Ten thrifty tips to brighten up your home

Don't let budget restrictions prevent you from adding some life and light to your home. Here are 10 tips that won't break the bank


Making your home a warm, welcoming and inviting place can be a real challenge when working on tight or even non-existent budgets. Here are some low cost, or no cost, tips which everyone can use to put life in their living space.

1 Arrange your furniture

Too many living rooms end up with traditional dancehall arrangements – all the furniture is along the walls. This puts needless distance between people in a room made for conversation and human interaction. Move the furniture closer together towards the centre of the room and use occasional tables to fill out the spaces around it to make the room a lot more friendly and intimate.

2 Make a space within a space

Not everyone in the room may want to do the same thing at the same time. Putting a nice comfy straight backed armchair in an appropriately lit corner next to a bookcase or some shelves will make a perfect reading nook to use while others are watching TV or just chilling.

3 Make the most of textures

Different textured fabrics and wall coverings can make a room really sparkle. When choosing pieces of the same basic colour varying textures can make them stand out nicely.

4 Pick your paint to suit your contents

Too many people choose the paint colour for their walls without thinking about their furniture. Put in the furniture first – sofas, armchairs, bookcases, coffee tables, whatever takes your fancy. Then add accessories like throws and cushions in your favourite colours. Once you’ve done that you can start thinking about a paint colour to suit.

5 Liven up your walls

Blank walls can be a bit cold and clinical but you don’t need to spend a fortune to warm them up. One trick is the 50:150 rule. Take your base colour paint and mix it so that you’ve got two shades, one twice as dark as the other. That way you can have nice subtly striped walls that will liven up any room.

6 Picture this

Hanging pictures is another good way to give your walls some warmth and personality. And they don’t have to be old masters either. You can get nice looking frames at very reasonable prices in most hardware and homeware shops and you can put family photographs, prints you’ve picked up on holiday or just about any image into them.

Just make sure to hang them at the right height. People often hang pictures too high – the midline of the picture should be at eye level for a normal person, not more than 5 foot 6 inches above floor level.

7 Let there be light

Make sure your windows aren’t obscured by heavy drapes, net curtains or venetian blinds. If privacy isn’t an issue allow the maximum amount of light in to bring light and life into the room.

Clever use of mirrors can amplify the effect. Sightlines are important though. Make sure to take account of what people are going to see reflected in them. Try to position them to highlight the best features of the room. Also, if you are using a particularly large mirror use one with sectioned panels so that the room doesn’t end up looking like a shop.

8 Light in layers

When it comes to artificial light you need to think in layers and what the room will be used for. Living rooms can be used for a variety of activities, watching TV, listening to music, reading, playing board games, or just plain relaxing. Different layers of light will accommodate all of these and match your moods at the same time.

Use uplighters around the walls for ambient lighting, strategically placed table lamps for reading, pendant lights for hanging over side tables or nooks and crannies to create a nice warm glow, spotlights in the ceiling or within furniture to create particular effects, and always have a dimmer switch for the centre light.

9 Brighten up your floor

The floor isn’t just for walking on. A boring floor makes for a boring room. Shop around for nice patterned rugs to brighten up a dull floor.

10 Technology is your friend

Modern smart technology devices are not only useful, they can be very stylish as well. The Nest smart thermostat device looks absolutely great and switches the heating on only when it’s needed, reacts to changes in the outside temperature, knows when you’re at home, asleep, on holidays, and learns all this by itself without the user having to go to night classes in computer programming. It makes your home cosier and more comfortable and saves money on heating bills at the same time as adorning a room either as a built-in wall fitting or in its free-standing table top incarnation.

Looking for more home innovations to make your space comfortable and inviting? Thanks to Electric Ireland, you can control your home heating and energy systems even when you’re out and about. Get the Nest Learning Thermostat for €130 and the Climote for just €90, both with free installation.
For extra design inspiration, check out Home Of The Year on Thursdays at 8.30pm on RTÉ One, sponsored by Electric Ireland.