Decorating your house

Decorating your house

Author Aira Torralba

Traditionally, the May Bank Holiday is a great time to give new homes a Spring-clean or start doing some timely DIY decoration. If you're a first-time buyer, there may not be much to tidy yet … but how about decorating? Wouldn't it be exciting to start thinking ahead? Here's our guide to brightening up your first home on a budget:

Step 1 – are you a Botticelli or a Banksy?

Moving in day is on the horizon, everything seems possible. Be practical about what you can do yourself, or what your partner can do, and how good you both are at DIY generally.

Bravery counts, ability is better. Let's face it, we've all seen DIY disasters. There's nothing worse than starting a job, not doing it well, and then having to live with the consequences. So think carefully before you begin:

If you're a budding artist or DIY-guru, go straight to Step 2.

If not, think about asking friends and family to help out in exchange for a meal or get-together, once the decorating's done. They'll be just as excited as you are about getting stuck in.  

And if you do have a small amount of money set aside for decorating (but gloss and matt look the same to you) try or Both websites carry reviews. And tradespeople are usually happy to give detailed quotes that will help you stay within your budget.

However, even if you don't have much experience and still want to decorate on a budget this Bank Holiday…

Step 2 – remember to budget carefully

After you've arranged your mortgage, there may not be many pennies left. Don't worry, a little imagination and a lot of elbow-grease can achieve great things.

Even a freshly-laundered duvet cover thrown over a sofa counts as 'brightening up a room'. It's also worth remembering that, as you save, you can pick up better quality DIY tools that you'll use over and over again. Things like paintbrushes can last for years (as long as you look after them, and clean them properly).

Start small, finish big

Our advice is to start small, get some friends round to celebrate the fact you're moving in, and tackle something you're sure of finishing in the three days ahead – on a modest budget. That way, you'll get real satisfaction. If you're investing in a larger project, do get written quotes before the work starts. In both cases, it's better to come in on-time, under-budget than to be left with a mess.

Whatever your budget is, pop into your local DIY store on a regular basis. Go along to small stores as well as national chains. If you take some imagination with you, it's always worth looking at those 'end of line' shelves. These can offer great, simple ways to instantly freshen up a new home on a very small budget:

  1. One pot of paint? That's a contrasting feature panel on a wall
  2. One roll of wallpaper border? Cut at 45 degrees, it's a kitsch 'frame' around a mirror you already own 
  3. One roll of wallpaper, even? How about a feature panel in that front room. Very easy.
  4. And a few rolls of masking tape? They say time is money. Masking up ceilings, door and window frames for a painting project takes time -  and the best results come from preparing really well. Even if the paint pots don't get opened, those rolls of tape may be the best use of your time.

So, to recap…

Work out what's possible, how much you can comfortably afford to spend, and how long it will take. Don't forget, this is supposed to be enjoyable and exciting – it's your new home! 

Don't rush it, but do make sure you know what you're decorating and who's responsible. For example, check your mortgage deeds before freshening up a garden fence with a coat of wood protector: you may be keen to make the most of green fingers, but you don't want your new neighbours seeing red. And make sure you know who's responsible for painting or decorating communal areas in flats and maisonettes – who knows, it may be someone else who'll buy that shade of purple paint you've always loved.

For more decorating tips, try these articles too:

Keeping the family together

Advice on how best to plan a decorating weekend with family and friends: making sure everyone lends a hand, without things getting out of hand.

What's possible, what's not?

Hour-long projects, half-day decorating ideas – a quick guide to what's possible in a weekend, and what may be a step too far as a first-timer.

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