How To Update Your Tired Decor To Look Great


It’s time to update your tired decor, BUT…
Are you baffled about what to do or what to do first? Is it possible to just “spruce the joint up” without a major overhaul? Can “sprucing” be done on a budget too? Absolutely ! Learn how to really see what you’re looking at to make your best, smartest decisions.


two women eating on plastic covered sofa
It’s been a minute or two since this room was last updated

Selective inattention is not your friend

Don’t we all “overlook” whatever it is that we don’t want to deal with right now?

See what you are looking at 

Is this you? “OOOPS, I didn’t really notice that…anymore!”

The truth about the actual conditions of your environment and furnishings can sneak up on you. Somethings might have become increasingly worse over time. Especially when you have been overlooking the obvious, as an operative practice, for way too long.

Entropy is relentless

Where do you start to update any room?

The first question to ask is “How do you actually live there?”

Approaching an effective update, room by room, is a matter of mindset. How do you think of your home?

HOW you think of your home is HOW you live there.

1. Do you think of your home as a convenient “land and launch pad”?

You aren’t there much other than to “rinse, rest, prep and run” to meet the following day and/or the next adventure.

  • If so, what easy quick solutions will help you to use your space for greater convenience and efficiently while you are there? Edit, simplify, re-organize is your mantra.

2. Do you think of your home as your oasis/sanctuary?

You’ve worked hard and given your all to every interaction and every occasion. This is where you recharge, regroup and relax.

  • If so, what could you add for a feeling of more luxury and comfort? Upgraded-to-wonderful new upholstered furniture? That free standing soaking tub for the best bubble bath ever? You’ve earned it.

3. Do you think of your home as your castle and all the points above too?

Home to you, is an open house to share all the frills of a good life. It’s where you love to be with your friends and loved ones, telling the stories of your lives, day by day. It’s the best place on earth to share meals, entertainment and All. The. Things.

  • Your home is so well appointed with everything you want and need for comfort and convenience readily at hand. Is it time to edit what you are no longer using?
  • Your home is no doubt beautiful, just your style and designed to your taste…BUT REALLY, are you still a Swagged Curtain kind of person?

4. Do you live alone?

Erase the “it’s just me” mindset.

  • SPOIL YOURSELF. You know better than anyone what what you would love to come home to ….and you don’t have to get agreement or ask permission.
black writing book
Dream a little too

ask yourself how you want to live

Your home is all about you, specifically. When you are clear about how you think of your home and how you really live there, you can drill down deeper into that framework.

  • What are your habits and preferences?
  • How well are they supported by the existing conditions in all your rooms?
  • What could be addressed so your habits and preferences are better supported and whatever you want to do at home is made easier and faster?

Living well means more than a decor update

It means tailoring your chosen environment to suit your lifestyle, your personality, your tastes and of course, your budget.

It can’t get more personal than this.

list on grid paper, hand holding pen
Planning works better out of your head and onto a list.

Make a list

Write down all the problems or issues that don’t work at all or simply don’t work for you. Then sort the list in order of the most glaring examples of “No longer acceptable.”

decide what to attend to first, later or not at all

Or to put it another way, you might have:

  • A this-is-so-easy-I-can’t-say-no list.
  • A later list.
  • A magic fairy wish list. You never know.

This is key to getting clear on how far you want to take your “sprucing up”.

Save yourself some time

  • Forget about major renovations if you are planning to move within the next year or so.
  • Equally, you won’t need to do much with the kitchen if all you make for meals are reservations and calls for take-out delivery orders.

can I update my decor on a budget? Yes!

red painted room.
This room is wonderful in red. Probably a buzz kill painted white…

Updating your decor can be as easy as painting the walls. This might be your finishing touch or all you need/want to do for now.

A fresh coat of paint does wonders to give a new lease on looks in the most cost effective way possible.

BONUS: the right paint color will raise your spirits every time you walk through the front door.

READ>>>How To Select Home Paint Colors You Will Love

Before you update the decor in any room

Clear, edit and organize first. Whatever actions this entails will result in an immediate sense of well-being. This is true for even the tidiest among us. Living with disorganized, old, un-used stuff/clutter is actually very stressful. If your rooms are looking BLAH, part of your update will undoubtedly benefit from this first step.


1. Are your rooms best described as Over-Large Junk Drawers?

“A place for everything and everything in its place” is a great slogan for clutter free living. However, this ideal state rarely happens naturally. 

You have to do something…

In truth, The Clutter Problem happens less often because you are inherently disorganized and more often because no space has been designated for the things you want and need. Head over here for help to clear out or make the most of your mess.

READ>>>How To Make Your Remarkably Cluttered Home Look Lovelier

update decor when sofa too big for room
Even just a sofa can be too much furniture in a room, for obvious reasons

2. Does it seem very crowded in any of your rooms?

Edit ruthlessly. There is no point in trying to arrange your furniture better while you’re still tripping over the stuff you should get rid of.

Rooms with too much furniture and other “stuff” feel crowded because they are.

Upon closer observation, are your…

  • End tables too small?
  • Coffee tables too low/too big/too ugly?
  • Chairs so old they are lumpy, uncomfortable AND unattractive?

Don’t overlook the “Slackers”. These are those odd, seldom used items that provide no accent, interest or sentimental value. 

They have to go. Really. Now.

Floor plan/furniture arrangement-updating decor
There are so many on-line floor planners available and make furniture lay-out very easy

Is your furniture arrangement non-functioning?

Once you have edited, cleared out, thrown out or donated all the stuff that is questionable, you’re ready to address the basics, better. Does your furniture arrangement actually work to your advantage?

A good furniture layout that supports how you use your rooms, will improve your life at no cost.

When arranging your furniture, assume form follows function.

Ask yourself, “How does this work here, or not?” Think through what you’ll need for comfort, practicality and attractiveness.

Example: If you want to talk with someone, besides yourself, you’ll want a conversation area.

Whether sitting alone, tête-à-tête or hosting a large gaggle of Party People, comfortable seating is a must.

  • The seating should be close enough to speak without raising your voice or craning your neck.
  • Make sure you have convenient surfaces (coffee/end tables, etc.) to set down drinks or food. Make sure those surfaces are no more that 16″-18″ from your seat.

Pet Peeve: Those landmass coffee tables, located like desert islands between facing sofas, are not convenient for anything.

READ>>>How To Plan The Best Furniture Layouts For Every Room


old broken sofa; time to update decor
It’s good to know when to let go

Does the furniture itself looks “tired”?

Are the upholstered pieces still serviceable? Or do they need to be slipcovered, reupholstered or simply thrown out and replaced?

Unfortunately, slipcovering or reupholstery is almost as expensive as new well-made furniture.

Granted, there is a bit of “expense” here, if you decide to purchase new well-made upholstered pieces. BUT, they will last longer, age better, give you the most comfort AND the most bang for the bucks.

Does any of your other furniture look a tiny bit ratty? If you are the do-it-yourself type, would a coat of paint help?

If you’ve been hauling around those milk crates since college, it’s time for an upgrade.


single light at a desk in dark room
An invitation to eyestrain AND a depressing desk area

Is it dark in there?

Rooms without enough light are depressing. Most of us, for lack of a better experience, “under-light” our homes with either too few light sources, or even worse, “over-light” a room with a couple of light sources at very high wattage.

What you want is a range of lighting options that meet your needs for the tasks at hand AND fill your rooms with light, without dark corners.

The overall effect will be welcoming, comfortable, interesting and beautiful.

READ MORE>>>How To Create The Best Lighting Solutions For Your Home

sheer curtains at window
Lovely sheers are just enough to diffuse light and lend privacy

Do you have a room with a view?

Or a view of security bars and a brick wall?

Great windows with a wonderful view need no decoration. However, most windows need some sort of covering, if only for privacy or to block out sunlight.

One advantage of drapery is that it can add softness, color and texture to a room. And can also camouflage “unfortunate” architecture as needed.

You have a lot of other options. Along with drapery, there also are blinds and roller shades too.

If the view is questionable AND you don’t need the window as a light source, large pieces of art or over-sized screens come in very handy.

How do you update your decor with a “Designer Look“?

gilt furniture in period room
Possible evidence of over-done decorating

Everyone wants a “designer look” without actually hiring one. It seems to stem from some creepy internal fear that your own taste and common sense will somehow fall short and flat.

ACTUALLY, as a design consultant privately and in the high-end retail furniture business for many years, it’s been my experience that people usually have much better taste and more intuitive know-how than they think they do.

what is a “designer look”, really?

  • It looks like a “Pro” was here
  • The room has a “Pulled Together” look
  • Everything looks “Considered and Coordinated”.

A “designer look” is very specific

Great Home Design isn’t a random accident.

That “pulled together” quality comes from an astute assessment of what’s needed and what’s not. This assessment is teamed with an understanding of how each thing contributes to the Big Picture in a “considered and coordinated “way.

Home design is the most layered and complicated of all art forms. It’s all about creating beauty, comfort and pizzazz with a minimum of the stuff in-between.

the best home design is also rooted by necessity in practical application.

A major DESIGNER STATEMENT is not required to live well.

what isn’t often mentioned about “Designer Looks”

When a very good designer works with you, the end result should be the description of a “Designer Look” given above. Of course.

But this “look” shouldn’t be all about “the designer’s style”, unless you specifically paid for exactly that.

That “look” should look like you, who you are and how you will live most happily in your own home.

updating your decor Can be fun

Listing and executing removals, repairs and replacements is crucial, but not exactly FUN. However, once you move into making a do-able game plan, you might be happily surprised to find a little excitement brewing about the new upgrades and possibilities.

This could be a great opportunity to dream a little. What special additions or “shiny new things” would you love to have?

Now, you can plan the future on yOUR timeline.

And there you have it

Clear, reality based questions are fundamental to your success. They are the basis for an organized plan of attack to update your rooms in the best and smartest ways to give you a home you love to come home to.

Along with a budget and a time-line for completion, your spirits are guaranteed to rise right along with your standard of living.

You can do this…..

The original version of this article was published in the Rooms With a View, lifestyle section on Hamptons.com, Summer, 2008.


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Over To You!

I’d love to know what you think. Was there a tip that was especially helpful? Hopefully, you found a little inspiration and maybe even resolved a long standing quandary brilliantly!

would you like to know more?

Setting out to create the best version of beautiful home design, tailored especially for you, has a lot of potential questions built in. Are there specific topics you’re curious about? Please feel free to make your requests for articles in whatever areas would help you.

You, Dear Reader, are my best resource for fresh inspiration!

In any event, please do tell me all in the comments below!


about the author

Cindy Bergersen is a professional design consultant turned full time writer about home design: what is it, how it works and how to make it work for anyone. 

Drawing on her years of private design consultation and experience working with the public to help retail clients solve their design dilemmas as well as writing about home design for various publication, she has become know as a “Home Design Professor”. She is both passionate and committed to sharing her experience and knowledge to help anyone, to help themselves to a beautiful, comfortable home, without feeling confusion or overwhelm about where to start and how to proceed.

She lives in New York City with Olivia, The Cat. When not writing for the Library, she can be found cycling though Central, Riverside and Hudson River Parks, watching way too much film, or curled up on the sofa with a good book.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for your kind words and support. This site has been dormant for awhile and I’m in process of jump starting it. Please stay tuned as I’ll have a means of sending you fresh articles as I publish them soon. Best
    Cindy

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