I'm on a tight budget but very keen on revamping my living space. What changes will make the biggest impact for the least money?
How to look beautiful on a budget
I'm very keen to revamp my living area to give it a fresh feel for 2010 - but I'm on a tight budget and I'm renting. What changes will make the greatest impact for the least money? Assuming there is a little space and you have a few dirhams to spare, it's quite easy and fun to give your apartment a face lift without breaking down the walls. Eliminate clutter. Every apartment is due for a good spring-cleaning. Out with the old to make space for the new. Be honest with yourself: look at what you can eliminate, and actually do it. This is really vital - and you need to be strict. And I mean everything, from the fridge to the cutlery drawer, bathroom vanity unit, shoe cupboard, bookshelf, mantelpiece - donate to any worthy cause or put it on Dubizzle. Getting rid of what you don't need is such a cliché but it's entirely true - and probably the most important step before embarking on any revamp.
Move the furniture. It helps you to look at your home with fresh eyes. Why don't you look at your spaces and see what could be changed? For instance, change the orientation of the sofa or swap the dining and living areas around. Move occasional tables, lamps and accessories around. Moving furniture and furnishings is one of the most powerful things you can do to revamp your home but it often gets forgotten in the craze for purchasing and shopping. It's also a great way to see things afresh and ascertain what you do need to buy.
A fresh coat of paint. This simple step can make all the difference and, sometimes, being bold means going neutral. Repainting all the walls will cover up scratches and any marks left from last year - even if you think they're not noticeable, painting over them will look so much better that you'll wonder why you didn't do it before. Select an accent colour that goes with your main furniture pieces. Consider splashing a colour on a feature wall, then cover some cushions in your colour of choice (and this colour does not necessarily need to be shocking orange to make a statement). Stick to neutral hues that echo, yet contrast with your existing furniture. Remember you have to live with this colour for at least the next year.
Add life. Fresh flowers and plants add life, whatever kind you choose, and the scent of fresh flowers when you walk into your apartment after a long day is always a lovely surprise. I know flowers are expensive but if you buy an orchid and take care of it, it's bound to last you at least two or three months - and orchids bring a cool elegance to any room, even though they have no perfume. Add scented candles. An old favourite tip but a goodie; I think they're a must-have for every home. I'm in love with Jo Malone and Charlotte Rhys candles - even when not lit, the fragrance freshens up the whole room, so they really are worth the price. Be wary of the cheaper ranges of scented candles; the perfumes used in them go stale and they smell cheap.
Put family on show. Select a few photos and get them out on display. Have a look through pictures of friends and family from last year and play around with them on a photo editing programme. You can change them to black and white, sepia or even give a Pop Art edge to them - decide which you'd like and then have these images either blown up and stretched to canvas or framed. Be selective. Don't buy everything you lay your eyes on, especially in the sale festivals. I know the prices in the sales are very attractive but these items are often from a faulty batch or damaged.
Keep it simple. Redecorating is loads of fun, and it's very easy to get carried away. But in the end it's your home, where you need to feel comfortable. Emily Davies was talking to Marie-Inez Botha, an interior designer at Etcetera Living, Dubai; www.etceteraliving.com