Fashion & Beauty

How to Upgrade Your Living/Work/Everything Space on the Cheap

Give your quarantine cave a (budget-friendly) makeover

At this point of quarantine, your home has pretty much become your whole world. That makes it even more important to actually like the place where you spend all your time. If you’re feeling a little uninspired by your digs, fear not, because superstar home decor YouTuber Alexandra Gater has some easy decorating ideas to upgrade your quarantine cave on a budget.

“Our homes are so important in terms of correlating with our mental health,” says Gater. “It’s a reflection of where our mind is at a lot of the time.” Even without lots of money or room, you can transform your living space into something more livable. So whether you’re a renter with five roommates or have your own studio, here are some of Gater’s tips on how to refresh your home (and, hopefully, mindset) without having to drop a ton of cash.

Figure out what’s not working

First up, identify what’s bothering you. Gater recommends writing a list: Is there not enough storage space? Is the room not cozy enough? Too dark? It’ll be easier to find creative solutions when you know exactly what you want to fix. Then you can start a Pinterest board or mood board to start ideating your solutions.

Use furniture to create divides

“One of the most common things I see in small spaces is all the furniture pushed against walls,” says Gater. If you have the room, try putting a couch or desk in the middle of the room to create separation. It will make everything feel more dynamic, since you won’t have a “massive dead space” in the middle. It can also help to create the illusion of a separate living room/dining room/office if all of those things exist within the same four walls.

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Get a new lamp, or just new bulbs

Gater recommends adding a table lamp or floor lamp, no matter the size of your room. “It’s like having a focal point in your room, and that one ‘wow’ piece,” she says. A lot of rental places have harsh overhead lights, so try adding a pendant lamp or switching out the lamp shade. If that’s too much work, even changing out the bulbs can make a big difference in creating softness and coziness. Gater loves smart bulbs because you can control the mood of the room with your phone.

Use scents to create the right vibe

Especially when you’re WFH, scent can help your mind adjust to understanding how your one room is serving multiple functions throughout the day. Investing in an oil diffuser or even just scented candles will do wonders. Gater likes Saje and Muji diffusers, and she uses citrus to energize during the day and lavender to calm down at night.

Become your own art curator

Changing up art in your home is an easy, fast way to make over a room. “Something I love doing is collecting all different sizes of art,” says Gater. That way you can have a small piece on a table and a larger one on the wall—you can also layer different-sized prints on shelves if you’re feeling creative. And if you don’t have any art, don’t be intimidated! You can easily find reasonably priced work by local artists using Instagram hashtags, like #vancouverart or #montrealartist, or check out sites like Society6, which often have sales.

Organize in an aesthetic-y way

In places without much storage, your stuff ends up on full display. Make it pretty! Prioritize what you love by showing off your books or records and organizing them by colour. For smaller stuff, like cotton pads or bandages in the bathroom, using uniform containers is ~aesthetic~ bliss, and it’s functional.

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Add texture and colour in one go

If your place feels dark or cold, adding cushions and throws are one-shot ways to add colour and texture to a room. Renters with ugly wall-to-wall carpets or bathroom floors can use accent rugs to cover things up, and curtains can hide boring window shutters. They’re easy additions that will brighten and warm your space while adding some personality. FYI, Gater loves H&M Home’s selection of pretty accents.

Try paint accents or temporary wallpaper

Another way to add colour is by painting just one wall of your small space (or all the doors in a larger space) to create visual flow. “It’s a fun pop of colour you don’t have to commit to,” Gater says. She doesn’t recommend trying to paint a whole room, since it’s messy and harder than you think. Not up for painting at all? Stick-peel wallpaper with fun patterns is easy to apply and remove, making it extra renter-friendly. 

You guessed it: plants

Gater *loves* to have plants around to add life to a room. Some great low-maintenance options that don’t require much light include ZZ plants, string of hearts (which drape well over shelves), and golden pothos. Check for local plant stores that are delivering!

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