1. Redo the floors
If wooden flooring is a bit too "done" for your taste, think about slate or stone. The interior designer Trip Haenisch uses it extensively in Courtney Cox's new California home, to stunning effect. Yes, slate can be a bit cold, but the rough, uneven finish gives rooms an organic, natural feel. Plus you can soften the overall impression by going overboard with plush rugs, fabrics and wood.
It's never the cheapest option, but you don't often see it in the UAE, so it makes a bold statement.
2. Get the builders in
Too often when we're sprucing up our house, we limit our imagination to new furniture and curtains. That's great, but don't be afraid to get a bit more structural by hiring a contractor.
You don't have to knock down the outside walls and replace the roof, but you can get creative with partitioning walls that don't bear the weight of the building. Sometimes developers throw in walls just so they can say a home or apartment has an extra bedroom or a study, even though the tiny compartment kills the look and feel of the living area or master bedroom. You'd be amazed at how ripping out this unnecessary - and flimsy - addition can transform the space and light of your home.
Many contractors are short of work at the moment, so they'll take on the small, domestic jobs they'd have turned their noses up at back in 2008.
3. Rethink the walls
Take inspiration from the up-and-coming Kuwaiti architect Rashed Alfoudari, who worked wonders at Ubon, a funky new restaurant in Kuwait City. He used charred timber for one of the walls of the main eating area and for the front door. It's rough, dark and sinister, which isn't everybody's idea of cosy, but used in moderation it can add real character.
Wallpaper is another option - not the nasty stuff your grandmother had back in the 1970s, but a new breed of funky roll-ons. Take the 3D Vases collection from the French designer Elitis. It's made using a thermoform technique that embosses the patterns on to the wallpaper with heat. The effect is that of a floor-to-ceiling shelving unit stacked with vases. If that's not your cup of tea, Elitis has a whole catalogue of cool designs, from leopard skin to space invaders. The Dubai-based company Rubelli (04 332 9197) is the local supplier.
Let's face it, we're still facing economic uncertainty, and being environmentally friendly is still in fashion. Be a thrifty ecowarrior with a new trend that's spreading in Asia and Scandinavia: furniture hacking.
This is an artistic approach to repurposing a piece of furniture. Or, in layman's terms, getting creative on a tiny budget by taking a hammer, saw and paint brush to the old stuff in your home that you have grown to hate.
Maybe your kitchen shelves can form your headboard in the bedroom. My favourite website is www.ikeahackers.net by a Malaysian blogger known only as Jules.
5. Use text
We can't help voicing our opinions throughout the day on Twitter and Facebook. How about adding a permanent message to your physical wall at home?
You can get neon text custom-made by a signage contractor, but if that's too much hassle, stores such as Bloomingdale's and Virgin Megastore stock individual letters of the alphabet that you can stick on with double-sided tape.
For a made-to-order word, name or phrase sticker set, try www.spincollective.com, which will deliver to the UAE for Dh57, or buy a stencil and write your own text.
Another idea is to get a manifestation supplier to make you custom vinyl lettering. Dubai has plenty (in simple terms, these are the guys who do custom printing for outdoor advertising). Prolab (04 347 7616, www.prolabdigital.ae) is one of the biggest in the Emirates.
Re-upholstering furniture puts an individual stamp on your interiors with colour, pattern and texture - and you can spend as little or as much as you like.
Durable, stain-resistant fabrics are great, particularly if you have kids, but they tend to be pricey. If you're on a budget, go for something cheap and cheerful. It may only last two or three years, but you may fancy a change by then anyway.
To get really personal, take your own photos to a fabric printer. Your upholsterer can then incorporate the print into a chair or sofa; it works particularly well for dining room chairs with padded backs or seats.
7. Change the bedding
Rehabilitate your bedroom on a budget with new bedding. Don't be restricted by conventional thinking about everything having to look the same. Be bold by pairing pillowcases in natty stripes and exuberant florals for "doesn't-have-to-match" playfulness.
Alternatively, try layering. Adding different coloured linens to your bedding with sheets, blankets, pillows and throws provides a great opportunity to create unique colour combinations.
8. Cultivate an iGarden
Here's an interesting new twist on adding plants and flowers to your space. The British designer Samuel Wilkinson has produced a flora terrarium that's controlled by an iPad or iPhone. A terrarium is a tiny garden inside a glass jar, typically the size of a football or watermelon. They've been around for ages, but Wilkinson's Biome model allows the gardener to control it when he or she is out of the house, using an app to change the climate, water level and nutrients in the soil.
Wilkinson says it promotes soothing downtime for the user. Typically we use our smartphones for fast-paced, one-off tasks such as email or a phone call. But the terrarium requires a much more slow-paced, long-term mindset. Indeed, it was part of an exhibition at London Design Festival in 2011 called Slow Tech. Very Zen.
Think of Dubizzle as a giant ATM in the cloud - and one that doesn't make a dent in your salary or savings.
Take a ruthless look at all the old furniture and trinkets that you've fallen out of love with. If they're cluttering up your living space simply because you don't have anywhere else to put them, you're not alone.
But one man's poison is another man's meat - someone out there in the UAE is crying out for a cheap sofa or chest of drawers. Even if you only get a few hundred dirhams for something that cost you a few thousand, you're a winner: you don't have to pay to dispose it, you get cash to spend on discounted accessories in the Dubai Shopping Festival and, most importantly, you'll enjoy a warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from doing your bit for Mother Earth since your furniture is in someone's living room rather than a landfill.
10. Look for inspiration
The British designer Andrew Martin's store in Dubai International Financial Centre is one of the UAE's finest design outlets. But if Dh10,000 for a coffee table is out of reach right now, Dh300 will get you a copy of his Interior Design Review. The latest edition, Volume 15, is out now. It's a welcome addition to even the most drab coffee table.