As the name would suggest, we live hard in our living rooms. It’s where we relax, entertain, drink coffee every morning (and wine every night). It’s where we shamelessly eat dinner off a tray and stay up all night bingeing on boxsets.
But if you're designing a new living room and your budget is pinched, where do you start? We'd suggest here: with our affordable living room ideas and tweaks that are small on spend and big on style.
1. Rearrange the furniture
Before you buy, re-envision what you already have. Refocusing the layout could allow you to update your living room without splashing out. So, rather than following the same traditional layout in your living room – coffee table in the middle, sofas pushed up against either wall, TV at one end – why not try something more interesting, like pulling your furniture away from the wall; or using a piece of artwork as a focal point (rather than the TV); or even just de-cluttering and clearing out some furniture to make the living room feel larger.
2. Shop your own home
Before you go blowing your tiny budget on new pieces, look around your house and see if you can borrow anything from other rooms. You may find that a piece of furniture lingering in your bedroom would work so much better in your living room or take a look in your loft or garage to see if any neglected pieces could be put to use again.
Top tip: If you come across a great find but it doesn’t quite match your existing living room, painting furniture will bring it in line with your scheme.
3. Update your walls with artwork
Want an alternative to displaying photos and pictures? Fabric wall hangings are a quick and cheap way of brightening up your standard-issue blank wall and of add an on trend bohemian flare. In the case of wall hangings, you might not even need to buy anything new if you have an attractive bed cover lingering in a drawer somewhere.
This cotton throw from Ian Snow comes in lots of different colours and patterns and is big enough to cover a large wall space.
Macrame is also making a bit of a come back, too (don’t worry, it’s far more subtle than it was in the 70s). This neutral wall hanging would be great statement piece without the statement price. There are also loads of DIY versions out there and all you need is some wood and twisted cotton cord.
4. Add greenery with house plants
Plants are an easy win to add to your design arsenal. They add colour, shape and (literally) life to a space. There are some great places you can pick up inexpensive, high-quality foliage: Ikea, Homebase, and Waitrose all have a great selection and are small budget friendly. Larger house plants can however still be expensive so to create the illusion of your room being filled lots of greenery, arrange groups of small plants at different heights.
Struggling to find plants to suit your space? Check out our guide to displaying indoor plants.
5. Believe in the power of paint
One of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to switch up a space is don your DIY dungarees and get painting. There is loads of good-quality, low priced paint out there, but if you really want to save you could just buy a small pot and paint one wall or alcoves for a pop of colour. Need inspiration? Don't miss our paint ideas for living rooms.
The accent wall in this living room, painted using Dulux Wild Cactus, really adds depth to the space.
6. Put up (then take down) removable wallpaper
For interior commitment phobes or renters, removable wallpaper is a game changer. Now you can get incredible wallpaper, cover your walls in it, remove it a couple of years later and still walk away with your deposit.
Etsy is a great source for peel and stick wallpaper; they have a plethora of different prints and loads of sizes to suit the space you are covering.
7. Create a gallery wall
A trend that has truly stood the test of time, gallery walls are a great way to cheaply fill a blank wall and give a room much needed personality. Use photos, record covers, prints – you could even frame fabric cut-offs or spare bits of wallpaper.
Desenio have a great service on their website, which helps you plan the layout of your gallery wall and choose prints and frames which work in your space.
8. Update your cushions
Cushions: the most versatile of soft furnishings. Available in so many different sizes, shapes, colours and textures, a few new cushions could be all your living room needs to feel refreshed.
And they don’t have to be expensive – this selection from Sainsbury's could completely change the colour scheme of your living room for just £16. Sometimes it’s buying cushion inners on top of the cover that tips them from being affordable to 'How much for a cushion?!', so check out Dunelm’s cushion pads which start at just £4.
9. Layer up rugs
Rather than spending money on re-carpeting your living room, hide the numerous red wine stains with layers of rugs. Rag rugs, jute rugs, Persian rugs, sheepskin rugs – more-is-more seems to be the rule. Mix up textures, colours and patterns to add interest to the space.
To keep the right balance between edgy-bohemian vibe and full on carpet shop, stick to a simple colour palette and use neutral rugs, such as jute, as a base.
10. Give tired furniture some TLC
Nothing perks up a sad piece of furniture like new upholstery. Re-covering or reupholstering can completely change the look of old sofas and armchairs and is great option if you aren’t ready to splurge on anything new. Reupholstering large pieces of furniture can be pricey, so a really inexpensive solution is to drape throws over sofa cushions, as seen below.
If you are feeling crafty, start small with our guide to re-covering a foot stool.
11. Mix up the lighting
Living room lighting is something that can be updated really quickly and doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Avoid making your room feel like an over-lit operating theatre by going for floor or table lamps at different heights; layering your lighting this way will create cosy pools of light that can quickly change the mood of a room.
12. Splurge strategically
Invest in pieces that are the centre point of your space, pieces that you can build the whole room around. It could be a pricey mustard yellow sofa that you’ve fallen hard for or an amazing piece of artwork. If you love it and it’s going to completely transform a room then, hate to say it, it’s probably worth it.