Perhaps one of the most common phrases you'll hear when talking about interior renovations is "whatever you initially planned on spending, double it, and double the time with it". Renovations, regardless of their scale, can be very time consuming and costly, especially when unexpected changes pop up last minute. However, we are often met with situations where the interior layout is no longer efficient or we feel that the interior design is a little outdated and its time for a change.
Giving your space an upgrade does not necessarily mean spending all your savings, and spending less does not necessarily mean low quality work. From doing the construction work yourself, to giving furniture pieces completely new functions, here are different ways you can renovate residential and commercial interior spaces without breaking the bank.
Opting for a DIY (Do It Yourself) approach could possibly be one of the easiest - and fun - ways to save money on interior renovations. Although hiring contractors and/or construction workers ensures ideal finishing in terms of quality and time, their labor fees can be saved or invested in other parts of the project. If you do not have the skillset - or free time - to do the work yourself, be very selective in where you choose to use external help, limiting it to the likes of plumbing or electric work. Once you do decide to go for the DIY approach, close off one room or area in the house and transform it into a little workshop for the entirety of the project, and borrow tools from family members, neighbors, or friends to avoid paying a huge sum on devices you won't be using frequently in the near future.
Think local. Whether it being local material, expertise, or construction methods, vernacular techniques and materials are becoming more and more relevant in architecture due to their financial and environmental benefits. Due to growing concerns about environmental and economic expenses caused by construction, China, which is considered the world’s largest population base and fastest economic development, has encouraged its architects to consider methods of construction that are more responsive to local conditions, such as examining the reuse of local materials like wood, tiles, stones, bricks, bamboo, rammed earth, and recycled kiln bricks. Affordable options are often found not too far from home so ask around and research as much as you can before beginning the project.
It might not always seem so obvious, but sitting in a crowded room surrounded by a mass of furniture pieces and accessories on a daily basis will eventually feel overwhelming, especially if the workspace looks and feels just as crowded. This indicates that it's time to clear up the space and remove furniture or décor pieces that are no longer adding value or have reached the end of their shelf life. The same could be applied to walls, if you are leaning towards adding more space or freeing up the circulation, remove any non-loadbearing wherever possible. Be certain of what type of wall you're removing by using the help of an expert to avoid a structural disaster.
Stripping walls from existing paint work and going for an industrial look can save a lot of money as well. Keep in mind though that exposed walls are best used in internal walls rather than exterior ones or facades to refrain from using a lot of insulation material.
Most interior designers can agree that paint is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to change an interior space. The first surfaces to consider repainting are walls and ceilings, with the least expensive material being water-based paints. Keep in mind though that cheaper paints contain little-to-no titanium, which may take almost three coats to equal the coverage of one coat of expensive, high-quality paint. Changing the color of cabinets, doors, or window frames can also greatly change the visual identity of the space. Make sure to sand the panels and paint with primer first, and then repaint them with an affordable water-based formula or a unique chalk-based formula for a more matte finish. You can also use the "faux bois" technique to create a wood grain by dipping a natural bristle brush or wood stencil in a darker shade or latex paint, and adding texture to the surfaces, or use the trompe l’oeil technique to create fake granite or marble finishes.
In terms of furniture, repainting chairs can cost a lot less than buying new ones, especially if they are still in good shape and have a timeless design. Another "re-paintable" design element, one that is often overlooked, is tiling grout; Changing the color of tiling grouts can give a brand new identity to the space and visually frame the installed fixtures. In addition to the walls, cabinets, chairs, and grouts, kitchen countertops can be entirely remodeled by painting the surface with primer then dabbed and blotted with sponge-like stencils or brushes to create a fake granite/marble finish. The final step would be to cover the surface with top coat to protect the paint from heat and cleaning chemicals. Although renovating countertops might not be cheap, but it will most likely cost less than ordering a brand new marble counter, especially if the design and texture you're looking for is pricey.
One of the most important renovating-on-a-budget tips is work with what you have. With that being said, the first question that should come to mind is: how much will it cost to repair the furniture piece compared to buying a new one? There are times when buying a new object costs a lot less than renovating or making your own, so make sure to do some research on what's available on the market and all the different prices that they are being sold at before making a final decision. Second, don't throw anything just yet- every item has the potential to be reborn into something new so the best way to save money is to work with what you have. For instance, instead of throwing away sofas or dining chairs, you can reupholster the cushions and fabric, especially if the frame is still relatively brand new. And if you don't have furniture pieces that can be repurposed, you can find many items with potential in thrift stores or garage sales.
You can also have a take on the "form follows function" principle by slightly (or greatly) tweaking the design of a furniture piece or fit-out and giving it a completely new function based on what it looks like. A few examples include transforming old dressers into a mini kitchen island, TV unit, bathroom vanity, or even a baby changing table, thick ropes or leather straps into cabinet and door handles, and mason jars, wooden logs, or mesh baskets into light fixtures, to name a few. Similarly, you can repurpose the function of unused rooms along with their existing furniture. For example, a rarely-used formal dining room can be transformed into a home office. Instead of buying a new ergonomic desk and chair, use the dining table as a large desk, reupholster the existing dining chair, and buy ergonomic accessories for your computer / laptop instead.
Low budget often indicates "refinishing instead of replacing" but in some cases, replacing is the way to go, especially when it comes to materials and finishing. Before beginning, do a research or comparative study on the different types of materials or finishing available. Oftentimes, materials can have similar textures or finishing but are priced on two opposite spectrums, due to where they are sourced from and how much of their composition is engineered vs solid. Consider material doppelgangers such as aluminum and stainless steel, glass and acrylic, and red-stained white ash wood and red oak.
Power outlets are often disregarded when it comes to renovations. However, these small accessories can greatly impact how the space visually comes together - they could be the pop-of-color or accent that's been missing all along. Similarly, door and cabinet handles/knobs may seem like a minor design detail, but they are capable of making a huge design difference once changed.
Rearrange the furniture layout by thinking of elevations not just plans. Elevate sofas or beds and build a new structural support beneath to help make room for additional storage space. The spatial layout of a room should tell a story - your story - of how you circulate around the space and what your preferences are; do you like to be woken up by a flood of sunlight on your face or would you rather wake up alone and undisturbed? Instead of buying black-out curtains, change the orientation of your bed, facing it away from an Eastern window. Another important tip is to not relocate any sanitary fixture unless necessary. Anything that requires plumbing or electric work will most likely require the help of a professional, which in return, might be costly. Think of these fixtures as immovable fit-outs and work around them.
Renovations could also include making additions to the space. In kitchens (and occasionally bathrooms), adding a backsplash behind the sink and countertops can dramatically change the identity and feel of the space. While there are many affordable tiling options, plenty of budget-friendly backsplash options are available to choose from, such as mosaic tiles, peel-and-stick vinyl tiles, waterproof wallpaper, varnished wooden panels, tinted glass, brick, and waterproof paint (this tends to be on the costly side).
Decorate the space by adding one or more accent walls throughout the areas that are being renovated, whether it's through wallpapers, hand-drawn murals, stencil art, or extruding the wall into a 3D surface by gluing wood panels or bars onto the wall, and painting the entire surface with a solid color to create a sense of depth.
Building walls to create additional enclosed spaces is very costly and often requires the help of masons, instead, add partitions made of low-cost and lightweight materials such as wooden beams, bamboo, plywood, hollow glass cubes, or clay blocks, materials that are easy to work with and assemble. And finally, instead of removing the existing flooring and replacing them with new material, cover the surfaces with a peel-off flooring solution, a practical, affordable, and durable material that does not require the use of grout or special tools. Several manufacturers have created peel-off vinyl tiles that look almost identical to natural or engineered flooring materials such as wood, marble, and even concrete, which makes them a very appropriate addition.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Adaptive Reuse. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 27, 2021.