5 Decorating and DIY tips for small rooms

painting interiors

Now the better weather is upon us, the yearly onslaught of the keen DIY’er can be noticed in the lines outside DIY stores as we approach the Easter bank holiday weekend, but what can you do when your space to decorate can only politely be described as “Compact and Bijou?”!

Guy, the editor in chief of NPA, shares his own experiences with dealing with small spaces.

Many UK houses, both modern and older style, have a box room, which is a term for a small, often square space in the home, and for some, a very useful part of the house, and for others, a space so small it’s not worth bothering about and any old junk is stored in there.

These spaces often go un-loved and largely forgotten, especially in cases where the rest of area of the house is sufficient or plentiful as to not bother with the smallest room but with a bit of design inspiration, that forgotten corner could be a great addition to your home and we will tell you why.

What about YOUR home? What do you use your box room for?

Many people class their own houses as having 3 bedrooms however in reality many 3rd bedrooms are very small and perhaps designed as a nursery or at least a bedroom for the youngest children, but with more and more people working from home nowadays, these rooms have been turned into a handy home office, but that is not the only use for your small room.

In fact many scheming estate agents, realtors and landlords will class a home like this as having 3 bedrooms so they can whack the rent up to the already rip off prices that people are being forced to pay.

Is your estate agent taking unfair advantage of the housing shortage?

Is your estate agent taking unfair advantage of the housing shortage?

So if you rent a house, like I am forced to, and can’t do much about it, if it is not being used a bedroom, there are still some things you can do, although as you would paying extra rent for that space, it stands to reason that whatever you do with it it has to be of GOOD USEFULNESS as the concept of “value for money” creeps in.

If you are planning on selling your home, the steps here could earn you a quick sale and a higher asking price.

Maybe now is the time to de-clutter that room and find a new use for it?

If you are planning on simply putting a bit of paint to freshen the room up, you are going to have to move stuff out anyway so now is your chance to change it around a bit and find a new use for your box room.

Is there a minimum size to qualify as a 3rd bedroom?

Well you may be surprised to learn that no, there is no UK legal requirement although common sense will tell you it does at least need to be big enough for a bed, and then comply in part with housing and building regulations for light, ventilation and heat.

There are however recommendation as to what defines a bedroom and it needs to be at least 8 sq metres and minimum width of 2.5 metres but this is legally hard to enforce unless you quote the 1985 Housing Act section 326 which again only stipulates recommendations.

So if you are stuck with one room in your home that you can’t swing a cat in (not that I would recommend that practice), what can you turn it into?

Let’s find out….

Top 5 things


5 Different uses for box rooms in the home.

There are many things that you can do with your small room, and budget-wise that is up to you. The more you do, the more radical the change the more it will cost, so renters should just choose the cheap option.

1. Declutter and repaint the room.

This is the cheapest and (in theory) easiest option out of the 5 so we thought we would mention it first.

When de-cluttering a room, make sure that you have a clear, larger area away from the room, such as the garage, to actually put the stuff you are taking out of the room, in order to sort it. There could be stuff in there that you forgot you had, and you know you don’t need, so maybe take them to a charity shop, or of course if it really is junk, take it to the tip.

Do we really need this cluttering up the house?

Do we really need this cluttering up the house?

You may actually find amongst all that clutter, some forgotten collectables, so get logged in to ebay, sell them, and put the money towards decorating the room!

Once you have emptied the room, paint the walls and the ceiling, and you can also change the curtains and lampshade, all of which is really cheap and you can prob get these at a charity shop too.

Then, with a clear idea of what you will use the room for, only put back in what is needed. You will find the “energy” in the house will flow better too, and you don’t need to be a Zen Buddhist to quickly feel the benefit of that.

Of course if you own the house and are selling then lucky you, you can advertise it with a “study” or an extra bedroom/nursery.

2. Convert the room into a home office.

In these times of flexible working, short term contracts and home working, having a space where you can work, at home, can be a great addition to your home and can also help with a work-life balance, essential for anyone who “telecommutes” or is working “remotely”.

Take the steps we showed you in tip one (above) and then get some shelves and handy storage bins in there, a desk and a chair and lo and behold, your own work space. You don’t have to run a home based business to make it into an office as it can double as a study, a quiet area, or a revision space for those taking exams.

Other uses for your newly “discovered” space could be a games room, a kids or teens chill out room, or if, like me, you are married to a collector, why not have your very own themed museum or, in my case, a collectibles room.

my little pony collection

The wife’s My little pony collection. Don’t laugh, some of them are worth hundreds of pounds!

I have to admit that having a “My little pony” room in our home is still, after all these years…..er…….a bit weird! Mind you, some of her collection are quite valuable and I guess I can’t complain as they are out of the way in our box room!

3. Have your very own home gym

Do you like to keep fit? Or if not, do you want to GET fit?

Then instead of doing your work out in the front room, with perhaps Mrs. Jones next door peering over the fence to see what the hell is going on in your lounge, you can create a focused space to exercise in peace and in private.

You don’t even have to fill it with expensive gym apparatus and weights, it can be used for stamina and floor exercises at a very cheap cost, so if this is your bag, go for it and your partner won’t ever moan again as to why you are dressed like a panto character in the kitchen, lifting tins of beans for half an hour a day.

Make time for yourself in your new space

Just de-clutter the space, make sure there is a nice rug in there, get yourself some cushions, maybe a exercise mat and you are well on your way to getting or keeping fit, an a private and focused environment. You could put a weight loss chart on the wall or maybe write your goals in big marker pen (e.g. lose 1 stone in 2 months) and stick it up on the wall to drive you forward.

This is perhaps the least radical change and can be quickly turned into a guest room or back to a bedroom at short notice.

4. Walk in wardrobe

Many people think of walk in wardrobes as being the stuff of Hollywood stars, but not so.

Converting your box room to a walk in wardrobe can create a huge amount of storage space, not just for clothes but anything that needs to be put away and stored, but is easily available when needed.

You can also fill the walls with shelving like in the photo below, which can equally be a way to convert your spare room into your own library if you have enough books.

Make good use of shelving and units to maximise space

Make good use of shelving and units to maximise space

With a bit of thought, you can take it one step further and combine it with a “dressing room” area, ideal for pampering and preparing for a night out.

This sort of addition, provided the house is big enough to lose a small bedroom, could see you actually adding value to the house in doing so.

5. Add a new bathroom!

This tip is the one that will give you biggest return on your investment for very little outlay and if you have a family, an extra bathroom can diffuse the age-old arguments that ensue when the teen of the house likes nothing more than spending 2 hours in the bath, completely oblivious to the other 3 or 4 family members elsewhere in the house, all of whom need to go for a wee and there is only one bathroom!

Why not add a new bathroom?

Why not add a new bathroom?

There would be a certain amount of expense though, but that largely depends on how luxurious you want your new bathroom to be and of course if you are going for the en suite option, the original doorway needs to be blocked off and a new doorway cut through to the bedroom next door.

The major issue with this option is that you need to get hold of a plumber in order to bring the water supply into the room, and also the waste pipe for the loo needs to be installed. If the box room is nowhere near the existing pipe, this could pose a problem, although you can get a saniflow unit to take the waste away but these are sometimes expensive and not without hassle.

You can save money by buying all your items 2nd hand or cheap on Ebay, and you also get buy tiles very cheaply online, plus end of line bath fittings, it really does depend on budget as the level of quality of your new bathroom.

So, what will you do to your box room?

It’s really up to you as to what you will choose but please, do SOMETHING with that box room, you may be surprised at the eventual finished outcome.

So there we are, five ways to do something about the waste of space that is your box room.

I hope that you have learned something today and if you would share this around the social networks using the buttons below I would be eternally grateful. Thanks!

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