WHEN IT COMES to home improvements, Hong Kong isn't exactly the DIY capital of the world. Yet, as every do-it-yourselfer knows, many interior updates can be simple, inexpensive and effective - even if it sometimes means paying for help to complete the job. Johnny Li, architect and designer with Nail Assemblage, focuses on lighting to make a fundamental change to any room. 'Lighting is important for mood and appearance,' he says. 'Instead of lighting the house with a bright hospital-inspired look, spot areas that need illumination the most.' Li advocates shining lights on paintings and other artwork, the area above a dining table and reading nooks. 'Definitely don't have a light on your garbage can.' Mike Atkin of Head Architecture also likes the transformative power of lighting. 'Change from a single source unit to track lighting with adjustable spotlights in your bathroom,' he says. 'The increase in lighting levels is huge.' Joey Lau and Alex Ha of A-01 Design offer several ideas for making bathroom enhancements. 'A tiled wall can be covered with tile filler then painted or left rough to give a cement-like finish,' they say. Because removing tiles is a big, often messy job, Ha and Lau suggest gluing a new layer of tiles over an offending existing layer. 'This can give the room a new ambience.' And rather than installing new sanitary ware such as tubs and sinks that may be chipped or faded, Lau and Ha suggest painting them using Coating Master, a ceramic coating that gives fixtures a new lease of life. Hong Kong-based architect and designer Louisa Williams' low-cost and low-energy suggestions start in the kitchen. 'There are lots of basic and not-so-basic things you can do,' she says. 'Glass mosaic makes a great splash behind a hob and is simple because it doesn't require cutting. It can also be used as a floor covering.' The mosaic comes in 300mmx 300mm sheets and each tile is about 1.5cm square. It's easy to clean, has no tricky junctions and is applied with a white adhesive painted on the backing. Williams also suggests simple techniques for updating kitchen cabinets. 'Even just changing the handles can make a difference,' she says. 'Or get rid of the handles altogether and clean up the look with good-quality pressure-release mechanisms.' To change the look of wooden cabinet doors, Williams recommends spraying them with lacquered paint. For cabinets that are beyond redemption, replacing just the doors is relatively easy and cheap. 'There's a large range of door styles on the market, from vinyl wraps for a modern glossy finish to stainless steel, coloured or timber finishes.' For kitchens with stainless steel panels that have become scratched, stained or dull, Lau and Ha suggest polishing the panels with a random design to create a pattern that will hide the marks. Installing glass racks over sinks is another easy update that saves time and space. 'Glasses drip dry immediately and you don't have to worry about them tipping and breaking in the drainer.' Several designers suggest painting or wallpapering a single wall in the living room to provide a focus. Williams also suggests using mirrors - fixed to walls or leaning against them - to increase the interplay of light and make a living room look bigger. 'By bouncing light off mirrors you can create a sense of space,' she says. Atkin says the easiest and most cost-effective living-room improvement is a movie projector for television and movie viewing. 'They're easy to install and make a massive difference in living-room life. Plasmas are a waste of cash.' Where art is concerned, Li recommends making a minor investment in large posters from museums and galleries and putting them in basic black, white or silver frames. 'This is a simple and cost-effective way to make a statement in your home,' he says. Other living-room changes involve working with what you have. 'Even clearing out and rearranging furniture bring a new feeling into the home,' says Gail English, interior designer and owner of Inspirations. 'Or change the cushion covers on large pieces of soft furnishings to update your colour scheme.' For an all-round transformation, Li recommends renewing floors. 'Parquet floors can be sanded, bleached and re-stained in a variety of colours,' he says. Removing years of varnish can completely change the feel of a room. Lau and Ha suggest a product called Osmo for updating timber floors. 'It comes in different colours and different levels of opacity so you can show the grain, or not, depending on the look you want,' they say. If a floor has to be replaced, Williams suggests a range of lino/vinyl flooring that looks like timber. 'It's laid in planks rather than rolls, like with real wood,' she says. Amtico is one brand, although others are available in the shops on Lockhart Road and in Mongkok. Lau and Ha say carpet is the least fussy way to change an unsightly floor. 'It's simple and gives a definite definition of space.' Many of these ideas - such as painting or wallpapering a single wall, updating flooring and replacing old wardrobe hardware with pressure-release mechanisms - can apply to bedrooms. 'Make a headboard for the bed by having MDF [medium density fibreboard] cut to size,' Williams says. Then place 2cm-thick foam over it and cover with a fake suede or wool fabric by using a staple gun. This transforms a simple frame bed into a handsome piece of furniture and provides comfortable support for reading. No special training or tools are required for the projects above, according to the experts. But for those not cut out for DIY, the phone directory is full of handy people who can help breathe life into fading interiors.