Complete Living Room Makeover for Under $250

Image of Rebecca's living room makeover lighter and brighter with neutral tones added to walls and furniture
living room makeover on $250 budget

Can you completely makeover an entire living space, furniture and all for under $250? Living room makeover and small budget don’t typically go hand in hand when it comes to making over a space as large as a living room.  However, there are some fantastic tips and tricks I am going to show you to achieve exactly this – with dramatic results.

Design Concept

When starting a large project, turn to glossy home magazines and Pinterest for inspiration.  Utilise the home magazines for overall styles of living spaces and up to date colour forecasts.  Pinterest is a fantastic source for researching upcyle ideas for furniture and decor, complete with instructions for your chosen project.  As you earmark pages and create Pinterest boards you will start to see a prevailing look unfolding in what will be your preferred style.  It may be a room with large prints on fabrics and wall art or perhaps a minimalist look with rugs and blanket to achieve warmth without clutter.  Next, take a look at your exisiting furniture and space.  Perhaps you can work with your current furniture without needing to do anything to it.  It may be as simple as investing in large prints to hang on freshly painted walls and oversized cushions for your sofas.

For my living space, I wanted to create a light and bright space, opening up the small room and using contrasts of whites and natural earthy tones to ensure cohesion throughout.

Before Shots

When you see the before shots, you will notice my living room was anything but light and bright.  Dark wood and deep reds controlled the room.  Having spent three years living in South Africa and travelling all over the African continents, I had wanted to create a piece of Africa in our home upon returning to Australia.  This warm and deeply dark space was loosely based on the Victoria Falls Hotel’s “Bulawayo Room” to house our African keepsakes and serve as glimpses into our travels.  These treasured pieces remain in my home, but I’ve integrated them into other spaces and kept those that work in my new design.

I was so excited about the process and results for this project.  To be able to completely transform a room in two days (yes, one weekend!) and not leave any object untouched was an adventure.

Living Room Makeover Features

Dark Wood Furniture

Working with chalk paint allows you to work on any furniture surface with the minimum of preparation – hallelujah!  For this project, I chose to work with Annie Sloan’s chalk paint in Old White, French Linen and Paloma.  It’s worth investing in two of her brushes, one for painting and one for waxing as the results are much better than what regular brushes will achieve.  For my regular dark wood furniture, I didn’t need to sand back at all as they are not highly utilised surfaces such as a dining table and will withstand regular dusting and coasters amongst the decor.

As with all dark wood furniture, a coat of stain blocker before applying paint is paramount.  You don’t want your hard work limited by nasty stains showing through within days of your work being completed.  I used two coats of chalk paint on my furniture pieces before applying the clear wax.  I prefer a matt look to my furniture and chose not to use any other Annie Sloan products to distress and the clear wax kept the furniture sharp in contrast.  The top of the tv unit was painted in Old White and left to bare it’s timber knots and cracks to offer texture to the bold white surface against the French Linen on the base.

Image of dark wood bookcase being prepped for the makeover
living room furniture prior to chalk paint update – and my trusty steed complete with pink gumboots!
Image of newly madeover tv unit with an off white top surface and stone shelving and doors underneath a very clean and crisp look
tv unit painted with chalk paint


I used the Superfresco Easy range because, well, it was so easy to use!  Also, at $29.95 per roll it made my decision simple given my budget constraints.  The easy part comes where the glue is rolled onto the wall directly as opposed to the wallpaper, making it a much easier and less messy process.  The wonderful thing about this product was that I didn’t feel I compromised on style.  The Twine Stone design is striking, yet uncomplicated.

Image of Rebecca applying the Sperfresco Easy Wallpaper in light and bright neutral tones with a soft and versatile vertical stripe design
simple to work with Superfresco Easy wallpaper
Image of feature wall complete with the light and bright soft neutral tones of the Twine Stone Superfresco Easy Wallpaper in vertical stripes
Twine Stone Superfresco Easy wallpaper


The corner shelving unit was previously painted in the deep red.  By matching with the remaining space using Dulux Once in Antique White, the room opened up even further.  The antique white against the dark shelving brought much needed depth to the space.

Image of the freshly painted shelving space converted from dark red to an antique white keeping the dark shelves for a little depth complete with pretty recepticals for floral arrangements, framed motivational quotes a mirrored word "love" and antique cameras and other trinkets
shelving space painted in Antique White with dark shelves for depth


The Small but Important Touches

It’s the small details that are often the most impressive.  By paying attention to the the decor items you ensure your look is carried throughout the space and answers the call for one style.  Often, these elements are left out and the overall look is one of an unfinished and unrefined project.  Don’t let this be you!

I took my chalk paint colour swatches to my local haberdashery store and bought fabric that so perfectly worked with I almost cried.  The cushions came up great and added casual warmth to the space when added with the mohair blankets on the single armchairs that I stole from my bedroom.

Image of newly made cushion covers from the most perfect coloured and textured fabrics to suit the new lighter brighter room in antique whites and stone tones
perfect colour choice for cushions

The large canvas was created by covering it in a soft metallic gold fabric first.  Of course, you needn’t cover your canvas at all, I just liked the added effect of doing so and had the fabric to spare from a previous project for work.  The abstract painting was created using long brushstrokes both vertically and horizontally, starting with the lightest shade of paint and progressing up to the darkest.  I concentrated more colour on the bottom left hand side for contrast.  I used the black paint sparingly as I wanted to tie together with the other black features in the room without overtaking the artwork.  For more detail on this project, don’t miss next week’s blog post!

Image of abstract artwork using paint from walls and furniture on a metallic material background fitting in well with the newly fitted handcrafted cushion covers and freshly painted shelving nook
abstract artwork using paint from walls and furniture

Inspirational Quotes

The frames for my 3 inspirational quotes came from old pictures I had.  I found these free printables via the following links:

Roosevelt Quote care of On Sutton Place.

“Have Courage, Be Kind” Quote care of Crazy Little Projects.

“Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You “ Quote: care of Burlap and Blue.

Image of shelving nook, abstract arwork and couch with cushions from a different angle
a beautifully framed vignette

A quick spray of my photo frame housing Charlie’s baby photo meant it matched Catherine’s baby photo frame to place either side of the tv unit.  I balanced out the look with two candles each side, against the globe and lamp.

Image of Rebecca's Charlie framed in a freshly sprayed frame to match that on the other side of the TV of Catherine complete with a neutral coloured world globe, candle holders and lamp
simple decor either side of the box
Image of the photo of Rebecca's Catherine framed with an Antique White Lamp shade and light coloured candle holders to contrast those with the photo of Charlie on the other side of the TV
symmetry either side of the box

Budget (in AUD)

Wallpaper – two rolls of Superfresco Easy in “Twine Stone” $59.90
Wallpaper glue $19.95
Wall paint – this was leftover from the original wall colour. $0.00
Annie Sloan chalk paint and wax and stain blocker(proportion calculated) $45 (NB: You can purchase Annie Sloan chalk paint in 100ml tubs for around $20 each for one off projects)
Fabric for cushions using original inserts $42.18
Canvas using existing paints from walls and furniture $22.50
Decor items newly sourced $60
TOTAL $249.53!

I’m really pleased with the results of my living room makeover!  I say this because I love nothing more than putting in some physical effort for personal gain – and I didn’t even have to go near a gym to achieve it.  Once I had completed the main elements and before playing the decor, I was already blown away by the contrast.  It’s extraordinary what a coat of paint and adding lighter shades throughout can do to open up a space.

Image of completed Living Room makeover in soft light and briht neutral tones a total contrast from the pre-existing dark red and dark woods
living room makeover for under $250

One more piece of advice: When adding in the smaller details try not to lose sight of the original design you had in mind.  If you feel stuck along the way, simply refer back to your magazines to ensure you are achieving what you set out to do.  At the end of the day, this is your living space where you spend lots of time.  You want the space to stay inviting and beautiful.  It must also fit in your day to day living.

Image of completed living room makeover from a different angle
love your living space

Some tips on styling your living space:

Colour and Clarity

Keep swatches with you when sourcing materials such as paint or fabrics.  It’s amazing how many patterns and objects will stand their own in a space.  The key to working with several different patterns in one space is to ensure the colour combination is perfectly matched.

Balance is key

There’s nothing worse than sitting down after a busy day to watch the latest ep of House Rules, only to have your view distracted by too much clutter.  It’s best to keep the area around your tv minimal in decor.  Try to ensure that either side of the box is balanced to keep your line of sight clear.  Moving items around on a shelf to create harmony amongst your pieces is a great way to achieve a styled look with your own decor.  The cluster of old cameras on my shelf offered interest but needed to be balanced on the other side by something equally dark and appealing, hence the marbled plate.

Image of shelving unit and various ornaments such as a silver leaf floral arrangement front and centre cleverly framed by an empty simple black frame behind it leant agains tthe wall with a cluster of three antique cameras to the left balanced with a dark marble plate to the right

balance is key when adding smaller decor items to your space

Love books but not clutter?

A great tip is to lay your books out and put in colour order by their spines.  By placing books in your shelf by blocks of colour, you will instantly create an appealing focal point rather than a messy shelf.  Books don’t have to live in the one place either.  Perhaps keep your favourites and donate the rest to charity.

Edit, edit, edit!

Keep standing back after adding another section of decor.  If something catches your eye but isn’t intended to be a feature, consider removing it.  Should there be an imbalance of colour rather than an attractive pop, it may be better to take it out.  There is a fine line between eclectic and cluttered.

Good enough for the glossies

Photograph your finished project and place the images against your original inspiration from the decor magazines.  Is your project pulling its weight in the glam stakes?  If there are any glaring anomalies, edit once more and you will have pulled off a whole room makeover for next to nothing!

living room makeover

living room makeover

Now all that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy your hard labour.

If you need inspiration or advice, don’t hesitate to leave a comment here.  Once you’ve completed a makeover, be sure to share with us here!