Colour schemes

Colour can play an enormous part in ‘pulling together’ or enhancing the cheapest decorative scheme.Some colours always look ‘expensive’, some look cheap in the wrong material or texture. If in doubt, remember that black or white fits almost everywhere. So do, most of creamy-beige colours, from the natural ivory shade of unbleached catlco to the straw of rush baskets. Cheap lamps or china, which usually come in white, and a pale, neutral coloured room make a good background.

If you want an injection of brilliant colours, remember its impact is several times greater when used in group form. Why be content with just a scarlet cushion? Try a scarlet cotton cushion. a huge scarlet plastic ash tray on the nearby coffee table, and a bunch of scarlet, pink and orange paper flowers stuck in a mug beside.

Mirrors always look good, but tend to be expensive. Mirrorboard, on the other hand, is considerably cheaper. You can stick this self-adhesive board-backed mirror on to hardboard or walls, or cut it up into table mats, for a stunning effect, at a cost substantially less that that of real mirror. For the living room, there are all sorts of decorations that can be made for next to nothing. Patchwork cushions are mostly your own work-dressmaking remnants can be begged from friends, or even from dress manufacturers who would otherwise throw away these tiny scraps. Anyone with artistic talent can use the same bits and pieces, plus scraps of foil, felt, or sequins, to make collages. All sorts of things look good as objets trouves. For example, a collection of stones, amassed from hillsides and beaches over the years, can look superb. (A handyman could mount these on acrylic sheet, for an even more arty look.) One exotic-looking wall sculpture, in glossy white, turned out to be simply the foam packing in which the vacuum cleaner had arrived, sprayed with white gloss paint! (Keep expanded polystyrene well away from heat, though, it is highly inflammable.) Grasses and flowers can be dried even dunked in a bathful of dye. Beech leaves that have sucked up a mixture of glycerine and water will stay copper-bronze coloured for years. All these, once done, save on the expense of having fresh flowers. Finally, perhaps the best money-saving tip of all is: learn how to cover upholstery, make lampshades repair furniture. You will never know how skillful you can be, until you try.


Buying second-hand furniture is one of the most obvious cheaper way to furnish a house, and still one of the most successful, ways of saving money. Chairs, in particular, can be found at phenomenally cheap prices. In large second-hand stores, dining chairs can be picked up for small sums. They may not be particularly pretty, but stripped and lacquered a bright colour, with the seats recovered (try blue and emerald, black and tobacco brown) they look extremely presentable. Most pre-War furniture has the merit of sound, solid construction. For an extra-comfortable sack chair, make a ‘sack’ of canvas or shiny pvc, and buy polystyrene granules by the cubic foot. Of new furniture, the cheapest in Britain is white wood, although kit furniture is sometimes more durable and it pays to compare the two before you buy. Again, this can be painted, stained, or lacquered. Foam rubber blocks, covered in tough, cheap and washable canvas, can make anything from push together seating or sofas, to divan mattresses to stack on the floor. Some office furniture is cheap as well as durable. So are chipboard tables on trestles that can be bought from builders’ merchants. Cover one of these with a tablecloth, and you have a good-sized dining table. Coffee tables or storage systems can be made from chipboard, and supported on anything from aerated concrete blocks (cheap and paintable), or brick to cheap brackets. An ancient filing cabinet-again from a secondhand furniture store painted in bright gloss coach paint (as used for car bodies) makes an excellent storage place for toys. Or an old, second-hand trunk can be painted, and stuck with transfers or cut-outs. Keep an eye open, too, for shopfitters rebuilding premises in your neighbourhood. Often, old counters and shelves which will provide useable timber are available for little cost. In a bedroom, a thick felt curtain across one wall, hung from a track in the ceiling or from a rod and rings, comes much cheaper than any wardrobe. Clothes can hang from moveable dress rails, which you can buy through mail order; other clutter can go in anything from cheap Moroccan rush baskets to shoe boxes or plastic cutlery trays. Jewellery looks fine hung from hooks on a felt or hessian pinboard on the wall.


The rule here is ‘never skimp’-or it wilt look cheap. Be as lavish as possible with quantities, but use cheap materials. Curtain lining materials, when lined and interlined so that it hangs in thick, ‘extravagant’ folds, has the dull sheen of expensive looking satin. Hessian is extremely cheap, does not need lining, and comes in attractive, earthy-looking colours. Calico bought by the bundle can be used in its original creamy state, or dyed. Deckchair canvas has the firmness and solidity to make, good blinds (which use far less material than curtains), and blind-making kits are cheap. For curtains, or for a padded bedhead of the kind you hung from rings,ordinary wooden dowelling, painted or fabric-covered, is the cheapest sort of rod. Many stores have ,drawers full of odd rings and finials.

Soft furnishings

Chain stores sell cheap duvets, which,in the long run save money otherwise spent on, sheets and blankets-and immediately will save time, trouble, and possibly temper. They sell duvet covers, too-but it could be cheaper to make your own. It is only, really, a large pillowcase, with press-studs or tie tapes at one end.With any duvets ,you will need a bottom sheet. About the cheapest way of getting a ready made one is to scour the ‘small ads’ in your local newspaper. Chances are you will find someplace where odd single sheets, usually white, are sold off cheaply.

Walls Painting & Decorating

There is, really, not much to choose between the prices of the different makes of paint apart from the fact that beautiful, original decorator colours often cost more than the ordinary standard ones, and that chain-store paints can be the best buy of all. Even having a gallon of emulsion (which covers a lot of wall) mixed to the exact colour of your choice usually costs very little extra.

wallpaper bedroom

Wallpaper is something else entirely; costs vary enormously from roll to roll. One of the cheapest ways of covering walls is to use ordinary lining paper; this can be bought in rolls.

Floor sanding

The cheapest thing of all, if your floorboards are in good condition, is to sand and seal them. A sanding machine is reasonably cheap to hire, but before beginning make sure that gaps between the boards are plugged or dust and draughts will whistle up-and check that there are no protruding nails.
floor sanding

These must be hammered down or pulled out. After sanding, the boards must be sealed with one of the proprietary brands of floor sealer. A clear polyurethane alters the colour least. A wood floor, has the advantage of standing up to considerable wear and tear-vital in a living room or hall or any other room.

sanded floor boards

For stairs, wood (unless custom-made as a complete staircase) is on the whole undesirable. It is noisy, and more slippery than carpet.One of the cheapest ways to cover stairs is to use carpet if the noise is a problem.

floor sanding

In a bedroom, polished boards teamed with rugs are always successful. But, because bedroom flooring does not have to be so tough, something softer can be used.
bedroom floor
Other floor covering could be rush matting (best in the country, where you can take it out and shake or brush it clean-remember also to sprinkle it with water occasionally); cheap, plain-coloured lino with diamonds, lozenges, circles or whatever, with a darker colour ‘dropped in’, to give a Roman-marble floor look (try chocolate and beige, orange and cream, black and tobacco); or good old floor paint. This comes in several colours and white especially gives a light look to a room but it does chip or scratch a bit. (It is best bought from a marine shop, where it is known as ‘yacht’ paint.)

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Painting dark rooms

Dark, dreary rooms need not be a problem if you decorate them with imagination. Use colour as your main ally, together with well planned lighting and mirrors, to conjure up a feeling of more light. Extra windows, naturally, are the best way of letting in more light to dark rooms, and you may be able to afford to alter or enlarge the windows in your house. This is more of an upheaval than ingenious decorative treatments, however, and entails structural alterations. Plan what you are going to do. If one of the rooms in your house is dark, and you want to brighten it up, don’t simply increase the wattage in all the light bulbs and paint the walls and ceiling white. There are more subtle-and more effective-treatments for dreary areas, and each room must be dealt with according to its function, shape and size.

Using colour

You can obtain colour charts specially planned to help you create light colour schemes for dark rooms. Different rooms need different treatments, so consider what effect you want to achieve before you go ahead. For instance, an all-white scheme in a living room can make it seem light and airy, but an all-white bathroom would be cold and clinical without the addition of bright pictures, towels and other accessories. Choose cheerful colours like daffodil yellow for tall, dark rooms, or brighten them up with a gay wallpaper, paint the ceiling in one of the paler colours of the wallpaper and use masses of white on the woodwork and furniture.

Low, dark rooms often look best with a white ceiling, but if you want to paint it the same colour as the walls, you can avoid a lowering effect by picking out the cornice in brilliant white, and add bright-looking furniture in white, sky blue or yellow. Using bold colours in a dark room needs special care. Bright red in a small hall looks warm and welcoming, but it can also look dark unless it is mixed with a lot of white plus a big mirror and strong lighting. Remember that pale colours like white, grey and pastel blue are space givers, whereas more dense colours like emerald green and scarlet or orange advance, making a room seem smaller. In the northern hemisphere, north- and east-facing rooms need warm colours to help them feel sunny, so yellows and oranges are good dominant colours. South and west facing rooms will be sunny anyway, even if they are dark, so you can safely use cooler colours like white, pale blue or very pale green. Heavy colours like black and deep brown should be used sparingly in a dark room, although one wall covered in chocolate brown hessian will give a warm feel to a room.

A black-covered kitchen bench could be too sombre in a dark kitchen, but if you choose orange, blue, or even white, the worktop will act as a reflective surface, making the dull room lighter. Window treatments Enlarging windows is the most positive way of creating more light in dark rooms. If you don’t want to widen your windows, a less major operation is to lengthen them to floor level and put in French windows in the basement and ground floor rooms. Long windows can also be put in bedrooms, but this is not a good idea in a child’s room. A small fake balcony outside, attached to a strong pair of brackets, will make the window look more natural; this could take the form of a wrought iron railing, or a big painted brass fender with room for a trough of flowers inside. To catch more light in a ground floor room, change a plain window for a bow-shaped one, or a larger bay window. Installing a bay window would mean extending the walls outwards to take in the shape of the bay. You can add more light fairly simply by changing the type of window inside the original frame.

Small-paned or leaded windows can be replaced by ones with larger panes, but remember that the glass will be more expensive to replace if it gets broken. Many Edwardian houses still have coloured or stained glass panes, particularly in hall or living room windows. If you swap these for plain glass, more light is easily let in. Remember that altering a window will change the whole appearance of a house from the outside. Well thought-out enlarged windows will add a feeling of light both inside and outside the house. But windows that do not blend with the design of the house, especially if it is a decidedly period one, can ruin an otherwise attractive front, although they may improve matters inside.

Curtains and blinds
The main rule to remember in a dark room is never to use dark curtains or blinds. Light window coverings will help reflect what daylight there is in the room. Don’t half-draw curtains; instead, make the rail long enough so that the curtains can be pulled back to clear the edge of the window frame, thus letting in as much light as possible. Blinds are particularly good in dark rooms because they can be neatly rolled up in the daytime so that they don’t obscure the light at all. Shutters are another good choice, because they fold neatly out of the way. In a dark bathroom, you can make your own shutters out of figured hardboard, painted white, or use white-painted louvred shutters. They can be left closed during the day for privacy and will still let in a certain amount of light which can be supplemented by a concealed tungsten strip light behind them if necessary. It is best to keep the feeling of light coming through a window in a dark room by painting the frame white, both inside and out. If you need net curtains, choose a crisp white rather than a pastel shade; the heavy fish net type let in more light than the more dense plain ones. A pretty effect can be achieved by using a thick Nottingham lace with a fairly open pattern to let in the light.

Wall finishes

One of the high quality, and consequently more expensive, wall finishes is hessian. This is a natural woven material which comes dyed in solid colours with or without paper backing. Hanging requires care and patience, especially with the backless type, as the special adhesive used tends to penetrate the material and appear on the surface in uneven patches. A hessian covered wall has a warmth and character quite distinct from that of vinyl and paper decorations, but being a natural fabric, it is more difficult to clean.

Another rather costly, but high quality, wall finish which offers an unusual and pleasing appearance, is composed of very thin slices of decorative hardwood mounted on a flexible backing. The thinness and small size of the wood pieces enables the paper to be hung in the same way as woven materials, again using a special adhesive. It can also be used loose as a screen or blind.

Natural grass papers enjoyed popularity some years ago when they were first introduced from the Far East. They are composed of strips of natural decorative dried grasses stitched to or mounted on a backing and are hung in the same way as the woven fabric described above. Being a natural product, the pieces vary slightly in width, thickness and colouring, but it is precisely these qualities which give grass papers their distinctive character. The surface of grass paper is surprisingly hard wearing, but it is not easily cleaned due to its coarse texture, and it is expensive. If, after some time, you wanted to change the decoration and paint your walls, you would have to strip off this paper, as it cannot be over-painted. The same also applies to woven fabrics and the hardwood material.

Vinyl wallcoverings

In kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms, where water may splash on walls, or where walls will need frequent cleaning as in playrooms, a surface which can withstand regular wiping down is needed. The new vinyl-faced wall-coverings are excellent here. The vinyl surface is available on either a paper or a fabric backing-of these, the paper-backed types are cheaper and quicker to hang, as they need only a heavy-duty paste.

The fabric-backed types normally require a special adhesive, but they are more stable and less likely to stretch unevenly in the hanging process. Some vinyl wall coverings are available ready pasted. The extensive choice available includes plain colours and patterns with a flat surface, or embossed surfaces that simulate canvas and other fabric finishes. Some patterned vinyl wall-coverings tend to be rather large in scale, and these can be used successfully only on a large wall.


wallpaper bedroom decoration interior design

If a texture or a pattern is preferred to a flat colour, some form of sheet wall covering is indicated. The cheapest material of this type is wallpaper. There are several different kinds of paper available in an incredible range ofpatterns. The largest selection is still to be found in the standard range of wallpaper with flat printed patterns. These include stripes, abstract forms, geometric shapes,.floral and pictorial patterns and regular small-scale designs which give the appearance of texture. Patterns are often available in a choice of colourways. An increasing number of wallpapers are now treated to make them spongeable.

Some are even claimed to be washable, but the extent to which a printed paper surface can be cleaned is inevitably limited; if severe dirtying is likely, a more durable surface should be selected. The range of patterns available in readypasted wallpapers is also steadily increasing. These are generally more costly than standard wallpaper, but may offer savings in time, effort and equipment. Wallpapers with an embossed texture to simulate a woven fabric, or with other raised patterns, are useful for covering walls or ceilings with uneven surfaces or with minor plaster cracks. Some extra-stout embossed papers have patterns which stand out in high relief.

These can be used very effectively with oblique lighting, which will emphasise the pattern by casting strong shadows. They are best used in small areas to accentuate a panel of wall, rather than as a general surface over an entire room. There are several other variants on the basic printed paper flnish. Some manufacturers produce a range of papers with a metallic surface. These often have patterns of stripes or geometric shapes embossed on the surface, which produce varying degrees of reflection from different angles.

They should be used with caution as they can be overpowering and too showy. For many rooms the wall surfaces, while looking attractive in themselves, should act as a background for the furnishings. Too strong a colour or pattern on the walls can produce a harsh and disjointed effect. Metallic papers are often best restricted to smal1 areas, like corridors, where a dramatic effect is wanted.

Flock papers are made by printing the pattern in a glue and dusting the surface with fine shreds of coloured felt which adhere to the surface, and produce a raised velvet effect. They are a modern imitation of handmade papers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and, as such, they are used in rooms which seek to reproduce this period. The designs tend to be traditional and rather large in scale and are not really suited to modern, bright and clean interiors. They are also expensive and need careful hanging to ensure that the pattern in adjacent lengths matches.

Types of paint

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Emulsion paint is, in some cases, an adequate alternative to gloss paint. Apart from its tendency to induce condensation, a gloss paint finish is often unsuitable for walls because of its shiny appearance, which emphasises any slight irregularities in a wall surface. Most interior walls look better with a matt or slightly glossy eggshell finish. The development of emulsion paints, in which particles of the medium are dispersed in water, represented a great advance for the home decorator, since they combine the advantages of a flat finish oil paint with the convenience of a water paint for thinning and cleaning of brushes. Most modern emulsion paints are composed of a synthetic resin emulsified in water.

The finished surface of these paints is very durable and will withstand frequent cleaning. Even more resistant to dirt and moisture are co-polymer or plastic emulsion paints such as those which provide a vinyl finish. These form a continuous surface of plastic ‘skin’ and must be applied to walls that are smooth and free from grease, flaking paint and paper. Oil bound water paint, or distemper, is similar to conventional emulsion paints, but is cheaper and not nearly as durable. Acrylics represent the latest development in emulsion paints and can be used almost anywhere even on damp external walls.

Painted living room interior design

Thixotropic paints are Jelly’ paints with a dense medium which thickens the consistency of the paint, largely eliminating the problem of paint drips. A further advantage to the handyman is that the increased thickness of the paint film results in a greater opacity, so that one coat is often sufficient to produce a uniform tint. The most professional looking results, however, will be obtained by building up several thin layers of paint. Thixotropic paints come in a wide range of colours in gloss, emulsion and vinyl finishes.

Cellulose paints must be applied with a spray gun for best results and are not very suitable for domestic use. They are best used on metal and other surfaces which will need a high gloss finish. Stone paints have small particles of stone mixed in an emulsified resin base. Their normal use is for external brick or rendered surfaces, but they can be used internally to improve the appearance of a brick or a cement rendered wall. Many other paints have been developed for special situations. These provide rust, damp, fungus, fire, or acid and alkali resisting finishes.

Varnishes and sealers are used where exposed natural surfaces, such as wood, stone or slate, need protection. They are transparent and usually based on linseed oil or polyurethane resins. When the natural surface is to be retained, but the colour needs improving, a varnish incorporating a stain can be used.

To obtain a smooth finish, the top coat of paint must adhere thoroughly to the wall surface. Some surfaces, such as old plaster, may vary in their porosity, and if a top coat paint is applied directly onto this surface, it will produce a patchy finish. Primers, therefore, are used as base coats to provide uniformly absorbent surfaces for later coats of paint, and to seal in alkalis or other chemicals which might affect the decorative finish. Primers are usually white or pink.

One or more coats of undercoat are usually necessary on new walls to build up the colour to a dense uniform level. Normally they are fairly thin, but have a high pigment content to give good opacity, and they dry to a matt finish. Existing paint, if it is in good condition, will need only one undercoat and one top coat in most cases. It is important, however, to ensure that existing coats are adhering properly and are being uniformly absorbed. Be certain that new paint is compatible with the old paint you are working over, as some paints react with chemicals in other paints.