White room blank canvas

In my 10 Step Guide to Designing Your Home Décor, I talk about the importance of creating a blank canvas within your home before you start decorating. To me, decorating a home without dealing with the ugly bits of a room is a bit like re-arranging the deckchairs on the titanic: a pointless exercise.

Most homes have some kind of undesirable feature, often left over from a previous decade’s fashion, a remodel where they didn’t quite think through all of the details, or even just an over-enthusiastic DIY fanatic who didn’t get around to finishing the job. We have all seen those brick archways, gas fires with (more brick) display surrounds, cork ceilings (shudder) and artexed walls. 

But smaller design details also need to be neutralised before beginning: if you have several wood colours in your room, mismatched furniture or three types of metallic finish for example, you need to sort it out. 

The thing is, if you don’t do something about it, you’re wasting your time and money decorating a room. You’re never really going to create that dream home unless you take the bull by the horns and neutralise the space. 

If you are really going to get a home that you love, you need to face up to your home’s ugly bits, shine a spotlight on the ‘elephant in the room’ and decide how you are going to tackle the issue.


1. Woodwork & Walls

Our most obvious friend when creating a blank canvas is paint. Paint can cover a multitude of sins, from an awful wall colour, to damp stains (make sure you’ve sorted out the source of the damp first) to mis-matched wood finishes. You can give old furniture a new lease of life with a coat of eggshell paint; just finish with wax for durability. You can even paint over tiling- make sure you buy a specialist paint for this purpose.

If your walls are not in good condition, try preparing them with lining paper to smooth out any small imperfections, but if your walls are really bad you may have to bite the bullet and get a plasterer in to skim the walls for you.


Having a glaringly bad floor can be a problem as it can be an expensive thing to fix. If you are able to, replace tired or worn carpets with new, and always remember to use a neutral shade. People worry that neutral carpets will be difficult to keep clean, but with modern carpet solutions, this simply isn’t the case.

If you can’t stretch to new carpets, try pulling up your existing carpets to see what’s underneath. It could be that there are some beautiful floorboards just waiting to be set free. A good sand and seal can transform a room. And finally, if you really can’t change your flooring, invest in the largest rug you can to neutralise the space. Sisal or seagrass rugs provide a neutral backdrop for the rest of your room. 


If you have unsightly pipework, electrics or a boiler, invest the time in boxing them in. It really doesn’t cost a lot, or take a lot of skill, to create a simple frame which you can board out to conceal ugly pipes and cables. Paint the boxes the same colour as the walls and the eyesore will melt away. For trailing electrics, you can pick up housing cables for a few pounds at DIY stores.  


Sigh. Whose idea was it to put orange or brown bricks on show in a home? Well, whoever it was, they have a lot to answer for. If you are able to remove the bricks from your home, go ahead and do it. Make sure that you check out whether it is structurally safe before swinging a sledgehammer at the bricks or you could land yourself with a much bigger headache than an ugly wall.

If you’re not able to remove the bricks, try toning them down by painting them with a lime wash. Most paint companies sell lime wash, but you could always make do with your own solution: mix together 50% white emulsion with 50% water and then apply a couple of coats. It should neutralise the appearance of the brick and make it fade into the background.


If replacing your sofa and chairs is not an option, consider covering them with a fitted slipcover. You can have covers made for a fraction of the price of replacing your furniture, and places like IKEA even sell covers for some of their range. At the very least, buy some large sheets to cover over unsightly seating. 

6. Wall Switches

If you have wall switches or sockets in an awkward place and you can’t have them re-cited, try designing a gallery wall of pictures and objects around the switch. This way, the wall will be so busy that the switches will become less noticeable and the eyesore disappears. 

7. Mis-matched ironmongery/ metalwork

Your door handles are brass plated, your furniture knobs are silver and your window handles are gunmetal. All of these mis-matched metals will stop your room from feeling cohesive. It doesn’t need to cost a lot to replace the hardware in your room, but if your budget is really tight, consider spraying all of your hardware with a metallic paint to bring consistency to the look.

Got an eyesore you don’t know how to deal with? Drop a picture into my Facebook group (if you’re not already a member, you’ll need to sign up here) and we’ll see what creative solutions we can come up with.  

Until next time x

* Main Image Source: White Panelling Wallpaper

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