How to update a living room without buying anything new - free ways to give your space a new look

Refresh your living room and give your space a new lease of life - without spending a penny

Living room with burgundy painted walls, fireplace, green armchair and vintage rug
(Image credit: Future PLC/Bee Holmes)

Feeling uninspired by our living room can quickly become a downward spiral; we start to notice more and more things that just aren't quite right, and before we know it, we're wistfully plotting a full-scale renovation to create the living room of our dreams. But a much more feasible - and affordable - plan is to learn how to update a living room without buying anything new, which can have a pretty wonderful effect.

Even if you don't want to change everything in your living area, it can be tempting to spend money when we see the latest living room trends. But this isn't always in our budget. Instead, we can look towards how to update a living room without buying anything new, which is a handy tool to have in our back pocket for whenever we feel the urge to start buying more stuff.

You might think that spending money is the only way to really refresh your home - but just like you can update a kitchen without buying anything, you can do the same with your living room. We've spoken to the experts and they've shared how to update a living room without buying anything new.

How to update a living room without buying anything new

We spend a lot of time in our living rooms, so it's only right that we feel happy with them. As we kick back to relax on one of the best sofas, the feeling is going to be so much better if we're looking at a room we feel content with. And you can get that feeling without spending any money - here's how to update living room without buying anything new. 

headshot of woman with blonde hair
Danielle Le Vaillant

Danielle is responsible for planning, creating, and delivering all visuals for both Lifestyle Photography & Film at online homewares retailer Cox & Cox.  She is the creative mind behind the well-known clean visual style that is Cox & Cox and makes sure that every single shot strikes a coherent balance of aspiration and commerciality. 

1. Rearrange existing furniture

blue living room with blue velvet sofa and fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC / Lizzie Orme)

Perhaps the easiest way to update a living room without buying anything is to move around what you already have. A new living room layout can completely transform the space, and almost trick you into thinking you've had a full-scale redesign.

'Arrange sofas to promote conversation and interaction – just sitting facing a different wall or window will make your space feel new,' says Danielle Le Vaillant, Head of Photography and Film, Cox & Cox.

One of the best way to arrange two sofas is so that they face each other, as this cultivates a social atmosphere. Take stock of the rest of your living room furniture and try to think creatively about what could go where. You might like the new layout so much you decide to make it permanent. 

2. Utilise wasted space

Living room with pink armchair, fireplace and side table

(Image credit: Future/David Giles)

Knowing how to update a living room without buying anything new involves making the most of the space you're working with. Is there anywhere in your living area that currently feels like wasted space? Take the opportunity to put this space to good use. 

'Create space for reading and reflection, perhaps beside a window with a favourite armchair and a useful side table,' Danielle suggests. 'You can revitalise a forgotten piece of furniture by offering it a new place in the living room, such as a pretty buttoned chair that hides shyly beneath a pile of clothes in the bedroom.'

You might initially think you don't have any suitable items to fill an unused space, but challenge yourself to find something. 'Shopping your home' is fun, and can help you remember long-forgotten decor pieces that have been collecting dust.

3. Put current accessories to good use

Corner of white bedroom with boucle armchair, side table and floating shelves

(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee)

We all have accessories and furnishings in places where they just don't get enough love. Rearranging this and bringing them into your living room decor can make the world of difference. Focus on one area at a time and think about how you could elevate its look. 

'With the rising popularity of styled bookshelves, you could try styling a new look using accessories you already have in your home,' says Lena Gierasinska, Head of Product & Displays, Barker and Stonehouse. 'Books, vases and artwork can be grouped together on bookshelves to create an interesting and eye-catching focal point that easily transforms the look of your living room.'

Bookshelves and cases are particularly fun to update, as you can really get creative with mixing up the items you display amongst the books. Freshen up the rest of your living room by swapping the accessories that currently sit on the coffee table with the ones on the windowsill.

4. Declutter

Living room with built in shelving and decorative furnishings, large pink L-shaped sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Rather than buying anything new, consider doing the opposite and stripping back what you already have. You'd be amazed at the difference it can make to any space when we let go of stuff we no longer use or need. 

'As part of the natural instinct to hibernate, we tend to horde more and surround ourselves with layers of décor and soft furnishings,' says Danielle from Cox & Cox. 'Your living room will immediately look fresh and new if you strip back the clutter.'

Purging your living area of unnecessary items is a top tip from feng shui experts for promoting positive wellbeing in the home. You'll be able to better appreciate the items that you decide to keep as well. While you're decluttering, give everything a good clean as well. It's an easy way to instantly make your living room more luxurious, without spending a penny.

5. Reconfigure your lighting

Living room with bubble lighting

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

It's no secret that living room lighting ideas can be incredibly impactful, and don't underestimate the difference they will make when learning how to update a living room without buying anything new. 

Obviously, you can't rewire your ceiling lights without spending a bit of cash (unless there's an electrician in the family). But you can move your plug-in lamps. Trial your favourite table or floor lamp in a different location for a few days, and you'll be surprised at how different it makes the room feel. 

Moving the lighting around can also help brighten shadowy corners of the room, which is particularly helpful for small living room ideas. Interior design experts are consistently stressing the importance of lighting in any space, so spend some time thinking about how your lamps could best serve your living room.


How can I make my room look good without spending money?

You can elevate the look of your living room - or any room in your house - without buying anything new by maximising the potential of what you already have. A key aspect of this is arrangement of the furniture.

'You can shuffle your seating and storage around to create a focal point in your space, which will give your living room a sense of purpose and make it feel more inviting,' says Yvonne Keal, Senior Product Manager, Hillarys

As the biggest piece of furniture, the position of the sofa - or sofas - probably has the biggest impact in the living room. 'If you already have two sofas in your home, position them in your living room against opposite walls so that they face each other,' says Lena from Barker & Stonehouse. 'This makes the most of your floor space whilst cultivating a social atmosphere.'

How do you redecorate without buying anything?

To redecorate using your existing decor, it's important to think creatively about the best arrangement of your furniture and accessories. Work carefully with your space, putting it to good use without crowding in too much clutter. 

'Statement accessories such as a large bowl can be positioned almost anywhere to elevate the look and updated regularly with in-season displays,' Danielle says. 'Handpainted eggs at Easter, mini pumpkins and gourds come autumn or foraged pinecones to fill the gap before decorating for Christmas.'

If you have a coffee table, swap out the display items that sit on it every couple of months. Something as simple as switching out the sofa cushions and throws can freshen up a space - perhaps you could swap your living room furnishings with those currently in your bedroom.

So now you know how to update a living room without buying anything new - who said spending money was part of giving your living area a whole new look?

Katie Sims

Katie Sims has been writing for Ideal Homes since spring 2022. She qualified from her Master’s in Media and Journalism in 2021 and has been writing freelance since. She has worked on Ideal Home’s ecommerce team where she researched the best home products on the market, and on the news team, researching the latest trends for feature pieces.