Sunday 28 July 2013 and the #HomeImprovementHero Competition

Is it possible to change the look, feel and even functionality of a room on a £50 budget? (Yes, it is!)

My decorated pin board.

The view that greets me.
DIY will always be the 'in thing' for those of us living on a tight budget so when I was asked by to take part in their Home Improvement Hero competition for bloggers, I was rather excited by the prospect, despite the fact that I didn't actually have a fully renovated room to decorate!

When someone asks, "Can you create something memorable in your home with a budget of £50?" and then gives you £50 to try it, the challenge is most definitely on, so here goes!

This is the room that I've chosen to give a frugal makeover. I'm almost certain that most folks already have a proper wall to decorate, so excuse us while we put that back together after having had a stove fitted a few months ago.
This is my room for transformation - it's a multi-functional room in as far as it's my sitting room, office, crafting room, dining room and spare room, plus it also serves as a dumping ground. If I can turn this room around on a budget of £50, I'll be over the moon!
I started by researching what was needed to complete the chimney wall, as employing a joiner was out of the question, then hit the online stores (Amazon) via my favourite cash-back site. My first purchase was fire cement, hopefully enough to complete the job that needed doing. Meanwhile, my long-suffering, often bemused house-share set to work raking out bits and pieces from the out-building and shed that could be used to help cut costs.
Because we are in the midst of a renovation, there are plenty of bits and pieces lying about the place, mainly salvaged leftovers from joinery or building work that has been done. I opted for the 'mosaic effect' with the plaster board when reinstating the chimney wall, rather than buying a full new sheet. It is insulated/foil backed plaster board that the joiner OK'd to fit on the chimney wall, as there's already a steel plate fitted in the area subject to the greatest heat. (Frugal choice - the metal radiates more heat when the stove is lit and it can't bend, crack or break.) Plasterboard, should you need any, is relatively inexpensive and can be bought from most builders' merchants from around £5 per 8' x 4' sheet.
There was still a hole in the wall around the stove flue pipe, so I needed strong wire mesh to bridge the gaps and give grip to the fire cement. This problem was solved by using the leftover grill mesh that had been saved from a disposable barbecue. (I hate throwing anything in the bin that could find a future use and this is a prime example of waste not, want not.)

Here in Scotland we don't tend to finish off our new walls by plastering, we often opt for taping and filling the joints and then just sanding them. The tape costs less than £5 a roll and the jointing plaster costs about £1.30 per kilo of the mix-it-yourself variety and we had some of each already, so no need to buy.

While contemplating how to decorate the chimney wall, I decided that the old radiator, amongst other things, needed smartening up a bit, so I bought a little tin of radiator enamel (£2.99), a wall transfer/decal (£3.79), a roll of wallpaper (£10.85), packet of paste (£1.55), a pasting brush (£2.27) and a tube of gold-coloured artists' paint (99p). If anything seems expensive, it's because I don't have a car, so I need to order online and account for delivery costs.
My nest of tables have been with me since 1992 and have gone from house to house for many moves, so it's safe to say that they had seen better days. It's funny how some things have more sentimental value than others, isn't it?
This table is one I rehomed when a neighbour was planning on sending it to the tip. (We used it at last weekend's barbecue.) As you can see, it isn't all that different from my old nest of tables, so I set about preparing everything for painting.
Scraper, sandpaper, some primer/undercoat and the remains of a tin of gloss got rummaged from the shed - the table was first to be scraped and sanded to remove all the flaking, peeling varnish. The legs were then removed to sand them.
Once scraped and sanded, everything got wiped down with a damp cloth to remove any leftover flakes and dust before undercoating with primer. This should give a good base for the gloss paint so that it doesn't simply run off the wood.
The things many TV programmes or magazines may not tell you:
  • Non drip, fast drying gloss isn't neither non drip nor fast enough drying when using it outside in the blazing sunshine!
  • The least little breeze and you have newspaper and dust stuck to your lovely new paintwork
  • Bugs, flies and midges seem to be attracted to paint and get stuck!
  • Bathing said stuck bugs, flies and midges in white spirit does not revive them!
  • Make sure your hair is firmly tied out of the way when kneeling down to paint the legs of a table, especially if there's a breeze!

My crafting stuff was taking up far too much space it cardboard boxes, so a chest of drawers was commandeered and given a quick coat of gloss. Surprisingly, it stuck to the white veneer. I bought these flat-packed from Argos as part of a set about 10 years ago, so they have been dismantled and carted around the past 4 or 5 house moves and were rather the worst for wear. It was surprising how well they came up after painting them!

All we could find in the shed was magnolia and brown emulsion - it was either that or a nougat-salmon pink (I don't think so)! Brown and cream won, so the chimney wall got done chocolate brown and the walls got a freshen up with magnolia. With only one roll of wallpaper, I opted to do only the top half of two walls at the sitting room end of this multi-functional room.

A change of curtains from patterned to plain, which I already had, helped the transformation. Raking through my crafting supplies uncovered several suitable ribbons to turn into tie-backs. To attach them to the wall, I used a couple of old curtain rings and simply tied the ribbons through the loops.

Colourful ribbons can brighten up anything in minutes, so never throw away any bows, ribbons, cord or string that comes your way. Guaranteed, if you decide to follow a frugal living path through life, you'll find a use for almost anything. Curtain hoops can be found in charity shops for 10p each, in my experience, but I already had a few in my 'stash'.

Cheap artwork is another easy way to quickly transform the look and feel of a room and I was lucky enough to get some cheap picture frames. With what was left of the roll of wallpaper, I managed to cut enough to fill the five frames, which got hung on the chimney wall. They really are quite effective and I couldn't ask for a better match for the walls, could I?

There are always people decluttering, so when a friend offered me a few bits and pieces, her £5 flat-packed shoe rack seemed like an absolute bargain. It was soon assembled and turned into storage for DVDs, CDs and board games.

Time to polish my brass, but I have no brass cleaner. No problem, homemade will do for now:
Half a cup of vinegar
Teaspoon of salt
Flour to mix it all into a paste
The homemade version isn't nearly as good at cutting though the tarnish
as the commercially manufactured chemical version, but it does give a bit of a shine. There's also the fact that this was free to make, as I had the ingredients in the kitchen.

This gorgeous brass urn was one I rescued a few years ago, so it has now been brought indoors to sit by the stove. I'll add a pot plant as soon as I have repotted something suitable from the garden. (This was before it was polished.)

Now for a few 'before and after' photos to show the overall transformation as it was taking place.

The 'new' chimney wall
The stove got a good clean, as did the steel back plate. The brass items, at long last, have been hung alongside the (non) fireplace. The toasting fork is great for marshmallows when the stove's lit in winter!
Corner 1 - this has become my entertainments corner

The shelves were rearranged and then filled with my books. The shoe rack is now home to DVDs and board games, with a couple of boxes of crafting supplies tucked safely alongside. The rail along the middle of the papered wall is made up from two lengths of skirting board.
Corner 2 - the sitting room part of this multi-functional space

The one roll of wallpaper was enough to do both of these walls when only papering the top half of them and it helps that we have quite low ceilings. The couch is actually a double bed settee / futon, so this space also doubles as a guest room.

The nest of tables - sanded down, painted and decorated

Rejuvenating the tables was a very straightforward project - scrape the flaking varnish, sand everything down to give it a rough surface, undercoat and then gloss it. The difficult part was managing steady hand-eye co-ordination when picking out the bits to highlight with the gold paint.
The salvaged table - before and after.

This table has replaced the bench set, which was only being stored here temporarily. It has now been dismantled and stored elsewhere until such times as the other room gets refurbished.

Corner 3 - my work space has been transformed and I love it!

This is my office corner - a bit of tidying and decluttering has made all the difference, with the pin board now painted in gold and hung above the desk and the transfer on the wall really sets it off, in my opinion. I love the quote on the wall:
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass
It's about learning to dance in the rain"

Corner 4 - crafting and hobbies corner

I've left plenty of hanging space, as this room will also double as my guest room - but this challenge has prompted me to push on and get the cloakroom painted and put to proper use. The crafting materials have all been packed into the drawers and my 'McGonks' are stored in the baskets on the top shelf. D├ęcor reflects my past by way of a few items relevant to long forgotten challenges from the late 90's. (A couple of personally identifiable items of significant, sentimental value have been omitted from the photo.)

How I spent my £50.00
  • Fire Cement 3Kg - £8.14 (1 x 2kg & 1 x 1kg)
  • Roll of wallpaper - £10.85
  • Wallpaper paste - £1.55
  • Pasting brush - £2.27  
  • Radiator enamel - £2.99
  • Transfer/decal - £3.79
  • 2 lengths of skirting - £9.00
  • 5 photo frames - £3.00 (Secondhand)
  • Shoe rack - £5.00 (Secondhand)
  • Small tube of gold acrylic paint - 99p
Total - £47.58  (Balance remaining - £2.42p)

This has been an absolutely fabulous challenge set by the guys at! There were a few times during the preliminary stages that I was almost pulling my hair out at the enormity of it. The room really was like a storm that wouldn't pass, so I learned to dance in the rain and did the best possible with what was available. The makeover has created an illusion -  almost like several rooms emerging from one, each corner becoming an easily defined space without looking out of place.

My visitors are now welcome anytime and I'm sure those who have sampled the delights of 'indoor camping' for an overnight stay here will be suitably impressed with these amazing changes. Frugaldom welcomes all comments relating to what has been achieved on this small budget and has to ask the question, did I make the grade as a 'Home Improvement Hero'? I think I did and am not ashamed to say so. :)

Find out what others achieved on similar budgets by checking out the hashtag #HomeImprovementHero on Twitter or Facebook and thank you for following my frugal entry into the competition.



  1. Brilliant, looks really good and could easily give those "home makeover" progs a run for their money xx

    1. Thanks, Maisie. I am really pleased with how it turned out, now setting my sights on getting my bedroom done. :)

  2. Are you sure that's the same room I saw last Saturday?

    1. Indeed, that is the exact same room you were in last weekend. Isn't it amazing the difference that can be made in such a short space of time with a tiny budget? :)

  3. Goodness me what a transformation. Only one question, where the chimney goes through the wall, won't that overheat the plastic or does this part of the chimney has a double layer of meter?

    1. Sorry, DC, can't quite think what you're referring to as I don't have any plastic near a heat source. The flue pipe goes through the wall into a double skin chimney liner and is sealed in by fire cement bonded onto the wire mesh and also has a steel plate attached to hold it all in place - we didn't do that part ourselves, that was done by the stove fitter. The plasterboard isn't in contact with any of the heat sources. :) Let me know if this is what you mean - better safe than sorry.

    2. Yes, sorry, really should check before I push the button. I was worried the chimney was in close contact with the plaster:)

    3. This is the best link I can find to show the fireproof Gyproc -

  4. I mean the actual stove-fitting and chimney lining wasn't done by us, I'd to have someone in to do that because there was chimney work to be done at the same time. :)

  5. Fantastic achievement on a tiny budget and looks beautiful and such a transformation I hope yo win!!

    1. Thanks WP, I'm sure others will have managed to buy much more with their £50 - we're a bit restricted here in that there are no shops. I am more than happy to have simply taken part because the new room is my prize. I may even leave the little poster dedicating the makeover to as a reminder to everyone how much can be done with so little time and money. Effort costs nothing and all that. Can you tell I am excited by my 'new' multi-purpose room? I had my first visitor today and she loved it! :D

  6. Brilliant achievement on the set budget, well done, it looks amazing. I bet you'll have a whole new set of visitors waiting to try out the new guest room now.

    1. I'm looking forward to getting started on the next room while I'm in the mood for makeovers! :)

  7. I love that you reused pieces you owned, brought new life to pieces thrown out by others, recycled bits that otherwise would have been trash and only spent where absolutely necessary. You get my vote!

    1. Recycling and money saving can be fun, even when it means rummaging in a cluttered shed to find some salvaged nails or screws for a specific project. I think my biggest surprise was that the plasticy veneer on the cheap chest of drawers actually held a coat of paint. They look OK, all things considered.

  8. just brilliant! we've tarted our house up, just using the leftovers of paint in the garage - it freshened up areas

    1. I know this is meant to be temporary until we get around to the major renovation works like renewing the floor, plastering and new windows, but this makes it feel much more homely, rather than living in the midst of a building site. :) (As per your recent blog post, I, too, have bought things like tinned potatoes and have no qualms about grocery shopping the way I do. It saves a fortune.)

  9. That is superb- wow these challenges have really spurred you on Nyk. Well done!

    1. Thanks, Aril, but I still haven't got that 'green man' in my garden! That has to be a challenge in the making, as I have a fabulous stone at the ready... just needs H to paint it for me. :)

  10. This is brilliant! Well done.
    I love these challenges - our BBQ last week went so well thanks to them!
    You stove is fabulous - but I hope you don't need it to light it just yet
    summer blessings x

    1. Stove got lit for a few hours to set the fire cement around the flue pipes but other than that, I hope summer stays with us until at least November. This winter's logs aren't all split yet, they're still lying in a pile in the garden. LOL

      Glad you enjoyed your BBQ, that was a really fun challenge and we couldn't have wished for better weather in which to enjoy them. Good luck in the prize draw for that. :)

  11. I enjoyed reading all about what you did on so little money, it does indeed make the whole room different.

    Gill in Canada

    1. 'A change is as good as a rest', they normally say, but I think I prefer, 'a change is as good as a renovation'. :)

  12. Well done! When a tin of coloured paint alone is £25, doing a complete room on £50 is amazing!

    1. That could explain why I usually begin with plain white or magnolia trade emulsion. :) I have never spent £10.85 (included delivery) on a roll of wallpaper before now, so that was pure luxury. Making it stretch round two walls was absolutely the bee's knees! :) I still need to make a couple of colourful cushion coves but haven't managed to rake out any suitable material yet. :)

      Challenges are what make frugal living a fun and interesting lifestyle.

  13. Wonderful! You achieved so much for very little outlay! The room looks lovely!

    1. Thanks, Catz! It's not even a colour scheme I would normally have thought about, but the brown leopard print wallpaper with it's swirly gold lines and bright red flowers caught my attention and that was it - bought in the hope it matched the remains of the chocolate emulsion I had here. :)

  14. Gosh well done, you really pulled out all the stops here - looks fantastic.

    1. Thank you :) I am happy with how it all turned out on such a tiny budget and it gave me the prod needed to get on to doing the next room. Bedroom cost only £26 something or other. :)


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