While we all have different ideals when it comes to our interiors and each have differing definitions of what makes a house feel homely to us, what tends to do the trick are personal touches and decorative finishes — though these items are often considered luxuries as opposed to necessities, which means that if budgets are tight they drop in priority. However, if making your home a haven is your goal then occasionally an indulgent purchase should take precedence over a practical one.
Unsure of where to start? We’ve compiled a list of nine easy — and mostly inexpensive — ways to make your home feel evermore welcoming, and there’s not a doormat in sight.
1. Wake up your walls with artwork You can’t make a house feel homely overnight. Or, can you? Sure, if it’s in bad shape it’ll likely take more than a mere evening to patch it up, but if being bare is its biggest issue, then you’ve got it covered. The best course of action? Artwork — and lots of it. "One of the worst offenders for making properties lack homeliness is empty walls," says Amanda Hamilton, interior designer and creative director at Amanda Hamilton Design, who advises stocking up on prints aplenty to create a more “pulled together” space. "Artwork needs to be properly sized based on the scale of the wall, and ensure its not hung too high," she says. "Also be sure to mix large pieces with clusters of smaller pieces and vary the style and medium to ensure a truly curated look that will allow your home to look more lived in."
2. Pep up with plants and dried flowers If a quick trick to add ambiance is what you’re after, then foliage is your friend. We never met a dark corner, stark shelf or unhappy mantel that couldn’t be brightened in an instant with a bit of greenery. And the best part? Plants can help to purify the air and rid your home of toxins. A win-win, if you ask us. Choose your spruce according to its intended location and your level of expertise. Vast expanses will better benefit from large potted plants and trees (such as palms and fiddle leaf figs), while table tops will make do with succulents or an arrangement of fresh flowers. Plants that thrive with exposure to sunlight will, understandably, not do so well in an unlit basement, and those which favour cooler conditions could dry out if left in a hot spot. Growing foliage not your forte? Consider a vase of dried blooms for a zero effort option. Eucalyptus, hydrangea and lavender are all great options.
3. Consider underfoot comfort with rugs in proper sizes Forever feeling like a bland — or plain ugly —floor is sucking the life out of your living room? Easy. Brighten it up with a rug for a more animated scheme and additional comfort underfoot. "They can be an expensive investment, however they truly do create a warm — and homely — feeling, and also help with acoustics in homes with a lot of hard surfaces," says Hamilton. "Affordable, interesting designs can be found at places like CB2 and West Elm, although, make sure you shop for a rug that’s big enough. Ideally, it should fit at least halfway under your furniture."
4. Clean, declutter and find a place for everything Familiar with the phrase "a tidy house equals a tidy mind"? While it might sound wild to those who favour floor-drobes to their concealed cupboard counterparts for stashing clothes, there is logic behind it, as clutter and untidiness can cause feelings of stress. If your countertops are piled high with soiled plates and laundry lays unwashed for weeks then it’s no wonder your abode doesn't feel all that homely. To rectify, make an effort to clean and declutter – regularly – and invest in extra storage if need be. Keep surfaces clear of unpaid bills and bowls yet to be washed, and watch as feelings of discomfort melt away.
5. Layer lighting and use more candlelight Stuck with a space that, despite your many attempts to brighten with buds and art, remains cold and uninviting? Consider switching up your lighting. Simple as it sounds, adding and layering light sources has the potential to alter the entire mood of a room, making it feel warm and welcoming. "Being able to control and, most importantly, soften lighting will transform a space," says Hamilton. Harsh, fluorescent overhead lighting can trigger feelings of angst — the opposite of what we’re aiming for. Instead, opt for string lights and candles that can create a warm glow. "Adding table lamps to consoles is a nice touch in an entryway or dining area," says Hamilton. "For living rooms that might be a bit tight, look for a floor lamp with a base that can tuck under your sofa to save space."
6. Invest in home improvements that can improve the quality of life Comfort is key when it comes to cozy living, so what good is a couch if it doesn't deliver? Equally, day to day activities, such as preparing meals and washing, should feel easy. A shower that’s short on power is just going to end in stress — not helpful in your pursuit of a homely property. Allow yourself to invest in items that will improve the quality of your home life, such as showers, cookers, heaters, mattresses and sofas, and you’re sure to feel more at ease. Shop around for styles that suit your life best, and if money is tight try hitting up thrift stores and second-hand sites for deals.
7. Add extra throws What are cushions and throws for if not to make our houses feel homely? Draping soft blankets and hanging chunky curtains are tricks as old as time used to help give a simple space a more characterful appearance and an inviting feel, so why not give it a go in your own home? "Layer sofas with two to three different sizes of pillows (we tend to opt for one 22x22 pillow, two 20x20 and two 18x18 per sofa), and ensure they vary in texture and/or pattern but complement each other well," says Hamilton. "Add cozy throws to provide ample opportunity to curl up on the couch, and perhaps even hide unsightly seats if necessary."
8. Embrace a calming colour palette Some shades lend themselves to stress-free living better than others so it can be preferable to paint and paper walls in colour combos that provide feelings of calm, as opposed to opting for your favourite hue. Colours found in the great outdoors can be a good place to start, with soft blues, greens, pinks and neutrals coming up trumps for relaxing living, while bright, neon and some dark shades are said to have the opposite effect.
9. Play more music If all the above elements are in place but there’s still something missing, snag yourself a solid sound system. "Music has the power to completely transform people," says Hamilton. "With music alone, you can control and alter the mood of the space to help you feel more cheery or relaxed. It’s particularly helpful when you’re entertaining." Compile playlists of songs that trigger positive feelings and have them on hand for when your home could do with a mood boost.