How to Decorate Your Small House (Part 3): On a Budget!

9 min read 

This is Part 3 of our series on How to Decorate Your Small House — Lessons from Real Indian Homes.

In love with the above living room?

Heck, who wouldn’t!

But this living room and the house it is a part of not only makes you fall head over heels in love with them, but will also make your jaws drop when you (literally!) scratch the surface, and see what it transformed from.

Yes, Daribha Lyndem’s 700 sq ft, mid-century modern Mumbai apartment is going to open up refurbishing and decorating possibilities for you like none other. It’s a true ‘small budget big makeover’ story, guys!

So, shall we?

Here’s Their Story…

Well, Daribha is an Assistant Commissioner with the Indian Revenue Services (also a blogger at What Larks!), who resides with her writer-comedian husband, Adhiraj Singh, in their government-allotted flat in Mumbai. Having done up her home in a mid-century modern style, the apartment is characterised by minimal ornamentation, is functional and uncluttered with clean lines.

But that’s not what the allotted apartment looked like in the beginning. It came with dirty flooring, filthy walls painted in dreadful pinks and green, muck nestled into any and every crevice and nook, and so on and so forth.

Here’s an example.

And here’s another.

Want more?

If that’s not all, the kitchen had all sorts of insects and termites residing in it.

But saving on rent by living in this apartment was tempting for Daribha, as it would be for any of us. So she decided to see if she could execute a mammoth interiors makeover, to turn this cheerless house into a cheerful home.

The floors were so dirty that no amount of cleaning, washing and scrubbing could help get rid of the grime.

So, here’s what Daribha did and what you can do too.

1. Cover Up the Floors

What Daribha did: After washing up and cleaning the extremely dirty and eye-sore-of-a-flooring, Daribha got professionals to paste faux wooden flooring all over her apartment.

This took them less than a day!

Not only did this hide the ugly flooring, but it also gave the apartment a polished, timeless and clean appearance instantly.

Have a look yourself!

Before & after of the living room.

What you can do: Wooden flooring gives a home a warm and snug appeal. But real hardwood can turn out to be an expensive affair.

So consider getting quality vinyl. Being synthetic, it is cheaper (even the most luxurious vinyl is cheaper than real wood), durable and can be easily installed on existing flooring as it has an adhesive coating under it.

Moreover, there are hundreds of prints available on vinyl — wooden, stone and more. Vinyl is the more practical choice for renters and those with a tight budget.

2. Paint the Walls

What Daribha did: Just like with the flooring, Daribha decided to hide the ugly walls too — behind fresh coats of white paint. All those ghastly pinks and blues and greens were gotten rid of! As were the marks, smudges, stains and dirt — thus, giving the house a refreshed and clean appearance.

Look at the transformation the bedroom went through, for instance.


What you can do: It’s one of the simplest tricks in interior design books — wall paint can do so much that most other tools cannot in a house.

Besides, white paint itself has a power that other colours (as nice as they maybe) don’t have. For instance, you can pull off any decor or design style against a white wall!

So, if you’re looking to open up your home, and make it seem larger and brighter, get your home painted in a nice white.

Yes, there are various types of white with different undertones. So, have a painting professional advise you and test a sample of the paint on your walls first. Look at it at different times of the day to see if it works for you.

The mid-century modern style pops beautifully against the white walls.

3. Remove Unwanted Fittings, Cabinets & Shelves

What Daribha did: The house came with a very prominent sink and mirror in the gallery, as well as a termite-infested cabinet in the kitchen. The bedrooms came with some aluminium almirahs.

What Daribha did was to get rid of them all — this removed anything that was ugly and unwanted out of the picture, created more space in the house, and opened it up.

Check out the before and after of the gallery.


What you can do: Don’t hold onto anything that a rented house comes along with only because it’s free or is an effort to get rid of. If you have no use for it, it’s coming in the way of your design style, or it’s just coming in your way — remove it, discard it, donate it.

You will be glad to not only have some space in your small apartment, but to also love it more for what it has — the things you’ve carefully and thoughtfully chosen.

4. Get furniture appropriate to the size of the house

What Daribha did: While she brought in whatever furniture she had from her previous flat, Daribha also bought some and got new ones made. The sofa in the living room was bought from Bhiwandi (which is just outside Mumbai), while the wingback chair is an Urban Ladder purchase.

But besides these two, she got furniture custom-made. Since she prefers the mid-century modern design style, she scoured Pinterest for ideas, measured the spaces in her home, and then went to the second hand market at Oshiwara to find a carpenter who would replicate the designs within her limited budget.

“I had to make the most with the space I had. I bought and made furniture that was space-saving and functional. Instead of a wide bookshelf, I made one that was tall. I used height to save space.”
– Daribha

What you can do: Furniture need not be a wallet-heavy investment. Almost every city has a market where you can find furniture at throwaway prices. These markets also refurbish old furniture with a coat of paint or varnish, or with some sanding and smoothing. And they also create fresh pieces of furniture if you have some designs in mind. So, explore these!

Also, like Daribha did, use height to your advantage, especially when you don’t have enough floor space.

5. Don’t try to buy everything at once or in a hurry.

What Daribha did: In her words: “Turning my apartment into a home took months and I am still adding new things to it. It took several trips to the furniture market. I also went to check on the renovations several times a week. I scrolled for hours on the internet to get ideas. One day I added a bookshelf, a week later the credenza, and so on and so forth.

What you can do: Don’t be in a hurry to get your house all together. Take your time. Let your house evolve into a home gradually.

Putting your home together is an on-going journey — one of thoughtful planning, and choices made out of love.

If you don’t find a matching table to your sofa on your trip to the market, don’t settle for just any. Wait till you stumble upon it.

“A small house does not give you a lot of options and that, in a way, is a good thing. You don’t get overwhelmed by too many choices because it narrows down the scope of what you can achieve with a space. I see that as a glass half full situation.”
– Daribha

So, what do you guys think?

Hasn’t this home opened up the possibilities of what you can do with yours?

That too on a budget?

So, while I’m off to make calls to the house painter and the flooring & tiling store, you stay tuned for the next real small home inspiration real soon!

All photographs: Courtesy Daribha Lyndem

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