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7 Steps to personalising your new home (without breaking the bank)

By Rachel Wallace

You’ve paid your deposit, sailed through settlement and you’re finally ready to move into your new place. But how do you make your house or apartment feel like a home?

We asked three experts to share their top tips for personalising a property after the movers have left.

1. Paint your walls, or more

“The cheapest way to significantly change a space or refresh it is paint,” says Lucy Feagins, founder and editor of The Design Files. “Painting is something you can do yourself, and you can usually contain a project to a weekend.”

When it comes to maximum impact, painting your interior is certainly the place to start. Happy with the current colour of your rooms? Why not look beyond the walls.

When it comes to maximum impact, painting your interior is certainly the place to start. Stylist: Bree Leech. Photo: Lisa Cohen for Dulux Australia

“In a lot of old houses, the kitchens and bathrooms can look old or be the wrong colour and this is where your specialty paints [laminate, tile and floor paints] come in handy,” says Cherie Barber, renovation expert and chief executive of Renovating for Profit. “Cosmetically refreshing your kitchen and bathrooms with specialty paints is a big one.”

Want to scale back on your painting project? Dulux colour forecaster and stylist, Bree Leech says “even painting doors in a feature colour can make a space come to life”. However, she advises choosing colours that work with what you already own. “You’ll find it makes them feel more connected to the space and provides a cohesive look in your home.”

2. Add some art

If there’s one thing that really makes a house or an apartment feel like a home, it’s the objects and personal items you decorate it with. And this is where art comes in.

“Bare walls are to be avoided,” Feagins says. “That’s when a property starts to feel generic. When you hang art on the walls it instantly starts to feel personal.”

Lucy Feagins recommends thinking outside the square when it comes to artwork in your home. Photo: Amelia Stanwix Photography

Don’t have much cash to splash? Just think outside the square. “Art can be anything. Kids’ pictures, a beautiful tea towel or a scrap of fabric that you love. Just make sure you frame everything,” she says.

3. Create a feature wall

Feature walls are no longer a relic of the ’90s. Whether it’s paint, wallpaper or panelling, today’s feature walls are a great way to dramatically change the look of a room.

“Another good idea for people wanting to personalise is mouldings,” Barber says. “One of my favourite products right now – and that I’ve been using a lot over the last year – is vertical joint (VJ) panelling. If you’ve got any walls that are not great, instead of trying to renovate them you can stick the VJ panelling over the top. It’s a wonder product for renovators.”

Feature walls are no longer a relic of the ’90s. Stylist: Bree Leech. Photo: Lisa Cohen for Dulux Australia

4. Style and restyle

A simple and cost-effective way to change the look of your new place is to start with what you already have.

“Sometimes just re-positioning artwork or framed photos and changing the furniture layout can make a big difference to a space,” Leech says. “Displaying your personal items can personalise a space and make it feel more like your own.”

5. Dress your windows

If you’ve got a little bit of money tucked away, another good tip is to take a look at your windows.



Lounge room before and after by Renovating for Profit.

“Window furnishings make a huge difference,” Feagins says. “It’s a boring but important early thing to tick off the list.”

Confused by all the different options? Barber recommends opting for lighter alternatives, like sheers, to make your space feel larger. “I just bought some off-the-shelf curtains from IKEA and they’ve just made such a difference,” she says. “They were only $19 a packet!”

6. Change up your lighting

Lighting should never be underestimated when it comes to the impact it has on a room.

“[Lighting fixtures] can be updated relatively inexpensively from high-street stores,” Feagins says. “You can really make a big difference to the ambiance of a space if you revisit the lighting in the place.”

Kitchen before and after by Renovating for Profit.

7. Improving is removing

Still not sure where to begin? Start by getting rid of the features you dislike the most.

“A lot of improving is removing – ripping up gross carpet or pulling off ugly door handles,” Feagins says. “It’s not necessarily about adding to the space but stripping it back as a priority and getting rid of the stuff that really irks you.”


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