I am sure some of you have been in situations where you have moved into a new home where everything is shades of beige, perhaps because the landlord thought neutrals would be good. Beige sofa, chairs, curtains, carpet – even cushions, with lighting that feels like a warehouse in its brightness or as dull as a dungeon.

There are no rights nor wrongs in interior design, everyone has the potential to design their own home, and to choose their own colour scheme, whether it is fashionable or not. Just because ‘they’ say walls must be beige, grey, or green (or whatever some paint company wants to promote - sorry, being a bit cynical here), doesn’t mean you have to follow.

Flowers/ colour co-ordinate – Add flowers, real or fake, or potted plants. A beautiful display of flowers in your hall, maybe cleverly lit, will do wonders to lift dullness. Match that flower colour to plain cushions or the dominant colour in patterned ones. You don’t even need to buy new ones, just different covers over the old ones - lavender maybe, or be bold and choose yellow, mustard, or red - just have a colour in mind when putting the flowers together first.

Curtains – these might be difficult to replace cost wise, but you can add some trim in bands of colour the same shade as the cushions, maybe 10 or 15 cm from top and bottom, or even ribbons of colour hanging down from your curtain hooks. Or add some flimsy voiles in your choice of colour hung over the length of the curtains to change the look completely.

Change artwork round – Sometimes a statement piece has been hung that you don’t like - hide it or move it and replace it with something you do like. Add a mirror, which will reflect more light into a dull room, or take some of those favourite photos from your phone, have them printed out and frame them – frames are cheap enough to buy – and create a gallery wall of super memories - you can mix up heights and frame sizes to good effect. Add plates to your walls if it suits - secondhand plates don’t have to be a complete set either, two of one and three or more of another maybe would be fine - scour the second-hand shops or boot sales, but just keep your colour in mind.

Lighting – A bamboo or rattan lampshade as a ceiling light will create not only usable light but a fantastic pattern on your ceiling, or a well-placed table light can create a pool of warmth in a corner. You don’t have to pay a fortune - a certain Swedish retailer has loads to choose from.

Mix old and new - Don’t be afraid to add an old chair picked up in a second-hand shop if it looks comfy or add some outrageously modern chairs to your dining table. Adding cushions will blend everything together.

Wallpaper a chimney breast – it will make a feature for your room and is a classic approach. Or paint alcoves in a pale shade to reduce their visual depth or pick up on a dark tone to cause your alcoves to recede visually, and the overall effect of either will look very dramatic.

Lights/ mirrors - Mirrors are so reflective and will bounce the light back, so they can be used to increase the general brightness in a room. They can also make a statement, say over a fireplace, and can make your room seem bigger. Lighting is important and is good for your mood - for example, a sunny yellow colour and spring flowers directly translates to joy and happiness. For this reason, yellow light has been clinically used to treat depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You might try switching your LED lights to a yellow hue during the dark winter months and when you feel down.

Lastly, add a smell – Those little glass bottles with bamboo reeds are perfect dotted around, choose one fragrance for the whole house or mix and match different rooms. It will add a fresh flavour to your home!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan