How to Refresh your House Without Leaving It

As many of us find ourselves working, living and sleeping within the same old walls for the foreseeable future, why not make it an opportunity to breathe new life into your interior without leaving the house. House & Garden's creative director of interiors Gabby Deeming, tells you how.

When we move into a new house or flat, we often end up putting much of our furniture and accessories in spots dictated by the space; many is the time I’ve cursed the radiator that prevents the dining table from being in the perfect place or the wall that would be ideal for the sofa except it means the door wouldn’t open... Annoying layout compromises are unavoidable. Another snag is sleepwalking into a bad or obvious floor plan. Victorian terraces are a great case in point.

There are very few options for sofas in a ground floor terraced sitting room. Most people put it along the long wall between the door and the window without even considering alternatives and perhaps this is the best place for it. But, I have also seen smaller sofas look great slap bang in front of the window, facing down the room. I encourage you to shuffle it all around and have a go.

Even if you’re not moving big things, think about chairs and views. I don’t really like sitting with my back to a window. If you have a few smaller chairs in a sitting room, try swapping them around and see how it feels. What can you see from the chair? Are you making the most of the space or view? Look at the relationship between your furniture. Try the rug underneath instead of next to the coffee table, fill the empty space at the end of the sofa with a small table.

Do you have too many chairs in a room? Too much stuff is as bad as too little. Perhaps you’ve already had to rearrange your entire house to accommodate home-schooling and various home offices, in which case, find a way to make the most of the areas that have been left behind (if there are any!) So that there is somewhere to be together that doesn’t remind you of a to-do list.

If you don’t feel like lugging furniture around, make a floor plan of the space and work out where pieces could otherwise fit, just rotating your dining table 90 degrees could make a huge difference. Don’t think of furniture as rooted, just because it has been in its current position for thirty years, doesn’t mean it’s in the best possible place.

When I sketch interiors, it’s always from one angle which is lovely for a photograph but not a true representation of life in a room. However - it can be really helpful to look at interiors in this way, as a series of individual vignettes. Choose a few angles and scrutinise them without looking at the rest of the room.

Could a spot benefit from a picture or a plant? Does one side of the room have all the decorative glory while the other is a wasteland? Think of each vignette as an individual composition and try to balance it out. This is a good way to make smaller things work hard, like lamps (try swapping shades), pictures (move them around), collections (find a new way/place to show them off)

These sound like small things but they can make you see an over familiar room differently and will deliver a genuine new found enthusiasm for a space that is perhaps starting to feeling less like a home and more like an open prison. Anyway, now we’re all working from home, what nicer way to idle away a few hours? As architect William Smalley says of what was formerly a guilty procrastination; now a happy national pastime, ‘There were precisely three possible arrangements of the Habitat bed, desk and floor cushion in my teenage bedroom, and yet I avoided many hours of homework trying them out. Renewed joy every time’

Is your table in the best spot? This one would also look rotated 90 degrees to run alongside the sideboard behind it.

Tired of your old upholstery? A jolly blanket, quilt or piece of fabric tucked around the seat cushion can reinvigorate a sofa or armchair

Big scale greenery can have huge impact on a room - grab the secateurs and get yourselves a handsome bundle of foliage or a small bough to liven up a dull corner or a mantlepiece.

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