Last year I made this video for Instagram on how to shop your home as a way to breathe new life into it, and it proved soooo popular! It’s an easy and deeply satisfying way to re-style your home – or just one room – by shopping what you already own. As an interior stylist, set designer and interiors author I’m accustomed to making big changes very quickly on set or when styling/shooting a home for my books in only a day. For shoots, sometimes I design and build a set from scratch in a studio, but often we might shoot in a location house (a real home the owner is hiring out for the shoot) and I’m tasked with using what’s already there and adding a few other props bought or hired for the job. I may grab a chair from the living room and style it in a bedroom or take a group of vases from the kitchen and arrange them in a bathroom. Cushions from one room may move to another and artwork frequently finds a new spot to suit the shot. It’s this fast-paced creativity and resourcefulness I’m suggesting you use to refresh your home – the added bonus being that unlike on a photo shoot, you don’t need to rush and you don’t have to put it all back exactly how you found it!
Now that I’ve moved into a new rental flat by the sea to test the area to see if I want to settle/buy, it’s a trick I’m using once again in my own home, for the short time I may be here. There’s nothing wrong with acquiring new things (I mean new to you – can be second hand of course) and I’m certainly looking to add some new pieces to my space as well, but it’s surprising how much you can refresh a room just by shuffling things around. Perhaps you’re strapped for cash right now but are a bit bored of your space or maybe like me, you’re in a temporary home and don’t want to invest too much, or maybe you know you don’t need anything new but want your home to feel fresh. These are all good reasons to shop your home. It’s also a useful way to see what you really do want to buy instead of just purchasing things willy-nilly. It allows you to take stock of what you have and assess what you need. Maybe a new lamp in that corner would really make the space, or a piece of art on that wall would balance the colour and add a focal point.
Here’s how I do it:
CHOOSE A ROOM/AREA/ONE WALL TO FOCUS ON
The process can have a bit of a domino effect as you move things around the house, but try to begin with a small area or one room otherwise you’ll end up with an overwhelming whole house overhaul. That said, the process does usually end up affecting the whole home because the idea is to swap things around from room to room. But decide on an area you want to work on first – in my video it was a wall behind the sofa that was the most focal part of my living room. You will find yourself going round in circles, starting in the living room for example and deciding to pull a lamp from the bedroom to use by the sofa. But then of course you need a ‘new’ lamp to replace the one you pinched from the bedroom so you move one from somewhere else into there. Round and round and round…You get the picture.
Pull out your favourite interiors books and magazines or browse Pinterest for some renewed inspiration. See what sparks joy, as Marie Kondo says and what would work in your current space. We’re not talking about new sofas, wallpaper or an entirely new house for this particular process! This is about refreshing your home by working with what you’ve got. So find a few images that serve as a guide to keep you focused. For me it was images of gallery walls behind sofas because that was the area I was working on.
SHOP YOUR HOME
This is the fun part. In the past I’ve talked about the benefit of putting some things away – items you love but don’t want to have on display all the time. I appreciate not everyone has space to store boxes of homeware, and maybe that’s just a stylist thing to do, but if you’ve done that now is the time to have a rummage. It’s the same as putting away your summer clothes in winter – you forget what you have then come summer it feels like you have a whole new wardrobe when you unpack that box/suitcase/cupboard of shorts and summer dresses. Even if you don’t have things put away, start to look around and inventory what you have in every room. Maybe there’s a cluster of vases stashed atop a kitchen cabinet, or some throw cushion covers folded with the bed linen. Perhaps there’s a framed poster that hangs in a hallway and doesn’t get seen much or a lamp by your bed that sheds too much light for night-time reading and would be better in the living room. Put on your stylist glasses and really see what you have, what’s working and what’s not.
STRIP IT BACK
I prefer to strip back an area and almost start fresh. It’s not essential but I find it helps me see a space with new eyes and not get too attached to old ideas. Like in my video where I was tackling a wall behind the sofa in my old flat, I stripped out the pieces I didn’t think I’d keep there, leaving only the large artwork and plants that I knew would stay. Equally, you could just swap in and out the odd piece depending on how much of an overhaul you’re doing.
BUILD IT UP AGAIN
Gather all the bits around you so you can see what you’re working with. On photo shoots a stylist has a prop table to lay out all the ‘smalls’ as we call them – vases, knick knacks, books, artwork etc. Gather it all on your kitchen table, bed, even the floor. Wherever you can see it clearly. And start to play. If you’re rearranging furniture as well as small bits, start with the larger pieces first. I like to work from big to small whether I’m styling a set or giving my home a refresh: Rugs, sofas, cabinets, armchairs, lamps, then smalls – in that order.
PLAY AROUND UNTIL YOU’RE HAPPY
Don’t expect it to all fall into place immediately. This is a process and it might take time. On shoots time is the one thing usually in short supply so I’ve learned to work fast and trust my instincts. This is something you can learn too over time and with experience. But in the meantime enjoy the process. I did this exact thing yesterday in my new flat and felt really good by the end of the day. I know now some items that I don’t have but want to add – artwork and a special lamp – and the small changes make the space feel more considered. But I’m also not 100% satisfied with it and I know there will be more faffing over the coming days/weeks (months/years?) Don’t get frustrated and if you need more inspiration, hit those interiors books and Pinterest again and come back when you’re feeling ready.
Finishing touches to me mean that final layer – plants, a vase of flowers, fresh cushions on the sofa, maybe a small arrangement of books and bits on the coffee table (if you don’t have small children to contend with). A ‘shop your home’ refresh is a great opportunity to have a bit of a declutter and add that layer of finesse that often gets overlooked. We’re all rushed with jobs, children, caring for others, life and all it’s busy-ness and messiness and maybe things like this don’t seem important. But I think that a little bit of care and consideration in our interiors can positively affect the other areas in our lives – we feel better and things run more smoothly when we love our home. Amid all the chaos, it’s important to have even a corner of calm and beauty in our homes. Trust your gut and also know that it’s a process of experimentation. As I said in the last post, a home is never done. There will probably always be areas you’re not happy with, things you wish you could buy or do to make your home more special, but in the meantime I hope a bit of shopping your own home can bridge the gap x