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Why These Everyday Household Items are Ruining Your Interior Design

I have heard myself repeating these things a lot lately, so it made me realize that it’s not something many people know about!

If you are choosing items for any space including your kitchen at home – keep in mind that the following items are not “neutral” or clear – they actually have a very strong presence in a room and they have a colour that you need to take into consideration.

GLASS

The thicker glass gets, the more you see the green tinge that it naturally has. On architectural projects, I will always ensure to specify low iron glass which will be more clear rather than green. If you like the green tinge, it can work beautifully on projects, but unless you take it into consideration, it could turn your pink beige bathroom tiles a dirty looking colour when you look through the glass. In architecture and interiors, its always important to know your materials and what you are working with.

ARTIFICIAL LIGHT

Artificial light has colour. This is usually referred to as the temperature of the light. Think back – can you remember that old incandescent lights used to be quite yellow, fluorescents used to appear a bit blue and cheap halogens used to appear a bit pink? The colour of the light fitting you are using in your room, will change the way your paint and all other items in the room look.
You must take into consideration the light temperature when designing your project, it might look perfect in daylight, but if you use a space mainly at night but designed it to feel right during the day you might get some tears.

Light is a huge topic and one of my favourites. If you would like to learn more about artificial light and colors my free interior design course goes more into depth about it. You can learn about it by clicking here

WHITE-GOODS, CABLES & ELECTRICAL ITEMS

As Michael Jackson once said, it doesn’t matter if they are black or white – cables, TV’s Computers, fridges, washing machines – these aren’t invisible. I wouldn’t consider designing my house around their colour unless they were literally an integral part of my scheme – so most of the time I would consider hiding them. This really needs some thought before you buy furniture and especially if you are considering colours for a kitchen or living area which could possibly have loads of electrical items clashing with your scheme.

METALS

I’m talking radiators and their copper pipes, door handles, window latches, sink and bathroom tapware, floor boxes, blind pull-chords, chair and stool legs, cupboard drawer handles, down to the back plates of electrical and light sockets. Usually, a coherent scheme will take all of these into consideration as light reflects off metal and a polished brass tap will look odd when everything else in the room is brushed stainless steel.


FLOORING

Honestly, natural timber is probably the only flooring I would classify as neutral. You can make it work with pretty much any scheme. But any other flooring will have a colour. Stone, cork, tile, concrete and resins will need to be considered as a surface – so they will need to be taken into consideration. To be honest, I think the hardest ones for people to use in a scheme is usually natural stone. This is because the variances in colour and undertones of each type can be so complex that an untrained eye will struggle to make the right colour choices for a scheme. If you are a newbie and you want something that will just work – solid or engineered timber will do the trick (not laminate that looks like timber – these end up in you need to work with the surface colour pot).

All of these things can affect the overall look of a room, so it is critical to take these into consideration if you are aiming for a very specific end result. No one likes surprises – and in design, we control as much as possible so that the surprises are nice ones, not ones that lead to expensive changes and tears.

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How To Lift Your Mood When Working On Your Own

I thought it would be a dream working home from home on my own, but then I realised that I got lonely and it was a little difficult to motivate myself sometimes.  At the time not many of my friends worked from hoe and their time zones weren’t very compatible to Skype for company while working (but that works too).  

Having a quick morning chat with a friend, mastermind or a work colleague can really lift your mood when working on your own and if that doesn’t work, try some of the things off my list and let me know if any of these worked for you too!

1. Get something completed off your list early

I know that doesn’t sound mood lifting yet, but imagine if you had already been to the gym, had a yoga session or read a book for 45 minutes before starting work? The activity can be enjoyable too. I am reallllllly lazy in the mornings, so in order to get myself awake (which can be quite a disaster) is to get excited and schedule to do something I really enjoy first thing in the morning.

2. Clean your office.

Yes having every drawer sorted and file up to date would be ideal too, but what about just having a good old clean? If you are like me and cleaning is your go-to procrastination technique, perhaps hire someone else to do the main bit (or enlist a family member) so that you aren’t wasting your time feeling great cleaning all day and not actually getting any work done.

3. Go for a swift walk somewhere close by that you enjoy.

I am lucky enough to live by a river and a very large park, which means all year round I love going outside. But even on a busy city street, I find I get quite a vibe (and really enjoy coming back indoors afterwards and appreciate working from home, much more!

4. Get some sun.

As an Aussie, I really take the sun for granted.  Now living in the UK I keep getting told by my doctors to go and get some sun.  I can’t believe how little sun I get these days, so it really is important for your mood and health to get some good old fashioned vitamin D (of course unless you have been advised against it!)

5. Eat something healthy.

Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries always make me feel amazing and recently some really expensive green powder called Spirulina. I used to love smoothies whilst in Australia, but here in the UK I prefer something warm, so I add these to a small glass of warm oats as a snack and it definitely boosts my mood and energy! I always get a real sugar low when eating lollies and sweets, so as a self-proclaimed lover of chuppa chupps definitely go for the berry options.

6. Listen to a feel-good ebook or music while you work.

I can get through a book a day like this.  Sometimes when I’m drawing I just zone out and can pump through my workload and learn something at the same time.  Singing loudly makes me really happy too although I can get distracted by wanting to dance. It makes the time fly and I love every second.

7. Buy some flowers or pick some and put them near your desk.

If you have a plant, does it need some food or a bit of a dust, give it some love and care.  My desk is slowly being overtaken by flowers and plants.  If you don’t have green fingers, maybe update your screensaver or desktop background to something that inspires or lifts your mood right now. An inspirational holiday place or quote could work too.

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8. Organise your drawers or shelves.

I am really bad at this, I usually believe that putting it in the drawer IS putting it away, but it is so rewarding and mood lifting when it is so pretty and you can find everything for the first 10 minutes until you need to find something at the bottom of your pencil case (if you still have one like me…)

9. Put an oil burner on or light a nice smelling candle that has a citrus scent or something uplifting.

Uplifting natural oils are: Bergamot, Lavender, Mandarin, Lemon and Lemon Grass are ones I use regularly. Recently Lemon zest is my favourite. It’s so pretty!

10. Redecorate or upgrade some furniture.

Have you been sitting in an old dining chair trying to work like a pro?  Do you know how bad this is for your back, posture, breath,  your hands and arms if working on a computer.  Think about getting yourself a nice beautiful desk with a chair that will welcome you.  If you have that, are the walls due for a lift or is there something missing in the room such as proper storage or new piece of equipment that you have been thinking of but haven’t actually gotten to buying yet?

11. Open the blinds and windows.

While you’re at it, schedule a time to clean your windows.  Light not only brings good energy with it but reduces energy costs (when not glaring) and naturally wakes us up. It is also a much more inspiring way to work when it is bright and warm and clean. Now get to work!

The 2 things you must do before buying furniture or choosing paint colours for your home.

My goal is to help you create a gorgeous home on any budget so that you can up-level your lifestyle, create your dream home or start a new phase in your life.

So what do I believe you must do before even considering buying furniture or paint colours for your home? What do I know will save you tones of money on wasted items or worse yet, not give you the end result you are looking for?

The biggest problem almost everyone has is visualising how the end space will look and come together. So these two things help you filter out the things you don’t want, help you understand your style and then help you see what your space will potentially look like before you start matching to the green beige sofa that doesn’t seem to go with anything else on the planet…

So what are these two things that you need?  A mood board and a sample board of course!

The main reason you need mood & sample boards, is so that you can see what your room or house will look like ahead of time. You need to see whether the colours, materials, textures and ideas that you have will go together or clash. It gives you a chance to make mistakes, test ideas, be creative and really create your dream space the way you imagine it to look. These will save you money and help you buy the right items for your home (every time!)
I usually create a mood board before my sample board, and then I ensure I am happy with both of these before I start sourcing furniture and looking for specific items.

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What is a mood board?

A mood board acts as a filter, it helps you hone in on your desired feel and atmosphere of a space. A mood board can have your inspiration on it, colours, pictures of rooms and anything else you think explains your ideas in a tangible form. The idea is to express your ideas somehow and see them all together in one place.
This is how you can use it as a filter to get rid of things that aren’t quite right for this project (especially if you’re like me and have 10 million ideas that you wish you could use in every space!) I would suggest always having a mood board, no matter how simple or easy your project is.  (If you would like a step by step guide on how to create a mood board, you can find it here How To Create An Interior Design Mood Board

What is a Sample Board?

A sample board places all of the paint colours, tile and grout colours, surfaces, materials and fabrics that will be used in each room, in one place. It is a fantastic way of seeing how your combination of ideas will look together in a very basic format. I call up every company and ask for an exact sample of all of my ideas (and a few extras) to be sent to me so that I can build my sample board. Don’t ever guess or hope that it will just look great. It rarely does. You need to see and feel the material for yourself, especially if you are ordering your items online.

I hope this helped you to get clear on your idea and hopefully has saved you money already!

How to Make a Small Room Feel Huge – Part 1

Having lived in small, shared, inner-city spaces for much of my 20’s, I found lots of ways of making my tiny rooms appear much bigger than they were and more importantly store all of my guitars and sporting equipment like snowboards, climbing gear and bikes out of the way for daily life.

I remember my first room in London was less than 4m2 (13 square feet) and I loved living there so much. It was cosy, with a big window and I even had one of my super tall besties stay with me in that room. I remember he had to sleep diagonally across with his feet in the storage part of my undersized bed. I think I paid £60 a week to live there (ahh memories).

It wasn’t until recently, when I was working with a client who loves large open spaces that I found he wasn’t convinced about something I had proposed, which led me having to make a digital 3D model to explain it. That is when I realised that this stuff can be quite hard to visualise, unless you have experimented with it or seen the results yourself.

So here I am going to share some of my secrets and experience with you. I hope this is useful and helps you to live better in your small space and enjoy your time there so that you too can look back in years to come with fond memories and a few good stories to tell

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Top ways to living in a small space and make it feel bigger than it is:

  1. Use reflective surfaces (high gloss) and mirrors. When the surface is super reflective you can even use black as it reflects just like a mirror.
  2. Keep furniture low so that your eye casts over it and doesn’t obscure the room when looking around.
  3. Use sliding doors and pocket sliding doors. These will free up the space in front of cupboards, bathrooms and allow you to use the surface of the wall that the hinged door usually hides.
  4. Keep vertical and horizontal lines going full length or height and use built-in furniture to accentuate vertical or horizontal lines. Our eye naturally follows the lines and when the line stops with an obstruction, our eyes rest on it. In a smaller space, you want your eye to be able to move at least a little bit before it stops dead, so stand back and see what is stopping your eyes from flowing.
  5. Put a reflective surface or mirror on the wall opposite the window. This will bounce light around the room and acts like another light source.

In one of my apartments, I built–in high gloss floor to ceiling cupboards with sliding doors on the wall opposite the window. It made the room feel huge and gave me a practical way of hiding all of my clothes.

Want 5 more tips and some good habits for living in a small space too?

To Walk-in Wardrobe or Not To Walk-in Wardrobe

Since moving into our cute, albeit average, three-bed house in Berkshire I have dreamed of finally having a walk-in wardrobe. The reality is, there are two of us in a three-bedroom house, so it is a possibility and it could potentially suit our lifestyle.

When is it ok to remove a bedroom to use it as a walk-in wardrobe? I always ask myself the following things when deciding this for a client:

  1.   What are my daily habits and will a walk-in wardrobe transform my life and really make a difference?
  2.  Is there any other place or space to fit a semi walk-in wardrobe, rather than taking up a whole room for this necessary and hugely practical life changer?
  3.  What kind of property is it, and what affect on the property price, functionality and overall practicality will taking a bedroom away have?
  4. What do the market and location suggest about this decision?
  5. Who is using this house and how? Who will want to use this house in the future and how?
  6. Am I lowering the property function and value by customising the house to my own needs?

I have transformed bedrooms into walk-in wardrobes for clients in super luxurious properties in Sloane Avenue and other places in London, although I would definitely think twice about doing the same thing in our three bed Berkshire home.

Why? The area we live in is a family area. It is domestic, and people want and need three bedrooms. If my husband and I were considering selling and we had created a home with 2 bedrooms in a house that would have sold for 3 we would have cut ourselves short by a bedroom and might also find it difficult to sell the property.  Our home isn’t in an area where houses are large enough to command a more luxurious lifestyle either.  If our 3 bedder was an apartment in a dense city environment where a 3 bedroom property is usually difficult to lease out and the area was in high demand for young, corporate couples, then I think the choice would have been a lot easier.

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I don’t like making long-term or expensive decisions that would lower the functionality of a perfectly good home, even if that functionality is adding to my own life. However, if it transforms my life in a way that nothing else would (ehem, yes we are talking about a wardrobe) then I would look deeper into it.

Currently, I am not at that place where a walk-in wardrobe is going to completely change the way I live, mainly because my clothing and shoe collection is very manageable. To those of you who laugh in the face of house prices based on how many rooms it has (rather than m2), I envy the simplicity.

For now, it looks like I might end up with a brand new wardrobe, about the same size as I currently have, just a bit nicer, more practical and with a few more drawer packs. That is until we build the master suite in the loft, of course…

How To Design A House on A Tight Budget Part 2

To be honest, I could write a book about this topic because there really is so much to consider and so many different ways that you can approach your project that can save you money.

The main thing I do believe though is that you need to have an end goal in mind and that is why the first 4 steps really help get you clear on what it is you want your end result to be. Unless you are clear on this, you will waver, and wavering WILL cost you money and you most probably won’t get the result you were aiming for (except by luck).

Step 5

Plan and layout your rooms. This is so easy these days! Just google kitchen layout or living room layout and get loads of ideas for your own space. Make a decision based on how you live and how you want to live in your newly designed space.

Step 6

This is a little harder unless you have some experience, but you will find out soon enough how much things cost in a home and where to source things. So the next step is to figure out where you are going to spend your money. This is usually where you will get disheartened. Seeing how much things ACTUALLY cost (seriously? £60 for 1 cushion!) – So now is the time to really know where you will spend your money.

If your lifestyle commands that your kitchen is the heart of your home, then that might be a no-brainer, the kitchen is where you spend the money. In a living room, it could be the lounge or the built-in tv wall. If you want to ration it around the house, then that’s ok too, just remember when you see that gorgeous rug that is completely out of budget… Be strong, there will be another rug, just as soft (almost), with a beautiful weave (almost), for a much better price…

Step 7

Spend time sourcing. One of the hardest things you will probably come across is where to find that amazing lamp you just need to complete your room and you can’t find it anywhere. The cool thing about being a designer is that people approach me to show me their products; so I don’t usually have to search for too long as I have good connections with the industry.

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For the rest of you, I have shared my Pinterest board, so that you can at least have somewhere to start as this is where I share all of my go-to places and it really is a great resource. Follow it here: https://uk.pinterest.com/jochrobak/interior-designers-resources/?etslf=6966&eq=interior%20designers%20re

If you have any great resources you want to share, please email me or ask to collaborate on my Pinterest board.

Step 8

Get it to a stage where you can live with it, then you can spend the rest of your days tweaking it, evolving it, testing other fun ideas or changing things up for the season.

It is an amaaaazing feeling when you have finished a room to perfection and it is just everything you had imaged it to be and more. Don’t stop until you get to this place. It IS worth it.

One of my followers said she saved loads by buying expensive furniture second hand and repainting it to look new. Let me know how you saved money on your own project?

How To Design A House on A Tight Budget – Part 1

When you start designing a space do you get overwhelmed with how many different ideas you have and how to make them all work?

The main thing I love about being a designer are the endless possibilities. I even remember one of my lecturers at uni telling me that I should save up all of my ideas for my other projects. I remember thinking “what?!?! – but I’ll always have a hundred more ideas for that project too!” It was hard at first but one of the biggest lessons I had to learn was to chose one main idea, either for each space or for each project.

Once I started working in architecture, I realised there were lots of other limitations, such as build-ability, engineering, planning, regulations and budget! This was music to my ears, as I had so many ideas, I had no way of really filtering them out! So where do you begin?

Whether designing a room or a whole house, you will probably have a budget figure in mind that you can spend. Typically, I would say double that figure and that will be close to how much you will probably end up spending.

Your home is one of those money suckers where you can spend an absolute fortune on ANYTHING, so a tight budget can make you more creative, save you money and ultimately give you a real sense of satisfaction when completed.

So where do I start?

Step 1

So the first step for each space or project is to decide what the main idea is going to be. To be honest these days, just go have a look at your Pinterest board that says “Dream Home” (I know you have one) and have a look at the general theme. Everyone has a style they prefer, is it cosy and modern, or glamorous and inviting?  Write what you like under each image and then write down any words that you see recurring.  This will start to give you clues about what styles you are more drawn too.

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Step 2

The next step is to look around at what you already have to work with. For any successful project, all the surrounding surfaces need to be speaking the same language, including the furniture.  Next, write a list of what has to stay and what must go and also the things in between which can stay or go.  Usually, on a tighter budget the flooring, bathroom suite fittings and kitchen will have to stay.  So start to work around what you have.  Photograph them so that you can see them from a new angle and take them shopping with you because you will constantly be referring back to them.

Also don’t forget all of the things you might not be able to do, which will act as a filter for all of your ideas.  If you wish for a bay window and even though it is within budget, it might not be allowed by the council.  So how could you still achieve a bay window feeling without actually having a bay window?  I always say, “Your limitations can be your inspirations!”

Step 3

Set your Budget, then set another absolute maximum budget and promise not to go over the second one (you can email me, I’ll hold you to it!)

Step 4

Create a design. You will need to create a mood board, an inspiration board and start collecting material samples of the furnishings you are going to use. I would let my imagination run wild at this stage. Truly imagine what you want and how your space could really look!  Getting to this point might take days, weeks, months or years.  Most people drag this stage out for the simple reason that it is so much fun!  So go and have fun and dream big when it comes to your home because all of these juicy ideas are what will help you stay creative when you reign in the budget next week.

How to Create a Sophisticated but inviting Living Room

Have you spent ages designing your living room, meticulously choosing pieces, mulling over colours, styles, Pinterest and Houzz photos, then stood back and instead of an “ahhhh” got a “hmmm”?

There is nothing more frustrating when you have an image in your mind when creating your dream space, for it to turn out different to the way it was in your mind. If this has happened to you, you are not alone. The hardest task for any home decorating project is finishing it to a point where you can sit down and enjoy it whilst in the space, rather than looking around and thinking, “something just isn’t right”.

If your brain won’t rest whilst in your space, here is a checklist of things to try which I hope will help you achieve your “ahhhh”.

Have your End Goal In Mind

Whether this is a style, feeling or theme, the first key is to keep every decision in line with your end goal. In the living room example here, my reader had set out to achieve an industrial look but ended up with something quite different. She has now decided on “sophisticated but inviting”. (Which I just fell in love with as a description!)

Be Confident With Your Story

Using this room as an example, you can see that all the pieces are telling a story individually, but they aren’t really communicating together to create one story.

So if we then take the brown leather Chesterfield sofa and the modern light grey sofa and use these as the main pieces to tell our story (I chose these because they are likely to be the most expensive investment pieces here) then they are definitely (in my opinion) speaking the same language of sophisticated. So what is missing?

Create A Focal Point

At the moment there isn’t a main focal point, it could be the artwork, or it could be the Chesterfield, or the gorgeous window, or it could be the fireplace. Ask yourself “where do I want my eyes to rest”? Because the sofas are already achieving my end goal, I would, in this instance for a cost-effective and quick fix, make the sitting space the focal point.

Balance The Colour

The colours already used in the main pieces that tell our story are brown leather, light grey, white and tan. So why did I introduce taupe? Taupe can be used as a neutral and here I used it as a backdrop to the focal point, which creates warmth and hopefully creates something inviting.

Taupe is also a very sophisticated colour, especially the regal undertone of purple, gives it a little bit of a luxurious feeling too. I also know that a “cold” taupe, will play off the existing grey, brown and tan and so I used the white and taupe as the backdrop (not the feature – the sofas and sitting space are the feature).

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Balance The Materials

I used the dimples of the Chesterfield to bring in a new item of furniture to replace the wicker chair. The leather in the Chesterfield has a reflective quality and the grey sofa is soft and light which means they are quite contrasting, even if they are telling the same story.

The imaginary piece of furniture I put in to replace the wicker chair was my idea for a piece that would tie these two pieces of furniture together whilst balancing the materials in the room. The dimples play off the Chesterfield, and the colour ties the grey and brown together (it’s a “cold” red undertone). I tried to stay consistent with the language of the style so it is still sophisticated and inviting.

I also added the metallic sisal rug for texture underfoot and the reflective high gloss table to bounce the light around the room. I also added sheer “cold” brown curtains for softness.

Balance The Furniture

The hardest thing to do, in my opinion, is to balance the furniture and house décor to tie it all together. I replaced the coffee table as it was still part of the urban industrial phase and brought in an inviting but sophisticated table instead. The finish as described above helped bounce the light and the white colour was to balance the white backdrop and bring its elements into the focal point.

I also added artwork with the same tones now in the room (cold purples, browns and reds), a white mother of pearl mirror and the Kelly Hoppen house jewellery on the coffee table to bounce the colours around.

What do you think? What would you have done differently? Do you think it is now sophisticated and inviting? Let’s wait and see what my reader will do (hopefully we will get an update soon!)

More Ideas To Change Up A Room

Last week I gave you some ideas on how to revamp a tired room and I had lots of feedback saying that you liked the simplicity of the ideas and wanted more! So here are a few more ideas to pimp up space on a budget and without spending too much time on it either!

Create Storage or a display

I often find myself telling clients that all that is really missing in a particular room is storage. Be creative about how you store items. People do this easily with children’s rooms, but then forget about it when it comes to other rooms. If you love having a display of something you own, create a collection of something, books, pictures, photographs, shoes. Anything can be displayed in a creative and fun way and these days with the internet, try googling “Objet d’art” or “interesting ways to stack books”.

Organise your spaces to function properly

This is actually really rewarding and can save you time searching for items later. I always say, when clutter goes, creativity flows…

Update your light bulbs and lighting

Can you swap your lighting for a home system on an Ipad or RAKO style keypad, or a dimmer switch? You usually don’t have to really rewire with some systems either, you just need the system and some dimmable bulbs. This can completely up level a living or kitchen space, especially if you want to entertain or sell up.

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Create a mood for the daytime and a mood for the night time

I do this in my living room by turning on different lights during the day to make the space feel really bright, but at night I love only turning on the mood lights with candles and I even close the shutters early (while its still bright outside) so that I feel cosy when the weather is cold!

Replace something that you dislike

There is nothing more tormenting than a stained bed sheet or an ugly old set of chairs (I’m not talking shabby chic here, I’m talking broken, you get angry when you look at it and you waste your energy on hating it) –I rotate colours every season, but I usually go for yellow or green in spring, Blue and white in summer, red in autumn and white and black in winter. For some reason, these colours brighten my mood and compliment the weather for me. So find a colour theme that you can work with year round if you aren’t prepared to rotate and start replacing certain things with a vision in mind of the grand picture… you have one right?

A Few Ideas For A Tired Room

I usually get 3 types of requests from clients.  I get asked to:

  1. Completely overhaul a room
  2. Bring a room into this century (make it more modern) or
  3. Give some ideas for a tired room.

I actually think the third is quite easy and I think anyone can do it.  So here are a couple of ideas to spruce up a room.

Clean it up

Never underestimate the power of a clean space.  It not only changes your mood but also helps you purge unwanted items too. While you are at it, read about the Kon Mari method and the magic of tidying up (it’s a lovely read).

Tickle your senses

Freshen the air with a candle or flowers, put an inspiring quote or picture or put some nice music on to suit your mood.  If you haven’t noticed already, I always have a fresh bunch of flowers at home. I use these to highlight colours, change the mood but also to freshen the air. For me, flowers are the least expensive way to create a gorgeous view and freshen the air.

Create a vignette

A vignette is like a little artistic display.  It gives somewhere for your eyes to focus, especially when you have a room that doesn’t have much architectural merit.  I do this often with food on my chopping board in the kitchen or in the bathroom with luxury pamper items.

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Paint the walls

This is usually avoided at all costs until the room is emptied somehow, but you could paint one wall at a time. If you live in rented accommodation, ask your landlord, they will usually allow this, especially if you supply the paint and labour. If you can’t paint the walls why not try covering large parts of walls with a screens, artworks, curtains, or tapestry. This is also a good idea if you move regularly and want a familiar place to come home to.

Revamp the flooring

If the flooring is hard or the carpet is old and you cannot replace it. Try covering it with one or more rugs.  Hessian, sisal and seas grass rugs are really fantastic for this because they are usually neutral in colour and they come in lots of different sizes and are usually made in a really hard weave which is quite firm underfoot. They are usually pretty cheap in comparison to other rugs too.

As you can see these aren’t mind-blowing things to do!  But try doing 3 of these things in any one room and I bet it feels less tired.