do as a project.
On the subject of painting, you can buy a set of old chairs, or new ones from Ikea, and customise them, by painting them all different, but toning colours. Remember to bang a nail into the bottom of each leg and you can get right down to the bottom without painting the floor as well. A row of fitted wardrobes can be glammed up by painting each door in a different shade from a colour chart – you might even get away with paying just for the tester pots as well as making an interesting effect.
The online gallery, 55 Max, has just launched a bespoke arm, which will create a photomontage of your favourite images and put them onto rugs, cushions, wallpapers and tables. Visit www.55max bespoke.com.
Another tip for personalising your space is découpage. This involves cutting out pictures, sticking them on to a table or chair and varnishing them. Mocked by many as hideously old-fashioned, it just depends on the pictures you use – Banksy-style graffiti on a kitchen table could look great and give a new lease of life to an old, or characterless modern, table. The artist Leslie Oschmann has taken this idea to a new level by covering flea-market chairs and tables with sections of original oil paintings which she seals with clear lacquer.
Visit www.swarmhome.com for inspiration. Of course, you can just use images from newspapers and magazines in the absence of any oil paintings to cut up. For £275 you can buy a kitchen chair covered in newspaper decoupage by design company Bombus from www.notonthehighstreet.com. And for that price you get to choose which newspaper you want it covered in. They have also customised a coffee table in vintage Disney comic strips.
Another effective trick is to wallpaper the front of each step on your staircase. The designer Abigail Ahern suggests sewing lots of kilims (or cheap Ikea rugs) together to create an individual stair runner. Attach with a staple gun and glue.
So there you have it. Plenty of ideas to keep you and the kids occupied over the summer and affording ideas for turning your house into a home.