how to transform your space without spending a fortune

We’ve been spending a helluva lot more time in our homes (whether we liked it or not) this past year, and all the things we weren’t so keen on quickly became glaringly obvious. We love to support independent brands when sourcing new items, but we’re also trying to buy more secondhand where possible, so we were delighted when we came across ReNu Furniture, a local marketplace where you can buy and sell stylish secondhand, handmade and upcycled furniture safely and easily.

Interior design enthusiast Katie was inspired to set up ReNu after furnishing her first flat in Hove almost entirely with secondhand furniture. After speaking to friends, she realised not everyone felt comfortable doing that, some were cautious about buying secondhand, others could never find decent stuff and some just didn’t feel comfortable giving their address to people they didn’t know, and so ReNu was born!

We were delighted when Katie agreed to write the following piece for us. Here she is sharing her expertise on how we can update our homes without breaking the bank!

10 simple swaps to refresh your space and design your home – part 1

There’s never been a more important time to invest in your home than right now. The pandemic has reshaped almost every aspect of the way we live and work so it is more important than ever for your home to be a space where you feel calm, comforted and happy. But how can you transform your existing space with a minimal budget in a lockdown environment? Join us as we walk through part one (part two coming next Friday!) of our top 10 tips to help you do exactly that.

Invest in timeless
In the fast world we live in, people consider the effects of fast food and fast fashion, but forget the impact of fast furniture. The furniture industry will lead you to believe that your home needs to be refreshed twice a year or sooner in order to keep up with changing trends. Many of the big names churn out hot new items that are built to last months, not years.

The trouble with this industry is that it negatively impacts both the environment and your wallet. By churning out trends fast, people feel pressure to buy furniture little and often and then dispose of it in landfill afterwards. In fact, professional interior designers recommend avoiding the trap of seasonal trends by focusing on timeless pieces and building your own signature style.

Whether you love rustic textures, clean neutrals or the industrial look, investing in timeless foundational furniture, such as dining tables and sofas, will help you avoid over-spending by trying to keep up with the trends. These pieces are typically more sturdy and they’re built to last, so they can be sanded and restained, redressed with simple cushions or given a new lick of paint. 

When buying pre-owned there are a few things you should look out for, though. Firstly, narrow your search, are you interested in vintage or antique? Vintage refers to any furniture from another generation and you might want to look for brands such as Baker Furniture or Stickley.


Antique, however, refers to something that is over 100 years old, which might make brand names a little less relevant. If something is an antique, think: does the furniture look like it has been well cared for? Wooden furniture that looks polished and conditioned implies it has had a careful owner who has looked after it.

Where possible, inspect the item before purchase as sometimes pictures can be misleading and hide damage that can make for costly repairs. The two biggest warning signs to keep an eye out for are large cracks or small round holes as this can indicate woodworm, which can damage the structural integrity of your item, causing it to come crashing down at a later date.

ReNu’s top tip for buying pre-owned:
The best part about antique and vintage furniture is that it has already lasted and the secondhand market offers up to 80% off the price tag of a brand new item. People sell their oak dining tables or vintage sideboards all the time, so it is always worth a browse if you are looking for solid foundational pieces. 

There is nothing like an old, threadbare carpet to make a home look older and more dated than you would like it to. Suitable for renters and owners alike, rugs are not only the more affordable option, but they add layers and texture to a space.

You can opt for a simple rug that blends with the tones of your room, or something more dramatic to make a bold statement! Whether you opt to buy new or preowned, rugs create zones in open-plan spaces, add warmth to hardwood, absorb sound and they can create synergy in your space when matching rugs are used in two different rooms .

ReNu’s top tip for buying pre-owned:
When buying a pre-owned rug, make sure to check for any potential allergen exposure, even if the quality is top-notch, rugs can trap hair more readily than other fabric items. So, if you have allergies, it’s important to know if the fabric has been exposed to cat or dog hair to avoid reactions. 

Natural light is the most important way to create a space that promotes positive wellbeing. Mirrors not only reflect light to give the illusion that there is more of it, they also trick the eye into thinking there is more space in a room. Perfect both for smaller apartments and larger homes, there are plenty of options for where you could add a mirror to transform a space.

Mirrors can be the focal point of the room or simply enhance a darker corner of it. Key placement points for a mirror to really impact your space are near a window (to create the illusion of more natural light), over a mantle or fireplace (to create a statement effect), or incorporate a full-length mirror to create the illusion of a larger room. 

ReNu’s top tip for buying pre-owned:
Mirrors typically suffer very little wear and tear with use, so the secondhand market can be the perfect place to find a good-quality mirror without a designer price tag. Just be careful of transit and opt for a marketplace that offers delivery or buy locally and collect yourself. 


Get inspired
Although it is best to be mindful of ever-changing trends, when you are considering a redecoration it is also a good idea to get some inspiration before you begin buying to provide some direction for your purchases.

Redecorating can feel like an overwhelming task when you are getting started, but take the time to find some examples of interior design that you love and make a mental note of what is similar about them. There are so many great local designers that you can follow on Instagram such as Hove-based @BrickDustBaby or Brighton’s @MelanieJadeDesign. And don’t forget, Pinterest is literally made for this sort of thing! Once you have a few images that you love, you’ll probably notice a similar vibe that runs through them; that can then serve as the direction to streamline your purchases for your dream room. 

For instance, if they all have a lot of wood tones, consider a statement piece of wooden furniture or think about replacing your shelves. If they have a bold colour pallet, start simple by replacing your bed linen with something brighter or add some throw pillows in vibrant tones. 

ReNu’s top tip for buying pre-owned:
We work with a lot of local interior designers, artists and upcyclers in the Brighton area and some of them even sell their furniture, art and decor with us! If you are inspired by someone’s social media photos, take the time to think about which pieces you really love and wish you could recreate – you never know, they might even be for sale!


Swapping out the hardware is a simple and effective way to transform your kitchen and this can apply to renters as well as people that own their own home! Often it is the simplest of DIY tasks and just involves unscrewing one set of handles (or knobs) to replace them with another. [We love Dockerills on Church Street for all things hardware, Ed]

With hardware ranging from about £3 to £15 per piece, you can create a modern kitchen on a much more reasonable budget than many interior design magazines would lead you to believe.

ReNu’s top tip for buying pre-owned:
Kitchens are a great space to make simple swaps because they can instantly modernise an area without any need for expensive renovation. Swapping out hardware is a cornerstone of upcycling and applies to everything, from wardrobes and bedside tables to kitchen cupboards and medicine cabinets!

All the pieces featured here are from the ReNu website (chest of drawers, dining table, rug, mirror, bed, bedside tables). Seen something that takes your fancy? BOTI readers can get 10% off anything they see on the site with this code: RENU10. And if you needed a further incentive, they’re partnered with Tree Sisters, which means they’ll fund the planting of a tree with every purchase made on the site.

Part 2 of 10 simple swaps to transform your home will follow on Friday, 9th April!