Saving yourself the headache has never looked better.

November 8, 2018

A good design idea gets the job done while a great design trick can instantly transform an entire space. The best are also the simplest. Rather than plastering over an ugly wall, especially those lumpy concrete ones that look like cottage cheese, which can be expensive and time-consuming, it might be easier to just hang some fab fabric to hide it. The results can be knockout.  The following 25 design tricks are not just clever, they’ll change the way you decorate.

1. Cover Popcorn Walls Using Fabric

If you’re renting or on a budget, you can hide unsightly walls, (especially those lumpy concrete ones that look like cottage cheese) as well as doors or ceilings with fabric. All you need is the fabric of your choice, which you tack in place with a staple gun. The results can be incredible.

2. Sticker Over That Ugly Rental Kitchen Floor

Not all vinyl floor tiles were created equal. If yours are less than desirable, stick another pattern on top which you can remove when your lease is up. Peel, and stick tiles in the right colour, size and proportion can make a huge difference.

3. Fix a Broken Ceramic the Glamorous Way

A favourite broken ceramic can be heart wrenching, which is why we’re taking a cue from Japanese tradition and calling on kintsugi, (which translates as golden joinery). It’s the art of repairing broken vessels with metallic lacquer, using a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum, to fix the object in a way that highlights (rather than hides) the damage. It’s a way of repair that celebrates the breakage as part of the object’s history.

4. Customize a Backsplash Using Galvanized Glass

A vibrant watercolour, marbled paper, even a piece of pretty fabric can be transformed into a custom splashback using mirrored glass, just by protecting it behind a pane of tempered glass.

5. For Monochrome Walls With Depth, Mix Finishes

Anyone who’s never ventured from eggshell finishes can take a cue from top designers who mix smokey white in a satin finish for moulding with and high-gloss for ceilings. The light bounces all around the room.

H&M Home shot by Glen Proebstel,

6. Speed-Patina Rather Than Waiting on Nature

With a little know-how, you can speed the patina process on natural materials like terracotta, copper, and brass – rather than wait around for nature to take its course. Paint your pots and statuary with yoghurt, rub a piece of live moss all over it, pop in a damp, shady place, and water occasionally. Won’t take long!

8. Don’t Bother Framing Your Art

Ever spotted the perfect piece of thrift store art but not fancied the frame it was in? Once you’ve pried it loose, hang it without a frame at all.

7. And for That Matter, Don’t Bother Hanging It

Commitment-phobes and serial rearrangers, take heart: rather than hanging all your art, you can gently lean it against shelves, mantles, chairs and floors without it looking like a mess.

9. Failing Sofa Cushions? Try a New Fabric

Rather than try to find the exact same fabric as the sofa, recover stained sofa cushions in a complementary fabric for a two-tone look.

10. Use a Pair of Chairs as Bedsides

Forget investing in darling bedsides for every bedroom. A pair of chairs might be all you need, to get the job done. Just stack them tall with coffee table books to level them out. (And move them to the dinner table when guests arrive.)

H&M Home shot by Glen Proebstel,

11. For Simple Tasks, Don’t Bother Calling an Upholsterer

When you spot a great set of dining room chairs at an auction house or junk store but their seats are totally broken, don’t bother hiring a professional. A little simple DIY upholstery can give them new life.

12. Use This Surprising Colour to Make a Small Room Feel Larger

Black probably doesn’t spring to mind as the ceiling colour of choice, but the dark tones create the illusion that the ceiling is opening up like a night sky. It’s a warm, comforting feeling, like resting under the stars, all blanketed up. It’s also quite romantic. Try it.

13. Stow Toys Without Ugly Bins

Instead of storing toys in a toy bin, use a proper piece of more formal (and attractive) furniture such as a wardrobe, chest of drawers, cane trunk, or console. Forget primary colour, anything.

14. Disguise Vents Using Slatted Covers

Whether it’s an airconditioning unit built into the wall or an air vent you really can’t stand the look of, consider having a slatted cover (even as part of a shelving unit), built to go over them. The air will still flow, but you won’t be looking at a ugly piece of metal equipment.

15. Paint Over a Tacky Wooden Antique

“Everybody has the idea that wood is sacred,” says designer Bunny Williams, but “a lot of wood is ugly.” If the latter is the case, sand it down and paint over it. A trick that works well on mirrors, commodes, heavy architectural panelling.

16. Don’t Bother Refinishing Old Walls

Lucky owners of old houses needing a restoration can cross at least one component off their list: Peeling vintage wallpaper can be left just as it is. Modern accents in the room will keep it from looking dusty.

17. Add a Desk Without Taking Up Floor Space

If you’d really rather not write letters sitting propped up in bed but don’t have room for a desk, consider mounting a fold-down model to an open bit of wall space. (Then just pull over one of those chairs you’re using as a bedside.)

18. Fashion an Inexpensive Bannister from Rope

Take a length of braided cotton rope, loop it through a few brackets, knot the ends, and create  a highly nautical (and functional) bannister for your staircase.

19. Float a Piece of Furniture to Free Up Space in a Small Room

Try a little desk floating in the middle of a bedroom between two beds. Not only functional, somehow it it looks less cramped than if you’d placed it up against the wall.

H&M Home shot by Glen Proebstel,

20. Keep Wicker Supple with Oil-Based Soap

Rather than wiping a piece of wicker furniture clean with a wet rag, which will dry it out (possibly leading to brittleness and breakage), give it a swipe with a small amount of something like Murphy oil soap diluted on a cloth. The oils will help keep it moisturised.

21. Strip the Paint Off Your Radiator

Did you know you could strip years of paint off your heater’s metal surface, instantly transforming it into a covetable vintage-looking item rather than an eyesore.

22. Minimise Grout

If you really can’t decide between light or dark grout—and really don’t want to deal with scrubbing it when it gets grubby, butt the tiles so close together that you can’t see any grout between them.

23. Add Banquette Seating for Secret Storage

Add a corner banquette (and a whole corner of hidden storage) – it will make you feel like you’re at a Paris cafe bistro everyday.

24. Embellish Old Stair Risers with Printed Stickers

Are your  stairway risers in a state of disrepair? Get a favorite painting or pattern blown up to the height and width of the risers, then have a local sign company print it out on a roll of durable adhesive-backed outdoor vinyl. An easy update.

25. Add Privacy Without Planting Trees

A roll of bamboo slats which you can source at most garden stores that you can use to rig up a budget alternative to block the neighbour’s view, and make into attractive fencing that’s low-maintenance. Ideal for renters or people who want something short-term.  Try House of Bamboo,

related stories


Don’t miss the style set’s fave newsletter

Get Melissa's weekly rundown of where top interior designers source their things and find inspiration - that will instantly transform your pad.

Close and please don't show again