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Is it possible to refurbish a room without it costing the earth?

11 Aug 20

by Andrew Muirhead, Living Lighter project volunteer 

My daughter shared her flat with 2 lodgers until recently. The flat was decorated with neutral colours as is often the case with shared property. This picture does not show it off to best effect, however the 1970s tiles and gas fire were functional but not really her taste. Interestingly this type of gas fire is very efficient and easily matches central heating, fired by a modern A+ condensing gas boiler. You can see the arm of an armchair, at least 50 years old and already recovered once. The rickety coffee table is out of sight. The 10 year old carpet is in reasonable condition with a few minor stains in the middle and some wear.

Taste, available cash and enhancement of property value are important considerations when renovating. Should we consider anything else? What would you do if cash were in short supply? What would you do if cash were plentiful?

Here is what was done. Most of the clutter has been moved which helps show it off. The change is from bland to bold! The old gas fire has been retained but looks different with the baby pink spray paint and the ceramic lamp base has been kept and sprayed. The lampshade is new along with a new central lampshade (seen in the mirror), coloured to match the chair fabric and walls respectively.


The wall is dark, but not gloomy, because the room has a large bay window, white ceiling and fawn carpet. The tiles around the fire place are certainly bright and the pattern is picked up by the new rug that protects the carpet from more wear centrally. The renovated coffee table has been tiled to match the fireplace. The loose joints were repaired. The ancient arm chair has not yet been recovered with the yellow fabric, but the cushion cover is new (made from material scraps with a borrowed sewing machine).

Carbon emissions are mostly down to personal decisions. Home energy, travel, food choices and manufactured goods are responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Glazed tiles and paint have a carbon footprint but a decision to refurbish rather than replace furniture, a lamp and a gas fire avoids emissions.  When we choose an item that is likely to be durable, such as a tiled table, this can again reduce emissions in the long term.

It is possible to refurbish a room without it costing the earth and still make it your own.

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