5 Ways to Update a Room Without Paint


20-Minute Strategies to Survive the Wait Without Painting

So I have this room. It’s my master bedroom, and it’s not going to be renovated for quite some time.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has rooms that aren’t at the top of the list yet. You know? I mean, we all have plans for our homes, but we can’t do it all at once. Especially if your home (like ours) is a top-to-bottom fixer-upper. Doubly especially if you, like us, have a budget to follow and can’t (or don’t want to) just throw money at the problem. Or things that take up your time, like, say, you know, jobs. Or a toddler in the house. (Is it just me, or does having a toddler make everything take about 5,238 times longer than you think it will?)

Bottom line, we have rooms we don’t love that we have to live with, and we need some strategies to survive the wait until they make the top of the list. Because I don’t know about you, but I can’t spend year after year sleeping in a room that looks like a dive motel and feel good when I wake up in the morning.

So, usually the advice in situations like this is to paint. “Just paint!” they say, enthusiastically. “You can completely transform a room with a simple coat of paint!” they crow. 

The thing is, this is TRUE. But as you and I know, with our busy lives and toddlers-in-tow is that “just painting” isn’t the 20-minute endeavor that they’d like to make you think it is. By the time you clear everything out of the way, cover all the furniture, find a place to sleep while the paint dries, clean all the baseboards (because who wants that gack rolling into the paint???), prep the walls, patch the holes, prime the woodwork, probably prime the walls, too, because the paint is so dark…. 

Ok, I’m already exhausted and we haven’t even painted the dern walls yet. And let’s not forget about how the fresh new paint is going to make everything else in the room look dingy and dirty and depressing.

Painting isn’t a “quick fix.” At least not for me.

Here’s some strategies to perk up a room that actually only take about 20 minutes.

Add some bling

A little sparkle can make any room feel better. For this room, I chose to add a little chandelier that I already had. It had brown accent crystals, so I ordered some pink ones on eBay to replace them and spent about 20 minutes changing some of them out. I love it.

Add some color

Adding some of your favorite colors to a room can really help it feel more like home while you’re waiting for the big renovation. The trick when doing this is to modify your colors just a touch so that they blend well with the existing room. For example, since this room is painted and carpeted in beige, which is a dirty color, my usual pink and orange became mauve and coral, with cream accents to blend it in. If I had added clean colors (my personal favorite) it would have made the room look even dingier. 

Add some thrifted art and accessories

Adding art and accessories is a great way to add personality to a room and draw your eye away from the things you don’t love. But don’t invest it any “final” pieces, since it will be hard to predict how the items will work once the room is redone in your new color palette. Just pick up some thrifted things for a couple of bucks each and prop them up on a ledge or shelf. Here I’m trying out some different art, frames and pottery to see how I like it. And since it’s on a ledge and nothing was more than $1, I can change it out as often as I want to.

Collect pieces as you find them

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t buy things! As you find great pieces for the room, go ahead and collect them. This is especially true of furniture items you intend to paint or refinish because you can work on space planning and placement even if the room isn’t the right color (assuming you’re not going to be completely changing the layout of the room in the future. And again, if you thrift your furniture, it’s not a huge investment if you change your mind. For example, in my room I’ve collected this antique dresser to use as a nightstand and put vintage green class handles on it.

Add some coziness

Of course, every room benefits from being cozy, in whatever way that means to you. If it has a place to cuddle or snuggle or curl up with a book or kid or kitty, it’s probably a winner. Our memories and experiences affect our feelings about a room, so look for opportunities for happy experiences in the room and you may find the decor doesn’t bother you nearly as much. In this room, I chose to add layers of vintage linens and spreads so the bed was inviting to all (our cat is demonstrating for us).

The end result

Is this room perfect? Is it exactly the way I want it? No, of course not. But it’s cozy and soft and has some personality, and it has plenty of places to cuddle and a little color and sparkle. It’s definitely enough to make do until we can get around to doing this room “to the nines.”

Here’s a side-by-side of the original master bedroom before we moved in, and the room now.

What about you?

Do you have a room that you need to make do?

What are you doing to make it work for you?

Love, Angela



16 responses to “5 Ways to Update a Room Without Paint”

  1. Go for it… of course!!!I’d paint those closet doors the same color as the wall to make them “disappear”. What color for the walls?

  2. susan fliegelman Avatar
    susan fliegelman

    i was so looking foward to making the cottage pillow cover but for some reason the instructions are no longer available. Will you be putting that back up? it looked so easy.

  3. Hi Angela! I say to whatever your heart tells you to do. I have some furniture that needs updating … but it will have to be when the hubs is gone for a week! LOL.Thanks for the visits to my blog! I shared your comment with my husband about the charm. If you are interested in one, just email me and we can chat about it there.Have fun quilting that #9 quilt! I need to get mine started!!xoBecky

  4. i love the new pieces of furniture!! maybe painting the closet might make it ‘look’ like a walkin. :)you asked about a pattern i had posted and didn’t ever share! Here is the info:kindred spirits memory treehttp://www.alistrebeldesigns.com/products/Memory-Tree.html

  5. Hello! First of all, your cat looks just like mine! Second, I can’t tell you what to paint (colors) since I don’t know what your fabric colors are that you already have. BUT, I DO think that painting over the wood closet door in a complmentary color to your fabric (robins’ egg blue perhaps?) would look great. Have you thought of painting your wood bed? Just saw someone on their blog painted their dark wood bed WHITE. Also, I tried emailing you, and I got a ‘failure’ — sent it twice too!Best,Gloria

  6. Love the new arrangement. I am a big fan of white closet doors because it helps them to disappear. Please, don’t ever consider painting your bed as was suggested. It is gorgeous as it is.

  7. I say go for it! Love what you’ve done so far and can’t wait to see what you come up with. Paint those closet doors to make them disappear. Think I’m preaching to the choir – mine aren’t painted yet. My sweetheart isn’t fond of the idea of painting any of the birch doors in my sixties-vintage home.~Adrienne~

  8. It’s good to know that you’re “still at it” like I am! Always moving and changing!LOVE the bed!!I had closet doors that I hated. I took them down and hung fabric/curtains there instead. It softened the room right up. And whenever the paint changes, so does the fabric.What a score that $30 cabinet was! *jealous!*xoxoChris

  9. shuffling furniture is the best…i rearrange things all the time! your bedroom is looking good…I agree with the others that you should paint the closet doors or hang some fabric there.have fun going for it, i am sure it will turn out beautiful!

  10. GO FOR IT !!!It’s such a nice large room, and I can’t wait to see the side cabinets redone….glass handles?

  11. Yes- you should go for it because you already have everything for it. Definitely no demolition though. What color for the walls? I know it will be something very pale- a cream? I think you’ll feel great if you freshen up the bedroom.

  12. I just found your blog (yea!) and I think you should go for it of course! Can’t wait to see the details as you go ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. A coat of paint does wonders! I’m in the middle of redoing our bedroom. I have it half done, but still need to paint two walls and the ceiling, and put down new flooring. Gotta wait til I have the money for it, but the paint alone is a huge change and really brightens things up. A little work can go a long way. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. You should totally go for it! I think it will look amazing. It seems like your cat is content either way! Congrats on that great find at Goodwill!

  15. It looks lovely!!!

  16. Is it sad that the absolute best way to get me to continue reading a blog post is to post a picture of a cat? ;-)But seriously, I love your style. It’s so cozy and warm.

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