With my oldest son having flown the nest, I was left with a neglected box room that was on the cold side of cool. Filled with blue and grey textiles and white walls, I was keen to soften the room with a more feminine color palette, making it a cozy retreat for guests.
By making wise choices and revamping what I already had to keep within a budget, the room is now altogether more welcoming. Discover how I converted the bedroom from drab to fab.
1. Focus on one element
I’m drawn to color when it comes to design and this is where I always start. For me, color can make or break an interior. Sometimes, there can be a marginal difference between two shades — I can live with one, not the other.
Whether it’s color or another element, focusing on one element will give you inspiration for the design of the rest of the room. With this room, I was keen to start with the bedding. I knew I didn’t want a white cover, my usual choice. Having a plain duvet cover doesn’t restrict your other color choices in the room, while it can be given a burst of life with colorful throws and cushions.
I was particularly drawn to the botanical pattern on the duvet and liked the mix of dark plum, pink and olive green. So, from here I’d found my base for the whole design.
2. Think about the walls
Living in an old house means that the walls in the room weren’t smooth. But without wanting the expense of having them flat plastered, this room has always been papered. As the existing wallpaper was in pretty good shape, and to save the trauma of stripping what was already there, I chose to replace the wallpaper on one wall.
Having spent time searching for an array of wallpapers at various price points, I was happy to find one in a plain plum tone with a slightly textured look from a high street DIY store. And with a small room, I only needed one roll.
My idea wasn’t to create a bold feature wall with the wallpaper, but rather tone down the harshness of the white walls, without taking it through 360°. I’ve also always loved the tongue and groove wall, and wanted to keep that on show as wall paneling adds character to the room.
3. Upgrade the bed while saving space
We all want to enjoy a good night’s sleep while staying away from home. Finding a comfortable bed that also serves the room’s needs should be at the top of your list. A space-saving hack in a small room is to choose an Ottoman-style bed. It will give you plenty of extra storage beneath the mattress, without storing boxes under a bed frame that will gather dust.
Your guests will also appreciate a bed with a padded headboard rather than a metal or wooden framed bed that pokes into their back when enjoying their first cuppa of the morning. And if space is an issue, forego the footboard.
The most important part of the bed is the mattress. You won’t want your guests to toss and turn on an uncomfortable mattress to wake up feeling far from refreshed. Investing in one of the best mattresses will have your guests wanting to return for another visit. But if you want to avoid the expense of replacing the mattress, another option is to add a mattress topper.
4. Upcycle where you can
Stripping a room completely and replacing the furniture is not always an option. A revamp is often all that is needed. In my box room, I had a couple of items of furniture that had seen better days. The top of the bedside and console table were badly marked and needed some work. Although they weren’t expensive, it seemed a waste to replace them, and I was also keen to get crafting. Here's how I did it.
How to paint the tops of furniture
1. Start by sanding down the tops of the surfaces with medium-grade sandpaper.
2. Wipe the surfaces clean and apply a primer. I used a Zinnser primer and applied it with a foam roller.
3. Once dry, apply 2-3 coats of eggshell paint, using a foam roller for a smooth finish. I choose a Farrow & Ball eggshell paint in Cinder Rose.
4. Finally, apply a metallic paint around the top’s edge using a fine paintbrush. Try Rust-oleum’s metallic finish furniture paint, in gold.
Before starting the project, I was unsure how it would work out, as I was only painting the tops. I worried the furniture would look incomplete. However, I was pleased with the result and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again on another piece of furniture.
5. Dressing things up
Although the room is small, the narrow console table acts as a dressing table. The area is completed with a round wall mirror with a gold surround to tie in with the gold edging on the painted furniture. Although the mirror I chose is lightweight, some similar styles are heavy, so when fixing a mirror, ensure you are using adequate fixings. For something similar you could try the Zenida round wall mirror ($50, Amazon).
The chair is a welcome addition, as it can be used as a seat at the dressing table or to store clothes at night.
6. Add a touch of nature
With a botanical theme on the bed cover, I wanted to bring some life to the room with the real thing. But with limited space, I chose a trailing indoor plant that could be positioned on top of the wardrobe rather than taking up precious surface space. I decided a pothos, which is a low maintenance indoor plant, would be suitable as its trailing leaves break up the hard lines of the side of the wardrobe.
On a smaller scale, I placed a money plant on the bedside table, which I propagated from a cutting. When space is a real problem, but you want to bring nature into your room, why not try a hanging plant?
7. Creature comforts
Extra touches help to make your guests feel more welcome and make the room look cosy and lived in. I’ve placed a few books on the bedside table and stored a blanket on the console table. Without having to ask, guests can enjoy a read or add any extra layer if they get chilly during the night.
8. Repurpose what you already have
When revamping a guest room, you don’t necessarily have to buy everything new. Look at what you already have. I pulled out some old pictures I’ve had for over 20 years.
I’d previously spotted the beautifully embroidered cards and snapped them up, with the idea of adding them to picture frames. That original purchase has proved a real winner. I also like ceramics and glassware, so I added a few decorative touches to the room with items I already owned.
9. Window dressing
Taking the soft pink theme, I chose some velvet touch curtains from a high street retailer. Buying an ‘off-the-shelf' size meant they were too long and hung awkwardly on the radiator below. When curtains cover radiators, they reduce the amount of heat getting into a room, so you can get more out of your radiators by having them fitted to the correct length. I had them taken up to hang 2cm above the radiator.
Apart from providing privacy with the curtains, I also decided to hang a lightweight roller blind, which I cut to size. The light-weight blind gives guests privacy in the daytime without completely cutting out the light.
With time and thought, it's easy to transform an unloved room into a warm and welcoming space where your guests won't want to leave.
You may also be interested in reading 5 ways to update your bedroom without a complete revamp.
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Camilla Sharman has worked in publishing and marketing for over 30 years and has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.
As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader. In her spare time, when she’s not in her kitchen experimenting with a new recipe, you’ll find her keeping fit at the gym. In the pool, stretching at a yoga class, or on a spin bike, exercise is her escape time. She also loves the great outdoors and if she’s not pottering about in her garden, she’ll be jumping on her bike for a gentle cycle ride.