Sometimes I get antsy. I'm tired of how parts of my home look, but I'm lacking in the budget and skills department to do an HGTV-worthy overhaul. Luckily, this was the same predicament most average people faced in the earlier 20th century decades, and we can learn from their sweet skills!
One of the best ways to bring a new look to a room is to rearrange it, and it's practical to deep clean it along the way. Before I even thought to do this blog series, that's exactly what I did in my kitchen! The layout had a giant 70s dropleaf table in the middle, and the way utilities had been built in has made for an awkward cabinet and fridge layout. However, I was determined to make the most of the space.
We found a vintage table, and that sealed the deal. We had been searching high and low for a new table because our 70s dropleaf wasn't in good condition (like, leaves falling off randomly not matter how many times you re-screw them in), and I was elated to discover this affordable table and chair set in a local flea market.
However, that table purchase was the majority of the budget, so I didn't have many more resources to rework the kitchen. Here are some of my tips I would suggest in revamping a room on a budget, based on things I've seen in vintage home layouts and in looking at my own home:
1. Start rearranging with the largest piece.
Rearranging a room can be a daunting task. It seems like my rooms have so much STUFF in them, and I don't realize it until I try to move it all! Focusing on placing a few large items and moving down the size list helps avoid the "I must move everything in this room" overwhelming feeling to "First I'll move the couch, then the end tables..."
I was a bit stuck in rearranging my living room because every single wall has a door or a window in it, and the spaces in between aren't very big. I started pondering my rearranging options by seeing where the biggest piece in the room, the couch, would fit without blocking anything. There were only two walls that were options, so I put it on the wall I wasn't currently using!
This works well in nearly any room that has at least one large piece. By starting out with placing large pieces, you can then fill in the rest of the room with increasingly smaller items until you're left with the fun part: decorating!
2. Deep Clean
There are places in my house that don't get cleaned as often as others. Under the couch, under the stove, behind the toilet, places like that. Take this opportunity to thoroughly clean those forgotten corners. Stuff will get messy anyway with moving stuff around, so you might as well!
Flooring in particular could get some attention at this point since furniture will be moved. Steam clean your carpets and beat your rugs outside. (It does more than vacuuming AND relieves stress!) Wash or steam your curtains, vacuum under the couch cushions, wipe down pantry counters, really get in there!
Some things in our homes just aren't as functional as they could be, but we put up with them every day because we haven't taken time to change them up. Now is a great time to address them! I rearranged the food storage in our Hoosier cabinet to prevent spices from falling on my head all the time. It's a small thing, but it has hugely helped my kitchen efficiency! I also took time to reorganize stuff that had piled in our laundry/storage room and find new places for stacked-up items. It may take some ingenuity, but these little reorganizations can do a lot for reducing daily frustration.
4. Do a project you've been putting off.
Deep cleaning and reorganizing aren't the most fun parts of a seasonal cleaning/refreshing, so take some time to do a craft project you've been putting off. Whether it's that thing that's been pinned to your Pinterest board for several years or a new idea you just discovered, take the time to actually do it! Print out new pictures for the frames, paint that old mirror, finish that decorative pillow.
I finally made an earring holder and added a bottom curtain to my kitchen window. I've wanted both for so long but just never gotten around to it, but they're officially done and I'm using them. Not to mention, they were welcome cleaning breaks!
5. Change out lighting.
Now, here, I'm talking about a VERY budget-friendly lighting change: cleaning and light bulbs! The fixtures in my home were very dim due to dust gathering on them. I scrubbed the light fixtures to let more light through. That's step 1.
The next option you can try is a new kind of light bulb. Surprisingly, it can make a huge difference in how a room feels! If you'd like a brighter space, try out a daylight bulb. If you'd like warmer, more intimate lighting in a room like a bedroom, try an incandescent, "yellowy"-colored bulb or experiment with Christmas lights.
6. See what furniture pieces you have that you can freshen up.
Compared to new furniture, paint is cheap! Women of decades past made full use of paint and other make-do-and-mend tactics to update their old furniture. One vintage pamphlet I read even suggested taking apart furniture pieces and putting them back together in new ways, such as creating a unique china cabinet by removing the legs off a curio cabinet and putting it on top of a buffet! That's a bit more work, but if you're feeling DIY-ish it can be an cost-effective way to make a new statement piece for your room. Easier options could include stenciling a motif on several items in the room, switching out hardware, or moving tchotchkes from their current room to a new one.
7. Open your windows and get some flowers.
To finish it all off, open your windows and air out your house. Mine has been shut up in an effort to save on air conditioning bills over the summer, but a good airing out in the cooler fall weather has made a huge difference! Add some bright flowers in a vase to the mix and your home will look and feel noticeably fresher.
What rooms in your house could use some sprucing? Are there any other easy ways you've found to freshen up your living space?
Vintage and Vintage-Inspired articles you may enjoy:
The Proper Arrangement of Furniture in a Room
8 Characteristics of Post-War 1940s Decor