Design: It's all in the details

Kate Watson-Smyth reveals a range of quick and easy ways to update your interiors without breaking the bank
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The Independent Online

Whether or not there's a recession lurking around the corner, there's no doubt that we've got less money in our pockets to spend on fripperies for the home. If you can't afford a full-blown refurb, or your kitchen is perfectly serviceable and you're just bored with it, then spend a little on accessories instead. These provide the perfect finishing touches for a home, and lots of shops have cottoned on to the high street fashion idea – we want to change small things, often, to update, refresh and modernise. There's nothing wrong with spending a lot of money on a new sofa but why not keep the one you've got and spend 10 per cent of the price of a new one on cushions instead? The new collections will hit the shops any day now, so there's a lot to inspire out there, and you can feel good about having a new-look home for a fraction of the price.


You can apply many of the downstairs reception room tactics to the bedroom. New rugs, wallpaper and cupboard handles will all give the impression of a newly decorated room without actually having to spend money on the big stuff, such as beds and wardrobes.

Hang a new mirror and choose fabulous textures for bedspreads and rugs, which will add to the idea of hotel luxury. And, if the walls do need doing or the bed's a bit ropy, you can call the combination "shabby chic" and pretend it's like that on purpose...

Sitting room

There's nothing like a throw or a few new cushions to revive a sofa. This peony cushion (right), which has a matching throw, is made in Scotland from wool felt. The butterfly throw continues the theme in a charcoal colour (020-8835 0101,

If you can't face hanging wallpaper or paying someone else to, then the latest trend is wall stickers. Rockett St George (; 020-8350 5450) has some rather elegant hydrangeas (£40), or for a sense of fun, lovebirds (£49). They also have a large floor sticker that could take the place of a rug. If you've always secretly hankered after a Damien Hirst spot painting, then some spot stickers from Urchin (; £29.99) might do the trick.

Few among us haven't collected a series of objects but feel that displaying them in a glass cabinet or on shelves is a bit naff. Stylish Stuff (; 0870 850 7547) has these frameboxes (above right), a sort of carved picture frame round a small cupboard (£35). Hang them in a cluster on the wall to create a different kind of display case. Check out the company's Marrakech stools (left), £275 – the set of three stack inside one another, so you needn't use precious floor space unless you have company.

A new rug will work wonders to jazz up a room. Celia Birtwell has created a fantastic monochrome rug for Habitat (see Bedroom section, left), £399, (0844 499 1111;

For table lamps, The White Company (0845 678 8150, produces simple good designs in neutral colours that allow you to be a bit more daring elsewhere. The glass lamps impart an understated glamour (prices start at £75).


If your kitchen doesn't have windowsills or you want to liven it up, use a hanging planters, £9.99 – there is also a wall version – for herbs (01269 822 288, Made from white porcelain, it should fit in easily with all colour schemes.

To update a dining room or kitchen, mix up the chairs, rather than having a matching set. Habitat's Zach chairs, £199, come in black and white and create a lacy effect which would work equally well with antique and modern tables (0844 499 1111;

One of the easiest ways to give your kitchen a low-cost makeover is to change the handles on the doors of drawers and cupboards. Graham and Green (0845 130 6622, www.grahamand has a good selection from only £3.95 – although this cost will mount up as you've probably got lots more handles than you first thought. If you feel strong enough, paint the cupboards and bingo, it will all look as good as new.


Winner of the 2007 Elle Decoration British Design Awards for Best in Bathrooms, the Inside Out cupboard, £230, made from aluminium composite, comes from a Welsh company, FreshWest (0845 120 4649, It's 70cm high, which should be big enough for most of your lotions and potions and will add a witty touch to your ablutions. Comes in black, white or yellow.

Every bathroom needs a mirror but instead of a boring frameless one, why not go for something that makes a bigger statement. These Arch mirrors, from £80, Graham and Green (0845 130 6622, have a bone inlaid floral design, which should add a touch of luxury to the practicality of the room.

These days you don't have to worry about wallpaper sliding off the wall of a steamy bathroom – as long as you've stuck it down properly. Having just one feature wall can completely transform your bathroom. See (0800 328 8452) for a selection of graphic black-and-white designs, from £20 a roll.